How to Plan an Intimate Beach Elopement + 16 Ideas

Many aspects of our lives have been changed due to COVID-19, forcing us to cancel events that are important to us, like birthdays, graduations, and weddings.

A lot of planning and anticipation happens when you’re getting ready for your wedding day, but in the midst of this pandemic, that planning came to a screeching halt or was even canceled. It’s safe to say that weddings may be different in the future and will be celebrated on a smaller scale. 

However, replanning your nuptials doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be just as special as what you had originally planned. Consider changing gears and planning a beach elopement!  Luckily, an elopement requires far fewer logistics, a smaller budget, and overall less planning. A beach wedding can offer the perfect intimate setting that can be celebrated with your closest friends and family. 

Details such as where to go, what to wear, and how to make it special can feel overwhelming, but this guide can help you plan the beach elopement of your dreams. Read below for some inspirational tips to follow for the perfect day.  

How to Plan a Beach Elopement

steps on how to plan a beach elopement - plan your announcement, get your legal to-dos in order, stick to a timeline, decide on a budget

Even though an elopement has fewer working parts and frills than a traditional wedding, it still requires some forethought. Being on the same page as your partner before you dive into the details is important and can ensure your plans run as smoothly as possible. 

Here are some things you’ll want to think about if you’re planning an elopement: 

  1. Plan your announcement: Even though eloping is a less traditional way of getting married, letting those close to you know that you’re sealing the deal still needs to be planned out to avoid potentially leaving people with hurt feelings. You want to make sure that this news is coming from you and your partner and not somewhere else on social media! Ideally, you want to tell your family or those closest to you in person, but there are also alternative ways to spread the word. Consider sending out announcement cards — if you want to keep the elopement low-key in the beginning, send them out after the elopement!
  2. Get your legal to-dos in order: Make sure you are aware of the legal process of an elopement. The legal basics include how far in advance you need to register, what kind of ID and paperwork you need to bring, and more. Most importantly, make sure you obtain a marriage license. These factors all vary depending on each state, so make sure you do your research! 
  3. Stick to a timeline: Even though there may be less packed into the day, sticking to a schedule will help everything go smoothly and minimize any stress. Since this is an elopement it doesn’t have to be strict, but consider where to allocate your time for the day. First things first, pick a date for your elopement. Then, take note of how much time you need for things like hair and makeup, the ceremony, reception, and dinner. This will give you a nice visual and can let you know when you can fit in the fun things, like a couples massage or fancy photography shoot.
  4. Decide on a budget: Whether you are eloping for financial reasons or not, planning a budget is important to prioritize what is most important to you. Elopements are far cheaper than traditional weddings, but you still need to consider payments such as officiant cost, transportation, wedding attire, possible reception details such as food and drink, photographers, and more.

Just because your large wedding ceremony plans have changed doesn’t mean your elopement can’t be special, too. In fact, having just your closest friends and family with you on your big day can be even more memorable. Eloping means you don’t have to follow the traditional rules of a wedding. Whether you want it to just be you two on the day or you want to swap out your wedding cake for cupcakes — make sure to do what you want to do, it’s your day! 

Beach Elopement Destination Ideas 

Choosing a destination for your beach elopement can feel tricky, especially since there are beautiful beaches everywhere and lots of things to know about each beach! To narrow down your choices, consider heading off to the coast of Florida for your big day. 

An elopement in the tropical Florida Panhandle can offer a more hassle-free and budget-friendly experience than a traditional wedding destination since you don’t necessarily need a fancy venue. To elope in Florida, you and your significant other must obtain a marriage license from a court office and pay a $93.50 fee. This license is valid for 60 days.  There are also lots of fun things to learn and see in the Sunshine State.

Here are some of our favorite beach elopement destinations in Florida: 

  1. A day in Destin: Destin is located on the gorgeous Emerald Coast of Florida, making it the perfect destination for your beach elopement. The glittering Gulf waters and sugar-white sand create a stunning backdrop, making it very popular amongst couples. If you’re looking for that perfect tropical weather, stick to a late spring, summer, or early fall date. Consider having your ceremony or your small receptions at the Henderson Park Inn, one of the most romantic beach-side inns in the US.  
  2. Find paradise at Panama City Beach: Panama City Beach, Florida is also very popular for couples who are seeking elopement. This is a more trendy vacation spot, known for its great boutiques and restaurants, so it’s perfect if you want some city adventure after you tie the knot! Be sure to make it official during one of the beach’s gorgeous tropical sunsets.
  3. Pick Pensacola Beach: Nestled on Santa Rosa Island lies Pensacola Beach. The dunes with wispy seagrass lined with turquoise waters will transport your beach elopement to a picture-perfect postcard that seems too beautiful to be real! 
  4. Catch some sun at Cape San Blas: For a more laid-back and slow-paced beach elopement, head to Cape San Blas. This beach town is perfect for couples who want a more secluded and intimate experience, since this area lies between the beach and the bay.
beach elopement locations in the Florida Panhandle - Destin, Panama City Beach, Pensacola, and Cape San Blas

Sources: Amy Riley Photography

Beach Elopement Outfit Ideas for the Bride & Groom

Knowing what to wear for your big day is important, even if you’re getting eloped. However, if the beach is your setting, it’s even more important that you wear the appropriate attire so you stay comfortable. 

An elopement, especially a beach elopement, is the perfect time to wear something casual and effortless while veering from the traditional wedding fashion. You can even do this without breaking the bank! As a general rule, your beach-ready look should flow and move as easy as an ocean breeze. 

Here are some tips to follow for the perfect beach elopement look: 

  1. Opt for light and airy fabrics: Light and airy fabric such as chiffon and silk are perfect for the beach since they offer movement and breathability. For example, slip dresses offer the perfect easy-breezy look. Be sure to also choose designs that allow for extra movement, such as skirts with a slit. For grooms, switch out a traditional suit with one made with linen or cotton fabric. 
  2. Look stunning in lace: Much like chiffon and silk, lace dresses are another great option for your beach elopement dress since it’s a lightweight fabric. Lace dresses are great for brides who want to give off a vintage or even bohemian vibe. Lace can also offer a beautifully romantic and whimsical look. Step out of the box and try an off the shoulder look or a nude or peachy color. 
  3. Skip the heels and dress shoes: Sand and heels don’t mix, so brides, throw on your wedges or sandals instead. The groom can even switch out their formal dress shoes for more casual loafers or even sandals. To really embrace the beach, you and your significant other can even go barefoot! 
  4. Pick a dress with some sparkle: If you want to spice up your simple dress, pick a look with some sparkle. This will add a shimmery touch that will make you glow on your big day.
beach elopement attire - skip the shoes, airy fabrics, lace, and sparkle

Sources: Shanell Photography | Nathan Lapham

Beach Elopement Reception Ideas 

The best idea for an elopement? Marry discreetly, then afterward, party your hearts out. That’s right — even though this isn’t a traditional wedding, you’re still allowed to have a celebration if you choose to.  

No need to stress about the details; there’s no rule book for elopement receptions! Your guests will also be excited to have some fun since beaches are one of the most popular vacation destinations.

Think of it like a micro-wedding reception. This is a time to celebrate your special day with those who are closest to you in an intimate setting.

Here are some tips on planning a laid-back beach reception: 

  1. Create a gathering space: Have a common area for you and your guests to lounge at. This can be anything from a simple table or a cluster of chairs on the beach. Be as simple or formal as you wish! A gathering area makes it easy for conversation and to enjoy food and drinks together. 
  2. Set the mood with some lighting: Candles and other light sources such as string lights are a great way to brighten up your reception space if it’s starting to get dark outside. Try using some simple votives or large lanterns to really create a romantic atmosphere.
  3. Go for a coastal centerpiece: Choose some coastal plants and flowers for the perfect centerpiece decoration for your elopement. This touch will elevate your table and impress your guests.
  4. Get creative with driftwood: If flowers aren’t your thing, try adding some driftwood elements to your reception decor. A great way to incorporate driftwood is to add it to your centerpiece for a natural and nautical feel. This is also a more budget-friendly option than having someone arrange flowers. 
reception ideas for a beach elopement - cozy gathering, set the mood, a coastal touch, driftwood centerpiece

Sources: Shanell Photography | Green Shoes Wedding & Lauren Fair Photography | Olivia Bossert

Beach Elopement Dessert Menu Ideas 

Keep the food and drinks simple at your beach elopement! There’s no need to stick to traditional menu items — mix it up and have some fun with it. 

Check out these creative and out of the box dessert and drink ideas:

  1. Keep it simple with cupcakes: Another great alternative to a wedding cake is cupcakes! These are usually much more simple and are more budget-friendly than wedding cakes. Plus, the sight of mini decorated cupcakes provides additional creativity and excitement!
  2. Serve up some popsicles: Popsicles are a fun and casual treat to serve at an elopement. These are especially perfect if it happens to be a hot day at the beach! Step it up a notch and make gourmet popsicles by mixing in champagne with your favorite flavors.
  3. Toast with a tropical drink: Nothing says paradise like a tropical drink. Serve some frozen piña coladas or other fruity cocktails and cool off as you celebrate your beach elopement. 
  4. An ocean-inspired cake: Perhaps you want to be on the fancier side and keep some traditional wedding elements in your elopement celebration. If that’s the case, go all out and have some fun with a beach-themed cake. You may even get lucky with some leftovers if you have fewer guests.
Dessert ideas for a small beach wedding- oceanic showpiece, popsicle treats, tropical cocktails, and  cupcakes

Sources: The Ganeys | Carrie Patterson Photography 

Have a Back-up Plan 

This can’t be stressed enough — always be sure to have a back-up plan for any type of outdoor or beach wedding in case things go awry. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, and the last thing you want to do is throw away your elopement fun in the sun last minute. Some backup tips include renting a tent just in case it starts to drizzle or if it’s too hot and you’re in need of shade. In the event that a downpour occurs, make sure to plan ahead and rent space and a nearby hotel or another event center. 

Whether your goal was always to have a small wedding or you’ve had to alter your plans due to COVID-19, these tips will make planning your intimate day easier. Be sure to follow this guide for a stress-free elopement of your dreams at a romantic beach destination