How to Plan an Epic Florida Beach Wedding

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A wedding is one of the most important events in a person’s lifetime. It’s a time to make a lifelong commitment and share the celebration of that commitment with those who matter the most. Planning the event takes time and dedication, but it’s well worth the effort. The most important decision is selecting a venue. Fortunately, if you’re planning a Florida beach wedding, you have plenty of options.

Nature offers a magnificent backdrop for any event but, especially, a wedding. Water graces some of the most beautiful places on earth. A beach offers a unique frame for the exchange of vows. The gentle sound of waves washing up on the shore provides a soothing accompaniment to the momentous ceremony. The goal is to create an epic beach wedding.

If there’s one thing Florida has no shortage of, it’s beaches. From the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, there is a beach that will make every dream come true.

The last thing anyone needs on this special day is to feel unwanted or uncomfortable. That’s why those commemorating a gay wedding need to make sure they will be welcome. Not all beaches are created equal. 

Thankfully, Florida has tons of stunning beaches to offer for the LGBTQ+ couple that wants to start their lives together on the dunes of a beach with the soft, misty breezes of the seashore in the background.

Our Top Tips for Beach Wedding Success

While the idea of a beach wedding can send you swooning there are a lot of…unexpected things to consider when tying the knot on the sand. Here are some of our top tips for beach wedding success.

Be Clear With Your Guests

If your ceremony and/or reception are actually on the sand it’s a good idea to give your guests a heads up on the invite. You can either let them know that shoes will be optional or just let them know that flats and sandals are recommended.

The worst thing is someone showing up in stiletto heels and having to walk 30 ft to the waterfront.

Consider handing out sunglasses as favors when the guests enter the ceremony or on everyone’s seats. If it will be cool on the day of your wedding consider leaving some blankets to grab in case they get chilly.

What to Wear

If you’ve always dreamed of a tux with long tails and a top hat or a long dramatic chapel train for your wedding, know that both will be a bit of a pain at a beach wedding venue.

Make sure you take the weather and the sand into account in what you wear.

While a long flowing hairstyle might work inside, the beach winds might blow your hair everywhere in the middle of the ceremony which causes a kink in your wedding pictures.

Stick to bare feet or sandals to make sure you’re most comfy.

Consider the Surf and Seagulls Your Wedding Guests Too

Crashing waves and birds flying overhead create an incredibly intimate and romantic atmosphere but can also be super loud and take over the whole ceremony.

Make sure you set up audio equipment so your wedding guests can hear all the words you’re lovingly saying to one another for your vows. After all, they came to hear this.

Plan for the Unknown

Any outdoor wedding has the risk of inclement weather. However, the beach is especially notorious for out of nowhere rain showers or a sudden kick up of wind. 

If the weather goes south make sure you have a plan B. Have tents and other covers on hand to protect yourself and your guests if you still want to have the on the beach experience. Choose a secondary location should things go awry.

It’s always better to have a plan and not use it than to be stuck up the river on your wedding day.

The Best Spots for a Beautiful Florida Beach Wedding

Think experience when planning your wedding location. The best Florida wedding destinations offer magical experience during the ceremony and reception, but they also offer guests a magical experience both before and after. So pick a location that provides both stunning views and things to do.

Around St. Pete Beach

The pristine beauty of the Gulf of Mexico always offers the perfect backdrop for a wedding ceremony. Here we go over a few beaches to consider for your location, where to stay while you’re here, and some tips and tricks along the way to help make your special day the best it can be.

St. Petersburg’s Sunset Beach

One of the many lovely beaches in the St. Petersburg area, Sunset Beach is located on the south side of Treasure Island and what a treasure it is. It’s part of the barrier islands found west of the city of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Mexico. 

The clear blue-green water set against the brilliant blue sky is a breathtaking scene. It provides a wonderful background for a wedding ceremony. October is an exciting time to visit because of the International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. June features a local celebration of St. Pete Pride. So make a big event out of your wedding and celebrate all week long! 

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Pass-a-Grille Beach

This delightful beach is located on the south side of St. Pete Beach. It’s a quiet beach for those who prefer privacy. It’s very narrow but quite long. It boasts white sand with pink seashells scattered among the dunes. 

The salty breeze fills the senses. It’s a perfect place for the joyful ceremony commemorating a new beginning. The June celebration of St. Pete’s Pride is observed here.

A big benefit is that the water is quite close to the main road so your guests won’t have long to walk in the sand to get to the wedding location.

Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde

Lots of shallow water makes this a great place to take a long walk along the edge of the water, perfect for pre-wedding photos. The trees provide shade that can be welcome to guests on a hot, sunny day. 

Located on the north end of the park, Fort De Soto Park is a beautiful place to capture the joy of a shared wedding ceremony.

Options for Where to Stay and Have a Fun Reception For Your St. Pete Beach Wedding

The Coconut Inn

If you’re going to take advantage of one of the beaches of St. Petersburg, it’s important to support LGTBQ-friendly accommodations. A White Glove Award recipient, The Coconut Inn is perfect for those planning a small ceremony.

This recently renovated boutique hotel offers one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as studio apartments. This property includes a spa pool and an outdoor kitchen with a gas grill. There are also two gazebos and white porch swings idyllic for photo ops or a 10-20 person reception setting. 

The buildings are a block from the beach, but in an out-of-the-way area that offers privacy for those interested in a stress-free environment. All rooms have a view of the pool, gardens, or beach. There’s no extra charge for the use of bicycles, beach towels, or beach chairs.

Coconut Inn

The Don Cesar

The Don Cesar is perfect for those planning a larger ceremony and an elegant reception. There are more than 275 guest rooms and suites and several ballrooms, so there’s plenty of room for a large party. This alluring, luxurious vacation spot features stunning views. There are two outdoor heated pools and a poolside bar in addition to the private beach. 

For those who want special pre-wedding pampering, Spa Oceana offers a full range of spa and salon services. Need to shake off the pre-wedding jitters? An exercise room is available and beach bicycles are provided at no charge. 

Cabanas, beach chairs, and beach umbrellas are available for an additional fee. Audio/visual equipment is available for rent, which is an important consideration for the wedding planner. Other items that might be important for those attending the wedding include an ATM, safe-deposit boxes, a concierge desk as well as dry cleaning and pressing services.

Heading South on The Gulf Coast

North Lido Beach, Sarasota

The white sands of this Florida key feel wonderful under the feet of those visiting this quiet, glorious beach. Palm trees dot the landscape. The clear water is perfect for a cool swim on a hot day. No visit to Sarasota is complete without a tour of The Circus Arts Conservatory. The facility trains future circus performers, and attending a performance is extremely exciting. The Sarasota Pridefest makes it a great place to go in October.

If North Lido Beach is the destination, The Siesta Key Visitor Center can provide valuable information. It’s less than ten miles away. For those looking for a place to kick back and relax, visit Sarasota’s Oasis, a bar just twenty minutes away from the beach, it is a great option for those making an extended vacation out of the wedding weekend.

Fort Myers Beach

Seven miles of beautiful, rolling sand dunes make this beach very enticing. The many trees and long pier make this beach very appealing. It’s a perfect place for a beach wedding with plenty of room for everyone. The surrounding community offers plenty of shopping and interesting things to do while guests are in town. 

Consider Celsius Nightclub for an amazing bachelor or bachelorette party. Lazy Flamingo offers a casual locale for a rehearsal dinner with just the wedding party.

The Pink Shell Resort is a great pick for both the ceremony and the reception. They have their own dedicated space for their beach weddings and have a lot of experience. They offer options for a quiet elopement or a wedding of 150 or more.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands

This barrier island is a private community with a population of less than 8,000. It’s located on the leeward side of Pine Island. The sand rests on the island’s coral rock and is full of interesting seashells just waiting to be examined. The island atmosphere provides a lovely place to plan for a wedding.

There are plenty of clear spots in the sand to avoid the shells but it’s worth taking a trip to the sand and deciding on the best place prior. Working with an experienced wedding planner in the area is highly encouraged if you’re coming in from out of town.

Casa Ybel Resort Weddings is a great resource for wedding planning in the Sanibel and Captiva area.

Lee County is located in southwest Florida. Sanibel Island is south of Captiva Island. The islands are just off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t take long to explore the entire island and see what it has to offer. Those attending a wedding at this beach will feel as if they are in a private world all their own.

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The Florida Panhandle

Pensacola Beach

The long, narrow strip of land, hugged by water on both sides, is especially interesting and unusual. Gay Memorial Day Weekend is a special time at Pensacola Beach. What began as a small observance of the holiday has blossomed into a massive celebration complete with professional DJs and tent parties from one end of the beach to the other. This would be a particularly exhilarating time to schedule a wedding celebration.

If the wedding is at Pensacola Beach, Capt’n Fun Nightclub, Bar & Grille is a must. Found on the Quietwater Boardwalk, this restaurant serves delicious soups and salads in addition to baskets, hamburgers, and sandwiches. Of course, it also offers an excellent selection of fresh seafood, including chargrilled or baked oysters. With tons of drink options and waterfront seating, this would be a great pick for the bachelor or bachelorette party or an after-party once the reception has wrapped up.

The First Coast

Guana Tolomato Reserve, Ponte Vedra Beach

The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve is located between historic St. Augustine and Jacksonville. This exquisite aquatic preserve contains estuarine lagoons, tidal wetlands, salt marshes, and ubiquitous sand dunes. 

Consider planning an expedition with your guests or wedding party if you’re more adventurous. Exploring the lush, green forests, or an afternoon spent kayaking provide fascinating and varied experiences for those interested in nature. The first access point to the 73,000-acre beach is a boardwalk that meanders down a 40-foot path that leads to a secluded beach.

The path makes a picturesque venue for a ceremony and the best surprise entrance for those walking down the aisle.

After the ceremony head to the research center to host a grand reception. They can accommodate small wedding parties or you can rent the entire facility to make it extra special and exclusive.

South Florida

Haulover Beach, Sunny Isles

For those who fancy a beach wedding venue that permits nudity, this beach fits the bill. The northern area of Miami-Dade County provides this unusual setting for an avant-garde wedding. Just north of South Beach, it’s the only beach of its kind in Florida. 

The rock formations are quite unusual. Everyone is welcome, including the LGTBQ crowd. However, nudity is restricted to a small area on the northern part of the beach.

South Beach’s 12th Street Beach, Miami Beach

Flying rainbow flags highlight the open attitude that’s found at the 12th Street Beach. While the clientele is predominantly male, lesbians and heterosexuals enjoy spending time at Miami’s most popular gay beach. 

This is a wonderful place to plan an unforgettable wedding. The largest gay beach party in North America, the Winter Party, takes place in March. The weather is just perfect at this time of year. The multi-colored flag, flying in the breeze, lets visitors know that all members of the LGBTQ community are welcome and wanted.

Sunny Isles Beach

Two miles of white sand await those who visit Sunny Isles. Water sports, diving, and snorkeling take advantage of the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The white caps crashing along the shore are beautiful. Members of the wedding party will feel at home at this hospitable beach. The Newport Fishing Pier provides excellent opportunities for fishing most of the year.

The Sunny Isles Beach Visitor Center is found at the Sunny Isles Beach Government Center on the first floor. Information about restaurants, shopping areas, and interesting things to do are available. Those who want to commemorate their visit can find an assortment of postcards and posters as well as beach towels and t-shirts for sale.

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Sebastian Street Beach, Fort Lauderdale

More than a million LGBTQ visitors to this beach can attest to the fact it’s the most popular gay beach in the Fort Lauderdale area. There are many palm trees, which makes the scenery perfect for a Florida beach wedding. The beautiful background makes it easy to take wonderful photographs of the happy occasion. 

There are also several restaurants in the region perfect for the rehearsal dinner or main event.

The name “Casablanca” conjures up images of romance, passion, and intrigue. The restaurant lives up to its name. The restaurant is famous for its gourmet food. Waterfront dining provides an exquisite backdrop for the meal. Locals and visitors make sure The Casablanca Café is on the menu. Because the atmosphere is romantic and delightful, a rehearsal dinner would be a memorable experience. The restaurant is located in a historic home that has been meticulously restored. The restaurant boasts a piano bar that sets the mood. Just one visit will make it clear that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Another perfect venue for a Florida beach wedding or rehearsal dinner is Steak 954. It’s impossible to determine if the waterfront view or the delectable food is the star. Either way, enjoying a meal at Steak 954 is sure to be a memorable experience. The reef aquarium includes live jellyfish as the star attraction. American Wagyu and dry-aged prime beef are featured on the menu as are a variety of seafood dishes that prepare locally caught fish in a number of delightful ways.

The best part about this town is how right in LGBTQ people and history it is. check out The Stonewall National Museum & Archives. This town treasure boasts a substantial selection of LGBTQ books and films. PrideFest Week takes place in March. May features the Beach Bear Weekend followed in June by the Stonewall Summer Pride celebration.

Dania Beach

Not as well-known as its more famous neighbors, Dania Beach offers a variety of experiences that make it truly unique. The pier extends far out into the ocean and provides a pleasant walk. Whether the wedding party spends the day fishing from the famous pier or an evening experiencing the thrill of an exciting game of Jai-Alai at “The Palace,” a wedding hosted in Dania Beach will never be forgotten. 

Those who find sports fishing fascinating will enjoy a visit to the exhibits at the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Hall of Fame & Museum. A long walk on the pristine beaches of John Lloyd Beach State Park will give members of the wedding party an opportunity to get to know each other. All visitors would do well to spend time exploring the numerous antique shops for which the small, unassuming community is famous.

What is a hot day at the beach without ice cream? Jaxson’s Ice Cream has delighted locals and tourists for more than 60 years. Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor, Restaurant and Country Store has been featured on the Food Network and Smart Travel. 

They not only serve the most incredible ice cream creations made from the best ingredients, but patrons won’t mind finishing the meal before dessert. Hamburgers, hot dogs, deli sandwiches, and salads are among the meals offered. Homemade ice cream flavors, toppings, and soft drink syrups guarantee a memorable dessert experience.

The Florida Keys

Smathers Beach, Key West

Key West is a tiny island, but don’t be fooled. It packs enough personality for a state. Gay tourists have made it a favorite stop for many years. Many places are within walking distance, which makes it easy to spend an entire day exploring all the colorful community has to offer. Shallow waters along the shore make it a delightful place to play. 

The lush greenery is interesting and beautiful. There are plenty of unique shops where treasures are waiting to be discovered. March is a time to participate in the Winter Party Festival. June is the time to celebrate Key West Pride, while September is the time for Womenfest. The year’s celebrations conclude in October with the Bear Fest. Whatever the time of year, this is a wonderful beach for a wedding party.

Key West is a world of its own, and its residents have a passion for the place. Be sure to stop by the Key West Visitors Center Big Pine Key, Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, and the Island Welcome Center for information about all this tiny island paradise has to offer.

Aqua Key West offers something truly unique, and that’s an understatement! Imagine having a personal drag queen direct the evening’s exciting activities. Whether just getting to know such an interesting person or learning the secrets of being a successful drag queen, the evening’s sure to be memorable. 

They’ll even transform someone into a drag queen as part of the experience. Be sure to stay for the drag show offered each night. It will be an experience to write home about. Bobby’s Monkey Bar is a bar that offers a variety of drinks that can quench the thirst of those who have spent the day enjoying all that Key West has to offer.

Mangoes Key West Restaurant and Island Cuisine is a standout on the street famous for standouts. Deval Street runs through Old Town. Foods from the Bahamas, West Indies, and Cuba come together to form the cuisine for which Key West is famous. Here, everything served is made fresh, including the many dishes that use local seafood. It also boasts a collection of craft beers for the discerning palate.

Old Key West Bar & Grill offers an exciting array of activities. It’s time to stimulate the old brain cells. Trivia night offers a chance to compete with old and new friends and win prizes. It’s a wonderful way for members of the wedding party to enjoy each other’s company. Another night is dedicated to Florida folk music. 

Guest artists share their distinctive and beautiful compositions. Patrons can enjoy local musicians as they entertain with their unique style. The restaurant offers weekend brunch and an all-you-can-drink Bloody Mary or Mimosa bar.

Saloon 1 Key West is the only Gay Male Leather Bar – Back Room Levi Leather Bar in Key West. No one should be discouraged from joining the fun because everyone is made to feel welcome.

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Florida Wedding Laws

In 2008, adoption by same-sex couples was legalized. In 2015, same-sex marriage became legal. Now it’s possible for same-sex couples to experience the joy of sharing their lives and love. In 2009, the first gay pride parade was held in Miami Beach. The Greater Fort Lauderdale rea will make history in 2020 when it holds the first Pride of the Americas Festival. Originally scheduled for April 21-26, it has been postponed in response to the COVID-19 threat.

Florida is the Place to Plan an Epic Beach Wedding

Many of the beaches participate in local events held year-round. Many celebrate the gay lifestyle and gay pride. A wedding is an emotional time, and those involved are vulnerable to what can too often be thoughtless and, even, cruel treatment. 

This is a time to offer the loving protection of a venue that treats gay people with the respect they expect and deserve. It’s not a time to take a chance that some inconsiderate person will do something to ruin this special celebration of love. 

Scheduling a wedding during one of these special events honoring gay pride lets guests share an extraordinary occasion.

Considering the many LGBTQ-friendly beaches found along Florida’s expansive coastline, finding a suitable one is an easy task. However, with so many wonderful choices available, it will be a challenge to settle on just one. Once that special beach is chosen, creating an epic beach wedding is inevitable. Saying the wedding vows in such a magical setting will make them even more meaningful. The setting of a pristine beach will help make memories that will last a lifetime.

Interested in learning more about all the incredible ways to celebrate here in Florida? Check out the Celebrate section here.

**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 and beyond, 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
. 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).

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