As the Sunshine State, Florida is one of the best places for LGBTQ couples planning a summer destination wedding. And while the state is home to hundreds of amazing wedding venues, there is nothing quite like the promise of adventure that comes with a boat wedding in Florida.
Eloping on a boat affords you spectacular views of the coastline, the opportunity to say your “I do’s” amid a beautiful sunset, and a chance to party the night away under a blanket of stars.
But planning a wedding on the water isn’t quite as easy as staging a ceremony on dry land – there are unique logistical and safety considerations you have to make. Here’s how you can prepare for your dream getaway.
1. Set The Date
Timing is everything, they say. And this has never been truer for weddings at sea. While bad weather can momentarily put a damper on a regular wedding, it can completely derail a maritime marriage ceremony.
To avoid running into any major issues, make sure to book in the fall or spring. Summer seems like the obvious choice for a bright and sunny wedding, but in Florida, the months of June to September can get too hot and humid to enjoy yourselves. Plus, hurricanes and thunderstorms happen more frequently over these four months.
For a picture-perfect ceremony, consider scheduling your wedding around golden hour. There are tons of apps and websites that can help you predict when sunset will be on your chosen day.
2. Vet The Vessel
Finding the right type of boat for your wedding is, in many ways, similar to finding the perfect location on dry land. You’ll need to factor in your guest count, ideal date, and budget to find the perfect vessel.
The type of boat you’ll need is directly tied to the number of guests you’d like to invite. The higher the headcount, the bigger the boat. And the bigger the boat, the bigger the budget.
A great place to start looking for your dream vessel is Boatsetter, which is like Airbnb for boat rentals. On the site, you’ll find hundreds of listings from private boat owners and boat charters, with by-the-hour pricing, passenger limits, captain and crew availability, and customer reviews readily available – making the vetting process much easier.
You can limit your search to luxury yachts, party boats, or bachelor/bachelorette party boats and find listings for specific destinations (including Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa Bay) so that you don’t have to go through hundreds of pages of rentals just to find the right one.
Some listings also offer party packages inclusive of things like an open bar, a buffet dinner, onboard lights and entertainment, and even a licensed officiant.
When looking up boat listings, make sure to consider the following factors as well:
- Accessibility: Elderly guests and people with mobility issues may have trouble moving around smaller vessels or boats with limited wheelchair accessibility.
- Contingencies for inclement weather: If you’re worried about rain putting a damper on your celebrations, consider reserving a nearby interior space as a contingency. Some boat charters may even offer this as an additional package feature.
- Seasick-prone guests: When it comes to seasickness, size really does matter. Larger boats are harder to toss. Newer ships also have better stabilizer systems. And while you can’t plan for everything, you can always warn guests in advance and provide a list of medications and remedies that can help with seasickness.
- Rental budget and additional expenses: We can’t give a ballpark figure for boat rentals because the cost will depend on a number of variables, from how much time you’ll be spending out at sea to the size of your vessel to your chosen package to additional costs like crew, fuel, captain, port transfers, permits, table and chair rentals, etc.
3. Lock Down The Legal Requirements
In the US, you’ll need to secure a marriage license before you can actually walk down the aisle and say “I do”. A marriage license is essentially a permit to get married – a document that states that you are free and eligible to marry your partner and vice versa.
How and when to obtain a marriage license varies from state to state. In Florida, you can apply for a license in any Clerk of Courts office or through the Florida Marriage License Express if you’re a non-resident. You’ll need to pay an application fee and provide photo identification as well as your Social Security number to the county office.
Some people who elope on a boat will opt to have a courthouse wedding prior to the maritime ceremony. In this instance, the ceremony on the water is merely symbolic.
Note: You may have heard the myth that all ship captains have the power to officiate weddings at sea. This is untrue. However, some boat charters and cruise lines that do offer wedding packages may have ship captains who are officially recognized officiants. In any case, it is best to inquire about obtaining an officially recognized officiant – such as a judge, a minister, or a notary public – for your wedding.
4. Boat-proof Your Wedding
Planning a boat wedding requires sacrificing some of the things you’d traditionally have at a regular wedding, including your typical wedding dress. Big, flowy gowns with long trains are beautiful, but they can be a huge hassle on a boat, where you’ll be exposed to the elements all day. Now, you can definitely still wear a wedding gown or a suit to your wedding – nobody is stopping you. Just remember to take Florida’s warm climate into account.
Some boat renters also implement strict protocols on what types of apparel attendees can and cannot wear onboard the ship. Make sure to remind your guests about the proper boating attire in your invites.
When it comes to decor and entertainment, you’ll have to shift to a minimalist mindset. Boat renters have limits on what they can and cannot carry on board, so keep things simple. For example, in lieu of hiring a live band with tons of bulky equipment, opt for a DJ instead.
Planning an LGBTQ wedding can be daunting, especially when it comes to the guest list. Not everyone has the privilege of having their entire families behind them. And so, some couples prefer a small, intimate wedding with their chosen families instead.
Eloping on a boat is a great option for such couples, as it adds a bit of magic and adventure to what could otherwise be a modest wedding. After all, few things are better than sailing off into the sunset with the love of your life and everyone who has been supportive of your journey as a couple.
***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.