The Florida Keys host a number of big destination weddings, but they're also a favorite site for couples to elope to. This is in part because the state of Florida makes obtaining a marriage license simple; for out-of-state residents, no blood tests are required and there is no waiting period. Once a marriage license is issued in any Florida county, it can be solemnified anywhere else in the state and is good for 60 days. Florida also does not require any witnesses to be present at the official ceremony.
Obtain your marriage license at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West. Many of Key West's wedding venues provide all-inclusive elopement packages to simplify your planning. The Tropical Inn provides an officiant and offers ceremonies in the garden or on the beach as well as cake, flowers, roses and Champagne. They also provide an engraved "love lock" which you can leave behind as a souvenir of your ceremony. Hemingway House, once the vacation home of Ernest Hemingway, can be rented by the hour during weekdays, an affordable option for an elopement. Book a room at the Southernmost Hotel Collection, rated as one of the top romantic hotels in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, and have your ceremony performed on one of the nearby beaches or on the outdoor terrace.
Key Largo features many suitable venues for an intimate wedding ceremony. Ocean Pointe Suites has a private beach where you be married by your chosen officiant. The Coconut Palm Inn, which has earned accolades from Travel + Leisure and Wedding Wire, offers private suites plus beach and barbecue areas as well as a tiki hut. Hold your nuptials on the beach at the Bayside Inn and then start your honeymoon at this small romantic retreat which can help arrange adventures sailing, snorkeling or swimming with dolphins.
Islamorada encompasses a half-dozen islands, including Plantation Key which hosts the Upper Keys Government Center and can issue marriage licenses. Casa Morada features a "sunset elopement" package that includes two nights in their honeymoon suite, a wedding cake for two and a ceremony on the beach. Cheeca Lodge also offers suites with a view, a waterfront ceremony, breakfast in bed and a couples massage as well as a complimentary bottle of Champagne in their "intimate wedding" package.
Little Palm Island is a resort that spreads across the tiny and somewhat remote island of the same name. Children are not allowed on the premises. The resort offers an elopement package for up to 10 guests. Only one wedding is scheduled a day so as to ensure privacy. Hawk's Cay Resort, located on Duck Key, offers several wedding venues including the chance to tie the knot while sailing on a catamaran. The Marathon Branch Courthouse can arrange marriage licenses while in the Keys; a guesthouse at nearby Pigeon Key Island can hold up to eight people.
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Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.