Ultimate Guide to Eloping in Florida

June 20, 2023

Ultimate Guide to Eloping in Florida

The Ultimate Guide for Lovers Planning A Florida Elopement

An increasing number of couples are opting for a more intimate and adventurous alternative to getting married: eloping. Eloping allows you and your partner to exchange vows in a personalized and meaningful way, free from the stress and expectations of a traditional wedding. If you’re considering eloping, look no further than the picturesque and dreamy state of Florida, where breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cities, and romantic beaches await. Florida is the perfect destination for your intimate elopement; full of life and lush greenery all year long and home to so many locations that make for the best spots to take wedding photos. Eloping should be a fun, exciting, and stress free experience; to help make planning your dream Florida elopement easy, I have created the ultimate guide to eloping in Florida.

choosing the right time of year & location for your elopement

When planning your dream Florida elopement, one of the first questions you should ask yourselves is “When do we want to elope?” Florida has, generally speaking, great weather all year round, however it can be extremely unpredictable during the summer and fall. There are some key differences in the time of year that you choose to elope, every season has it’s own unique perks and cons that I have listed below.

FLORIDA SEASONAL ELOPEMENT INFORMATION

  • Spring (March-May) – If you’re worried about the Florida humidity we all know and love, springtime is for you. The flowers are blooming, it’s not too hot, and there is plenty to do. The weather is typically beautiful from late February-May, but when they said “April showers bring May flowers” they were talking about the spontaneous rainstorms that can occur almost daily. December-March is also heavy wedding season in Florida, so many locations and venues can be busy during this time of year.
  • Summer (June-August) – If you don’t mind a little extra heat in exchange for a FULL day of light and a late sunset, a summer elopement is just for you. The sun sets after 8pm in Florida from May-August, thanks to Daylight Saving, so that extra hour of light always makes for the best golden hour sessions. Summers can be super busy in Florida as it is a major tourist destination, but we can always find low-key, private areas for an elopement. Another downside is the potential for heavy rain and storms as hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and lasts through November.
  • Fall (September – November) – Florida is absolutely beautiful in the Fall and while it can be a little warmer in September, it cools off very nicely from October-November. The summer greens don’t really turn into fall foliage, so you still have plenty of dreamy locations to choose from. Again, be mindful of the potential for hurricanes as hurricane season does extend through November 30th, but the daily summer storms begin to subside in the Fall.
  • Winter (December – February) – Florida winters are so gorgeous and the temperature is perfect for outdoor elopements. The winter is wedding season in Florida which makes finding locations and venues tricky if not planned in advance. I also always remind couples that holiday décor does go up in November and typically stays up through mid January, but if you want the glistening lights in your wedding photos, a winter elopement is just for you. The sun does set earlier in the day, but it also rises later, so if you aren’t much of an early riser you could pull of a sunrise elopement.

Ultimate Guide to Eloping in Florida: FLORIDA ELOPEMENT LOCATION GUIDE (MAPPED BELOW)

Okay, so you picked out the perfect time of year to elope, now the next big question is where to say “I Do”? The first thing you should ask yourself is what kind of vibe you want your elopement to have. The location you choose is more than just a pretty background, it’s the entire atmosphere of your elopement. Any foliage, rocks, water, etc. is going to be in your photos and will determine the overall look of the images. Do you want simple, classic beach photos? Are you going for a modern, downtown elopement vibe? Do you want it to feel like a tropical, adventure elopement? Selecting where you elope can be tough when Florida is over 65,000 square miles, thankfully I have spent the last 25 years of my life exploring Florida, so I know all the best locations.

NORTH FLORIDA ELOPEMENT LOCATIONS

Below I have listed several of my favorite elopement locations in North Florida and when the best time to elope at them is.

  • Washington Oaks & Gardens State Park | Palm Coast, Florida – This is one of my favorite locations due to its large, beautiful trees with hanging Spanish moss all around, its stunning and unique foliage, and its close proximity to a rocky beach! Because there is a good amount of shade here, a little bit after sunrise or before sunset is a great time to shoot at this location.
  • Ravine Gardens State Park | Palatka, Florida – With swinging bridges over a deep ravine painted in bright colors by azaleas each February, Ravine Gardens State Park offers so many beautiful spots for photos, including on a suspension bridge overlooking the park. The park has two ravines up to 120 feet deep with steep banks and the garden’s peak flowering period is azalea season, January to March. 
  • Falling Waters State Park | Chipley, Florida – Did you know Florida has a waterfall? This is the only location in Florida that offers a view of a 70ft waterfall. There are sinkholes all around the park but when there is sufficient rainfall, this waterfall really gets to flowing. This location is perfect for the couples who want a unique, adventure-like elopement in a remote part of Florida. This location is good during any time of day, however it will be heavy with bugs in the summer/fall.
  • Sweetwater Wetlands | Gainesville, Florida – The Sweetwater Wetlands is a 125-acre manmade wetland that has some beautiful views. They offer 3.5 miles of paved gravel trails with suspension bridges, boardwalks, water views, and the chance to see wild horses running through the park. This location is perfect at either sunrise or sunset.
  • Cedar Lakes Woods & Gardens | Williston, Florida – Cedar Lakes Woods & Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden with cascading waterfalls, 50+ garden displays, koi ponds, and countless breathtaking views! The foliage here is stunning and would make for a beautiful backdrop to any elopement. This location is perfect for any time of day.
  • Historic Downtown St. Augustine | St. Augustine, Florida – Downtown locations have so much to offer for photos. The buildings can offer a beautiful backdrop and when you’re working with a historic, downtown vibe and there is room for tons of variety! Walking down the streets you can find something new and the alleyways can sometimes offer unique spots. The best times to shoot here are usually in the morning because not many people are up yet and there is less traffic on the roads.
  • Big Talbot Island State Park | Jacksonville, Florida – Boneyard Beach is one of my favorite Jacksonville locations and a close-kept secret (until now). This beach has 3-miles of shoreline along the Nassau Sound at the very northeast corner of the city limits, with no skyscrapers in sight. The beach features giant driftwood trees that mimic a graveyard and make the perfect backdrop for your beach elopement.
  • Amelia Island State Park | Amelia Island, Florida – I’ll finish up this list of the best places to elope in North Florida with my favorite spot, Amelia Island. Amelia Island State Park is the only Florida state park that has horseback riding on the beach! If you’re feeling extra adventurous and want to do something unique for your elopement, Amelia Island is the place to elope. Because it’s and island, sunrise and sunset here are the perfect times to shoot. Sunrise elopements do require a permit before your ceremony in order to have early entry.

CENTRAL FLORIDA ELOPEMENT LOCATIONS

Below I have linked several of my favorite elopement locations in Central Florida and when the best time to elope at them is.

  • Ocala National Forest | Silver Springs, Florida – The Ocala National Forest has some of the most stunning greenery I have ever seen in this state; tall trees, crystal blue waters, paved roads to the most remote forest locations, I absolutely love this park. It’s perfect for a forest-y vibe elopement and good to shoot at during any tine of day.
  • The Enchanted Forest | Titusville, Florida – Th Enchanted Forest really lives up to its name and is one of my favorite locations in central Florida. It features lush green colors, jungle vibes, beautiful mixed textures, and many backdrop options. There are multiple trails each with slightly different looks, perfect for your fairytale elopement. This area is perfect any time of day.
  • Harry P. Leu Gardens | Orlando, Florida -The Harry P. Leu Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden with stunningly landscaped grounds and lakes, 200-year-old oaks and forests of camellia. This location is perfect for those looking for a tropical central Florida elopement. The gardens are only open during the day, so daytime is the best time to shoot here.
  • Maitland Art Center | Maitland, Florida – The Maitland Art Center is a Mayan inspired piece of architecture and a National Historic Landmark. The unique atmosphere features sculptures and carved floors and a small pond. Morning elopements here are CHEAP compared to their normal venue pricing. If you’re going for a different vibe than a traditional Florida elopement, this is the venue for you.
  •  Kraft Azalea Garden | Winter Park, Florida – Kraft Azalea Garden is located in residential Winter Park and has mature cypress trees and Greek columns on the lake. The azaleas are super fragrant and the hundred year old banyan trees make this a super dreamy central Florida elopement location. The best times to shoot here are early morning when there are few people around or right at sunset, though it’s a popular spot in the evening in Winter Park.
  • Lake Louisa State Park | Clermont, FloridaLake Louisa State Park is one of the few areas in Florida that feature hills! This is a popular spot for photographers in the area but it has spots that can be more private so you can get the perfect images without families or other couples in the background. It’s best to shoot at sunset if you want a “glowy” look to your elopement photos.
  • Rock Springs | Apopka, Florida – Rock Springs is the perfect spot for your Central Florida elopement if you want all the beautiful water views without the ocean. There are so many unique rocky formations along the spring that make for a beautiful location for saying “I do”. It can get crowded here around 3-day weekend holidays and in the summertime.
  • Honeymoon Island State Park | Dunedin, Florida – Honeymoon Island State Park is a barrier island perfect for the couples who are looking to elope on white sandy beaches with no one around. Honeymoon Island is over four miles of beach and has trails that weave through a virgin slash pine forest. This location is stunning for both sunrise or sunset elopements.

SOUTH FLORIDA ELOPEMENT LOCATIONS

Below I have linked several of my favorite elopement locations in South Florida and when the best time to elope at them is.

  • House of Refuge | Stuart, Florida – The House of Refuge is one of the most unique beach locations in Florida because of its stunning rocky shore! There are no permits required for an imitate elopement on the beach. Parking can be extremely scarce though but I found success parking a little ways north Fletcher Beach and walking to the location. Sunrise is the BEST time to shoot here, but sunset can also be super dreamy.
  • Morikami Museum & Gardens | Delray Beach, Florida – The Morikami Museum & Gardens has otherworldly tree tunnels, waterfalls, and bonsai exhibits, with so many spots to take your elopement photos. There is a fee to use this location but it is one of the most stunning places in South Florida for elopements.
  • Lovers Key State Park | Fort Meyers Beach, Florida – Lovers Key State Park one of Florida’s most beautiful beach parks, and it has driftwood trees. If you’re looking for a sunset elopement on the beach, look not further than Lovers Key. The west coast sunsets are unreal and the Gulf water is absolutely breathtaking.
  • Matheson Hammock Park | Coral Gables, Florida – If you’re looking for a less beachy vibe and want something outdoors, Matheson Hammock Park would be the perfect elopement location for you! This locations is similar to the Enchanted Forest in Titusville, but much further south.
  • Cheeca Lodge | Islamorada, Florida – The Florida Keys in and of itself has probably 100+ beautiful locations for an elopement. This venue features a stunning crisscrossing palm tree tunnel, bamboo trails and so much tropical foliage. Sunset and sunrise are both great times to shoot at this venue.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park | Key West, Florida – Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is probably my favorite place for elopements in Florida. The fort is surrounded by rocky beaches, botanical trails, and grassy fields; there are truly so many options for locations to take photos! The fort is made up of brick staircases, archways, and tunnels. The best time to shoot here is sunset but sunrise can be beautiful too! If you plan to elope here, be sure to look into getting a permit for evening access.

No matter where you choose to elope, the day is about celebrating your love for one another. Browse around the attached map to discover the best places to elope in Florida.

SHOULD WE INCLUDE GUESTS IN OUR ELOPEMENT?

First, remember that your decision is yours (and your partner’s) to make, and whatever you decide should be a choice you make together and without any coercion or added stress from others. There are numerous factors that make the decision to elope solo or with others a tough one. Let’s be honest, weddings can be expensive and if you’d prefer to spend your budget on something special for just yourselves, you are valid. Even planning a small gathering of 20 people requires permitting (for beach weddings) or a venue + reception location, food, décor, travel costs, it all can start to add up. If you and your partner are ready to do the dang thing and get married, then I would recommend an intimate ceremony for just the two of you. If you choose this route, the day is completely yours and we are free to do whatever, wherever the two of you want. If you can’t imagine saying “I Do” without your family or closest friends by your side but don’t want the stress of planning a full wedding, I recommend a small ceremony of no more than 20-ish people. If you decide to have an intimate ceremony, I recommend booking your reception for as late in the day as possible in order to have ample time for photos after the ceremony. Deciding how you want to elope is a huge decision as this is the beginning of the rest of your lives together.

If you have questions, comments, concerns, what ifs, what abouts, etc.; please do not hesitate to contact me and I am happy to walk you through all of it.

CHOOSING THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY PACKAGE FOR YOUR ELOPEMENT

Eloping should not break the bank and it’s important for you to select the package that makes the most sense for you. If you’re eloping in a courthouse and want a simple, quick session then 1 hour is perfect for you. If you’re wanting to do multiple looks at multiple locations 3+ hours is definitely needed. If you plan to host a small ceremony with guests, I recommend 4+ hours to ensure there is plenty of time for ceremony, family, and couples photos. No matter what kind of elopement you choose, we will curate a package that is just right for you.

CHOOSING THE REST OF YOUR VENDORS

If you decide to elope with a small ceremony, book a venue or even want to go to the courthouse, you may need to do some planning. It’s important to book those as early as possible in order to lock in your date; this goes for photographer, officiant, appointment at the courthouse, venue, reception, florals, décor, permits, etc. whatever is applicable to your big day. If you need recommendations I am always happy to help you find the perfect vendors for your big day.

CHOOSING WHERE TO GET MARRIED “LEGALLY”

Getting married is not the most complicated process, but it is a process nonetheless. If you want to be legally married before the elopement session, schedule your appointment at the clerks office for a weekday before your elopement. If you plan to get married on the day of and want pictures immediately after it is completely possible, you’ll want to schedule an appointment at the courthouse in whatever city/county you plan to elope in. In order to get legally married in Florida you need a valid photo ID and social security card. If you choose to complete a Florida pre-marriage course the cost of the marriage license goes down significantly and you don’t have the three day waiting period to get married. After you get your marriage license, you have 60 days to say “I Do.”

I have listed some of the major Florida cities Clerk of Court offices below.

CLERK OF COURT IN MAJOR FLORIDA CITIES:

PACKING and preparing FOR YOUR FLORIDA ELOPEMENT

Before we book in your elopement I always begin with a phone call to discuss everything you’re looking for. I believe it’s important for us to get to know one another as you are entrusting me to capture the most important day of your life. After we book you in, I will curate a vision board for your day, location scout, and we will plan a timeline to ensure every part of the day you want captured will be. I find it best to treat your elopement as a weekend (at least 3 days) for just the two of you. If you really feel up to it and can, I definitely recommend extend it and going on a honeymoon after.

Before you pack for your Florida Elopement, think about the vibe is that you’re going for and the location you chose… is it coastal, boho, modern, casual, etc…? Once you know what kind of vibe you’re going for, you can narrow down on a dress/outfits. There is no rule that says you have to wear white to elope, you should wear whatever makes YOU feel like the best version of yourself. After you pick your dress I would next suggest: bathing suits, sunscreen, bug spray, outfits for your honeymoon, and outfits for your engagement session if we are doing one before your elopement and I would also suggest packing comfortable shoes to walk between locations, trust me your feet will thank you.

On the day of your elopement, it is so important for you to eat a well balanced meal, and drink tons of water. It can get hot in Florida and it’s crucial you stay hydrated on your big day. Depending on the location, I will drop a pin exactly where parking is or I will have the directions sent to you. Remember that it’s totally okay to be nervous, not everyone has their picture taken everyday, but this is my bread and butter, and I strive for the process to be a seamless and fun experience from start to finish. At first we will do some light posing to get loose, but the majority of the session will be spent capturing candid, prompted shots. My goal as your elopement photographer is to deliver a lasting collection of images that feel authentic, real, and 100% you. We will laugh, have fun, and spend the day celebrating and capturing your love story.

HONEYMOONING IN FLORIDA

Florida has so much to offer and there are so many beautiful places you can choose to honeymoon at after eloping in Florida. Below I have listed some of the most romantic honeymoon destinations in Florida.

ROMANTIC FLORIDA HONEYMOON LOCATION GUIDE

NORTH FLORIDA HONEYMOON LOCATIONS

Below I have linked several of my favorite locations in North Florida that would make for the perfect honeymoon location.

  • Santa Rosa Beach
  • St. Augustine
  • Amelia Island
  • Pensacola
  • Anna Maria Island

CENTRAL FLORIDA HONEYMOON LOCATIONS

Below I have linked several of my favorite locations in Central Florida that would make for the perfect honeymoon location.

  • Orlando
  • St. Petersburg
  • Clearwater
  • Honeymoon Island
  • Siesta Key

SOUTH FLORIDA HONEYMOON LOCATIONS

Below I have linked several of my favorite locations in South Florida that would make for the perfect honeymoon location.

  • The Florida Keys
  • Miami
  • Captiva Island
  • Palm Beach
  • Lover’s Key, Fort Meyers

I really hope this guide will help you through the elopement process in Florida. I am so lucky that I get to capture love stories here in this beautiful state. If you have any other questions, or want me to tag along and capture your own Florida elopement, please fill out my booking form!

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