Florida is a popular spot for destination weddings with the romantic appeal of our beautiful beaches and the presence of a number of notable theme parks. I have officiated destination weddings for couples from other areas of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, the Caribbean (though you would think they would have their own incredible beaches), Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Japan, and Ghana. I could start my own Wedding World Cup!
But what exactly is a "destination" wedding?
It simply means travel for everyone attending the ceremony and festivities. If the couple and their guests will be spending more than a few hours on the road, boarding a plane or train, or embarking on a ship to get to the wedding venue...it's a destination wedding. Consequently, the destination is usually a romantic or exotic local ~ somewhere couples would opt to go on holiday or for their honeymoon.
These do not tend to be huge affairs. The couple are not obligated to pay anyone's travel expenses, so guest lists for destination weddings are usually fairly modest. Not all of us can afford the trek from Leicester to Melbourne Beach for a friend's wedding. The destination weddings I have officiated have been attended by about four to twenty guests; on rare occasions perhaps ten or so more than that.
I recommend hiring a local wedding planner or package provider such as Florida Beachside Weddings when arranging for a destination wedding. The expertise, experience, and local knowledge will prove invaluable and can truly help avoid potential problems the day of the wedding.
The beach is not the only appeal Florida holds for destination weddings. We have gorgeous inland natural settings, popular theme parks, historic old homes, and elegant urban venues. In the Orlando area for example, I have officiated destination weddings at Walt Disney World, the Grand Bohemian (hotel), 310 Lakeside (restaurant), Casa Feliz (historic home), Paradise Cove, and the Kraft Azalea Gardens.
Florida is an excellent place to combine weddings, family reunions, and honeymoons!
There are several important things you should consider when planning a destination wedding in Florida: the weather, unique challenges associated with beach weddings (if appropriate), and the marriage license.
Some times of the year are simply more comfortable than others here. If you think an outdoor wedding in Toronto in February is a bad idea, than you have to accept an outdoor wedding in Miami in August is not terribly bright either. Miserable is miserable whether you're shivering or sweltering. Florida is a long narrow state with profoundly different weather in Jacksonville and Key West. Check out average temperatures and rain fall patterns in the area of the state you are interested in for the wedding.
The beaches in Florida can be very different depending upon whether you are on the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, or in the Keys. If you have not been to your destination before, look up pictures and request information from the locals. You should familiarize yourself with sunrise/sunset times and tide schedules. Click here for more information about beach weddings on the Atlantic coast in Central Florida.
3. Marriage License
You can obtain a marriage license in any county in the state and it will be valid everywhere else in Florida. However, you must obtain a license in Florida if your ceremony is to be held here and you want it to result in a legal marriage. You can obtain the marriage license through the mail (a matter of a few times mailing paperwork back and forth), or go to a courthouse in person once you arrive. The three day waiting period is waived for out-of-state residents, so it will be valid the day you get it. All you need is photo i.d. (driver's license or passport for example) and an appropriate method of payment. You will have your license in hand in a matter of minutes once it is your turn at the counter. Your officiant should be able to help guide you through this process. Click here for more information about the Florida marriage license.
Above left: Shannon Perez of Simply In Love Photography
Above right: Gift of the Bride and Groom
Rev. Ann Fuller
The commentary on this blog is my own opinion developed over years of officiating a wide range of wedding sizes and styles. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have.