Beach Weddings Santa Cruz — how to tips and links


Lots of brides and grooms want to get married on the beach; totally romantic, right? In fact, some Santa Cruz wedding coordinators report, this is the most asked question brides have when they first call for services. How can I get married on the beach?

California elopement

California elopement

Sounds great…sand between your toes, sound of waves gently crashing in the background, warm sun on your faces, big blue sky above…ummm.

The reality of course can be quite a bit different than the conjured vision of seaside bliss. Obstacles to such imagined bliss include – logistics, permits, wind, bugs, fog, parking, grandma navigating the sand…to name a few.

But for those of you who REALLY want the romance and memory of an on-the-beach wedding, here are some helpful tips and suggested beach/reception variations.



1)      Have your ceremony on the beach and have the reception elsewhere. The reason for this is obvious; it’s just too much work to do both! Plus glass and/or alcohol are not allowed on most beaches so best to do the celebrating elsewhere close by.

2)      Avoid parking hassles! If possible, select a reception site within walking distance of your ceremony site. Everyone will be grateful for that. You and your guests can park at reception venue, walk to ceremony and then all walk back to reception and maybe even overnight accommodations. And consider providing a mini shuttle for those that aren’t up to walking.

3)      Don’t forget to seek out the expertise of our local Party Rental companies. They can be valuable assets when planning your beach ceremony – Alexis Party Rental and A Festive Affair are available to help with your chairs, wedding alter or arch, decorations and ideas.

4)      Your photographer will agree to this one —  mid day light is not the most flattering especially in the summer due to high contrast and shadows, for best light plan your ceremony more toward sunset (ideal is approx 1.5  to 2 hours before sunset) for softer light which will provide a romantic compliment to your event.

5)      And of course, web resources such as Video Wedding Guide are also great to assist in finding professional vendors, many of whom can offer valuable tips and info to make all your wedding day planning easier.

Beach wedding Santa Cruz



Do It Your Self –


Beaches in Santa Cruz County where you can (legally) set up a ceremony and get married directly on the sand


Most of the beaches in Aptos are part of California State Park System and as such, you need a permit from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to have a wedding, regardless of size, directly on the beach. Seacliff State Beach, one of the nicer and most accessible is no exception.  Special Event Permit Package from CA Parks is available for download. Processing fees apply.

After your Aptos Beach Wedding Ceremony – consider a reception at a nearby Inn or Restaurant. Best Western Plus SeaCliff Inn is fabulous and is quite suitable for larger wedding groups. Another option is Michael’s on Main, a cozy choice for your medium to smaller group.


Capitola Beach – no permit required to marry anywhere on the beach but you cannot reserve any part of the beach to do so; you and your party may just walk out on the sand and have your ceremony. Obviously this option is best suited to a smaller, more intimate size wedding group. Including any type of amplified sound however mandates that you obtain a permit from the Capitola Police Department.

After your Capitola Beach Wedding CeremonyStockton Bridge Grille, on the Capitola Esplanade, just steps away from the sand and a perfect venue to host your reception after your intimate ceremony.

 Santa Cruz

You can have your beach ceremony in a couple of places including Santa Cruz’ Cowell’s Beach and Santa Cruz’ Main Beach. Cowell’s Beach is located directly in front of the Dream Inn, Main Beach is across from Beach St. The more private of the two is Cowell’s and is most couple’s choice.  Contact City of Santa Cruz for information and permits.

 Santa Cruz’ Lighthouse Point next to the Surfing Museum on West Cliff Drive is another option. While not directly on the beach, the bluff setting provides a spectacular 180 degree ocean backdrop for your ceremony.  Contact Santa Cruz Parks for information about renting the lawn area for your wedding.

After your Santa Cruz Beach Wedding Ceremony consider Santa Cruz Dream Inn Resort Hotel . Ultimate in convenience and elegance, the Dream Inn is a perfect reception destination for your large wedding group.

Or consider having your reception at Cocoanut Grove Santa Cruz – a historic state landmark that has maintained a legendary reputation for delivering a personalized touch to every detail of your wedding.

Alternately, out on West Cliff Drive is the Darling House Bed and Breakfast. An ideal venue for your medium size group, Darling House is within walking distance from both Lighthouse Point or Cowell’s Beach. Added bonus, owner Daryl Darling is a licensed wedding officiate!


All Inclusive

Of course when budget allows, and you want both ceremony and reception on the beach, consider an all-inclusive resort such as the Seascape Beach Resort

The ultimate in comfort and convenience, they do the all work while you sit back and enjoy! Contact their wedding office for details.

AMBeach 61

Santa Cruz beach wedding

Happy Wedding Planning!

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