Our North Carolina Crystal Coast is like this wonderful gem of a place. So much attention tends to get focused on Wilmington and its beaches (and rightfully so), but the Crystal Coast is definitely this more laid-back version with a smaller town feel. While we definitely get our fair share of tourists, it feels less touristy. It's carefree, fun and romantic, so it's no wonder our pretty Crystal Coast has become such a popular wedding destination. We have been fortunate to photograph weddings all up and down "the island," from Atlantic Beach to Emerald Ise and all points in between.
There are several venues we love working with over and over again, and we have certainly formed a list of some of our favorites. We love venues that are picturesque, versatile, and staffed with great people.
Some things you'll want to know as you begin your beach venue search on the Crystal Coast:
- Venues will be located either on the ocean or soundside, and at least one venue on our list does not sit directly on the water, but has access to both the ocean and soundside. Determine whether being directly on the ocean is important to you.
- A couple of the venues on the island are clubs for which a membership (or having a member sponsor you) is required.
- Some venues offer in-house catering, others do not.
- Consider whether you actually want to get married directly on the beach, or if you just want a beach/water view. Different venues will offer different ceremony site options.
Now let's get started!
Located in Indian Beach, about halfway between Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, is The Ocean Club. Situated on the soundside, The Ocean Club itself does not sit directly on the water, but here's why we love it: you do absolutely have access to the beach and the soundside; the dedicated staff is wonderful, and the Club offers transport by golf cart to get you everywhere you need to go for photographs; the venue is versatile - we have seen tented receptions in the gardens, receptions inside the ballroom, receptions on the patio next to the pool, and even receptions under cafe lights out on the lawn. We also love the fact that the architecture makes it a unique backdrop for a coastal wedding. It would be a mistake not to include The Ocean Club on your shortlist of venues.
Celebration Cottage is a beautiful new venue in the heart of Atlantic Beach, just minutes from the Atlantic Beach causeway bridge connecting the island to Morehead City. Offering a bridal suite, three different ceremony sites and a huge deck to accommodate a big dance floor for your reception, Celebration Cottage is definitely the hot new venue on the Crystal Coast. The staff, the on-site coordinator Zena (whom we've worked with for years and adore), and the catering are all absolutely wonderful.
The Watson House, owned by Dream Maker Wedding Estates, is an 8-acre estate located on the shores of the Bogue Sound in Emerald Isle, NC. This venue is in the style of a French Country home, giving it a unique charm you might not expect to find for a North Carolina beach wedding. What else do we love about this venue? The sunset views are unreal! Dream Maker Wedding Estates offers floral arrangement services, on site coordinator and beautiful, unique rental items fitting the style of the venue. The Watson House is located in the heart of Emerald Isle, close to the Emerald Isle bridge giving you access to nearby Cape Carteret and Cedar Point.
Renting an event home opens you up to a whole plethora of options for your Crystal Coast wedding. Bluewater Real Estate and Emerald Isle Realty are the two primary rental companies on the island and both offer a variety of event homes and wedding coordination services. Ideal for smaller weddings, event homes can be rented for your entire wedding week and have enough bedrooms to accommodate several people. Event homes often feature large decks and sometimes adjacent lawns with space for a tent. Click here to visit Bluewater Real Estate's website; Click here to visit Emerald Isle Realty's website.
We absolutely love photographing weddings at the Coral Bay Club in Atlantic Beach, NC. Elegant space, excellent staff, situated right on the ocean with a big beautiful lawn overlooking the beach for ceremonies. The patio is a gorgeous spot for cocktail hour where guests can mingle and enjoy the view. We've even seen the Coral Bay Club transformed for an indoor ceremony and reception in December with beautiful blue uplighting and white draperies to complement the winter season. We simply love everything about the Coral Bay Club. The Coral Bay Club is members-only.
The Dunes Club, also located in Atlantic Beach, is similar to the Coral Bay Club in many ways - elegant, excellent staff, and situated right on the ocean with a lawn right off the beach to hold ceremonies. Like the Coral Bay Club, the Dunes Club offers an awesome on-site coordinator and catering. The Dunes Club is members-only.
The Country Club of the Crystal Coast is a soundside venue located in Pine Knoll Shores, NC, just down from Atlantic Beach. The venue is situated on a golf course and has a large lawn overlooking the sound for ceremonies. We love when couples provide lawn games for guests out on the lawn during cocktail hour. The sunsets are amazing here and the on-site coordinator, catering, and staff are wonderful. Being soundside, there is the need to jump in the car for photos on the beach - we have been known to give our clients a ride over to the beach access.
Our beautiful aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is by far one of the most unique wedding venues on the Crystal Coast. The setting is unmatched! The aquarium offers multiple ceremony and reception locations and has an absolutely excellent staff. The photo opportunities here are endless, and the fact that you can dance the night away next to a shark tank is just pretty much amazing.
- Because of our mild weather in the spring and fall, a beach wedding is completely plausible April through October, and in fact, April-May and September-October are very busy wedding months here (so book your favorite vendors early if you want one of those months!). You may even find nice temperatures in March and November.
- For any wedding, but especially a beach wedding, planning your ceremony time/portraits around sunset is a big deal. One of the highlights of getting married at the beach is taking advantage of beautiful sunsets over the water - consult with your venue coordinator as well as your photographer about how to maximize your use of "golden hour" (the hour leading up to sunset when the light is glowy and beautiful) for portraits.
- Have a backup plan. No one wants to think about rain on their outdoor wedding day, but to help alleviate some of the stress of the "what if?", have a backup plan in place.
- If you're not local to the area, most of your guests will be treating your wedding as a weekend getaway. We highly recommend providing your guests with information about the area - your favorite restaurants, nearby activities, and of course accommodations. Welcome bags with helpful, fun beach items like sunglasses, sunscreen, and bottles of water are a sweet idea for guests.
- Summer is always busy on the Crystal Coast, but certain weekends are particularly busy - especially holidays (4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day for instance). And don't forget about the Seafood Festival in Morehead City the first weekend of October or the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in June. Accommodations book early, beaches stay crowded until sunset and you'll find a lot of slow traffic on the road. These are all things that can be worked around, of course, if you just make sure to account for them.
- Check out Crystal Coast Bride for more local vendor resources: http://www.crystalcoastbride.com
We've dedicated this blog post to venues located on the island between Atlantic Beach, NC and Emerald Isle, NC. There are several more options in Beaufort, Morehead City, Cedar Point, and Newport. (Click on each below to visit venue websites)