The idea of a beach wedding, or at least a bash bursting with coastal accouterments, is appealing to plenty of couples. The aesthetic lends itself to so many interpretations, with styles ranging from boho to elegant, exotic to minimal, and casual to downright chic.
"Everything is possible on the beach. The sky's the limit," says destination wedding planner Gwen Grosset. "There is nothing like dancing barefoot under the stars with sand between your toes and the rhythmic sound of the waves in the background. What better way to celebrate your love?"
Meet the Expert
- Gwen Grosset is a destination wedding planner and event designer with over ten 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 with any outdoor wedding, you should prepare for uncontrollable factors such as humidity, wind, and unforeseen weather. While you can't fight nature's elements, you can be aware of them and plan accordingly with safeguards like the following:
- Carefully time the event (midday is the hottest)
- Consider the wind (especially when decorating with candles or open flames)
- Stay away from heavy wedding dresses
- Use airbrush makeup
- Schedule touch-ups for hair halfway through the event
- Ensure guests stay hydrated and refreshed
- Have a contingency plan for rain
Whether you're tying the knot steps from the ocean or just have a deep love of all things nautical, you can add tons of beach-inspired details to your wedding that will look thematic but won't leave your day feeling themed.
With that in mind, keep scrolling for 48 of our favorite ways to bring some sun, sand, and sea to your big day, along with some expert intel from Grosset and her team.
Bamboo and layers of lush, leafy greenery create a tropical gateway into the beach nuptials of your dreams. "Consider incorporating natural elements and textures, such as wood, natural fibers, leaves, organic-shaped accents, and neutral colors," says Grosset.
Shells on Your Cake
The confectionary pièce de résistance of your big day is no place to skimp on the seaside details. This stunningly simplistic design shows that delicate shells are the perfect beach-inspired accent for your cutting cake or wedding cake.
Bold Centerpiece Display
Bold colors are the key to vibrant festivities. Here, bare wooden tables lay flush with centerpieces of vivacious florals and ripe citrus for a relaxed Mediterranean vibe that is literally good enough to eat, while an assortment of candles in various sizes provides a warm glow.
Opt for lanterns or hurricane candleholders rather than candlesticks or other uncovered candles to ensure the wind won't blow out the romantic light on your tables, recommends Grosset.
Decorate With Palms
The great thing about palm leaves is that they're huge and pretty durable, making them easy to decorate. Tie them to chair backs for some DIY décor, use them as chargers beneath place settings, or flip the notion and place them atop white plates.
Fans for Guests
A beach wedding at the height of summer calls for creative ways to help guests beat the heat. These boho-inspired fans were cleverly attached to the programs for guests to use during the outdoor ceremony.
Sea-Inspired Invitation Suite
Sea-inspired invitations will undoubtedly get your guests excited for the upcoming bash. These fun invites allude to the beach venue and hint at the event's colorful '60s theme.
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. You can order a bunch off Etsy, like bride Kelly did for her nautical Montauk nuptials.
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 decor. Here, it takes on all the glory of nature set on a canvas of green leaves.
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 beach royalty.
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 at 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 bouquet of greens and neutral-toned florals is perfect for a wedding in nature, and you can add palm leaves for an instant beachy upgrade. Bride Donna chose a combination of white king protea, eucalyptus, palms, and white flowers like orchids and anthurium for her boho beach nuptials in Mexico.
Reuse your flowers, advises Grosset—you'll save money while being eco-friendly. Use the bridesmaid bouquets as centerpieces, or use the bride's bouquet 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 decorated 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.
Coastal Escort Cards
You can have nautical touches at your wedding even if there's no beach in sight. These capiz shell escort cards with pretty pink writing are the perfect addition to a coastal reception.
This elegant cake features a delicate blue watercolor design that mimics undulating waves. Adorned with a gold-painted piece of coral, a shell, and pearls—we're loving the organic approach—this gorgeous dessert is ready for its seaside debut.
Beachy, but make it glam—because not all seaside fêtes are boho and relaxed or nautical in navy. This ballroom celebration was brimming with tropical grandeur. Linens of black-and-white palm prints, magnificent palm centerpieces, black accents, and gold flourishes delivered the drama.
Tropical Bar Décor
Serve up classic summertime sips like margaritas and Aperol spritzes, and deck out your bar with tropical foliage. This setup at a Hawaiian beach elopement features colorful accouterments like dragonfruits and birds of paradise.
Nautical Wedding Favors
Navy-and-white-striped miniature bottles of Champagne with nautical bowties make for the perfect favor or groomsman gift at your seaside wedding. Cheers to that!
Palm Leaf Table Markers
Tropical leaves are the perfect budget-friendly touch to inject some beach inspo into your day. Here, blades of palm leaves were used to differentiate tables by name (you can use 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.
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 the best photo prop.
Woven Basket Lanterns
Woven baskets are a surefire win for a beachy theme. These gorgeous basket lanterns keep with the vibe and maintain the airiness of the clear tent without weighing everything down.
Cozy Reception Seating
Plush seating and comfortable cushions create a relaxed lounge area and an informal vibe, while eclectic throw rugs anchor the space and keep guests from getting too sandy. "We love to transform areas on the beach into unique spaces using furniture and decorative items to create cozy and blithe surroundings while still being respectful to and integrating the local nature," says Grosset.
Nautical Ring Cushion
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. This couple used it to create Mr. and Mrs. signs that were hung on the backs of bamboo chairs at their destination wedding in the Bahamas. You can also use driftwood to decorate reception tables or create signs pointing guests in the right direction.
Surfboards are the epitome of laid-back, cool beach vibes and make for great wedding decorations. This surfer groom transformed his personal collection into a unique guest book.
Did someone say dessert? These blue-toned oyster shells were filled with rich, chocolatey goodness and topped with sea salt. It doesn't get much more on-theme than that.
Botanical Escort Card Display
This captivating escort card display is bursting with all the tropical trimmings. A simple seating chart is framed by a lush, verdant frame of natural ferns, monstera leaves, and gilded touches. Bright pink blooms add a pop of vibrancy to the scene.
Local Fruits and Blooms
Go local! Give a nod to your carefully chosen locale by using local flora and fruits in your décor. This deliciously tropical tablescape is flush with pineapples and papayas that deftly blend with ivory blooms, straw chargers, and palm-leaf accents.
Be inspired by the sea when choosing your tableware. This couple incorporated plates featuring a starfish and seashell design for their Nantucket wedding. They kept with the theme by using similarly designed menus and origami sailboat place cards.
Natural Table Runners
These palm leaf runners blend in perfectly with the natural vista and oceanic carpet that stretches beyond. Who needs one big centerpiece when you can have this?
Keep decorations simple when surrounded by natural beauty. "Focus the budget on the experience, like food and entertainment," says Grosset. If that's on point, guests won't miss the rest.
Guest favors are the one instance where it's completely okay to play with your food. These fish-shaped cookies were decorated with guests' names and placed atop welcome boxes in each seat.
In addition to their functional purposes, these namesake knots were used by sailors as a way to keep the memory of their loved ones with them on long journeys at sea. Such a sentimental symbol of enduring love deserves a place in your wedding celebration. Create large knots from nautical rope to hold table numbers, place cards, or menus.
A Grand Entrance (or Exit)
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.
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.
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.
Décor With Island Vibes
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.
What better way to relax with your new spouse and commemorate a beach theme than with a macramé hammock, as this couple did for their destination wedding in Tulum? "Our couples usually love to identify with our little beach town, Tulum, and incorporate the local style as much as they can into their big day," says Grosset. "These local details, mixed with the personal elements of the couple, can make the experience more unique and complete."
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.
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 whitewashed interior?
Flip-Flops for Dancing
A beachside bash can often be a more casual affair, so provide flip-flops for guests to change into when the dance floor opens up. Place them in boxes or baskets near the seating chart so everyone can grab a pair before they sit down. Your guests (and their feet) will thank you!
Pampas Grass Aisle
Pampas grass décor is here to stay, and what better way to use the beige-colored plant than to decorate your aisle? This oceanside wedding featured tall pampas grass and wicker baskets to create a neutral, boho-style ceremony setup.
Beach-Themed Goodie Bags
Having a welcome party, after-party, or destination wedding? Offer guests welcome bags that feature all the beach-day necessities. This couple's bag included fresh fruit, water, potato chips, sunscreen, and other goodies.
Serve up signature cocktails that guests will love sipping near the water. The pink and yellow colors on this tray remind us of the sunset.
Flowers don't need to stay on tables and altars. This bold and bright floral installation creates a stunning backdrop for photos.
Give your beachy sweetheart table a little kick. A neon sign featuring the couple’s new shared last name hung behind the table, creating a wow-worthy backdrop when the newlyweds took their seats.
Don't forget to have a Plan B in place for your beach event. In fact, it might be appreciated even if it doesn't rain. This Jamaican wedding boasted an elegant, sheer tent that protected guests from the harsh sun.
Sweet Seating Chart
Greet your guests with a tropical cocktail that they can grab—along with their table number—at a creative seating chart. It's a fun way to get the cocktail hour going asap!