Are you a beach bride considering a picturesque ceremony on Maryland’s eastern shore? The Assateague state park is an option you may want to consider. It is quite beautiful and you will occasionally see wild ponies. Assateague is a barrier island that stretches 37 miles from Maryland to Virginia. The MD side is divided into two sections. There is a federally run national park and a locally run state park. The state park is “wedding friendly”. No permit is required. The park simply asks that you contact them at least a week prior to the wedding as a formality. The phone number is 410-641-2918. The only fees are the standard admission prices that each guest pays ($4 per person for MD residents and $6 per person for out of state residents during the summer). Entry fees are paid at a small checkpoint by the parking lot entrance.
As recently as fifteen years ago, Assateague was a secluded spot mostly used by local surfers and nature enthusiasts. Now that the secret is out, the island gets quite crowded in the summer. If you’re planning a beach wedding, the best time is close to sunset. From late May until early September the beach is packed during lifeguard hours. The best times for an intimate wedding ceremony are 7:30 pm in June and July. 7 PM is best in May and August. 6 or 6:30 PM is usually best for April and September.
There are no hotels, condos or beach houses on Assateague island. The nearest non-camping accommodations are in west Ocean City. Downtown ocean city will have the most options to choose from. From OC, simply cross the route 50 bridge and make a right onto Route 611. Stay on 611 for about 8 miles. You’ll cross over the Verrazano bridge and enjoy majestic views of the Sinepuxtent Bay. After you cross the bridge, follow the road all the way to the end to reach the state park. A slight right at the dead end roundabout will take you into the parking lot. There is only one structure on the state park side of Assateague. It encompasses a changing area, a small gift shop, snack bar and lifeguard center. There is a wooden walkway that ascends a dune at the top of the beach. On the seaside of that dune is the best spot to have your beach wedding ceremony.
Allow at least 45 minutes in the summertime to drive from downtown Ocean City to Assateague island. The route 50 bridge raises twice an hour for boats to pass underneath which delays traffic. Cell phone reception on Assateague is sporadic at best. Make sure your guests have direction in advance (perhaps on their invitations). The bathrooms are not ideal for the bridal party so plan to finish your makeup before you leave your hotel. Every once in awhile a wild pony will get close enough to your wedding to be in the photos. That “pony probability” is about 20%. Respect the ponies and under no circumstances touch them or offer them food. Wedding receptions are not permitted on the Assateague beach. The state park closes each night at dusk.
Beach brides who want to tie the knot on Assateague will need to acquire a Marriage License from the Worcester County Clerk’s office in Snow Hill Maryland. The fee is $35. Sunset weddings on Assateague Island state park can be magical! Accommodations and logistics can be a bit tricky, but it’s usually worth it when planned properly. Intimate ceremonies of 40 guests or fewer. usually have the best experience. If you’re planning a larger beach wedding, Ocean City would be a less stressful experience. You can meet the top wedding vendors who service Assateague Island at the Ocean City Bridal Show each April at Seacrets in OC MD.