I've officially set the date of my wedding: June 8, 2019. My fiance and I had been planning on being wed in late April, but just recently decided on early June since the ceremony is going to be on the beach and that time of year seems like our best bet for decent weather (fingers crossed) and not a whole lot of beachgoing onlookers (which isn't much of a concern of mine to begin with, but ya know).
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As with my dress, we chose the first venue we looked at. That seems to be a common theme of my wedding planning experience thus far, and I'm totally okay with it (and since I'm 100% enamored with both the dress and the venue, I suppose I'm just a very lucky bride-to-be).
So, having chosen the first location I was given a tour of for both the ceremony and the reception, I can't lie and say I've garnered a ton of venue-choosing experience and subsequent wisdom to pass on. But I can relay this one piece of advice: Start looking early. Like, as soon as you get engaged, if you're not too overwhelmed already (but if you need it, definitely take some time to breathe and take it all in when you're immediately post-engagement). We're happy with the date we chose and that it was available, but pickings were already slim when we chose our June 2019 date in June of 2018. A year out seems like a reasonable time to jump the gun and pick your venue, but most people (though not me, it seems) will want to tour a number of locations beforehand before making such a major decision, not to mention investing a major amount of money. Start arranging meetings and tours 13 - 14 months before your desired wedding date. And if you're planning on having a super short engagement, all I can say is good luck to you.
Anyway, while my fiance and I did choose the first venue that we had the opportunity to tour, I did do a lot of research beforehand on the top ceremony and reception sites in Ocean City. Most of what I found seemed great. A few of them seemed like a lot of money for not a lot of value. Below you'll find a list of eight of the venues which seemed really, particularly great -- some of which I even arranged tours of before I ended up falling in love with the first place I visited. Click the headings for links to each hotel or restaurant's website for more information.
Dunes Manor looks like a giant sandcastle, and who doesn't want to get married in a castle? The Dunes might be best known for their daily afternoon tea, which add a touch of elegance to anyone's Ocean City vacation. That element of class seems to similarly shine through in Dunes weddings, which include pre-ceremony tea time, a farewell brunch and Afterglow Lounge ceremonies, plus a ballroom that overlooks the ocean and convenient guest room blocks available.
The Clarion is well-known throughout Ocean City for being a resort with excellent dining options. Lenny's Beach Bar & Grill provides island fare on the beach, while Breakers Pub serves drinks with a view and Horizons Oceanfront restaurant is a frequent Best of Ocean City winner in the "Best AYCE Buffet" category. With all their phenomenal dining options, you know the food at your wedding will be good. The Clarion also has a private beach for an outdoor ceremony free of onlookers (except maybe from afar) and appropriate space for both large and intimate receptions.
Away from the hustle and bustle but still near all the excitement of Ocean City, the Atlantic Hotel is a historic and charming venue located in downtown Berlin, Maryland. The Atlantic, built in 1895, makes a beautiful backdrop for an outdoor wedding and provides a touch of Victorian charm for an indoor reception, too. "The Atlantic Hotel in Berlin, MD wants to provide you with the perfect wedding of your dreams with the least amount of effort on your part," says their website -- and that sounds like a pretty good deal!
If the iconic Ocean City Boardwalk sounds like the perfect spot to say your vows, you should definitely look into having your wedding planned by the team at the Commander Hotel. Located on 14th Street with an incredible ocean view, the Commander provides the perfect wedding backdrop for every Ocean City lover, and -- bonus -- will give you a discount when you reserve a block of 10 rooms or more, if your guests are looking to stay right in the heart of Ocean City.
Says one newlywed who said their "I Do's" at the Grand, “I would like to thank you again for your great hospitality in welcoming our wedding guests to the Grand Hotel. Alison and I are so glad that we chose this hotel, and so are our guests. Our guests LOVED the great views from their hotel rooms, as well as the kind staff members.” The Grand Hotel makes for a pretty grand wedding reception, and their Acqua Spa provides the perfect pre-wedding pampering session for any bride- (or groom-) to-be.
Fager's Island is one iconic part of Ocean City's bayside, and the sunsets that can be seen from their private waterside gazebo -- where your ceremony could take place -- are unbeatable. Whether you're looking to have a more informal ceremony out on the bay or an upscale dinner party, Fager's has been hosting weddings of all kinds for over 30 years.
If you're planning a wedding that will take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Macky's Bayside Bar and Grill on 54th Street is a viable option. Wed on their tropical beach overlooking the gorgeous Assawoman Bay, then head inside to enjoy delicious food and drink. Like Fager's, Macky's has been hosting weddings for 30+ years, and they know their way around a stunning ceremony and crowd-pleasing party.
You may know Seacrets as Ocean City's premiere nightclub and concert venue, but they also organize and host some of the most fun (and classy!) beach weddings in OC. "Seacrets brings Caribbean flavor for the ultimate beach wedding experience," they say, so if you're looking to be wed in a tropical paradise overlooking the Isle of Wight Bay, Seacrets can plan, organize and host the beach wedding of your dreams.
The Princess Royale is the place to feel like royalty on your wedding day. Their meticulously-landscaped Cafe on the Green looks out onto the beach and provides a good mix of fresh grass and sand for an especially beautiful, tropical outdoor atmosphere. Guests can stay right at the hotel and enjoy all of its amenities, some of the best in Ocean City, including suites that look out onto the atrium featuring an Olympic-sized pool, the Schooner oceanfront restaurant and the Palm Court Atrium Cafe.
If you're a bride who wants to feel like a princess, but would prefer a romantic bayside ceremony at sunset, the Princess Bayside is the way to go. They're one of the few hotels in Ocean City that has its own private beach, making for an ultra-intimate wedding ceremony. There are no better photos in the world than when the sun hits the horizon at sunset over the Assawoman Bay.