How to Decorate for a Beach Wedding

You can keep it simple and use the backdrop of nature

By Jen Whitten

Beach Umbrellas on the Water
Photo by John Partridge PhotographyBookmark and Share

Decorating for a beach wedding is similar to decorating for other outdoor events, but sand and surf provide elements of concern as well as beauty. Keep that in mind as you select the decor, centerpieces and other decorations to avoid any wedding day mishaps. Remember that the beauty of nature provides much of what you need for your wedding's backdrop, so excessive decoration is not necessary.

  • What You Need to Know
  • First figure out whether both the ceremony and the reception will be held on the beach. Also take into account the time of year and time of day. Don't forget to look into whether high tide is a concern. Does the beach have any restrictions on what you can do?
A Beach Wedding

Step 1:

Evaluate your beach decoration needs. Ceremonies require very different elements than wedding receptions. Although you can use some decor elements for both, figure out what you need for each part of the day.

Step 2:

Plan for the weather. The wind blowing off the ocean has a cooling effect in the evening. Use space heaters for sunset weddings to keep guests warm. If you aren't using a tent, consider providing umbrellas for shade from the sun during daytime weddings in the spring and summer.

Step 3:

Check with beach officials before planning decorations. The way you decorate your beach wedding will be very different if you aren't allowed to erect wedding arches or stake tents into the sand. You may also need a permit if a reception bonfire is in your plans.

Step 4:

Use natural elements from the beach. Knowing how to decorate for a beach wedding can be as easy as walking along the beach. Seashells, ocean-tumbled rocks and pieces of driftwood all provide rustic accents for your special day. Either grouped together for table decor or placed around the area, natural elements are inexpensive decorations.

Step 5:

Look for sturdy decorations. Beaches are windier than inland locations, so you need decorations that won't blow away when the wind gusts. Add rocks or heavy shells to the bottoms of flower arrangements to add weight or create wide bases for centerpieces to keep them from toppling onto the tables.

Step 6:

Find chairs appropriate for the beach. Not every chair works on sand. Replace trendy indoor chairs with sand-friendly beach chairs and decorate with flowers, tulle or ribbon to dress them up.

Step 7:

Light your wedding. Even with millions of stars and a full moon overhead, nighttime weddings need additional light. Torches along the perimeter and floating candle centerpieces on the tables provide illumination without electricity. Wrap cake and buffet tables with light strands or incorporate lighted elements into your reception table centerpieces.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Always find out if a power supply is available. If you have a lot of lights or a band or DJ, you may need to resort to a generator.
  • Use battery-operated light strands instead of lights requiring outlets.
  • Make sure to visit the beach at the same time of day as your wedding. You want to avoid decorating your beach wedding with decor that blends in with the surroundings. Take into account the angle of the sun at the time of day of your ceremony.

About the Author

Jen Whitten is a freelance writer and worked in the event and wedding planning fields.

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Planning Reminder:

woman having bad hair day

Weatherproof your hair

Getting married in a humid climate? If you have hair with natural body to it, a straightened style may curl up by the end of the night. Be realistic about your hair type and how it will react to the weather at your wedding locale. Discuss your best hair options with your stylist.

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Wedding Glossary


A parabola-shaped tent with clean lines, capable of withstanding winds up to 70 miles per hour. Contains few internal poles, making it a popular choice for large weddings.

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