There’s no denying it – a beach wedding in Massachusetts is about Cape Cod and the islands, namely Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.
Within Massachusetts’ distinctive coastline of large bays and islands, you’ll find numerous public beaches of fine sands and a laid back coastal attitude. There are beaches that face west, which are relatively calm, and beaches that face east, absorbing all the power of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cape Cod is a time-honored vacation destination, famous for its giant sand dunes and gable-roofed houses – as well as a 40-mile uninterrupted stretch of beach, the longest on the East Coast. And the handy thing is, it’s actually part of the mainland, so access is simple – you just drive.
On Martha’s Vineyard, you’ll find quaint appeal as well as stunning natural beauty, along with Nantucket Island, which has cobblestone streets, antique stores and acres of untouched land. Both of these islands take a bit more planning as they’re off the mainland, however they offer a unique wedding opportunity.
The Massachusetts coast also has a rich history, boasting the homes of many past US presidents and of course Plymouth Harbor. So if colonial history is your thing, you could incorporate historic places somewhere in your special day.
Most popular Beach Locations
Cape Cod - Cape Cod, famous for its beauty and giant sand dunes, has a narrow hook-like shape with two distinct sides. The bay side is calmer with flatter beaches and warmer water, while the Atlantic side offers strong waves and giant dunes. Six beaches along the Atlantic side are part of the National Seashore (Coast Guard, Nauset Light, Marconi, Head of the Meadow, Herring Cove, and Race Point), and there are town-managed beaches along the bay side.
Martha’s Vineyard Beaches - Martha’s Vineyard is an island that lies between Nantucket Island and the mainland. You can reach it by ferry from Cape Cod or the mainland, and the Steamship Authority ferry also carries vehicles. It can also be reached by private boat or plane. With 19 beaches and the feel of an exotic island while at the same time offering numerous facilities, it’s worth a look.
Nantucket Island - Nantucket Island, 25 miles from Cape Cod, is accessible by private boat, ferry or air from Hyannis Port (it takes about one hour on the high speed ferry or 15 minutes by plane). The ocean on the Atlantic side can be quite rough (good for surfing), so it might be best to stick to those on the western side for a more peaceful feel. One of the best is Eel Point Beach (as long as you stay on the beach, not the tidal zone as it’s subject to tidal flooding!), which has a feeling of remoteness and great sunsets.
North Shore Beaches - If you want to stay on the mainland, try Crane Beach with miles of soft white sand, it’s one of the most picturesque in New England (just avoid greenhead bug season in July/August!).
South Shore Beaches - The best beaches on the southern mainland are Horseneck Beach State Reservation, with two miles of beach, and Quincy Shores Reservation, a 2.3-mile beach in Quincy.
Travel & Transportation (airports, ferries, etc). How to get there. - Logan International Airport in Boston will get you close to the coast. From there you can fly to regional airports further south. If you’re going to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket Island, you might be able to take a direct connecting flight. Otherwise there’s always the hire car and the ferries!
Entry Requirements; passports, visa, etc. - If you are from Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand you do not require a visa to enter the US. You only need a valid passport and proof of ongoing or return travel as long as your stay does not exceed 90 days. Citizens of other countries will require a visa. Note that the US government administers a strict entry regime. If in doubt, you should contact your nearest US embassy or consulate about your specific circumstances.
Languages Spoken / official language - The official language is English.
Currency - The official currency is the US dollar.
Tipping - In the US, most waiters and bartenders are paid below minimum wage, as they’re expected to make up the rest in tips. So if you’re in the US, you really should tip. A good rule of thumb is to tip 15 percent of the food bill to the waiter, and if the alcohol consumption has been substantial, split that part of the tip between the waiter and the bartender (if there is one). Always remember to pay the tip in cash directly to the person who has provided you with the service. Of course, if you think the service was terrible then you shouldn’t tip. For large groups, check your bill first as sometimes the tip is added automatically.
Taxes - In the US sales tax is applied to retail goods at the point of sale. There are also airport taxes, however generally these are paid along with the purchase of your airline ticket.
Electricity - The electrical systems in most residential and commercial sites in the US use 120V and 60Hz. The electrical plug in use is known as the Type A electrical plug, which has two flat parallel prongs.
Other (immunizations, health issues) - All travellers going overseas should be up-to-date with their routine vaccinations, which are usually given to babies and children, with some boosters given in adult life. Adults should have had a Tetanus booster in the last 10 years and consider having an Influenza vaccination if they have not had one in the past year.
Marriage Requirements, Licenses & Wedding Information
As state and county marriage license requirements often change, it’s important that you verify all information with a local marriage license office or County Clerk before confirming your wedding or travel plans.
Currently the Following Applies:
- You do not have to be a resident of Massachusetts to get married there.
- You need to apply for a marriage license from a County Clerk. Both applicants must be present.
- You will need to provide appropriate ID, and in some counties also a birth certificate.
- The license fee will cost between $4 and $15 (varies by county). Cash is required in most counties.
- There is a 3-day waiting period.
- The license is valid for 60 days.
- You are not required to present a divorce certificate when filing intentions to marry. However, in Massachusetts a divorce does not become absolute until 90 days after the divorce nisi has been granted.
- If either applicant is under 18, a court order from a probate or district court where the minor resides must be obtained before the marriage intentions can be filed.
- Same-sex marriage is permitted.
- Marriage ceremonies can be performed by any licensed or ordained Clergy and Magistrates.
Requirements for a Beach Wedding:
- You might need a special permit to hold your wedding on a beach or other public space if it is part of a State Park. For more information visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/
Tourism Office Information
Other Massachusetts Related Websites
Climate Information & The Best Time to Travel
Massachusetts has a humid continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. At the coast the warmest month is July, with averages around 74ºF, while the coldest month is January, with averages around 30ºF. As with other parts of the East Coast, hurricane season runs from June through November, however, hurricanes or tropical storms are most likely to strike here during August and September.
From late May to August beaches are very crowded (especially Cape Cod on the weekends), and July and August are very humid in the Boston area, while snow falls in Boston in the winter.
So it really depends on what you want, but to avoid the crowds a wedding in the spring or the fall would be best.
High & Low Season for Travel - If you’re planning a spring wedding, it’s best to avoid Spring Break. If you want a summer wedding, you could also consider weekdays (Monday through Thursday), when you’ll find less people on the beach, as well as cheaper airfares and accommodation rates. If you want a winter wedding, airfares will be inflated during ski season, as Massachusetts is popular for its snowfields.
Map of Massachusetts
Local Attractions & Must Do’s
Cape Cod National Seashore includes more than 43,000 acres of protected coastal zone and is famous for its gigantic sand dunes (rising up to 100 feet above the beach) and 40 miles of uninterrupted beach (the longest on the East Coast). The Atlantic side is popular with surfers, and the area also includes hiking and cycling trails, marshes, ponds, forests, historic structures and lighthouses.
At Martha’s Vineyard there are the brightly painted ‘gingerbread’ cottages of Oak Bluffs, which began as a nineteenth-century Methodist summer campground, and the picturesque communities of Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. In terms of scenery, you can’t go past the dramatic, color-streaked Aquinnah Cliffs.
Nantucket Island is perfect for exploring on foot or by bicycle. There are unspoiled beaches, lighthouses, and acres of conservation land. Visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum and, if you love beer, look no further than the Cisco Brewers.
Bird watchers should stop at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, where you can find many species of migrating shore bird.
In terms of cultural history, no other area can compare. From the first pilgrim settlers, to presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John F. Kennedy, the coastal areas south of Boston have hosted some of the finest leaders in the US. Explore Quincy (the City of Presidents) and Plymouth, where colonial history began. Board a replica of The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, gaze upon Plymouth Rock, or visit Plymoth Plantation. And when you’re done, relax on Revere Beach near Boston, the first public beach in the US (1896).
Top 5 Most Popular Hotels
Cliffside Beach Club, Nantucket - Right on the beach and one mile from town, this is the premier lodging on the Nantucket Island. While it might not be as fancy as some, it has a sublime and relaxed seaside feel.
John Carver Inn & Spa, Plymouth - Located in the heart of historic Plymouth, the John Carver Inn & Spa is just a short walk to all attractions and the breathtaking waterfront. This boutique hotel boasts colonial charm and hospitality combined with contemporary comforts and conveniences. Wedding packages are available.
Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, Cape Cod - A seaside retreat set on 429 acres overlooking Cape Cod Bay. It offers everything, including a golf course, tennis courts, croquet and a 26-mile bike trail – and of course luxury accommodation. Wedding packages are available. http://www.oceanedge.com/
The Beach Rose Inn, Cape Cod - Built in 1863 and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, The Beach Rose Inn features upscale amenities including queen canopied beds, fireplaces, full gourmet breakfasts and outdoor hot tub. And with only 10 guest rooms, it makes for a very private romantic getaway.
Winnetu Oceanside Resort, Martha’s Vineyard - Located at spectacular South Beach in Edgartown, Winnetu is the quintessential ocean resort. Offering both hotel accommodation and vacation rentals, it has an extensive list of resort activities and top-class facilities. This resort also offers wedding packages.