The Smartly Wed team is at the shore this week, so, naturally, we decided today would be dedicated to beach weddings – specifically, how you can get married not just at the beach, but on the beach, from Atlantic City to Cape May Point.
Our very first post went over the specifics for obtaining a marriage license in the Philadelphia area (check it out here!) – the fee is $28 in New Jersey, and you’ll need to do it at the municipal level.
Things to consider:
- Be sure to have a backup plan in case of bad weather! First, check with your reception venue – they may have a space you could reserve if the beach isn’t an option on the day. Ask about required deposits to hold the space, and if they’re refundable should you not need to use it. If that isn’t an option, you may need to pay for a separate ceremony venue, but be sure to ask about cancellation policies.
- Think about acoustics – if it’s windy, it may be hard to hear each other and your officiant, to say nothing of your guests’ ability to hear the ceremony.
- Not all beaches will have ramp access, so if you have guests who are unable to use stairs (or will have difficulty walking on sand), you may need to consider another beach or another ceremony spot.
- Most beaches can be used for a small fee or no fee, but you won’t be guaranteed privacy. If you’re concerned about attracting a crowd, public beaches are probably not your ideal ceremony spot.
- Parking may be difficult to find near the beach you’ve selected. If your reception site is very close to the beach, you might want guests to park there and walk over. Else, consider booking transportation for guests so they can be dropped off near the beach and not have to worry about finding a spot.
- In most cases, neither alcohol nor receptions are allowed on the beach, so you’ll need to find an alternative post-ceremony space.
- Talk to your reception venue (or potential reception venues) about their experience with beach ceremonies. They may, for example, provide chairs for your ceremony for less than you’d pay on your own.
If you’re interested in a beach ceremony but aren’t sure about the public beaches, there are some private beaches in the area, as well (e.g. Icona Diamond Beach in Wildwood Crest). You’ll undoubtedly pay more for the ceremony, but you won’t be likely to face the same set of restrictions.
For the public beaches, meanwhile, we’ve listed the municipalities in alphabetical order, below, and would suggest that you first contact the relevant Clerk’s office for the most up-to-date information. Some of these municipalities have useful websites, but most do not; calling is probably best. The Cape May County Chamber of Commerce beach weddings page has contacts for many of these areas, but phone numbers and employees change, so we’ve linked to the Clerk’s office contact information, as well.
When you call, here are some questions to ask the Clerk’s office:
- The basics: what fees / permits / insurance policies are required, and how far in advance you need to apply.
- Can you set up chairs? If yes, is there a maximum number? What about tables?
- Are you allowed to set up a canopy / arch / etc. for the ceremony, something to mark the aisle, or possibly even something to rope off the ceremony space (to keep crowds at a reasonable distance)?
- Are guests required to have beach tags?
- Can the ceremony take place at any time, or must it be within a set range of hours?
- How long do you have for the ceremony, and does that include time to set up and break down the space?
- Are you allowed to have music? What about microphones or other amplification?
- What types of food and beverages are allowed on the beach, if any?
You’ll need a special event permit, available here, which comes with an application fee (listed in the file; currently $25 for residents and $50 for non residents for a ceremony of 200 guests or fewer).
Atlantic City also requires a million-dollar insurance policy – this sounds like an enormous ask, but these policies can be had through many insurance companies for under $200 (we did a quick price quote through one of the popular wedding insurance providers, which said it would cost $100).
More information: Atlantic City Clerk’s office
You’ll have to contact the Clerk’s office in Avalon to register for your beach ceremony, but there aren’t any fees involved. Their website has a beach weddings guide about halfway down the page (dated 2015), currently available here.
Cape May charges a $25 fee if you have 20 or more guests at your ceremony, and offers the opportunity for the mayor to officiate your ceremony (for a much larger fee). You can submit an application online, and there are 28 different spots listed, including several beach locations.
More information: Cape May Clerk’s office
Cape May Point
Beach weddings in Cape May Point involve a larger fee ($50) and more requirements than many municipalities in the region – including a $250 deposit (refundable, as long as you clean up and don’t destroy things), plus, like Atlantic City, a million-dollar insurance policy. Again, this sounds much scarier than it actually is, and while it’s an additional budget item, it can be had for under $200.
More information: Cape May Point Clerk’s office
According to the County Chamber of Commerce, Lower Township doesn’t require fees or permits, and per Cape May Point’s website, some of the popular ceremony spots (like Sunset Beach) are actually under Lower Township’s jurisdiction. This means you’d save both the application fee and the insurance cost.
More information: Lower Township Clerk’s office
The Margate City website explains how to request permission for events in public spaces, and says preliminary approval will be followed with a list of the forms you’ll have to complete.
More information: Margate City Clerk’s office
According to their website, Ocean City allows ceremonies on “any street beach” with an application, but no fee is required; for 58th and 59th Street beaches, you’re recommended to call them for availability.
More information: Ocean City Clerk’s office
Sea Isle City
The County Chamber of Commerce says there’s no application or fee for beach weddings in Sea Isle, but all guests must have beach tags (currently, $5/day – more information here.
More information: Sea Isle City Clerk’s office
The County Chamber of Commerce says there’s no fee for beach weddings, but you do need to request permission from the Clerk’s office.
More information: Stone Harbor Clerk’s office
Upper Township doesn’t charge a fee for beach weddings, but you will need to apply through the Clerk’s office.
More information: Upper Township Clerk’s office
The Chamber of Commerce says no applications or permits are required, but that you’ll need permission from the Mayor’s office (which, to me, sounds like an application).
More information: Wildwood Clerk’s office
Wildwood Crest requires an application for beach ceremonies, and although they don’t charge a fee (per the Chamber of Commerce), they require insurance for the day.
More information: Wildwood Crest Clerk’s office (weddings page)
Are you planning a beach ceremony at the shore? Tell us about it in the comments!