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Planning your dream beach wedding in California

Planning your dream beach wedding in California
August 21
09:00 2015


As we are crossing the Atlantic Ocean on our way from Dublin to New York JFK, anticipation is really beginning to boil up inside me. Even though my Hollywood-fuelled hopes of an upgrade to first class remained unfulfilled, the stewardess was nice enough to store my white dress in one of their wardrobes.

Our journey began 10 months ago, in July 2014, when Nigel popped the question and a sparkly ring in the middle of our vacation in the Stockholm archipelago. We had previously spoken about marriage but things didn’t take shape until we strolled along the beach of Coronado Island, San Diego, on holiday in May. We looked at each other and everything was clear – if we were ever going to attempt that wedding thing it would have to be here!

The jetty that Nigel proposed on in the Stockholm Archipelago

The jetty that Nigel proposed on in the Stockholm Archipelago


Many girls dream about getting married in a church. I always wanted a beach wedding. These are uncommon in both Germany and Ireland as the climate would pose a great risk on any outdoor event there. With our families living in different countries and not speaking each other’s language it would have been very difficult to plan a wedding that would have done both our families justice. And to be completely honest, we wanted to spare both our wallets and our nerves the planning of a big wedding.

All these factors contributed to our decision for a very unconventional solution: a ‘just us’ wedding in California. As it turned out, we happened to have found the perfect location for it. San Diego is a Mecca for beach wedding couples, with or without guests. Various family businesses offer packages of different sizes, usually including a ceremony, flowers and photos. According to your wishes, you can add chairs, music, decoration and other elements. This will spare you the difficult task of finding a good florist or photographer from far away.


Strolling along the beach of Coronado last year, we knew this was a very special place


‘Wedding Packages San Diego’, ‘San Diego Elopement’ and ‘San Diego Beach Weddings’ are good search engine keywords to help you get an overview of your different options. Many of these companies can also recommend stylists, cake makers or other useful professionals, such as a videographer.

This way of getting married is easy on your wallet, especially if you decide against any guests. ‘Just Us’ weddings start at about $250. If you would like flowers and photos on top of your ceremony, $1,000 will comfortably cover these costs. We added a canopy, rose petals, music and a videographer. Our ceremony and photo session will take about an hour and cost $2,100 including photos and video.

If you would like your nearest and dearest present, San Diego will offer the right package for that, too. Whilst I was planning, I came across countless gorgeous photos of larger beach weddings with chairs, full decoration, bridesmaids and best men. For packages of this type you can expect to spend around $2,300. It can be difficult to decide on a company when you are far away and we encourage you to get in touch with several of them to see how they communicate with you. The different package options can be confusing at first, so it is best to decide yourself what elements you would like in your wedding and then ask for quotations. For us it was important that the website and especially the wedding photographs on it made a good impression.


San Diego boasts a long list of dream beaches that will definitely make your big day unforgettable. Whether you would like to tie the knot with your feet in the sand, on a lawn on top of a cliff, with a pier or the iconic Hotel Del Coronado as a backdrop – this part of the world has an answer to every wish. Just ask your wedding company which beach best matches your vision.

We will get married at Central Beach on Coronado Island, right in front of the famous Hotel Del Coronado, where ‘Some Like it Hot’ starring Marilyn Monroe was filmed in 1959.

With fewer than 25 guests and no decoration, you can get married here without a beach permit, but be aware that this place is very popular and if you are planning to say ‘yes’ on a weekend, you might not be the only bride in sight. We wanted music and decoration, so we had to get in touch with the City of Coronado in order to apply for a permit. This was done by e-mail and was hassle-free but cost $260. Only one permit per day is issued for each section of the beach. You will also have to pay a deposit of $500, which you will get back as long as you leave the beach as clean as you found it.

Both of us on the terrace of the famous 'Hotel Del'

Both of us on the terrace of the famous ‘Hotel Del’


On the day before our wedding we have an appointment at the County Clerk’s Office in San Diego in order to apply for a marriage license. This is necessary to formalise the ceremony and you will have to book an appointment on a workday. When choosing your wedding date, make sure you have at least one workday between tying the knot and arriving on location to allow time to collect your marriage license. We had originally planned to get married on the 26th of May but later realised that the County Clerk’s Office would be closed for Memorial Day on the 25th of May, our first day in the country. This formality only takes about half an hour so in theory we would have been able to collect the license on the morning of our wedding, but this seemed a bit too risky for us and so we decided to change the date of the wedding. This appointment can only be booked a few months in advance, but because there are 80 appointments per day, it should not be a problem to get your turn on the right day. The fee for the marriage license is $85.

After the ceremony you will receive a form to order a copy of your marriage license. It needs to be notarised, which you can do at home, but it tends to be easier and less expensive in the States. Many hotels even offer this service for a small fee of around $10. The purpose of the form is to prove that you are legally permitted to receive this important document. Once filled in, you post it back to the County Clerk’s Office. A copy of the marriage certificate will be sent to you for a fee of $15.

At the County Clerks Office

At the County Clerks Office


Now that we have finally arrived at our gorgeous hotel on Coronado, I am starting to realise that the day of our wedding is finally here! Tomorrow will be very special and we have decided to relax and just enjoy every minute of it. Our ceremony is at 5pm and we have booked a table in a Hawaiian restaurant for dinner. Unlike most couples on their conventional wedding days, we will have to worry about absolutely nothing. I have booked a hair and make up lady, who will come to my room in order to eliminate every last source of stress. Once I am ready to get married, a driver will take me to my groom waiting at the beach.

We hope you can join us there in our next article.

About Author

Martha and Nigel - BayBreezin'

Martha and Nigel - BayBreezin'

Martha and Nigel are an international couple who live in beautiful Northern Ireland. Martha is German, Nigel is 100% Norn’ Irish and they met when Martha spent a summer working in Sweden, a country they share a love for. After several trips to London, Germany and Prague together, Martha finally settled in Northern Ireland in 2010. They have since travelled large parts of Scandinavia, the US and Ireland together, as well as Portugal and Spain. Nigel has developed into a real travel expert, always finding the best deals, routes and places to stay. They got married on the Beach of Coronado Island in May 2015.

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