If there’s one thing that’s true about millennials and Gen Z, it’s that they don’t like tradition. When it comes to tying the knot and saying “I Do,” more and more couples are choosing to elope as opposed to hosting a large, traditional wedding.
Rather than running away and eloping in secret, elopements are simply becoming more trendy as a way to get married in a more unique and fun way. Rather than renting a grand wedding venue, couples would rather get married outside, on a mountaintop, or in our case, on the beach.
Beach Elopement Ideas
Sure, you can host a traditional wedding on the beach. But those can be very expensive. Eloping on the beach can help you save money and give you more options as to where you go, and what you do during your wedding ceremony.
Here are some beach elopement ideas, and some of the top beach elopement locations to consider when planning a dreamy, sand-in-your-toes elopement.
Keep it Simple
Keep your beach elopement simple. Depending on what state and county you are in, you shouldn’t need a permit or anything to perform a tiny ceremony on the beach.
For a simple ceremony, you can simply have your photographer and officiant, along with a handful of guests, stand around you as you recite your vows with the waves crashing behind you.
Honestly, you don’t even need decor when you’re backdrop is the ocean. This type of ceremony is virtually free and is best for minimalists and those who believe nature is all you need.
Bring a few picnic blankets for guests to sit on, and to take a few photos on. It’s ideal (for elopement photos, anyway), to plan your ceremony at sunrise or sunset. Sunrise will be quieter with far fewer people on the beach.
Hire a Picnic Provider
Want to plan a cute beach wedding that involves delicious food, without breaking the bank? In many popular beach locations, you can find fun, trendy picnic providers that will set up adorable picnics on the beach for you, complete with drinks and snacks (or food, whatever you order).
Those getting married on the beach in St Petersburg, Florida, for example, could look into St Pete Picnic Co. They set up blankets, and a few cute decorations, and provide a picnic spread for up to 10 people.
Since elopements typically have less than 10 guests (and often no guests at all), it’s much easier to plan a sunrise elopement, since you don’t need to worry about guest preferences.
Sunrise is honestly the perfect time since very few people will be on the public beaches. And almost no one will be on hard-to-get-to beaches. Especially if it’s on a weekday.
The lighting during the sunrise is always gorgeous, making for breathtaking photos. And you’ll still have the whole day to plan other activities or celebrations.
For a sunrise wedding, consider a breakfast picnic with baked goods and coffee prepared by a local coffee shop. They often have big boxes of brewed coffee that you can take with you anywhere. Just make sure to order ahead of time so they have it ready first thing in the morning.
Set Up a Micro Wedding on the Sand
Everyone’s definition of elopement is different. While some elopements don’t have any guests, others might invite upwards of 30 guests. Micro wedding or elopement, you can invite people and give them a place to sit if you want.
In many beach destinations, there are beach wedding providers who can set up a small wedding ceremony for you. If a permit is required by the county, they’ll get it for you. They’ll set up decor and a backdrop for the bride and groom. And they’ll set up chairs for your guests.
This can be a great, affordable way to have a traditional wedding-type ceremony with family and friends. You can then head elsewhere for a reception, such as a restaurant or a brewery, or just hang out on the beach.
Charter a Sailboat After Your Ceremony
Just because your ceremony is on the sand doesn’t mean you need to stay there. The perfect thing to do after reciting your vows is to hop on a sailboat and take a sunset cruise around the area.
Some sailboat charters can accommodate up to 12 guests, allowing you to bring a few people along for drinks and snacks. Bring a photographer with you to take the ultimate elopement photos. Heck, you can even bring your officiant with you and get hitched on the water.
After your ceremony in the sand, it’s time to celebrate. And what better way to do that than by popping champagne?
Double-check the rules of the beach you’re on, as some public beaches won’t allow alcohol or glass bottles. But if you’re in the clear, pop those bottles off and prepare for some adorable photos.
Paddle or Boat Your Way to an Uninhabited Island
If you’re more of an adventurous couple who doesn’t mind a little exercise and exploration on your wedding day, consider getting away from the crowds of the easily accessible beaches. Grab some kayaks or paddleboards and head to a nearby island for a private beach ceremony.
There are all kinds of little islands like this in popular beach destinations. Florida has a ton. If you’re in the Tampa, St Pete, or Sarasota areas, you can head to Fort De Soto Park and paddle from the main island to nearby Shell Key (a relatively easy paddle).
Alternatively, you can always rent a boat to get there the easy way.
Camp on a Private Island
Who says you need to stay in a fancy, expensive hotel after tying the knot? Instead, you can camp out on a private island and enjoy the sounds of the water as you drift off to sleep under the stars.
While locations like this may be few and far between (unless you know someone with a boat), there are a few spots in Florida where you can paddle to a tiny, private island. Canaveral National Seashore (near Orlando), is one such place.
You could bring your officiant and photographer here for a ceremony and then send them away as you enjoy a night alone.
Paddle Through Mangrove Tunnels
Many times, at traditional weddings, couples will make a dramatic exit, holding hands and running through a tunnel of guests holding sparklers, throwing confetti, or something similar.
How about a more natural tunnel to exit from? After your beach ceremony, hop into a canoe or kayak together and paddle your way through romantic mangrove tunnels. These are common in coastal Florida and are super fun and scenic to explore.
Get Married in the Courthouse and Celebrate on the Beach
I recently photographed a couple who eloped at the Sarasota Courthouse here in Florida. They went first thing in the morning and had a county clerk perform their ceremony (about $30). The courthouse is a beautiful, historic building so it provided some gorgeous photos.
And they went on a weekday morning when there weren’t any other couples around. After that, we went to the beach to celebrate, pop champagne, eat cake, and watch the sunset.
Rent a Beach House
Another great way to host an elopement on the beach is to rent a beach house. That way, you get your own little private beach.
You can set up some decor and chairs if you’d like, and have some guests along. Try choosing a beach house with a large outdoor patio or seating area, so you can hang out and enjoy dinner or drinks.
When renting a beach house, always confirm with the host or owner if it’s ok to have your elopement there, as they need to know how many guests you plan to bring. They can also provide tips for noise management and parking.
Choose a Seaside Resort for a Weekday Elopement
For a more traditional wedding on the beach, you can look into resort wedding venues. They often offer elopement packages for beach weddings, in the morning or during weekdays, which are much more affordable than a Saturday night rental.
Beach Elopement Locations
Now that you have a few ideas, where should you actually go for your beach elopement? Considering most people don’t live near the beach, they have to travel for their elopement. Here are the top destinations for beach elopements in North America.
Yes, I'm an elopement photographer who lives here in the sunshine state, so I'm a little biased. But let’s be real - Florida is the most popular state to visit in the US, thanks to year-round warm weather, and having the most miles of coastline out of any state in the lower 48 (take that, California).
Beach elopement locations are plentiful, all the way from the Panhandle and Destin, down to Tampa and Fort Myers, the Florida Keys, and the entire Atlantic coast from Miami to Jacksonville.
You’ll find public beaches, deserted stretches of coastline, beach houses and resorts, islands, and everything else you can imagine.
Anna Maria Island and Siesta Key on the Gulf Coast are two very popular beach destinations for weddings and elopements.
South Carolina is another great state to elope on the beach. Not as warm as Florida during the winter time, it makes for a great destination in the spring, summer, or fall. Charleston, Hilton Head, and Myrtle Beach are definitely the hot spots, with plenty of small beach towns and quiet beaches in between.
The beaches near Houston (Galveston) are great places to elope with the Gulf of Mexico behind you. Many of the beaches allow you to drive a car on the beach, which makes it easy to get away from the crowds and bring decor with you.
For something a little more scenic, Padre Island National Seashore is a huge section of protected coastline.
California offers the most variety when it comes to beach weddings. Down south, you have the typical sunny, public California beaches in San Diego, Orange County, and LA. A lot of the public beach areas are flatter, though some of them feature small cliffs and rocky areas which make for scenic photos.
If you really want scenic views during your beach elopement, the central coast beaches, such as Big Sur, are breathtaking, as are the Northern California beaches above San Francisco (Point Reyes). You could even head up to Redwood National Park to mix your time between the beach and the giant Redwood Forest.
Not all beach elopements need to be warm and tropical. If mountains and moody colors are more your vibe, then a beach wedding in Oregon or Washington is an amazing choice. The landscapes here are mesmerizing, but the water temperatures mean that swimming is highly unlikely, even in the summer.
Also, you certainly aren’t guaranteed a sunny day, but the overcast skies help create epic backdrops and photos.
Willing to travel a bit further? Hawaii has arguably the best beaches in the US, and the world (yes, I was lucky enough to live in Maui for a few years). The temperature is consistently warm year-round and doesn’t really spike in the summer as it does in Florida.
With a handful of islands to choose from, you’ll need to decide if you want to be near the big city in Oahu, the resorts of Maui, or the small island vibes and mountain scenery of Kauai.
Countless destinations for tropical beach elopements exist in the Caribbean. The Cancun area of Mexico, the laid-back beaches of Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and nearly every other island in the Caribbean are worth your while. You’ll easily be able to mix in activities such as snorkeling, hiking in the jungle, zip-lining over rivers and canyons, or finding beautiful cenotes to swim in (like in Mexico).
Plan Your Beach Elopement
If you're considering a beach elopement, I’d like to encourage you to absolutely do it. The beach is unforgettable, incredibly scenic, and just a lot of fun to get married at. You won’t regret it, especially when you look back on all the stunning photos we took during your beach elopement.
Need some help deciding which beach elopement ideas are right for you? If you’re hoping to elope in Florida and are looking for the best location to capture stunning photos, then send me a message!
Learn More About Elopements
Here are some other helpful tips regarding elopements here in Florida.