If doing an elopement in Florida sounds like your ideal wedding day, then look no further. As a Florida elopement photographer, I created this guide to make planning your Florida elopement a lot easier. From using a regular wedding venue all the way to one of Florida’s many beautiful palm tree-lined beaches this guide will help you find everything you need to make your wedding day exactly what you always dreamed it would be. I have visited just about every corner of Florida from the Florida Keys over to historic St. Augustine through Orlando and back to Tampa where I’m living. So chances are wherever you want to be for your elopement, I’ve been there.
Legalities and Planning to Elope in Florida
How to Elope in Florida Legally
Eloping in Florida is an exciting adventure, but let’s get the legalities right first. Here’s your step-by-step guide to ensure your Florida elopement is legally sound.
Applying for a Marriage License
1. Start at the County Clerk’s Office: This is where it all begins. Locate the nearest office in the county where you plan to marry.
2. Both Partners Must Be Present: You and your partner need to show up in person to apply for the marriage license.
3. Bring Valid Photo IDs: Ensure you have your government-issued photo IDs, such as a driver’s license or passport. This confirms your identity.
4. Pay the License Fee: Be prepared to pay a fee for the marriage license. Keep in mind that fees can vary depending on the county. Check ahead for the exact amount.5. No Waiting Period: In Florida, there’s no mandatory waiting period. This means you can apply for your license and tie the knot on the same day if you wish.
Hiring an Officiant
Choose an Officiant Licensed in Florida: To make your marriage official, you’ll need someone authorized to conduct the ceremony. Look for an officiant licensed in Florida to oversee your vows.
Who Can Legally Marry You in Florida?
Two options are available:
- Florida-Licensed Officiants: You can have your ceremony officiated by someone who holds a valid license to perform marriages in the state. This includes ordained ministers and church officials.
- Judges or Clerks: Alternatively, a judge or clerk from a Florida courthouse can officiate your wedding.
Do You Need a Witness to Elope in Florida?
Yes, you do. Florida requires at least one witness, and they can be a friend, family member, or even a bystander who’s willing to sign your marriage license.
What Documents Do You Need to Get Married in Florida?
To avoid any hiccups, make sure you have these essential documents:
- Valid Photo IDs: Both you and your partner should have government-issued photo IDs, like a driver’s license or passport.
- Social Security Numbers: These are required during the application process.
- If You Were Previously Married: If either of you was previously married, bring along the divorce decree or the death certificate of your former spouse as proof of dissolution.
Choosing Your Elopement Location
The Best Places to Elope in Florida
Selecting the perfect elopement location in Florida is crucial to ensure your special day is as magical as you’ve envisioned. Florida offers a diverse range of breathtaking settings, but it’s wise to have a backup plan in case of unexpected weather. Here are some enchanting locations to consider:
Honeymoon Island State Park
Honeymoon Island’s pristine beaches and serene atmosphere make it an ideal choice for a tranquil beachfront elopement.
Address: 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698
Phone: (727) 469-5942
For more information visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/honeymoon-island-state-park
Fort De Soto Park
Fort De Soto Park offers a picturesque backdrop with historic fort ruins and white sandy shores, perfect for a memorable beachside elopement.
Address: 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Phone: (727) 582-2267
For more information visit: https://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm
Sanibel Island Beach
Sanibel Island’s stunning seashells and Gulf of Mexico views provide a romantic setting for your beachfront elopement.
Address: Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone: (239) 472-1080
For more information visit https://www.sanibel-captiva.org/
St. Augustine Historic District
Step back in time amidst the cobblestone streets and centuries-old architecture of St. Augustine’s Historic District, offering a unique and historic elopement experience.
Address: St. Augustine, FL 32084
Phone: (904) 825-1000
For more information visit https://www.visitstaugustine.com/
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya’s opulent gardens and Mediterranean-inspired villa in Miami create an elegant backdrop for a sophisticated elopement.
Address: 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129
Phone: (305) 250-9133
For more information visit https://vizcaya.org/
Embrace the literary history of Key West with an elopement at the Hemingway House, surrounded by lush gardens and the legacy of Ernest Hemingway.
Address: 907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone: (305) 294-1136
For more information visit https://www.hemingwayhome.com/
Parks & Gardens
Dry Tortugas National Park
Escape to the remote and pristine Dry Tortugas National Park, where turquoise waters and historic Fort Jefferson create a unique backdrop for your elopement.
Address: Dry Tortugas National Park, FL 33040
Phone: (305) 242-7700
Bok Tower Gardens
Nestled among lush gardens and a singing bell tower, Bok Tower Gardens offers a tranquil and romantic setting for your elopement.
Address: 1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853
Phone: (863) 676-1408
For more information visit https://boktowergardens.org/
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Elope surrounded by the natural beauty of crystal-clear springs and lush forests at Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
Address: 12087 SW US Hwy 27, Fort White, FL 32038
Phone: (386) 497-4690
For more information visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ichetucknee-springs-state-park
Exploring Courthouse Wedding Options in Florida
If simplicity and convenience are what you seek, consider a courthouse wedding. Visit your local courthouse for a quick and straightforward marriage ceremony. It’s an excellent choice for couples looking for a hassle-free legal union.
Planning Your Elopement
When it comes to planning your dream Florida elopement, choosing the right timing is crucial. Let’s dive into the details:
Choosing the Perfect Month to Elope in Florida
December and January: These months bring relief from the scorching Florida heat. The temperatures are milder, making outdoor ceremonies more comfortable. Plus, there are significantly fewer crowds to contend with, giving you more privacy for your special day.
March: While Florida weather is generally pleasant in March, it’s not the ideal time for an elopement. Spring break brings an influx of tourists, which can raise the costs of travel, accommodations, and even your elopement plans. Crowds can be a hindrance.
April – May: These months are often considered the sweet spot for Florida elopements. As the days get longer, the temperatures start to rise, but they are usually within a comfortable range. You can enjoy the lovely weather without the extreme heat. It’s a perfect time for beachside or outdoor ceremonies.
June: If you’re considering June, be prepared for rain. It’s the rainiest month in Florida, and frequent showers can disrupt outdoor plans. However, if you have your heart set on June, consider indoor or covered venues as a backup.
July and August: These months mark the peak of the tourist season in Florida. Expect larger crowds at popular destinations. While the weather is hot and humid, it’s also the time when most families visit, so it might not offer the peaceful and intimate atmosphere you desire.
Hurricane Season: Hurricane season in Florida spans from June to November. While this might sound daunting, some couples find the months of September and October appealing. By this time, hurricane season is winding down, and the weather can be quite pleasant. Just keep an eye on the forecast and have a backup plan in case of unexpected storms.
Best Months to Elope
As an elopement photographer in Florida, here are what I believe the best months to elope in Florida:
- April: This month offers pleasant temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it an ideal choice for your elopement.
- May: Similar to April, May provides beautiful weather, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors without the scorching heat.
- Late September: As hurricane season starts to fade, late September can be a delightful time for your elopement. The weather is still favorable, and you’re less likely to encounter crowds.
- October: With better weather and fewer tourists, October is an excellent choice for an intimate Florida elopement.
What to Wear for Your Elopement in Florida
Choosing the right attire for your Florida elopement is key to staying comfortable and capturing stunning photos. Here’s what you need to know:
Light Fabrics: Florida’s warmth calls for lightweight, breathable fabrics like chiffon, lace, or silk. They’ll keep you cool and comfortable.
Flowy Styles: A flowing, A-line dress or a bohemian-inspired gown complements the relaxed Florida vibe and ensures easy movement.
Shorter Hemlines: Consider a shorter dress or a high-low style to prevent dragging on sandy beaches or grassy venues.
Comfort Over Heels: Opt for comfortable shoes, like sandals or flats, especially if you’re on the beach. If heels are a must, choose wedges for stability.
Consider Barefoot: Many couples choose to go barefoot for a beach elopement, adding to the natural and relaxed feel.
Lightweight Materials: If you’re wearing a suit, choose lightweight fabrics like linen or seersucker to beat the heat.
Light Colors: Light-colored suits reflect sunlight, keeping you cooler than darker shades.
Casual Elegance: Consider a more casual look, like a crisp white shirt with rolled-up sleeves and trousers, for a beach or garden elopement.
Other Things to Consider
Sun Protection: Don’t forget sunscreen to protect your skin from the Florida sun. A light shawl or cover-up can also shield you from the sun’s rays.
Dress for the Season: If you’re eloping during Florida’s hotter months, choose breathable and light attire. For cooler months, you can add layers to your outfit.
Backup Outfits: Be prepared for sudden weather changes. Consider having a backup outfit if you’re planning an outdoor elopement.
Blend with Nature: Florida’s natural beauty is your backdrop, so select colors and styles that complement the environment. Earthy tones and pastels often work well.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll not only look amazing but also stay comfortable as you enjoy your unforgettable Florida elopement.
Budgeting for Your Elopement in Florida
While there is no set cost to elope, most couples spend $5,000-$15,000, far less than the national average of $33,000 for a traditional wedding. Eloping couples tend to cut out the things they don’t care about, and perhaps pay a little more for the things they do.
The city you choose can affect the budget, the things you can do and the vendors you bring in.
I recommend spending between $3000-7000 for a photographer if you want full story coverage(between 4-7 hours), but if you don’t mind not having photographs of a few things you may only need two hours of coverage.
Learn more about the average cost of a photographer in Florida here.
Florida Elopement Checklist
While planning an elopement is much less stressful than a traditional wedding, having a step-by-step checklist can help mitigate any potential issues along the way. This elopement checklist is designed to help you do things in the order that makes the most sense.
Choose the Destination
Decide where in Florida you want to elope, whether it’s a beach, historical site, or natural park.
Set the date
Select a Month: Consider the weather, crowd levels, and personal preferences when picking the perfect month for your elopement. Once you’ve chosen, set the official date for your special day.
Get a permit
Check if your chosen location requires permits for ceremonies or photography. Ensure you understand the rules and regulations. Pay for a permit where necessary.
Look through hotels, Airbnb, or VRBO for places to stay and prepare that suit your style. Beachfront resorts, full home rentals, and boutique hotels are popular choices.
Choose your photographer
Research Photographers: Look for experienced Florida elopement photographers who specialize in capturing intimate moments. They should have a consistent style and you should feel comfortable with them – its more important than you think! Booking your photographer should be done anywhere from 6-12 months before your date.
Ps – Did you know you can hire me? Reach out to talk about elopement photography.
Build your vendor team
You don’t need quite the team a traditional wedding requires you should think about planners, florists, officiants, makeup artists, or musicians. Research and select them carefully.
Set a ceremony time
Deciding when to get married is important, and with an elopement, you can choose whenever you’d like. I typically recommend sunrise for couples that want less crowds, sunset for late risers, or an evening ceremony for those that want to really build something unique.
Choose activities for your day
Think about some of the things you have always wanted to do together and create a list of them. You can hike, rent your favorite car, scuba dive, or even skydive. You can create your own adventure and you should make it memorable.
Double-check your elopement ceremony location
Visit your chosen elopement spot beforehand to ensure it meets your expectations – outdoor locations can be heavily impacted by weather. Your photographer should be able to help with this and make recommendations. Always have a backup location in mind, especially if your ceremony is outdoors, to prepare for unexpected weather. Selecting a nice hotel or Airbnb is a great way to do this. Coordinate with each vendor to align schedules and expectations for your elopement day.
Finalize the details
In the weeks leading up to your elopement, confirm all arrangements, make final payments, and ensure everything is in order. This will include things like going over a timeline with your photographer, checking in for your flight and packing your bags.
Exploring Other Elopement Vendors in Florida
When planning your Florida elopement, don’t forget about the essential vendors who can help make your day even more special. Here’s what you need to know:
- Selecting an Officiant: Find an officiant who resonates with your values and style. Florida allows a variety of individuals, including notary publics, ministers, and judges, to perform ceremonies.
- Legal Requirements: Ensure that your chosen officiant understands and can fulfill Florida’s legal requirements for a marriage ceremony. They will guide you through the process, including obtaining a marriage license.
- Personalizing Your Ceremony: Discuss your ceremony preferences with your officiant, whether it’s a traditional, religious, or personalized ceremony. They can help tailor your vows to your unique love story.
Hair and Makeup Artists
- Research Artists: Look for experienced hair and makeup artists who specialize in bridal and elopement styles. Check their portfolios and reviews to find the right fit.
- Trial Run: Schedule a trial session before your elopement to ensure your chosen artist understands your vision and can create your desired look.
- Timing: Coordinate with your artist to set a schedule that allows you to be ready in time for your elopement ceremony or photo session.
- Choosing Your Florist: Find a florist who can design beautiful arrangements that match your elopement’s theme and location. Whether you want a romantic bouquet or tropical blooms, they can bring your vision to life.
- Discuss Your Preferences: Communicate your color scheme, flower choices, and any specific floral details you desire. Florists can also provide boutonnieres, corsages, and decorative arrangements.
- Delivery and Setup: Ensure your florist can deliver and set up your floral arrangements at your chosen elopement location, making your day stress-free.
The right vendor team will reduce any stress and allow you to be in the moment, where the wrong vendor team will potentially create memories & stress no one wants.
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