We went to the top wedding gurus to find the best tips for coastal celebrations—from colors to cocktails.
1 of 12Photo: Patricia Lyons
Use the wedding location as inspiration for the colors you choose: Icy blues, coral pinks, and sunset hues make great seaside palettes.
Try sandy, natural tones—raw linen and canvas, natural rope and jute, bleached wood—the colors that come straight from the shore.
Add metallics. Typical beachy colors like coral, teal, white, and cream get an elegant upgrade when paired with silver, pewter, gold, or rose gold.
An all-white party on the beach can be the epitome of chic, especially when you ask your guests to wear white, turning them into the ultimate design statement, as well.
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People might not understand that your wedding is on the beach. Give a clue in the colors, motif, font, and formality of language to indicate that it will be a more outdoorsy wedding.
The best place to put any information on attire is on an enclosure, along with the wedding Web site, hotel information, and map or directions. That's the perfect place to say, "Ladies might want to avoid heels, as we'll be on a lawn," or "Shade is scarce, so hats are suggested." If the ceremony is on the beach, and flip-flops are welcome, say so. A wedding Web site is a great place to repeat this information.
3 of 12Photo: Patricia Lyons
Choose flowers endemic to a region. For example, if in the Hamptons, try Montauk daisies, beach roses, or blue hydrangeas. In Miami or other tropical locations, orchids are fun.
Have two boutonnieres on hand for the groom, in case one wilts.
For a sweltering day, orchids and callas are your toughest, hardiest stems. Delicate field flowers such as lily of the valley will wilt in the heat, even if they're in water.
Avoid big, tall centerpieces. If you put a bunch of breeze-catching flowers in a tall, slim container, chances are it's going to blow over.
4 of 12Photo: Catherine Hall
If you're getting married at sunset, the guests may have the sun directly in their eyes, which can make it a bit of a challenge to enjoy the ceremony. For a simple fix, place chairs at a slight angle.
An outdoor wedding can mean bugs—nothing ruins a ceremony like being eaten alive! Hand out communal bug spray, or individual bug wipes like Avon Skin-So-Soft towelettes. You can also employ an eco-friendly exterminator to fog the entire area with insect repellant before guests arrive.
Offer a shoe check for a ceremony on the beach. As soon as guests arrive, stow their footwear so they can walk barefoot on the sand.
5 of 12Photo: Liz Banfield
If it's an international location, call upon the cultural decorative items of the area. For example, in Mexico, use local serapes as table runners.
Typically, coastal areas are breezy. Place cards on a table will blow away—instead use the prongs of each fork to hold the card in place.
Chuppahs can turn into sails on a windy day. If you need a fabric top on a chuppah or wedding canopy, do it in sections so the breeze can blow through it—besides, material moving in the wind looks pretty.
6 of 12Photo: Patricia Lyons
Your ceremony should wrap up about an hour before sunset—then you'll be able to take advantage of the great light for pictures on the beach.
It's a good idea to tell the entire wedding party to wear sunscreen.
Have your wedding party and family remove their sunglasses for the ceremony. It takes away from the timeless elegance of your photos.
Consider moving the wedding earlier in the day. Why go to a beautiful destination with gorgeous light if the festivities are in the dark?
7 of 12Photo: Miki Duisterhof
Fondant may sweat in the heat, but it's definitely more weatherproof than butter-cream, which in the presence of a little warmth can go from solid to liquid.
Ask your baker how long the cake can sit out—if the timeline is too limited, have it delivered later, or ask if your caterer has space in the refrigerator. (Just let the cake come to room temperature before cutting and serving).
Skip the cheesecake or cream cheese fillings for red velvet cakes or carrot cakes—they're more susceptible to spoiling in the heat.
8 of 12Photo: Sara France
Hair & Makeup
For makeup to really last throughout the day, alternate textures—don't use all powder products, or all creams. Start off with a cream shadow that has some water resistance and sets well, and then apply powder shadow on top. Use powder bronzer and blush, and top with a little cream blush. Set everything gently with a translucent powder.
Pulled-back coastal wedding hairstyles can include a topknot bun, a fancy ponytail, or even a pretty, loose bun. Braids or braided updos are also excellent for a beach wedding—the wind and humidity helps the braids romantically break apart and makes hair look fuller and thicker. Avoid any style that's not supposed to move.
9 of 12Photo: Patricia Lyons
Fashion & Style
Take a look at the fabric of your dress in natural light, because it can look very different than it does inside the dress store.
Be careful with a true white-white dress. Things look brighter in the sun, and a stark white may come off too shocking, especially on the sand. Instead, consider a light ivory.
For outdoor ceremonies, gravitate toward less sheen. Laundered silk crepe, guipure lace, and cotton tulle fabrics are light and airy, so their weight won't be overpowering.
Consider how much volume is in the skirt—the more volume there is, the heavier and hotter the dress will be.
10 of 12Photo: Catherine Hall
Food & Drink
At outdoor coastal wedding receptions, consider lighter fare, such as mini tuna burgers, flatbread Caprese pizzas, and zucchini frites.
Cream-based dips and spreads should be kept indoors and out of the sun. Also avoid cheese tables in the humidity; cheeses can start to sweat and attract insects.
Have lots of drinks with fresh citrus bases and herbs, such as mint-tinis and blackberry-cherry mojitos chock-full of fresh fruit.
Try light, spritzy wines—hold the Chardonnay, and go for Pinot Grigio or Sancerre.
11 of 12Photo: Catherine Hall
Music & Entertainment
A professional sound system is an important consideration for live music outdoors. Vocalists and classical acoustic instruments need amplification so that sound can carry over the surf and wind.
Determine electrical power, generator, and proper amp circuit requirements for the musicians' gear in advance. Consider staging the band: Uneven outdoor surfaces can create issues for drums and amps.
A reggae or soca band is always fun—or choose a modern ensemble that can start with an island vibe, and segue into hip-hop, pop, rock, and other styles.
12 of 12Photo: Sara France
Seek out a venue that has a boat—even during a staged getaway, it makes for lovely photos.
Invite guests down to the beach to cheer and wave sparklers for a simple but dazzling send-off as the two of you walk hand in hand along the shore.
Decorate vintage bikes—or an old-fashioned pedicab—with a "Just Married" sign and streamers, and pedal off down the boardwalk.