By Letitia Stein
Set the perfect tone for a lifetime of togetherness and happiness by staging your nuptials near the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you’re making your own arrangements or working with a wedding planner, these area beaches offer all the charm, beauty and romance that newlyweds wish for.
Idyllic Beach Weddings on Pass-a-Grille Beach
Postcard perfect: Sea grass and open water frame a quiet stretch of beach known for its sunset views. At Pass-a-Grille Beach, you’re just steps away from a quaint village with seafood restaurants and highly rated accommodations, all within sight of the landmark "pink palace," The Don CeSar Hotel.
Keep in mind: Metered parking is available along the beach.
Venue details: Several restaurants overlooking the water specialize in wedding receptions.
Weddings on the Beach at Honeymoon Island State Park
Rustic paradise: Old-Florida charm comes alive along four miles of shoreline made famous in the 1940s as a honeymoon destination. Now a state park, Honeymoon Island offers unparalleled natural beauty for your wedding ceremony.
Keep in mind: There is a minimal admission fee per vehicle, or per person if arriving alone. The fee is also smaller if arriving one hour before sunset. All fees can be built into the event pricing. Please check with the park for details.
Venue details: A large pavilion on stilts overlooking the water is a romantic backdrop for receptions. Tents can also be set up on the beach. Catering is offered through Café Honeymoon.
Destination Beach Weddings in Sand Key Park
Secluded oasis: This barrier island oasis, beloved by sea turtles and newlyweds alike, is tucked just a short distance from the excitement of Clearwater Beach. It offers beautiful Gulf beaches, a grassy park and a rock jetty that juts into the water (perfect for unique waterfront wedding photos).
Keep in mind: Ample parking is available for a minimal fee. Sand Key Park is close to the many reception venues and restaurants of Clearwater Beach, including the Clearwater Community Sailing Center across the street.
Venue details: Drop off decorations and leave the rest to the park’s wedding coordinator. Two large, covered picnic pavilions are available for rent, and there are also convenient facilities on-site.
Sunset Beach Weddings Signal Romance
Sunsets and more: Dolphin sightings against a backdrop of rolling durnes topped with sea oats may add a special thrill to weddings held on Sunset Beach, located in a residential area of Treasure Island.
Keep in mind: Arches and chairs must be removed right after the ceremony. You aren’t allowed to rope off a section of the public beach for your ceremony.
Venue details: You can rent a pavilion directly on the beach, which is ideal for smaller weddings.
Clearwater Beach, a Perfect Spot for Beach Weddings
Fun in the sun: Wedding options abound on one of the region’s most popular beaches, home to luxurious resorts, fine dining and just about every type of beach activity imaginable. Clearwater Beach routinely lands on TripAdvisor's top five beaches in the U.S., taking the top spot in 2016 and landing at number four in 2017, so you know it's going to be a beautiful backdrop for your nuptuals.
Keep in mind: The area can get busy, but the north end of the beach offers just the right amount of solitude while still being within convenient reach of venues and parking.
Venue details: Several locations along the beach can be rented for wedding ceremonies.
Wonderful Weddings on the Beach in Fort De Soto Park
Park perfection: Shade-giving trees line a pristine beach repeatedly ranked among the best in America. Wedding guests at Fort De Soto can also take advantage of numerous park amenities, such as nature trails, the historic fort, boat ramps and camping.
Keep in mind: There is a minimal daily entrance fee (check with the park for details). If you're looking to take advantage of the campgrounds, be sure to schedule in advance. The park can get booked, especially on holiday weekends.
Venue details: Picnic shelters are available for rent, some with electricity and just steps from the beach.
Arty Destination Beach Weddings in Gulfport
Village vibe: This artsy beach town near downtown St. Pete prides itself on its welcoming atmosphere and quirky vibe. A small beach on boating paradise Boca Ciega Bay is a short walk from the quaint Historic Gulfport downtown and its celebrated restaurants and historic inn.
Keep in mind: Local restaurants are hopping during twice monthly art walks.
Venue details: The Historic Waterfront Gulfport Casino Ballroom on the waterfront is available for party rentals.
Charming Beach Weddings on Indian Rocks Beach
Small-town charm: Indian Rocks Beach offers more than two dozen public beach accesses, each with its own character. They're all nestled along a peaceful, residential stretch of Gulf Boulevard.
Keep in mind: Public parking is limited on many of the side roads leading to the beach.
Venue details: A beachfront park near 18th Avenue offers restrooms and parking for a fee.
Madeira Beach Weddings Entertain Royally
Seaside kitsch: Boutique hotels often cater to wedding parties along this wide strip of beach filled with entertainment options. Madeira Beach is an off-the-beaten-path favorite for locals and tourists alike.
Keep in mind: Guests will want to spend time at John's Pass Village & Boardwalk, a historic fishing village that’s become a favorite destination for restaurants and shopping.
Venue details: A county park on the beach offers convenient access and parking for a fee.
Tranquil Redington Beaches Weddings
Serene getaway: The waterfront towns of Redington Beach, Redington Shores and North Redington Beach are known for their serenity, with little to distract from your big moment.
Keep in mind: Restaurants can book up quickly during the winter season.
Venue details: The Redington beaches feature multiple public access points, including parks.
Planning Romantic Florida Beach Weddings
Make a backup plan for unexpected rain showers. You can reserve a park shelter or set aside a special room at your reception site. Remember that a rainy forecast could have a silver lining: A light afternoon mist can herald an unforgettable rainbow.
Research historic weather patterns before finalizing a time and date for your wedding ceremony. Consider high tide, low tide and sunset times.
Confetti, rice and balloons are generally not permitted on the beaches. Instead, consider memorable and environmentally friendly alternatives, such as blowing bubbles or asking guests to collect seashells for a keepsake jar.
Many beaches require special events permits for wedding ceremonies, which help to ensure that multiple events aren’t planned at the same time. To learn more about necessary permits and processes to consider, contact the municipal authorities at the beach where you wish to get married through the local parks department or city government. And don’t hesitate to ask restaurants, hotels and other local vendors for suggestions about planning the beach wedding of your dreams.
Getting a Marriage License
Getting married in St. Pete/Clearwater is easy. Simply obtain a marriage license any weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court (in the Pinellas County Courthouse), and you're on your way. There is no waiting period for non-residents. You’ll need the bride- and groom-to-be, your social security numbers and a valid photo ID for each of you, such as a driver's license, state ID card, government or military ID or passport.
You also need to be prepared to complete the marriage license application and pay the applicable fees. If either of you is not a U.S. citizen, proof of alien registration is required. The license comes with a 60-day expiration date, so let the nuptials commence! To contact the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, visit their website or call 727-464-7000.