Beach Wedding Essentials


You know you want a beach wedding, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the motley crew you’d like by your side for those all-important words.  So now it’s onto the planning stage.  Yes, there’s a fair bit to sort before the big day and we’ll readily hold our hands up and admit we had to call in the pros for some of the more legal-sounding parts of proceedings, but if you put in the effort now you’re on for a truly unforgettable affair.  Not to mention an early head-start on collecting those marital brownie points.  You’re welcome.

Getting married abroad – where?

Short plane trip across the continent?  Exotic adventure in a far-off land?  Idyllic island?  Funky surf-side nuptials? Or… Bournemouth?  Do you want an authentic cultural affair, or is it all about the sun, sea and saying ‘I do’ under balmy skies?  A calm, peaceful occasion, or full-on party ‘til dawn?

Or…. Bournemouth?

Actually, all kidding aside, Britain’s south coast makes for a cracking choice on the beach wedding front – a top team have even managed to secure permission for couples to conduct legally binding ceremonies right on the sand.  Check out Beach Weddings Bournemouth for details.  So if you’re looking to stay on familiar territory, they’ve got you covered.  That being said, while we love a stick of rock and some good old fish ‘n’ chips as much as the next guy, if it’s the exotic you’re after, Blighty’s shores have got a fight on their hands.

Top ten locations for a destination wedding, according to travel gurus Fodors

  1. Mexico
  2. Bahamas
  3. Kauai
  4. Caribbean
  5. Jamaica
  6. Italy
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Florida
  9. Costa Rica
  10. Bermuda

Key considerations

Once you’ve agreed on your ideal destination it’s time to get cracking on the finer details.  No shortcuts here.  This is one area where you really can’t afford to blag it and hope for the best.  Pick the wrong season, or forget to secure the right permit and you run the risk not only of turning round to find a fully-fledged bridezilla standing behind you (yep, glowing eyes, menacing growl, the lot…) but there’s also a chance you might not be able to hold the main event itself.  Cue bridezilla’s bloody terrifying Mum…

So what do you need to cover?


This one matters on a few counts:

  1. Availability and cost – holiday weekends and high season generally score on perfect weather conditions but make sure you get in early on your bookings (and be prepared to pay that bit extra).  Also be aware you could end up with a few extra onlookers if you opt for a spot on a public beach during the summer holiday period.  Shoulder seasons can be a great shout if you still want the great weather but don’t want the crowds or the hiked up prices.
  2. Seasonal weather – if the destination is prone to taking a hit from Mother Nature make sure you know the best times to visit.  The Met Office and Marry Abroad offer invaluable info on climate, forecasts and month-by-month guides of dry, rainy and hurricane seasons across the globe.  It’s also a good idea to do your homework on tidal conditions, check out for details.
  3. Beach conditions – make sure you’ve got a plan in place if bad weather creeps in, or if you’re on for an afternoon affair when conditions can swiftly turn cooler and darker on the shore.  Is there shelter you can use if it suddenly rains?  Or an alternative indoor venue?  Is the wedding décor (or Aunty Ethel) likely to blow away if there’s a sudden gust of wind?

Location/ceremony type

Do you want a legally binding marriage, or are you looking for a blessing on the shore and a registry office service back home?  Do you want a wedding on the sand, or in a church?  Vicar or celebrant?  Where will the reception be held?  And most importantly on this one, don’t forget to confirm availability of your chosen date.  Some countries hold restrictions on marriages on a Sunday, for example.  Make sure you’re fully aware on the details.

Local legal requirements

Not to make too much of an issue here but if you mess this bit up there’s not a man alive who’ll be able to save you from the wrath of your beloved.  Or her Mum.  Probably her sisters.  Bridesmaids?  To be frank there’s really no excuse for getting it wrong either.  The interweb’s chock-a-block with sites ready and willing to help hapless grooms get their part of the bargain right. and both offer fully comprehensive and hugely detailed explanations of legal requirements to tie the knot in destinations across the globe.  Make sure you’re aware on residency requirements (how long you need to be on their turf before you can hold the wedding), minimum number of witnesses needed, any waiting periods or pre-nuptial consult terms (generally for a church ‘do’), legal documents required (see below), or even permits or permission needed to use a particular stretch of beach.

Honeymoon as well?

As a general rule, planning a wedding abroad means you can take care of the ceremony, celebrations and that much needed post-nuptial holiday in one fell swoop.  And if you book through a travel agent/tour operator, you’ll probably save on your hard-earned cash to boot.  The only question here – what to do about the guests who’ve travelled overseas to witness the occasion?  Do you want a romantic old-fashioned honeymoon, just the two of you taking the time to revel in your newly married bliss?  In which case, how do you tactfully tell the rest of them to sod off?  Do you want to jump on the ‘buddymoon’ bandwagon and keep the party going all week long?  Be sure to make your plans clear from the outset.

The planning bit

When it comes to organising the wedding, you’ve got three main options:

  1. Travel agent / Tour operator – groups like Kuoni, Thomson and Trailfinders offer a multi-pronged approach to beach weddings, booking everything in one easy hit.  A great shout if you’re happy to hand over the reins and let someone else take care of the details, from logistics right through to suppliers, services and paperwork matters.  Tour operators also come up trumps for taking care of travel as a whole, from the happy couple through to guests, more often than not with great group discounts to boot.  Provided you do your homework your hard-earned cash will be covered by ABTA or ATOL protection (see below).  On the downside, you’re possibly looking at a less personal approach to your big day, and could be limited to the choice of venues with which the company has links.  Don’t forget to check credentials, make sure you get all quotes in writing (with a clear breakdown of exactly what’s included), and check if there’s scope to add your own personal touches to proceedings (eg. Photographer, caterer etc.)
  2. Wedding planner – can either be UK based, or an on-the-ground agent abroad.  Wedding planners tend to have an intimate knowledge of one specific area with a great network of local suppliers and services at their fingertips and again can take care of all the details for you, including language issues and any paperwork necessities.  Be aware some resorts won’t allow you to bring in your own planner, so make sure you get a heads-up on the situation.  Employing a wedding planner will obviously push up your overall expenditure and there’s currently no industry regulator to assure you of quality.  So do your homework on this one.  Word of mouth always makes for a solid starting point, check if a resort has their own in-house planner, ask for references, or even try a few venues for recommendations.  And again, make sure you get everything in writing.
  3. DIY – there’s a hefty chunk of your hard-earned cash at stake here, so if you’re not keen on handing that control over to a third party you can always opt to arrange the gig yourself.  As with honeymoon planning, our main tip here would be to check credentials and make sure you’re covered for every eventuality.  The FCO guide to travel insurance offers some great advice on making sure you’ve got the right cover, and head for the ABTA and ATOL websites to make sure you’re dealing with fully regulated suppliers.

Paperwork Matters

The short story?  You need to have this in order or you’re a bit buggered.  Well, more than a bit.  Bridezilla Mum?  ‘Nuff said.  The FCO offers some great foreign travel advice, with up-to-date info on passport and visa requirements across the continents, while the beach wedding pros over at Barefoot Bride offer a cracking rundown on all the legal jargon you might encounter trying to get your nuptial paperwork in order.  We’re talking things like CNIs (Certificate of No Impediment… keep up), Legalisation (seals, stamps and Apostilles), lodging your certificate with the GRO (pay a fee, record the deed on home turf AND leave someone else in charge of not losing the certificate thing behind the fridge) and other Foreign Office-y bits.  Exactly.  Go check them out.

Medical requirements

And we mean the entire wedding party here, so worry not, if jabs are needed and your chest-beating courage deserts you every time a needle comes near, you’ll have a whole crowd of manly hands to hold when it’s your turn.  It’s a nice idea to let guests know in advance of any protective measures (jabs, malaria tablets etc.), so make sure you know the score early on.  Head to your doctor a good few months before the main event, or check out for an idea on any precautions that might be required.

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