Capturing Love and Sunshine:
A Destination Photographer’s Guide to East Coast Beach Elopements
Hey there, beach-loving brides and grooms! If you’re dreaming of saying “I do” with your toes in the sand and the sound of the waves as your backdrop, you’re in the right place. As a destination elopement photographer, I’ve had the privilege of capturing the magic of beach weddings up and down the East Coast of the United States. In this guide, we’ll explore the allure of beach weddings, the laid-back vibes they offer, and the popular attire choices that let you stay cool and stylish while embracing the beachy atmosphere, but that’s not all; we’ll also take a closer look at some incredible destinations for East Coast beach elopements, including the enchanting Charleston, South Carolina, and five other hidden gems that will make your hearts soar.
The Pros and Cons of Beach Weddings: Beach weddings have an undeniable charm, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, relaxation, and romance. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of these idyllic celebrations.
- Scenic Beauty: The scenic beauty of beach weddings is unparalleled, offering a natural canvas of awe-inspiring elements that enhance the romantic atmosphere of your special day. Let’s dive deeper into what makes beach venues so enchanting:
Endless Horizons: When you stand at the edge of the shoreline, you’re greeted with boundless horizons, where the sky meets the sea. The vastness of the ocean creates a sense of grandeur that perfectly complements the significance of your wedding day.
Serenade of the Waves: The rhythmic sound of waves gently crashing onto the shore provides a soothing backdrop to your ceremony. It’s nature’s own serenade, adding a touch of music to your vows.
Golden Sands: The soft, golden sands of the beach create a warm and inviting atmosphere. As you walk down the sandy aisle, you’ll feel the earth beneath your feet, grounding you in the present moment.
Seashells and Seagulls: Beaches are adorned with seashells, pebbles, and driftwood, providing natural decor that’s effortlessly beautiful. Seagulls soaring overhead add a touch of whimsy to the scene.
Sunrise and Sunset Magic: Beach weddings offer the unique opportunity to exchange vows during a breathtaking sunrise or a romantic sunset. The sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, setting the stage for a magical ceremony.
Reflective Waters: The calm and reflective nature of the ocean creates stunning photo opportunities. The mirror-like surface of the water can capture the couple’s reflections, symbolizing the unity of two souls.
Beachside Vegetation: Many beaches are adorned with coastal vegetation like dunes, sea oats, and palm trees. These natural elements add texture and depth to the scenery.
Starlit Evenings: If you choose an evening ceremony, the beach becomes a blank canvas for the twinkling stars above. The night sky provides a backdrop of endless possibilities and dreams.
Changing Tides: The ebb and flow of the tides symbolize the ever-changing nature of life and love. Incorporating this natural rhythm into your ceremony can add a profound layer of symbolism.
Secluded Coves: Some beaches offer secluded coves and hidden corners, providing an intimate and private setting for your celebration. It’s like having your own slice of paradise.
Natural Minimalism: Beaches are a testament to the beauty of minimalism. The simplicity of the sand, sea, and sky allows your love story to take center stage without the need for extravagant decor.
Dynamic Backdrops: Beaches offer dynamic backgrounds that evolve throughout the day. From the soft pastels of morning to the vibrant hues of midday and the romantic twilight, the scenery continually changes, creating a dynamic visual experience.
Incorporating the scenic beauty of beaches into your wedding allows you to connect with nature’s wonders, making your special day even more memorable and magical. Whether you choose to exchange vows with the sun on the horizon, the moon overhead, or the waves as your witnesses, beach weddings promise a visual feast for the eyes and a heartfelt celebration of love.
- Laid-Back Vibes: Beach elopements are renowned for their laid-back and carefree atmosphere, where the stress of traditional wedding planning gives way to a sense of relaxation and enjoyment. Here’s why beach elopements exude such tranquil vibes:
Casual Dress Code: One of the first signs of a laid-back beach elopement is the attire. Brides often choose flowing, lightweight dresses that allow them to move freely in the coastal breeze. Grooms opt for linen or lightweight suits in soft, beachy tones. The absence of formal attire sets the tone for a relaxed day.
Barefoot Bliss: The sensation of warm sand between your toes is a defining feature of beach elopements. Couples, and often their guests, embrace the idea of going barefoot, symbolizing a return to simplicity and nature.
Minimalist Decor: Beaches provide a stunning natural backdrop, reducing the need for elaborate decorations. Many couples opt for minimalist decor with touches like driftwood arbors, seashell accents, or simple floral arrangements. This minimalist approach allows the beach’s inherent beauty to shine through.
Nature’s Music: Beach elopements come with a built-in soundtrack – the soothing sounds of waves gently lapping at the shore. This natural symphony creates a calming and rhythmic background to your ceremony, enhancing the overall relaxed atmosphere.
Flexible Timing: Beach weddings often follow nature’s schedule, with ceremonies timed to coincide with sunrise or sunset. This flexibility allows couples to choose the most convenient and picturesque moments of the day, further reducing stress.
Intimate Guest Lists: Elopements, by their very nature, tend to have smaller guest lists. Beach elopements are no exception, often including just a handful of close friends and family members. This intimate gathering fosters a cozy and relaxed ambiance.
Sand-Inspired Decor: Many couples incorporate sand into their ceremonies, symbolizing the merging of two lives. The pouring of different colored sands into a single vessel represents unity, and the simple act of doing so adds to the laid-back charm.
Beach Picnics: Instead of formal receptions, some beach elopements opt for casual beach picnics. Guests can enjoy a simple spread of sandwiches, fruit, and refreshing beverages while lounging on blankets or beach chairs.
Sun and Surf: Many beach elopements include time for sunbathing and swimming either before or after the ceremony. This allows everyone to relax, have fun, and fully enjoy the coastal setting.
Natural Beauty Rituals: Beach elopements often emphasize natural beauty. Brides may opt for beachy waves instead of intricate updos, and minimal makeup to maintain that sun-kissed glow. This relaxed approach to beauty aligns perfectly with the laid-back vibe.
Sunset Toasts: A favorite beach elopement tradition is to celebrate with a champagne or wine toast during the sunset. The golden hour light adds a touch of magic to this intimate moment.
Stress-Free Planning: Planning a beach elopement can be refreshingly straightforward. Most beach destinations offer wedding packages that include everything from the ceremony setup to permits and even the services of an officiant and photographer. This stress-free approach allows couples to focus on each other rather than logistics.
Disconnect to Reconnect: Many beach elopements encourage guests to disconnect from technology and truly be present in the moment. This break from screens fosters genuine connections and conversations, enhancing the overall relaxed ambiance.
Whimsical Details: Beach elopements often incorporate whimsical and playful details, like beach ball tosses or sandcastle-building competitions. These activities add an element of childlike fun to the celebration.
In a world that often feels fast-paced and hectic, beach elopements provide a sanctuary of tranquility and simplicity. They remind us that love can be celebrated with ease, surrounded by the beauty of nature, and in the company of those who matter most. With the sound of the waves as your witness, a beach elopement offers the perfect opportunity to embrace life’s simple joys and create cherished memories in a laid-back setting.
- Natural Decor: One of the most alluring aspects of beach elopements is the opportunity to embrace the natural beauty of the coastal setting as your decor. The beach itself becomes a canvas, adorned with organic elements that infuse your ceremony with a sense of simplicity and elegance. Let’s dive into the enchanting world of natural decor at beach elopements:
Driftwood Arbors: Beaches often feature weathered and sun-bleached pieces of driftwood that can be repurposed into stunning wedding arbors. These rustic and naturally sculpted wooden structures provide a unique and visually striking focal point for your ceremony. Adorn them with simple fabric drapes, garlands of greenery, or clusters of seashells to enhance their charm.
Seashell Accents: Seashells are nature’s ornaments, and beach elopements are the perfect occasion to incorporate these treasures. Use seashells as aisle markers, centerpieces, or place card holders. Consider crafting seashell garlands to hang from chairs or create beautiful tablescapes with layers of shells.
Beach Grasses and Sea Oats: Coastal vegetation like beach grasses and sea oats add a touch of natural beauty to your beach elopement decor. These elegant, swaying grasses can be used to line the aisle or incorporated into bouquets and centerpieces. Their subtle movement in the breeze evokes a sense of serenity and romance.
Tropical Flowers: If your beach elopement takes place in a tropical locale, consider incorporating local flowers into your decor. Vibrant hibiscus, orchids, and plumeria can be used to create stunning bouquets, boutonnieres, and floral arrangements. These blossoms not only add color but also infuse your ceremony with the fragrance of the tropics.
Barefoot Aisles: The natural aisle for a beach elopement is the soft, sandy shoreline. Couples often choose to have their ceremony right on the beach, with no need for a traditional aisle runner. This minimalist approach allows the beach’s natural textures and colors to take center stage.
Beach Stones and Pebbles: Smooth, round beach stones and pebbles can be incorporated into your decor in various ways. Use them as place card holders, scatter them along the aisle, or create beautiful mandalas and designs in the sand. The natural colors and textures of these stones add depth and interest to your decor.
Beach Grass Awnings: In some beach locales, natural grasses like seagrass can be used to create whimsical beach awnings. These delicate structures provide shade and add a touch of ethereal beauty to your ceremony site. They are often adorned with sheer fabric or floral arrangements to enhance their charm.
Beachfront Bonfires: If you’re planning a sunset beach elopement, consider having a beachfront bonfire as part of your decor. The warm glow of the fire not only creates a cozy and romantic ambiance but also serves as a stunning natural centerpiece against the backdrop of the darkening ocean.
Sunrise and Sunset: The beach itself is a canvas that transforms with the rising and setting of the sun. Sunrise and sunset elopements are particularly magical, as the changing colors of the sky become your decor. The soft pastels of morning and the fiery hues of twilight create a dynamic and ever-evolving backdrop for your ceremony.
Simple Fabric Drapes: Minimalist fabric drapes in light, airy materials like chiffon or organza can be used to frame your ceremony space or arbors. These drapes gently flutter in the breeze, adding a touch of ethereal beauty without overpowering the natural surroundings.
Palm Fronds: In tropical beach destinations, palm fronds are a popular choice for decor. Use them to create lush and vibrant arches, aisle runners, or centerpieces. The tropical greenery adds a touch of exotic elegance.
Sun and Moon: If your beach elopement takes place during the day, consider incorporating the sun as a natural decor element. Hang sun-catching crystals or prisms to create dazzling light displays. For evening ceremonies, the moon and stars become your celestial decor, casting a romantic and dreamy glow over the beach.
Tidal Flower Arrangements: Utilize the natural ebb and flow of the tides to create enchanting flower arrangements. Place floral arrangements in shallow containers with a bit of water to create the illusion of floating blooms as the tide rises.
- Guest Enjoyment: A destination beach micro wedding not only celebrates your love but also offers a unique vacation-like experience for your guests. Here are several opportunities for your loved ones to enjoy the beach and make the most of your special day:
Beachfront Accommodations: Consider booking beachfront accommodations or resorts for your guests. Waking up to the sound of waves and having direct access to the beach enhances the overall experience.
Beach Yoga or Meditation: Arrange a morning beach yoga or meditation session for your guests. This peaceful start to the day allows them to connect with nature and relax before the wedding festivities.
Beach Games: Set up beach games like volleyball, frisbee, or paddleball for your guests to enjoy. These activities encourage bonding and friendly competition.
Sunbathing and Swimming: Invite your guests to relax on the beach, soak up the sun, and take a dip in the sea. Provide beach towels, umbrellas, and sunscreen for their comfort.
Beachcombing: Encourage beachcombing, where guests can search for seashells, driftwood, and other beach treasures. It’s a fun and relaxing activity that allows everyone to connect with the natural surroundings.
Sandcastle Building: Organize a sandcastle-building competition or provide buckets and shovels for guests to create their beach sculptures. This family-friendly activity brings out creativity and laughter.
Seashore Walks: Plan guided seashore walks or nature hikes for your guests. They can explore the coastline, spot local wildlife, and learn about the beach ecosystem.
Beachfront Bars and Restaurants: Choose a wedding venue near beachfront bars and restaurants. After the ceremony, your guests can continue the celebration with cocktails and fresh seafood while enjoying the ocean view.
Stargazing: After the sun sets, stargazing becomes a captivating activity. Provide telescopes or simply lay out blankets for your guests to admire the night sky and constellations.
Seaside Spa: Arrange beachside massages or spa treatments for your guests, allowing them to unwind and pamper themselves while listening to the soothing sounds of the ocean.
Water Sports: If your destination offers water sports like snorkeling, kayaking, or jet-skiing, provide information about rentals and excursions for interested guests.
By incorporating these opportunities for guest enjoyment into your destination beach micro wedding, you not only create cherished memories for your loved ones but also ensure that your special day becomes an unforgettable vacation for all. The beach setting offers a wide array of activities that cater to different preferences, allowing everyone to relax, have fun, and savor the natural beauty of the coastal environment.
- Weather Uncertainty: One of the aspects of beach weddings that couples and their guests must consider is the uncertainty of weather conditions. While beaches offer stunning natural backdrops, they are also exposed to the elements, which can be unpredictable. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
Rain or Storms: Depending on the location and season, beach areas may experience occasional rain or storms. It’s essential to have a backup plan, such as a nearby indoor venue or a tent, to ensure the ceremony can proceed smoothly even in inclement weather.
Wind: Beaches are often breezy, and strong winds can disrupt decor, attire, and even audio equipment. Couples should choose sturdy decor and consider securing lightweight items to prevent them from blowing away.
Temperature Fluctuations: Beaches can have varying temperatures throughout the day, especially during early morning or evening ceremonies. Couples and guests should be prepared with appropriate clothing layers to stay comfortable.
Tides: The tide’s movement can impact the available space on the beach. Timing your ceremony to coincide with low tide ensures a wider expanse of sand for your setup. Be aware of tide schedules and plan accordingly.
Seasonal Considerations: Different seasons can bring distinct weather patterns to beach areas. Research the best time of year for your chosen beach destination to minimize the risk of adverse weather conditions.
- Permits and Regulations: Many beach locations, especially popular ones, may have specific permits and regulations in place for weddings and events. These requirements are important to ensure the safety of all guests and the preservation of the natural environment.
Permits: Depending on the beach’s jurisdiction, you may need a permit to host your elopement or micro wedding. This permit typically grants you the legal right to use a specific area of the beach for your ceremony and may include provisions related to time, date, and the number of attendees.
Guest Count Limits: Some beach permits may specify a maximum guest count to prevent overcrowding and protect the beach ecosystem. It’s essential to adhere to these limits to avoid potential fines or issues with local authorities.
Noise Restrictions: Beach locations often have noise ordinances in place to maintain a peaceful environment for residents and other beachgoers. Be mindful of any noise restrictions, especially if you plan to have live music or amplified sound.
Cleanup and Leave No Trace: Many beach permits require couples to commit to cleaning up after their event and leaving no trace. This means removing all decorations, trash, and personal items from the beach after the ceremony. Failure to do so can result in additional fees or penalties.
Alcohol and Catering: Check if the beach allows alcohol consumption or catering services. Some locations may have strict regulations regarding alcohol on public property. Ensure you comply with any rules in place.
Access and Parking: Consider how guests will access the beach and where they can park. Some beach locations may require you to coordinate transportation and parking arrangements to minimize disruption to the local community.
Beach Hours: Beaches often have specific operating hours, and ceremonies may need to conclude by a certain time. Be sure to know the beach’s hours of operation to plan your event accordingly.
Protected Areas: Some beach areas may be protected habitats for wildlife or nesting birds. Ensure you choose a location that is not ecologically sensitive or obtain the necessary permits if your chosen site falls within a protected area.
Insurance Requirements: Some beach venues may require you to obtain liability insurance for your event. This coverage can protect you in case of accidents or injuries during the ceremony.
To navigate these permit and regulation requirements, it’s advisable to work with a local wedding planner or coordinator who is familiar with the specific rules of the beach location. They can help you secure the necessary permits, understand local regulations, and ensure a smooth and compliant event. Complying with these rules not only ensures a stress-free wedding day but also helps preserve the natural beauty of the beach for future generations to enjoy.
- Attire Challenges: Choosing the right attire for a beach elopement can present unique challenges due to the sandy, breezy, and potentially humid environment. Here are some key considerations:
Dress Length: Traditional long wedding gowns can be cumbersome on the sandy beach. Many brides opt for shorter, lightweight dresses or even beach wedding attire designed to flow gracefully in the ocean breeze.
Shoe Choices: High heels are impractical for beach weddings, as they can sink into the sand. Brides often choose barefoot or flat sandals, while grooms may opt for lightweight shoes like espadrilles.
Gown Fabric: Fabrics like chiffon, lace, or organza are popular choices for beach wedding dresses, as they are lightweight and breathable. Avoid heavy, satin-like materials that can trap heat.
Groom’s Attire: Grooms may opt for linen or lightweight suits in light colors to stay comfortable in the heat. Some even choose casual attire like guayabera shirts and dress shorts.
Veils and Accessories: Consider how veils and accessories will fare in the beach environment. Long veils can be challenging in windy conditions, so brides may opt for shorter veils, flower crowns, or hairpins.
Guest Attire: Inform your guests about the beach setting so they can dress appropriately. Encourage comfortable, breathable clothing and remind them that high heels are not ideal.
Attire Changes: Some couples choose to have a more formal outfit for the ceremony and change into more casual attire for beach activities or a reception. This allows for comfort and practicality.
Bridal Hair and Makeup: Opt for hairstyles and makeup that can withstand beach conditions, including humidity and wind. Waterproof makeup may be essential.
Laid-Back Beach Wedding Vibes: East Coast beach elopements are all about embracing a carefree and laid-back atmosphere. Here’s how to infuse that relaxed vibe into your celebration:
- Barefoot Bliss: Opt for barefoot ceremonies and encourage your guests to do the same. Feel the sand between your toes as you exchange vows.
- Boho-Chic Decor: Embrace bohemian-inspired decor with soft, flowing fabrics, driftwood accents, and seashell details.
- Beach Games: Set up beach games like cornhole or beach volleyball to keep guests entertained.
- Seaside Dining: Arrange a beachfront reception with picnic tables, colorful umbrellas, and seafood feasts.
Beach Wedding Attire: East Coast beach elopements call for attire that is stylish, comfortable, and sand-friendly. Here are some popular choices:
- Flowy Dresses: Brides often choose lightweight, flowy dresses in simple and elegant designs. A-line or sheath silhouettes work well.
- Casual Groom Attire: Grooms opt for linen or lightweight suits in neutral tones. Bowties and suspenders add a touch of beachy charm.
- Barefoot Bridal Beauty: Ditch the heels and embrace barefoot beauty or choose stylish sandals.
- Nautical Details: Accessorize with nautical-inspired elements like starfish hairpins or seashell boutonnieres.
Now, let’s embark on a journey to explore some of the most enchanting beach destinations for East Coast beach elopements and micro weddings.
1. Charleston, South Carolina: Southern Charm Meets Coastal Beauty
What Makes It Special: Charleston is an historic gem with cobblestone streets, antebellum architecture, and charming plantations. Folly Beach, located just outside the city, offers a laid-back coastal escape.
What Couples Need to Know: Charleston is known for its Southern hospitality and rich history. Consider a historic plantation or a beachfront ceremony on Folly Beach for a unique blend of elegance and coastal beauty.
History: Charleston played a significant role in American history, from its colonial beginnings to the Civil War. Explore historic sites like Fort Sumter and the stunning Boone Hall Plantation.
Fun Activities: Enjoy a romantic carriage ride through the historic district or take a boat tour to see the city from the water.
Cuisine: Charleston is a food lover’s paradise, known for dishes like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and Lowcountry boil.
Fine Dining: Treat yourselves to a gourmet meal at Charleston Grill or Husk, known for its Southern-inspired cuisine.
2. Outer Banks, North Carolina: Coastal Adventure Awaits
What Makes It Special: The Outer Banks is a string of barrier islands offering stunning beaches, charming towns, and plenty of outdoor adventure.
What Couples Need to Know: The Outer Banks is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Explore unique venues like the historic Roanoke Island Festival Park or a beachfront ceremony on Hatteras Island.
History: Discover the history of the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island and visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Fun Activities: Try hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge State Park or take a ferry to Ocracoke Island for a romantic escape.
Cuisine: Savor seafood delights like fresh crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp at local seafood shacks.
Fine Dining: Dine at the renowned Blue Point in Duck for a gourmet seafood experience.
3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Coastal Fun and Entertainment
What Makes It Special: Myrtle Beach offers a mix of beautiful beaches, entertainment options, and a lively boardwalk.
What Couples Need to Know: Myrtle Beach is a vibrant and fun destination with numerous beachfront resorts that can host your elopement ceremony.
History: Learn about the area’s history at the Myrtle Beach State Park and the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum.
Fun Activities: Enjoy amusement parks, golfing, and live entertainment at the Carolina Opry.
Cuisine: Indulge in classic Southern fare like fried chicken and collard greens at local eateries.
Fine Dining: Treat yourselves to a romantic dinner at The Library, known for its fine seafood and steak dishes.
4. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts: A Secluded Island Escape
What Makes It Special: Martha’s Vineyard is a charming island off the coast of Massachusetts, known for its serene beaches, picturesque towns, and upscale charm.
What Couples Need to Know: Martha’s Vineyard offers a secluded and elegant setting for beach weddings. Consider the iconic Gay Head Lighthouse as a backdrop for your ceremony.
History: Explore the island’s history at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and visit the historic whaling town of Edgartown.
Fun Activities: Rent bicycles to explore the island, visit art galleries, and take a ferry to Chappaquiddick Island.
Cuisine: Savor fresh seafood, clam chowder, and lobster rolls at local seafood shacks.
Fine Dining: Enjoy a romantic dinner at Atria in Edgartown, known for its upscale American cuisine.
5. Destin, Florida: The Emerald Coast’s Hidden Gem
What Makes It Special: Destin is located on Florida’s Emerald Coast and offers pristine beaches with emerald-green waters, making it a hidden gem for beach weddings.
What Couples Need to Know: Destin’s beaches are known for their crystal-clear waters and sugar-white sands, creating a tropical paradise for elopements.
History: Discover the area’s history at the Destin History and Fishing Museum.
Fun Activities: Go dolphin watching, snorkeling, or rent a pontoon boat to explore the coastline.
Cuisine: Enjoy fresh Gulf seafood like grouper, shrimp, and oysters at beachfront restaurants.
Fine Dining: Head to Beach Walk Cafe for a romantic oceanfront dining experience.
6. Tybee Island, Georgia: Coastal Charm near Savannah
What Makes It Special: Tybee Island, located just outside Savannah, Georgia, offers a laid-back, coastal atmosphere with beautiful beaches and historic charm.
What Couples Need to Know: Tybee Island combines coastal beauty with the historic charm of nearby Savannah. Consider a beachfront ceremony at Tybee Island Beach Pavilion.
History: Explore the historic district of Savannah, known for its cobblestone streets and antebellum architecture.
Fun Activities: Take a kayak tour, visit the Tybee Island Lighthouse, or explore Fort Pulaski National Monument.
Cuisine: Savor Southern classics like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and sweet tea.
Fine Dining: Enjoy a romantic meal at The Grey in Savannah, known for its contemporary Southern cuisine.
East Coast beach elopements offer a unique blend of coastal beauty, historical charm, and laid-back vibes. Whether you choose the Southern elegance of Charleston, the adventure of the Outer Banks, the entertainment of Myrtle Beach, the upscale charm of Martha’s Vineyard, the tropical paradise of Destin, or the coastal charm of Tybee Island, your beach wedding will be an unforgettable celebration of love. So, slip into your beachy attire, feel the sand between your toes, and let the waves serenade you as you embark on this magical journey of love and happiness.
If you think East Coast beach elopements are gorgeous and want one of your own, check out our pricing to see if we can help you with your adventure!