Whether you're tying the knot just steps from the ocean or simply have a deep love of all things nautical, there are tons of beach-inspired details that you can add to your wedding that will feel thematic, but won't leave your day feeling themed. "A beach wedding is a great way to create a relaxed, casual, and holiday-like atmosphere for your wedding and bring your friends and family together for a weekend getaway," explains destination wedding expert Gwen Grosset. "There is nothing like dancing barefoot under the stars, sand between your toes, and the rhythmic sound of the waves in the background. What better way to celebrate your love? Saying 'I do' on a breathtaking beach will make any planning pains worth it."
The idea of a beach wedding, or at least a bash bursting with coastal accoutrements, is appealing to plenty of couples, and the aesthetic lends itself to any interpretation whether styles run from boho to elegant to exotic to minimal to downright chic. "Everything is possible on the beach," says Grosset. "The sky's the limit!"
Meet the Expert
Gwen Grosset is a destination wedding planner and event designer with over 10 years of experience creating bespoke beach weddings. She is the founder of Destination Weddings Tulum.
While a coastal fête can be a magical experience, Grosset reminds us that you'll be outdoors and should prepare for uncontrollable factors such as humidity, wind, and unforeseen weather. She believes that while you can't fight nature's elements, you can be aware of them and plan accordingly with safeguards like the following:
- Carefully plan schedule times (midday is the hottest time)
- Consider the wind (especially when decorating with candles or open flames)
- Stay away from heavy wedding dresses
- Use airbrush make up
- Schedule touch-ups for hair halfway through the event
- Ensure guests stay hydrated and refreshed
- Have a contingency plan for rain
With that in mind, scroll through to see our favorite ways to bring some sun, sand, and sea to your big day, along with some expert intel from Grosset and her team.
A Lush Entryway
Bamboo and layers of lush, leafy greenery create a tropical gateway into the beach nuptials of your dreams. "Beachy is a great style that will make your guests feel at home in a laid-back environment," explains Grosset. "It can be elegant and sophisticated without being imposed and it can be replicated in closed spaces. Consider incorporating natural elements and textures such as wood, natural fibers, leaves, organic-shaped accents, and neutral colors." A mixed variety of palm leaves, white lilies, white ginger, and bougainvillea outfit this dreamy doorway.
Shells on Your Cake
The confectionary pièce de résistance of your big day is no place to skimp on the seaside details. This stunning design by Buttercream Dreams shows that delicate shells are the perfect beach-inspired accent for your wedding cake.
A Juicy Centerpiece Display
Bold, juicy colors are the key to vibrant festivities. Here, bare wooden tables lay flush with centerpieces of vivacious florals and ripe, citrus flourishes for a relaxed Mediterranean vibe that is literally good enough to eat. An assortment of candles in various sizes provides a warm glow to what will surely be a night of intimate conversation and memorable revelry.
"We recommend lanterns or hurricane candleholders rather than candlesticks or other uncovered candles," says Grosset. "Just to make sure the romantic light on your tables will not be blown out by the wind."
Decorate With Palms
The great thing about palm leaves is that they're absolutely huge and pretty durable, making them easy to decorate with. Tie them to chair backs for some DIY chair décor, use them as chargers beneath place settings, or flip the notion and place them atop white plates.
Anchor Your Wedding Games
Even if you're not tying the knot with your feet in the sand, you can add nautical touches to your wedding. One idea we love? Elegant anchor details, like the hand-drawn option seen here.
A Sea-Inspired Invitation Suite
Sea-inspired invitation suites will undoubtedly get your guests excited for the upcoming bash. These fun invites allude to the beach venue and hint at the colorful '60s theme of the festivities.
DIY Seashell Place Cards
You've heard of farm-to-table, but what about sea-to-table? These seashell place cards bring the ocean right to your plate. “I ordered the shells on Etsy, and they weren’t so fresh-smelling when they arrived," says bride Kelly. "I washed 200 of them with a toothbrush in our bathtub!”
A Statement Chair
As the VIPs of the day, the newlyweds deserve a special seat at the table. A proper statement chair not only sets them apart in a place of honor but also makes for some epic photographs. These round wicker stunners just scream of beach royalty.
A Shoe Valet for Barefoot Guests
Provide a spot for guests to drop their shoes at your oceanfront nuptials. A shoe valet, like this one with a custom sign, tells guests exactly where to leave their footwear. They can either trade heels for flip-flops or attend the sandy ceremony barefoot.
Boho-Chic Table Settings
Bohemian details feel right at home for beachside weddings. We're totally obsessed with the distressed white paint paired with these incredible straw chargers. Amber-toned glassware, stoneware plates, gilded metallic accents, and a sheer, rust-hued runner complete the aesthetic.
A Coastal Bouquet
Add a ribbon of an organic, of-the-sea texture to your bouquet for an instant beachy upgrade and tons of flow for photos. This ashy brown option feels reminiscent of driftwood.
"A great tip would be to reuse the flowers," says Grosset. "This will save you money and also be taking care of our planet. For example, all the bridesmaids bouquets could be the centerpieces or the bride’s bouquet can be arranged as a centerpiece for the head table."
Aquatic Aisle Décor
Submerge your ceremony in all the trappings of underwater finery with an aisle that's flush with bright coral, textured grasses, dried flora, sea-glass vases, and the occasional cactus for good measure. This scene is fit for any mermaid-bride.
A Tropical Seating Chart
An acrylic seating chart is about as versatile as it gets. It seamlessly blends into any background and can be used to display existing wedding décor. Here, it takes on all the glory of nature set on a canvas of green leaves.
Coastal Escort Cards
You can have nautical touches at your wedding even if there's no beach in sight. These blue-and-white escort cards with a knot motif are the perfect addition to a coastal reception.
An Oceanic Cake
This gradient cake of aquatic hues is decked out in undulating waves of pretty ruffles. Topped with a pearlescent piece of coral and sitting on a bed of pearly "sand" this gorgeous dessert is ready for its seaside debut. We're loving the organic approach to a wedding cake topper, too.
A Glamorous Setup
Beachy, but make it glam—because not all seaside fêtes are boho and relaxed or nautical in navy. This ballroom celebration was brimming with all the tropical grandeur. Linens of black-and-white palm prints, magnificent palm centerpieces, black accents, and gold flourishes delivered on the drama.
Nautical Wedding Favors
Striped bottles of champagne with nautical bowties make for the perfect favor or groomsman gift at your seaside wedding. Cheers to that!
Capiz Shell Place Cards
Translucent and pearlescent, these capiz shell place cards bring all the dainty elegance to any coastal theme. Set atop of individual plates or showcase them on place-card holders for a glorious tablescape.
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What's a beach theme without coconuts? Go all out and treat your guests to delicious signature cocktails, or keep it real with coconut water, served in coconuts engraved with your names, the wedding date, or a hashtag. Bonus: They make for the best photo prop.
Get Crafty With Table Numbers
Tropical leaves are perfect, budget-friendly touches to inject some beach-inspo. Here, blades of palm leaves were used as to differentiate tables by name (or numbers, if that's more your jam). You could use the same idea for place cards, seating charts, or even menus—all you need is a gold pen and some neat handwriting.
Nautical Hanging Baskets
Woven baskets are a surefire win for any coastal theme. These gorgeous basket lanterns keep with the vibe and maintain the airiness of the clear tent without weighing everything down.
Cozy Reception Seating
"Who doesn't like to party on the beach, outside, under the stars?" asks Grosset. "We love to transform areas on the beach into unique spaces using furniture and decorative items to create cozy and blithe surroundings whilst still being respectful to and integrating the local nature. It is the perfect beautiful background to a party with an enchanting ambiance." Plush seating and comfortable cushions create a relaxed lounge area and informal vibe, while eclectic throw rugs anchor the space and keep guests from getting too sandy. "Every detail gets a romantic and unique touch while still allowing you to feel the natural elements," adds Grosset.
A Nautical Ring Bearer Pillow
Don't forget about the little ones! Have your ring bearer carry the wedding bands down the aisle on an adorable nautical pillow—tied with twine for added security.
Driftwood is quite possibly the poster-child of beach-appropriate finishes and these bride and groom signs are the perfect way to decorate reception chair backs. Or, use it to create signs pointing your guests in the right direction for all the big-day events.
A Surfer's Paradise
Surf boards are the epitome of laid-back, beachy cool and make for great wedding decorations. This surfer groom transformed his personal collection into a unique guest book for guests to sign.
Did someone say dessert? These blue-toned oyster shells were filled with a rich, chocolatey goodness and topped with sea salt. Doesn't get much more on-theme than that.
A Visual Escort-Card Display
This captivating escort-card display is bursting with all of the tropical trimmings. A simple seating chart is framed with a lush, verdant frame of natural ferns, monstera leaves, and gilded touches. Bright pink blooms add a pop of vibrancy to the scene.
Showcase Local Fruits
Go local! Give a nod to your carefully-chosen locale by using local flora or even fruits in your décor. This deliciously tropical tablescape is flush with pineapples and papayas that deftly blend with the ivory blooms, straw chargers, and palm-leaf accents.
Miniature seashells add a summery touch to any reception and lend themselves to a myriad of décor opportunities. Here, they make easy work of keeping escort cards in place. Or, scatter them down the middle of long tables for a shore-like vibe. You can also add them to floral centerpieces or cluster them around the bases of pillar candles for some dimension.
Natural Table Runners
"If you are hosting a wedding on the beach, the surroundings are already beautiful so I would suggest not overdoing it with the decorations," advises Grosset. "Keep it local and simple and focus the budget on the experience like food and entertainment. If these elements are amazing, your guests won't miss a huge centerpiece." These palm leaf runners blend in perfectly with the natural vista and oceanic carpet that stretches beyond.
Guest favors are the one instance where it's completely okay to play with your food. These fishy cookies were decorated with guests' names and placed atop of welcome boxes in each seat.
Use Knots for Your Table Numbers
In addition to their functional purposes, sailor's often used these namesake knots as a way to keep the memory of their beloved with them on long journeys at sea. Such a sentimental symbol of enduring love deserves a place at your wedding celebration. Create large knots from nautical rope to hold table numbers, place cards, or menus.
You and your wedding party deserve to make an entrance and for a seaside fête there's only one way to go about it: by sea. Or, make a grand exit with your new spouse by chartering a vessel of your choice and sailing off into nuptial bliss. Feel free to get super creative with the notion. "The craziest request we have had must be arriving on a kiteboard for the ceremony," recalls Grosset.
Serve Up Some Seafood
It's not a full-fledged beach theme until your guests can actually taste the ocean. If coastal New England is your vibe, then you already know that lobster rolls are a must. Grosset believes in incorporating a seaside theme into all components of a celebration, including cocktails and food. "If you do this you will create a whole experience that will engulf everyone in the vacation mood and what the beach offers," she explains.
Nautical Welcome Bags
And let's discuss these lobster-inspired welcome bags while we're at it. All the usual suspects from candy crustaceans and bottle openers to nautical wine stoppers and seafood mallets are encased in one personalized beach tote—with lobster-printed tissue paper, of course.
A Ceremonial Backdrop
With a view this magnificent you'll want nothing to get in the way, but a minimalist ceremonial backdrop may be in order. While we wouldn't call this an arch per se, the structure creates the perfect frame for the newlyweds' vows while leaving the sweeping oceanic vista free from obstruction. Two swags of monstera leaves, palm fronds, orchids, pampas grass, and white king proteas finish off the look.
"Tropical elements are very much associated with the beach vibe so consider incorporating tropical flowers and foliage to your arrangements and décor," suggest Grosset. "For your furniture rentals, you can use driftwood, bamboo, and natural rattan that can make your guests feel like they are lounging at a beach bar in front of the sea." This tropical color scheme of vibrant green, creamy white, and natural tones is the epitome of island charm. We're obsessed with the combination of textures from the soaring arrangements of palm leaves to the organic rattan and wicker finishes to the bamboo furniture.
If the sea and all its splendor aren't enough of a backdrop, or just not an option for your venue, then what better way to commemorate a beach theme than with a macramé hammock? "Our couples usually love to identify with our little beach town, Tulum, and incorporate the local style as much as they can in their big day," says Grosset. "These local details mixed with the personal elements of the couple can make the experience more unique and complete."
A Tropical Bouquet
We love a uniform, on-theme look and a bridal bouquet should be no exception. Blend the local colors and greenery into your bouquet for an ode to the destination and culture. It's also a cheaper alternative to flying in exotic flowers that may not even withstand the climate. This bride's oh-so tropical bouquet consists of tonal palms, ferns, massive monstera leaves, and anthurium.
A Flourishing Chapel
Not all seaside weddings have an alfresco setting, especially if your ceremony calls for a chapel. Bring the beach indoors with beautiful foraged foliage and blooms like these colorful arrangements of monstera leaves and proteas. Who wouldn't swoon at the sight of this vibrant array of colors against the white-washed interior?