With more foreign-born residents than any other U.S. city, Miami is a uniquely multicultural, multifaceted place to elope. You’ll find palm trees and white sand in spades, and wide-open green spaces. In fact, the city boasts more than 250 county parks and is sandwiched between two national ones: Biscayne and Everglades. For elopers planning a quiet trip marked by peaceful hikes or bikes, or those who’d like to shout their new status from the top of a table at a nightclub, Miami is a dream destination for elopements.(As if the year-round warmth wasn’t reason enough to start planning your elopement to the 305 right now.)
Miami's diversity is perhaps most obvious in the food. You’ll find top-notch Cuban sandwiches and maduros (those deliciously sugary plantains) down the block from exceptional corned beef on rye and, of course, the area’s ultra-coveted stone crabs. Woven through this epicurean paradise is also an equally vibrant arts scene most evident each December when Miami Beach hosts Art Basel, North America’s largest contemporary art fair. Year-round, however, you can soak in Miami’s creative energy at its chic Design District—recognizable by its modern architecture, galleries, and luxury boutiques—as well as the Historic Art Deco District with its striking chrome-and-pastel buildings, located on Miami Beach (which is actually a man-made island just off the coast) where most of the area’s most popular beaches are found. Both this scenic stretch and the city of Miami proper are also rich with natural beauty.
Best Time of Year to Visit
March - May
Spring in south Florida is the goldilocks season: The temps aren’t sweltering, nor are they too chilly to enjoy the beach; the water warms up enough to swim; and the crowds will have died down a bit after the tourist swell of winter. Not to mention, this is the sweet spot between the high season and the hurricane season. You’ll likely score lower rates for lodging than in, say, December, but you’ll also have much less risk of a weather disaster than in the summer or fall.
Pro Tip: Because the spring months do attract a fair share of spring breakers eager to soak in the party atmosphere of South Beach (or attend the popular Ultra Music Festival at the end of March), it may be smart to choose a later spring date, perhaps in late April or early May.
Filled and fueled by millennials (in the best way possible), this hotel has a cool, laid-back vibe. Think of it as the best of both the hostel and boutique-hotel worlds: Shared, affordable rooms are available, and community events and happy hours gather strangers around the pool. The rooms are outfitted with chic Roman & Williams furnishings, and an award-winning bar, Broken Shaker, swizzles up craft cocktails. And don’t forget the on-site garden, where much of the produce incorporated into dishes at the Freehand’s own 27 Restaurant is grown. All of these distinct spaces can be rented for receptions, but perhaps the most alluring is the new garden-side courtyard, an intimate retreat shaded by a giant mango tree. Passed bites and platters featuring mod spins on Cuban fare and a build-your-own taquito bar are available, starting at $30 per person—ideal for a casual gathering. To inquire about specific site fees, which vary based on party size, date, catering requests, and length of the occasion, complete the contact form on Freehand’s site.
A 1917 English-style cottage surrounded by five acres of zoological gardens, the Historic Walton House is a true departure from typical area venues. However gorgeous the home’s soaring interiors and refined antique design may be, though, the gardens are undoubtedly this spot’s biggest draw. Coral-rock swimming pools interspersed with koi ponds, a cascading waterfall, an Indonesian-style Chickee hut, and an endless array of colorful foliage create a tropical paradise that serves as home to parrots, swans, flamingos, and macaws, as well as monkeys and giant tortoises. Quiet alcoves and clearings located within it make for intimate romantic ceremony venues. A tented dance floor can also be arranged in a garden clearing, while a refurbished European-style horse stable adjacent to the home offers a rustic (and air-conditioned!) option for a sit-down meal. (The venue is also Martha- and Bride Magazine-approved.)
Known for its rowdy party atmosphere, this is the always-poppin’ beach typically shown in Hollywood portrayals of Miami (and, as a result, a popular choice among spring breakers). In honor of the area’s esteemed Art Deco district—think of the brightly colored, retro-style buildings popularized on Miami Vice—the lifeguard stands dotting this beach are painted in a rainbow of shades and boast the symmetrical, geometric style characteristic of this movement. The first stands were built and donated to the city by architect William Lane in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, and since then, they’ve become symbolic of its revival. Their eye-catching designs make for a quintessential Miami Beach photo backdrop.
This is a decidedly cool, calm, and collected alternative to South Beach, and it’s situated near some of Miami’s chicest hotels (Fontainebleau, Soho Beach House, and Faena). These hotspots hug the ocean—whereas comparable hotels in South Beach are typically found a bit further back—making the views from their rooms totally pristine. Many of them also have premium beach access with private chaise lounges and cabanas to boot. A raised boardwalk just beside the beach invites a leisurely stroll, while also providing stable ground for scenic couple’s portraits with the waves crashing in the background.
Waterfront ceremonies are cool and all, but for the true beach-lovers and big-time boaters of the world, waterborne ones are ten times cooler. Turn your special day into a private getaway by saying your vows aboard a yacht or, perhaps even more romantic, a sailboat, with the shoreline melting away in the distance. While the packages offered by local yacht companies such as Sun Dream Yachts are typically geared toward larger groups (think sit-down or buffet dinner-and-dancing cruises), the ones provided by sailing companies, such as Miami Sailing, are designed with smaller groups in mind.
These excursions for six or 12 people typically set sail from South Beach or Bill Baggs State Park. You’ll cruise through the emerald-blue waters of Biscayne Bay, then exchange vows with the backdrop of your choice—perhaps the Miami skyline or Key Biscayne’s Millionaire’s Row, which sports the impressive winter residences of several celebs and politicians. If the water gets choppy, there’s a back-up plan, too: You can sail into a secluded bay or harbor that receives less exposure to the sea breeze. Because pricing varies by number of people, length and location of the excursion, and additional services (boat décor, florals, catering, etc.), quotes are provided upon request by emailing MiamiSailing.firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is one of those spots often used for big, traditional weddings, but it’s so drop-dead stunning, we think it warrants consideration for weddings of any size. Nestled in Miami a few miles inland from the beaches, Samsara is a tranquil, Balinese-inspired oasis with a captivating jungle-like atmosphere. Koi ponds, trickling waterfalls, and wildflowers abound on every turn of the gravel paths that criss-cross this five-acre botanical hideaway. It’s easy to see why it’s a hotspot for ceremonies and receptions alike: Much of the décor is all set from the get-go. However, Samsara’s in-house events team familiar with the garden’s layout can help you customize the space for an intimate ceremony with furniture rentals and florals, and coordinate entertainment and catering, making the planning process smooth and simple. The rental fee starts at $6,500, which includes a bridal suite with access for five hours before the invitation time, three luxury A/C bathroom units, and valet for guests; you’d also be guaranteed private access to the full space, as this venue doesn’t double-book.
Like its name suggests, this 17-acre park occupies the southernmost part of Miami and features a striking 450-foot-long pier stretching out into the water, an ideal spot for saying your “I dos.” Refurbished in 2014, it provides unparalleled views of the sun rising over the ocean to the east, and setting behind the skyline of Miami and Fisher’s Island to the west. In short, it’s practically begging to be photographed. Grassy knolls filled with palm trees also provide shady spots for a post-ceremony picnic or additional portraits, where you’ll catch sight of the abstract sculpture by German artist Tobias Rehberger entitled obstinate lighthouse—a 55-foot-tall assemblage of colorful aluminum and frosted glass discs lit at the very top by LED lights. This playful take on a beacon has come to symbolize a vibrant gateway to the city of Miami, welcoming both park-dwelling pedestrians and and elopers alike.
Originally constructed as the winter home of industrialist James Deering in the early 1900s, Vizcaya is a mansion-turned-museum. Architecturally, it resembles an Italian villa with a lush, skylight-enclosed courtyard that can be rented for intimate receptions (note that the fee starts at $7,500). Although exploring the home’s 34 rooms could easily fill your afternoon, the property’s true gem is its 10 acres of gardens. Beautifully manicured shrubs create walkways in geometric patterns reminiscent of France’s Versailles. For elopers, daytime ceremonies for up to 25 guests can be held anywhere in the gardens for a fee of $1,500 between the hours of 9:30 AM and 3 PM (note that no chairs are allowed). If you’d like to continue celebrating onsite, you can also arrange a reception at the venue’s cafe for an additional per-person fee.
Once the abandoned shell of an early 1900s industrial zone, Wynwood has been completely transformed over the past decade into an epicenter for the arts, thanks to the vision of real estate developer Tony Goldman. Rather than ban graffiti, he encouraged it—and now, the district’s many windowless factories have been cloaked in eye-catching, larger-than-life murals, each one a better Instagram backdrop than the next. In fact, there are more than 200 of them with a handful of the most impressive ones located inside Wynwood Walls, the neighborhood’s main attraction (and the only outdoor street art museum in the country).
You can host your ceremony or an intimate reception within the museum, on the grassy or concrete areas filling the space between the walls (request a quote via this contact form), or instead, have a small post-ceremony meal inside the site’s Latin-fusion tapas restaurant, Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. Either way, squeeze in a guided walking tour while you’re there to get the scoop on the many world-renowned artists whose work is currently represented ($20 for the group option and $40 for private).
Within the Wynwood District, two cool lettered spots—the M Building and R House—deserve a special mention. A few blocks apart from each other, both are typically event spaces for larger crowds with the first comprising a mod showroom, art gallery, and tropical garden, and the second, a spacious Italian restaurant that prides itself on a farm-to-table approach. Each venue epitomizes the lively, artsy vibe of the area, and both warrant checking out (appointments are required at the M Building), regardless of your big-day plans.
To apply for a Florida marriage license, you and your spouse will first need to review the Family Law Handbook. You’ll also find it available for viewing at Miami-Dade County’s Central Marriage License Bureau downtown, or at any of the county’s District Court locations. Both of you will need to make an in-person visit to one of the above spots, where you’ll each provide your social security number and a government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver’s license or passport). If either of you has been previously married, the exact date of the last divorce, death, or annulment is also required. To speed up the process, complete the online pre-application, then record the confirmation number so you can present it upon your arrival. The fee for the license is $86.
Note that Florida residents will either need to wait three days after getting a marriage license for it to become effective or take a four-hour premarital course from a registered provider (non-residents are happily exempt from this restriction). Once you have an effective license, you may also choose to have a quick, basic ceremony officiated by a Deputy Clerk at the Central Bureau or any of the District Courts for an additional $30. Otherwise, the license will be valid for 60 days, during which you’re free to conduct your ceremony anywhere in the state. For more information, visit the Miami-Dade Clerk’s site.