How to Plan the Florida Destination Wedding of Your Dreams
Florida destination weddings have so much to offer. From the near-perfect weather to the gorgeous beaches, guests will appreciate the atmosphere of a Florida wedding whether they’re coming in from across the country or just the next town over.
Choosing Florida as your destination allows for endless ways to tailor your wedding to fit your vision as a couple. Because of the great weather, most of the year is up for grabs. An outdoor wedding, while always a rain risk, seems pretty appealing in a state that mentions sunshine right on their license plate. Choose from a stunning Miami Beach wedding or go full Disney wedding in Orlando. Key West weddings have a blissful, tropical feel to them, while a Tampa wedding on the Gulf Coast can be rustic-chic with great views of the bay.
When you’re planning your wedding, don’t lose sight of the fact that Florida is so much more than great beaches. They have beautiful luxury hotels and are home to rich and diverse ecosystems. Miami’s art scene is flourishing, the Keys have bustling seafood markets and incredible eats, and there are posh enclaves within Orlando that make you feel far removed from Disney’s epicenter.
Here’s everything you need to know about Florida destination weddings so you can start creating your dream wedding day.
Best Times of Year for Florida Destination Weddings
Officially, hurricane season in Florida runs from June to the end of November. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to avoid that part of the year. For the clearest skies, April and November typically have the least rainfall. The biggest chance of rain is from June to September, with June typically seeing the most rainfall.
April and May tend to be great months to get married in Florida, because there’s less chance of rain, and it’s warm but not too hot. And you’re spared the summer beach crowds if you get married before school ends. If you opt for a spring wedding, you, of course, need to be aware of spring break — most of those trips happen in February, March, or April.
Florida Marriage Requirements
You can get a marriage license at any county clerk’s office, and once obtained, the license can be used anywhere in the state. There’s a three-day waiting period for marriage licenses, so you can’t show up in Florida and apply for your license on Thursday if your wedding is scheduled for Saturday. However, you have 60 days to get married once you’ve received your license, so if you’re coming in from out of town, you can get your marriage license up to two months in advance of your wedding date.
From dessert choices to wedding favors, there are so many opportunities to add Florida flair to your destination wedding. Of course, adding a waterfront component is an obvious choice. And you don’t need to host a Miami Beach wedding to incorporate the coastline. Maybe you’d prefer a garden wedding in Tampa, but want to host the rehearsal dinner or welcome cocktail party by the bay. For décor, paying homage to the natural beauty of Florida might mean decorating with a tropical or oceanic color scheme. If you’re looking to go classic black tie, a formal wedding absolutely works in Florida — just make sure to pick the right month so you’re not asking people to wear tuxes in July heat.
Florida-specific Flavors and Favors
For local flavors, you can consider adapting the menu based on the part of the state you choose to marry in. Miami is known for their stone crab, and a Florida Keys wedding begs for key lime pie. Much of southern Floridian cuisine borrows from Caribbean flavors. Your rehearsal dinner could feature Cuban sandwiches and blackened catfish po’boys, or you could have an arepas station to introduce some Colombian and Venezuelan influence.
A destination wedding should have local elements in the gift bags, so why not pack your favors into customized beach bags? Throw in some sunscreen, a few bottles of local craft beer from Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg or Wynwood Brewing in Miami, local Florida oranges, and a Florida candle.
South Florida weddings have a relaxed beach vibe and the blue-turquoise coastline is a romantic backdrop for a fun-filled Miami Beach wedding. One thing guests are up against is that Miami draws plenty of tourists, and you won’t be the only one interested in having your destination wedding there.
Holly Pacheco, director of catering at The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, says it slows down a bit in July, August, and September, but for the most part, they host weddings every weekend of the year. So to say Miami is an in-demand wedding destination might be an understatement. Sometimes they’ll even host weddings three nights in a row at The Palms, where you can choose from a beach ceremony, the garden gazebo, terraces decorated with fresh flowers, or two royal-feeling ballrooms.
Pacheco says November through April is the best time to get married in Miami but recommends you look out for local events that might cause hotel rates to spike for your guests, like major music or art festivals. “Beginning of December, for example, is Art Basel in Miami,” Pacheco said. “That’s a great time of year, as far as weather, but the room rates could definitely spike.”
If you’re booking a Florida destination wedding for just close friends and family, you can also consider having it on a weekday. Pacheco said that booking during the week is a way to drive down the price of a Florida destination wedding, and if you’re planning a smaller wedding with just close friends and family, your guests may be just as willing to come for a Thursday wedding. A destination like Miami also presents enticing mini-moon options for the bride and groom.
Key West weddings allow for tropical backdrops and cool ocean breezes as you say your vows. Known especially for their sunsets, Key West weddings tend to happen in the early evening to capture the area’s natural beauty. For a luxury resort venue, Pier House Resort and Spa has their own stretch of private beach. Or you can get married in a picturesque gazebo right on the Atlantic Ocean at The Reach. Your guests will fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for a Key West wedding, and typically weddings in the Keys tend to be a bit smalle, averaging 50 to 75 guests.
Thanks to Walt Disney World, Orlando is a hotspot for destination weddings. Sharon Blazer, director of sales and marketing at Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, said at least half the weddings they’re hosting this fall are for out-of-state couples. Orlando offers wedding guests plenty to do, including, of course, visiting the theme parks. Embassy Suites in Lake Buena Vista holds weddings on their Key West Terrace or their Cypress Patio, and they do all the work for your décor and customized lighting in-house. If you want to have your wedding at Disney World, we have a guide to that, too.
“Central Florida is one of the world’s most popular destinations,” Blazer said. “Not only do we offer beautiful settings and wonderful weather, we offer activities for families and friends, theme parks and world-class restaurants within proximity.” While central Florida means you aren’t necessarily getting the beach wedding destination, an Orlando wedding still allows guests to visit beaches only an hour away on either coast.
Because Tampa is on the west coast of Florida, it doesn’t have the legendary sunsets Miami or Key West lay claim to. However, in Tampa, you’ll get a waterfront wedding that combines bay views with local culture, so you don’t have to choose between a wedding with a rich historical element and a ceremony with glinting blue waters in the background. You can have both.
For eclectic venues that still provide stunning Florida scenery, check out the Tampa Bay Watch Lighthouse. From the porch of the lighthouse you can see Tampa Bay, the nearby island Shell Key, and Fort de Soto. There’s also the St. Petersburg Museum of History, which provides water views but has a well-curated, regal feel to the interior and a lush garden behind the property for photos or even the ceremony.