Elope in Florida - Your Guide to Planning the Perfect Elopement from Start to Finish
Florida is the most visited state in the country. Everyone and their mom wants to come here, and millions make their annual trip each year.
It’s no wonder that countless couples are looking to elope in Florida. Both local couples who want to do something unique, and couples who live elsewhere in the US and are looking to escape the cold winters for a bright, warm, tropical elopement in the sunshine state. It’s exotic without the hassle of leaving the US.
But how exactly do you plan an elopement in Florida? What steps do you need to take to make your marriage official, and have an incredible day full of laughs, tears, and memories?
This is your complete guide to eloping in Florida, from handling the legal requirements to choosing a location, a photographer, and activities to accompany your marriage ceremony, no matter how simple or elegant you want it to be.
Here’s how to elope in Florida and ensure a stress-free day.
Elopement Florida Outline
Eloping in Florida Requirements
- Get Your Marriage License
- Find a Licensed Officiant
Planning Your Elopement in Florida
- When to Plan a Florida Elopement
- Best Time of Day for a Ceremony
- Where to Elope
- Do You Need to Hire Any Wedding Vendors?
- Should You Invite Guests?
- Sample Elopement Timeline
- Getting to Florida
Book Your Elopement
Eloping in Florida Requirements
Let’s start with the legal requirements for making your marriage official. This step is technically the same, whether you plan a traditional wedding with 200 guests, or you elope without any guests.
You just need a marriage license and a Florida-approved officiant.
1. Eloping in Florida Requirements; Get Your Marriage License
The first step to legalizing your marriage in Florida is to apply for a marriage license. If you’re an out-of-stater, you can start this process online, or wait till you arrive in Florida. It’s not long or complicated.
You can show up to any County Clerk's office in Florida, during business hours, and get a marriage license. The fee is $93.50. But if you complete an approved pre-marital course prior to obtaining your license, the fee is reduced by as much as $32.50.
Here’s an approved course for $25 (at the time of writing).
And here’s an approved course for $15 (at the time of writing)
Pre-marital courses are completely online and take about 4 hours to complete.
All you need to bring to the County Clerk's office is your photo ID, social security number, and license fees, and you’re good to go. Once you have your license, it’s valid for 60 days. So you need to officiate your wedding and sign the license within that timeframe.
If you completed your pre-marital course, your license is available immediately. If you haven’t completed a pre-marital course, you must wait 3 days before you can actually get married. However, the 3-day waiting period does not apply to non-Florida residents. So if you’re not a Florida resident, you can get married immediately.
Most counties in Florida allow you to start the marriage application process online, so when you visit the County Clerk’s office, the process is shorter. I recommend doing this.
You’ll walk away with a marriage license in hand, which will be signed after your ceremony by the two of you and your licensed wedding officiant.
2. Have a Licensed Person Officiate Your Ceremony
You need someone to officiate your wedding and sign your marriage license. In Florida, that can be any “ordained ministers of the gospel or elders in communion with some church or other ordained clergy, and all judicial officers, including retired judicial officers, clerks of the circuit courts, and notaries public of this state.”
You can hire wedding officiants in the city or county you plan to host your elopement. They are likely notary publics or local ministers. Technically, my husband can officiate your wedding, since he is a notary public in Florida (but no, he won’t officiate your wedding).
So basically, you’ll want a pastor or minister, a county clerk, a notary public, or more specifically, someone who advertises that they officiate weddings, ie a wedding officiant.
Wedding officiants are available everywhere in Florida, and many are willing to travel to out-of-the-way locations. Prices vary from around $200 to $500 and will depend on how long the ceremony will be, how many guests are in attendance, and how far away they need to drive. If you have friends or family in Florida, you could reach out and ask for recommendations for local pastors or just people with a notary license in Florida.
Once your license is signed after the ceremony, you can mail it back to the County Clerk’s office, rather than deliver it in person. You’ll get your marriage certificate in the mail afterward.
You DON’T need witness signatures, but you are allowed to include up to 2 witness signatures if you prefer.
That’s it! That’s how to get eloped in Florida. Those are the only 2 “official” things you need to do. For about $100 on your marriage license, and a few hundred on an officiant, Florida residents and non-residents can get married in the sunshine state without much hassle.
Planning Your Florida Elopement
With the boring details taken care of, now it’s time to plan the fun stuff - when you’ll elope, where, how, and with who. Here’s what to think about:
When to Plan an Elopement in Florida
I wrote an entire post on when you should (and maybe shouldn’t) get married in Florida, taking into consideration traditional weddings vs elopements. Read that here for my full insight.
To summarize: December to March is the “best time” to elope in Florida. It’s also when most tourists are in town, and traditional venues book up 12-18 months in advance.
October, November, and April (shoulder season) are good for elopements if you’re okay with a bit more warmth and a slightly increased chance of afternoon rain. There are fewer tourists in town, so venues are more widely available, and beaches and outdoor locations are less crowded, making an adventurous or outdoor elopement easier and more private.
May to September isn’t generally advised, due to hot, humid, muggy conditions with daily afternoon thunderstorms and the risk of a hurricane. Oh, and the bugs. But hey, the ocean is much warmer, and the snorkeling is great. If summer elopements in Florida sound good to you, I’d be happy to photograph them for you (sunrise elopements are best during Florida summers).
Further Reading - Don't Miss These Florida Elopement Tips
Best Time of Day for Florida Elopements
Timing matters for the cost of your elopement, the number of random people around, and the quality of your photos.
When it comes to photography, the two best times to create dreamy, warm, glowing photos in soft light are early in the morning, or late afternoon. Specifically, the east coast of Florida is best in the morning, since the sun rises on that side of the state. On the west coast (Gulf Coast), a sunset elopement would be ideal from a photography perspective, but early mornings still look brilliant, often with cotton candy pink skies.
Early mornings are best for public locations like beaches, parks, and trails since there will be far fewer bystanders and tourists around. Come sunset, EVERYONE will be out, catching the sunset before they go out for dinner.
If you are paying for any type of venue, morning and daytime rentals are usually cheaper. That’s because most people want to reserve a place in the evening, so they charge full price at that time.
And lastly, weekdays are typically best if you are flexible. Fewer people around, lower prices, and easier to get private photos (and enjoy the day).
Where Should You Plan an Elopement in Florida
This is also a loaded question. I’ve provided a TON of ideas on where to elope, and what type of activities to include during your elopement in Florida. Check that out here. It’s filled with ideas.
To summarize the best locations:
The beach is ALWAYS an option. For small ceremonies without the frills, a permit might not be needed on public beaches. Certain cities/counties may set their own rules. For example, in Naples, any wedding ceremony with 6 or fewer people in attendance can happen on any public beach, with no permit required.
But if you’re having a larger number of guests or setting up decor and chairs, a city/county permit might be required if eloping on a public beach.
A seaside Airbnb or vacation rental could be a stunning option that gives you your own private beach. Just ask the host for permission. They need to know how many guests you plan to invite, and how many people will be sleeping at the property.
Many wedding venues around the state are offering elopement packages, typically on weekdays and during the day (not evening) for a fraction of the cost of a typical wedding on Saturday night. So if you’d like a proper ceremony location, searching through small wedding venues is a good idea.
Lastly, you can elope nearly anywhere in the great outdoors; state parks, uninhabited islands, hiking trails, scenic rivers, natural blue springs, and much more. Some state parks, county parks, city parks, and public spaces offer cheap, easy rentals to ensure you have exclusive access to a certain area. Otherwise, if adventure and nature are your priority, head to any scenic location and recite your vows there for a unique ceremony and absolutely stunning photos.
If you didn’t read this post about where to elope in Florida, I’ll suggest it again. I’ve included traditional venue ideas that offer smaller elopement packages, gardens, state parks, and outdoor adventure locations.
Elopement Florida Wedding Vendors
For a traditional wedding, the average couple hires 14 vendors. No wonder the average cost of a wedding is $20,000.
The beauty of eloping is that you don’t have to follow traditions. You don’t need to hire all of the wedding vendors that are typical for large wedding celebrations (or any vendors at all, if you don’t want to).
However, you CAN choose to hire whoever you’d like. Here’s what eloping couples typically do:
- Venue - Sometimes
- Planner - Sometimes
- Officiant - Required (unless you have a friend or relative who can do it)
- Photographer - Yes (often the only vendor hired aside from an officiant. Not just saying that to toot my own horn).
- Videographer - Sometimes
- Florist - Not usually
- Hair and Makeup - Not usually
- Attire - Some keep it simple, others splurge
- Cake Baker - No
- Music/DJ - No
- Stationer - No
- Caterer - No
- Favors Vendor - No
- Transportation/Limo - No
- Table/Chair/Tent Rentals - Sometimes, if eloping on a beach without facilities
For a DIY elopement without any guests, all you really need is an officiant and a photographer. Since you don’t need to set up chairs, you can elope anywhere - on the beach, at a scenic viewpoint, on a boat, etc.
For elopements where guests will be present, it’s common to elope at a small wedding venue (the average cost for weekday elopements is under $1,000, many as low as $350).
Elopement venues typically don’t include receptions, so no need to cater or buy custom florals. Just go out to eat afterward, or reserve a private room at a restaurant. Or, if you and a few guests are staying at an Airbnb or beach house, you can order catering, takeout, or have a big cookout.
The cost of photography can vary widely for your elopement. You might be able to get it done for as little as $500. But typically, you’re only getting a photographer for about an hour during your ceremony, and then parting ways. No intimate portrait sessions in romantic locations. Many high-end elopement photographers start their packages at $2,500 or $3,000, and much more if they are traveling in from out of state.
My name is Kelsey Jaeger, a local, Southwest Florida elopement photographer who would love to capture your big day starting at $900 for up to 3 hours of coverage and multiple locations. I’m also able to create custom packages for you based on length of time, location, and activities, all while keeping your package as affordable and high-quality as possible.
My goal is to allow you to craft the perfect day and then simply capture every single part of it possible.
Should You Invite Guests to Your Elopement?
Everyone is different. Your elopement is about YOU, not necessarily about family or friends. Some couples prefer to elope alone. Some will invite a handful of people, like their best friends, parents, and siblings. Others will invite upwards of 20 or 30 people (some call that a micro wedding).
Remember, you’ll have an officiant with you, and you’ll likely have a photographer (heyo!) The fewer people you invite, the more flexibility you have in WHERE you perform your ceremony.
Invite more people, and you’ll likely need a location with chairs, adding to the cost and limiting your options to venues with at least some infrastructure.
Alternatively, you could have your ceremony alone, and spend a few hours with just each other and a photographer. Then, you can invite your closest family and friends to dinner later in the evening. Or just plan a “reception” or party when you get back home to get the best of both worlds.
Sample Elopement Timeline
This isn’t a traditional wedding. That means you don’t have to follow traditional timelines. In fact, you don’t need a timeline at all. You can literally incorporate ANYTHING you want into the day. Here’s an idea for a coastal location, like Sarasota, Fort Myers, or Miami:
5 AM - Wake up early for a sunrise ceremony on the beach
6 AM - Meet for photos of the bride and groom getting ready
7:30 AM - First look and photos
8 AM - Ceremony on the beach
9:30 AM - Bride and Groom photos on the beach. Photos with family and friends
10:30 AM - Walk through a botanical garden, hike on a scenic trail, or paddle through mangrove tunnels
2 PM - Literally anything else you want to do while your photographer is still around. Maybe find a lighthouse to climb, take a sailing charter, brewery hop, go for a swim, paddleboard to a nearby island, walk around town, find a secret beach and make out, etc.
Getting to Florida
Florida is blessed. Since most of the country wants to get to Florida, there are ample flight opportunities from almost the entire country (still waiting on cheap direct flights from California to Florida, though).
You always have the opportunity to fly into the larger airports: Miami, Orlando, Tampa, or Jacksonville. I personally prefer some of the smaller airports, like Sarasota (SRQ) or St Pete (PIE).
Much of the Midwest and Northeast has direct flights to these smaller airports, making them very affordable to fly into. We mostly fly in and out of Florida on Southwest Airlines, since they service nearly every airport, have super cheap flights during winter and shoulder season, and include free checked bags.
If you’re getting married in Southwest Florida, flying into either Tampa, St Pete, or Sarasota is great. Miami is the best airport for the Florida Keys. And Ft Lauderdale provides easy access to much of the East Coast of Florida.
If you fly into Orlando (the biggest airport in the state), you’ve got a short drive to any location in Central Florida. You’re also about 45 minutes from the East Coast (and Canaveral National Seashore), and about 1.5 hours from Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Jacksonville airport is best if you want to elope in Northeast Florida, including Jax or St Augustine. There are so many incredible beach destinations and state parks in the area for outdoor elopements.
Booking Your Elopement
There’s not a lot you need to book or reserve when planning an elopement in Florida.
If you’re renting any sort of venue, or need a permit for your elopement location, you’ll need to do that. You’ll also want to schedule a wedding officiant unless you know someone personally that is able to perform your ceremony.
Lastly (or firstly), you just need to book your photographer. I, Kelsey Jaeger, happen to LOVE photographing elopements (can you tell?) From simple to elaborate, low-key to adventurous, I’ll be right there to capture your day exactly how it happens, and even provide recommendations to help you plan your day.
You can read more about elopement photography here.
Otherwise, jump straight to my contact form here to send me a message so we can start planning asap!