The ocean is the quintessential dream backdrop for ceremonies and receptions — whether the water is green, turquoise or steely blue, it makes the décor pop, adds glamour and romance and instantly puts guests in a celebratory mood. With America stretching from sea to shining sea, here are three top domestic options for an unforgettable waterside wedding weekend. Plus, check out 50 ideas for beach weddings ►
Montauk Yacht Club, New York
Photo courtesy of Montauk Yacht Club
Affectionately called The End thanks to its location on the easternmost tip of Long Island, Montauk is a laid-back alternative to the area’s tony beach scene in the Hamptons. Yet Montauk still offers an upscale appeal that’s revered by New York couples. The Montauk Yacht Club, which fronts a marina and private beach, encapsulates that kick-off-your-shoes-meets-luxury appeal. In addition to a beachfront location, the 140-room property boasts a host of amenities including three restaurants, a spa, yacht slips for guests, a pool and more. You can get hitched in the hotel’s luxe-rustic Farmhouse Ballroom (up to 160 guests) or in tents on the Great Lawn (up to 1,000). Some guests opt to wed in town at the Montauk village chapel before partying at the property. Menus are customized for each event and often feature fresh, local seafood — clam chowder and lobster bakes are top picks. Fun add-ons include dim sum stations, s’mores bonfires and sunset cruises (location fees start at $1,700 and include wedding coordinator services, bridal party sitting room, chairs, tables, linens and tableware for up to 200 guests, microphones with stand and speakers and votive candles. Receptions start at $150 per person and include five hours open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, a cheese table and more; montaukyachtclub.com).
Inn by the Sea, Maine
Photo courtesy of Inn by the Sea
Following a multi-million-dollar renovation completed in 2012, this idyllic, eco- and pet-friendly hotel overlooking Maine’s Crescent Beach is now home to 61 plush rooms, suites and cottages. Though just 15 minutes from the attractions, shopping and restaurants of Portland, the Cape Elizabeth location allows for a slew of activities, from boating, fishing and nature walks to outdoor jazz concerts and yoga classes. The lush front lawn overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is the most popular site for ceremonies. Receptions often take place in tents on the waterview side lawn. Outdoor events can accommodate up to 150 guests, while about 70 guests are hosted comfortably inside. Planned elopements (celebrations of less than 10 guests) are gaining popularity at the inn, as is the inclusion of the couples’ dogs as ring bearers or flower girls. Given the New England setting, dishes like the Maine lobster bake and Gulf of Maine sea- food and lobster paella are popular meal selections (wedding packages start at $140 per person, with a 40 guest minimum, and include a plated meal reception, a wedding coordinator consultation, pre-event tasting for the couple, one-hour ocean view cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres, ceremony location fee, basic chairs and linens, custom cake, champagne toast and two nights’ accommodation for the couple. Elopement Packages start at $2,200; innbythesea.com).
El Encanto, California
Photo courtesy of El Encanto by Orient-Express Hotels, Ltd.
Set in a lush residential neighborhood in the hills above Santa Barbara, with sweeping views across the town to the Pacific Ocean, El Encanto hosted countless weddings from its opening in 1917 until closing in the mid-2000s. Recently re-launched by the iconic Orient-Express brand, the dreamy, 92 suite-and- cottage resort celebrates the buildings’ historic status and is a true five-star experience. Top event areas include the arbor and lily pond, a romantic trellised garden surrounded by 100-year- old wisteria trees and brick columns with niches for 800 votive candles, and space for 175 seats by a pond. The Riviera Ballroom holds 160 and opens out onto a covered, heated, garden-view patio. While on the top floor of the main building, up to 44 guests can wander among the Channel Islands Room, a spacious foyer and a terrace with the property’s best views of the Pacific. Some couples have even opted for more intimate ceremonies in some of the Mission- or Craftsman-style cottages on the property. Customized menus feature Chef Patrice Martineau’s signature French-Californian-Asian style, and include organic ingredients and wines from the region (location fees start at $750 and include house chairs, linens and table- ware. Ceremony fees start at $3,000 and include some set-up. Receptions start at $45 per guest; elencanto.com).
Legally Wedded: Marriage licenses are required in all three states. And in each of the states, the couple must apply in person and furnish valid identification and proof of age. Divorce decrees and death certificates are also required, if applicable. The state of New York has a 24-hour waiting period.