Guide to Planning A Florida Destination Wedding

Planning Your Florida Destination Wedding: What You Need to Know

Florida’s pristine beaches, lush gardens, and stunning venues set the stage for unforgettable destination weddings. But before you say ‘I do’ in the Sunshine State, it’s crucial to understand the marriage laws in Florida.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the legal aspects of tying the knot in Florida. We’ll unravel the marriage license requirements and other essential legalities you need to know to plan your dream destination wedding in Florida.

Beyond the legal aspects, we’ll take you on a captivating tour of Florida’s top wedding destinations. From the picturesque beaches of Miami and the romantic charm of Key West to the enchanting gardens of Sarasota and the timeless elegance of Palm Beach, we’ll uncover the hidden gems that make each location an idyllic wedding backdrop.

Whether you envision an intimate beach ceremony or a lavish garden soirée, we’ve curated a handpicked selection of Florida’s finest wedding destinations to suit every couple’s style and budget. 

Our expert advice and practical recommendations will ensure a seamless and stress-free planning process, allowing you to focus on creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Whether you’re a Florida native or a couple from afar, this is your ultimate guide to crafting the Florida destination wedding of your dreams. Prepare to be swept away by the beauty, romance, and boundless possibilities that await you as we unlock the secrets of Florida’s captivating vowscape.

Table of Contents

Planning Your Florida Destination Wedding: Things to Know

Destination weddings in Florida are a top choice for couples desiring a destination wedding. When it comes to marriage laws, Florida makes it easy for non-Florida residents to wed. While there’s a three-day waiting period on marriage licenses for Florida residents who have not taken a premarital course, that waiting period is waived for non-residents.

  • Identification Needed: Valid photo identification is required (driver’s license, state ID card, passport, or 1-94 card) along with your social security number. You may also be asked for a certified copy of your birth certificate.

  • State Residency: You don’t have to be a state resident.

  • Age Requirement: Both individuals must be 18 years of age or older to be married without parental consent. No one under the age of 16 can be married in Florida.

  • License Expiration: A marriage license in Florida will be valid for 60 days after it has been issued.

  • Required Wait Time: There is a 3-day required wait time for Florida residents who have not completed premarital course. There is no required waiting period for non-Florida residents.

  • Blood Test Requirement: No.

  • Proxy Marriages Legal: No.

  • Witnesses Needed: None.

social security card, marrlage license application, dollar bills in a piggy bank, and a couple in wedding attire
wedding on beach, tropical outdoor wedding set up decoration details

What is a Good Budget for Destination Weddings in Florida

Before we jump right into budgeting for a destination wedding in Florida, there are a few questions to consider. 

  • The first question to consider is why do we want to plan a destination wedding? Perhaps it is the draw of getting married on a beach; maybe it is because you want an exotic locale like South Beach, Miami, or Palm Beach. You might want a small wedding with a handful of friends and family or you are looking for a simple, non-fussy wedding, or perhaps like we chose when renewing our vows, you want a beach wedding with no guests – just the two of you celebrating your love. 

Once you have narrowed that down, you can decide on how simple or extravagant you want the wedding to be, and create your budget. The average expense of weddings can be as little as $5,000 to over $30,000 with the average cost falling in the realm of $18,000 to $30,000. 

When Jim and I got married, we only had three days to plan our wedding due to his job transfer. I chose a nice dress from my closet, we found a caterer to prepare and serve dinner, invited 16 people, and got married in my mother’s house in Virginia.

Our honeymoon was our relocation to Louisiana, and we spent less than $3,000. When we had the opportunity many years later to renew our vows, we spent $5,000 for the trip, six nights at the resort, and the vow renewal in the Caribbean. One thing to note is that we did not invite any guests. This was an intimate celebration with just us and the officiant.

Gold wedding rings lie on a two credit cards payment system MasterCard gold and MasterCard silver
Budgeting for a Florida destination wedding is an important consideration (photo credit: shinobi)

Budget Breakdown

  • Your Florida destination wedding can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. I’ve broken down all the potential expenses for an average destination wedding.

When budgeting out destination weddings in Florida, depending on the style and size of what you want, the typical wedding budget allocation looks something like this:

  • Venue ……………………………………20%
  • Catering …………………………………18%
  • Cake……………………………………….12%
  • Photography/videography………..15%
  • Flowers/decorations/favors……….9%
  • Miscellaneous expenses…………….4%
  • Invitations……………………………….1.5%
  • Discretionary Spending……………..40%
So, if you are working with a budget of $8,000, here is what that will look like, and you still have 40%, or $1640 of your $8000 budget for discretionary spending:
  •  Venue                                                 $1600
  • Catering                                              $1440
  • Cake                                                    $960
  • Photography/Videography              $1200
  • Flowers/decorations/favors           $720
  • Miscellaneous expenses                 $320
  • Invitations                                          $120
 You’ll notice I did not include music. You have options here – you can spend some of the discrentionary budget for a DJ or band, or you can opt to download your favorite playlist and use the speakers at the venue with a family member or friend taking charge of keeping the playlist playing. I also did not include expenses for the wedding attire. Wedding attire and music are a personal choice, and therefore hard to include figures for those expenses.
For example, if you didn’t care about having a DJ at your reception, you can take your entertainment budget and put it into another area such as wedding attire. This is your dream destination wedding for you and your partner. 

Budget Considerations

tropical fruits on table on beach
When planning a destination wedding in Florida, consider a small reception beachside (photo credit:

The Guest List

When it comes to your Florida destination wedding, guest list, size matters. The more people you invite, the higher your overall bill will be. The expenses for each guest breaks down this way:

  •  Invitation: $3-$8 per guest ($5 average cost)
  • Chair Rental: $1.50 to $6.00 per guest ($4 average cost)
  • Food & Drink: $30-$75 per guest ($45 average cost)
  • Cake: $3 per slice approximately
    • Using the average costs above, your cost per guest is $62. So, if you had a small intimate Florida destination wedding with 20 guests in attendance, your cost would be $1240, excluding the costs for the venue, the photography, the flowers, and wedding attire (including hair and makeup). 

The benefit of considering a destination wedding in Florida is that most destination weddings are small and intimate affairs, which lessens the costs. However, you will have added expenses for travel and accommodations.

Wedding venue set up for small beach wedding (photo credit:

Choosing a Venue

In most cases, choosing your venue takes the lions share of your destination wedding budget. However, the great news is that you have some budget-friendly choices!

Resorts will often run specials for wedding packages, and include a two-night stay (hello honeymoon!), so that is where I suggest looking first. Booking your stay and wedding at a resort can ultimately result in a lower cost, especially during the low season. So hunt for those deals!

Another alternative is to work with a local wedding planner for a beach wedding, or a wedding in a national or state part. There may, however, be an additional cost for a wedding permit.


Choosing Wedding Planner to Help Plan Your Florida Destination Wedding

Whether you are hosting a small intimate wedding or something larger, if you opt for planning your destination wedding at a venue other than a resort, I would suggest building in the cost of a local wedding planner. Both The Knot and Wedding Wire are good resources. Larger resorts have an event planner they recommend or they have one on staff. This is the most seamless way to create the Florida destination wedding that you are dreaming of. 

The wedding/event planner will take care of all the details so you can focus on the event itself. A good wedding/event planner will have a some great local recommendations for hair, makeup, cakes, flowers, and more. They are invaluable because they are your “boots on the ground.”

Serene Sands & Exquisite Luxury: Miami Beach

Our first stop takes us to the glamorous shores of Miami Beach. With its pristine white sands and vibrant cityscape, Miami Beach offers a stunning backdrop for couples seeking an opulent beach wedding experience.

Indulge in luxurious resorts like The Fontainebleau Miami Beach, renowned for its timeless elegance and world-class amenities. The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is another top choice, combining refined sophistication with breathtaking oceanfront views. Prepare to say your vows amidst the rhythmic sound of crashing waves, as the sun paints the sky in hues of gold and pink.

When it comes to planning a destination beach wedding and reception in Miami, there are several top resorts that offer exquisite settings and exceptional amenities. Here are four of the premier resorts in Miami that are perfect for your special day:

The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach

Nestled in the heart of South Beach, The Ritz-Carlton offers a luxurious and elegant backdrop for your wedding celebration. With its pristine beachfront location, you can exchange vows on the sandy shores with the sparkling ocean as your witness. The resort boasts beautiful event spaces, including stunning ballrooms and outdoor terraces, allowing you to customize your reception to your exact specifications. Their dedicated wedding specialists will ensure that every detail is flawlessly executed, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

A legendary landmark on Miami Beach, Fontainebleau is renowned for its timeless elegance and exceptional service. This iconic resort offers a variety of stunning venues for your beach wedding and reception, including oceanfront ballrooms, lush gardens, and intimate poolside areas. Whether you envision a grand affair or an intimate gathering, Fontainebleau’s team of wedding professionals will work closely with you to create a personalized and unforgettable experience for you and your guests.

The Palms Hotel & Spa

For couples seeking a more intimate and natural setting, The Palms Hotel & Spa is an ideal choice. Situated on a serene stretch of beach, this tropical oasis provides a romantic atmosphere for your special day. The resort features lush gardens, cascading waterfalls, and a private beach area, allowing you to have a picturesque ceremony and reception. The Palms’ experienced wedding team will assist you in creating a customized package tailored to your preferences, ensuring that your wedding day is nothing short of perfection.

W South Beach

If you’re looking for a trendy and contemporary vibe, the W South Beach is an excellent option. This stylish oceanfront hotel offers a blend of sophistication and modern design, making it a popular choice among couples. With its chic event spaces, including rooftop terraces and beachfront settings, the W South Beach provides a unique backdrop for your wedding festivities. Their team of skilled planners will help you curate a memorable experience that reflects your style and vision.

Remember to reach out to each resort directly to inquire about their wedding packages, availability, and additional services they offer. It’s also recommended to schedule visits and consultations with their dedicated wedding teams to discuss your specific needs and preferences.

With these top resorts in Miami, your destination beach wedding and reception are sure to be a remarkable and unforgettable affair.

Tropical Paradise & Intimate Seclusion: Key West

For those yearning for a laid-back island vibe, Key West is the ultimate destination wedding haven. Picture yourselves exchanging vows under swaying palm trees, with the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico as your witness. 

The Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort

The Casa Marina is a true gem, exuding old-world charm and offering picturesque beachfront venues.

The Reach Key West

This property is a Curio Collection by Hilton, and embraces an intimate atmosphere with its secluded beaches and romantic sunset views. Here, you’ll find a perfect blend of tranquility and tropical allure, creating an unforgettable backdrop for your celebration of love.

Natural Beauty & Rustic Elegance: Amelia Island

As we venture further north, Amelia Island captivates with its unspoiled natural beauty and rustic charm. Nestled on Florida’s northeast coast, this enchanting destination is ideal for couples seeking a romantic, outdoor wedding surrounded by pristine beaches and lush landscapes.

The Omni Amelia Island Resort

This resort provides an idyllic setting, with its oceanfront lawns and elegant ballrooms.

The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island

For a more intimate affair, consider The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, where coastal splendor meets refined luxury. Get ready to embrace the magic of the island’s untamed beauty as you celebrate your love story.

Secluded Bliss & Timeless Elegance: Sanibel Island

Our final destination brings us to the secluded paradise of Sanibel Island, where serenity and natural wonders abound. Imagine exchanging vows on a private beach, enveloped by swaying seagrass and the gentle sea breeze.

The South Seas Island Resort

This property is a dream venue, offering breathtaking waterfront settings and world-class amenities.

Casa Ybel Resort

For a touch of historic charm, consider Casa Ybel Resort, nestled on the island’s pristine shores. With its timeless elegance and stunning sunsets, Sanibel Island is a haven for couples seeking an intimate and romantic destination wedding.

From the vibrant shores of Miami Beach to the tranquil seclusion of Sanibel Island, Florida’s destination wedding resorts and beaches hold the key to a truly magical celebration of love.

With this curated list of Betsi Hill’s top picks, you’re equipped to choose the perfect setting that aligns with your dreams and desires. So, embark on this journey, and let the beauty of Florida’s premier wedding destinations sweep you off your feet as you create memories to last a lifetime.

Happy Florida Destination Wedding Planning!

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