What’s the best wedding beaches in Florida? Well, that can be a tough question since Florida is nothing but beaches. In fact, there is no place in the entire state that is more than 60 miles from a beach. Still, there are a few general things to consider when picking your beach wedding location in Florida that can really narrow things down for you.
Should I get Married on the East or West Coast of Florida?
There are fantastic wedding beaches in Florida but if you should aim for the west coast for one very important reason: The sun sets into the ocean on the West Coast.
If you get married on the East Coast, you will not have sunset pictures with the sun and water behind you. The sun sets over land on the East Coast. If you want something that looks like sunset on the water you will have to schedule a separate session for dawn when the sun is rising. You can’t even schedule a dawn wedding because by the time you finish the ceremony you will have lost the best light. Plus, who wants to go to a wedding at 6a.m.?
So, East Coast is the best for beach weddings in Florida
What’s the Best East Coast Beach for a Wedding in Florida?
Now that we have eliminated half the state, let’s talk about what East Coast city has the best wedding beaches in Florida. Here’s another thing to consider:
What city on the east coast of Florida has the most people and attractions, the best airport and the best beaches?
It’s Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay International Airport is my favorite airport in the world. It is the easiest to navigate of any I have ever been through and it’s right next to downtown and the bridge to Clearwater.
Clearwater Beach was picked as the best beach in the country by Travel Advisor (again).
And of course Tampa is only about 90 minutes from Orlando and Disneyworld. (We even have a casino)
Which Tampa Bay Beach is the best for a wedding?
I’ve photographed over 500 beach weddings in Tampa Bay and I feel pretty confident that I know the best wedding beaches in the area so let’s break them down:
Best Clearwater Beach for a Wedding
Clearwater Beach is the busiest beach in Tampa Bay but there are still two spots that I recommend for a beach wedding.
Mandalay Ave. and Avalon St.
This is the closest you can get to the tourist center of Clearwater Beach and still have parking and beach access for your wedding. If you want to get married on Clearwater Beach, this is the best spot to do it.
Sand Key Park
Sand Key Park is a little more pricey with their permit cost but in return you get the biggest parking lot in the county (never full), a locals beach which means less people on a weekday, plenty of bathrooms and sand that is easy to walk on for older folks or people with disabilities. This is the beach where I photograph all my family portrait sessions (there’s no fee unless you are setting up arches, etc). I would be perfectly happy photographing every beach wedding or portrait on Sand Key Beach.
If you are eloping, this is a great beach because there’s no permit cost.
Best Indian Rocks Beach for a Wedding
There’s a public access at 18th ave, and Gulf Blvd that is my favorite spot for an Indian Rocks Beach wedding. Yes, the beach is a little shallow here but the parking lot is never full. If you go to the other big beach access spot in Indian Rocks Beach it will be packed with tourists. For a wedding, I prefer this spot surrounded by condos and homes.
Best Madeira Beach Wedding Spot
Gulf Blvd and 144th street is probably the best spot for a Madeira Beach wedding. Honestly though, most people getting married on Indian Rocks Beach or Madeira Beach are staying in a hotel there and just get married right behind the hotel.
Best Wedding Beach on Treasure Island
There’s three spots to chose from if you want to get married on Treasure Island. The first is Gulf Blvd and 112th ave.. This is a very busy spot, lots of tourists. South of there is a smaller parking lot but usually not as crowded at 104th ave. and Gulf Blvd.
My favorite Treasure Island wedding beach is Sunset Beach, 8000 West Gulf Blvd. This beach is a locals beach with a small but adequate parking lot (recently re-paved), bathrooms and even a small pavilion that can be rented for a reception. It also has a boardwalk for pictures and a rock jetty as well. It’s one of the best wedding beaches in Florida. Here’s a blog post from a Sunset Beach Wedding
Here’s another Sunset Beach wedding where we got rained on. :)
Best Wedding Beach in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg has two spots that I tend to photograph a lot of beach weddings.
Upham Beach is kind of hidden from Gulf Blvd as it is a couple of blocks up 70th avenue to get there. It’s a good wedding beach, plenty of parking but can get crowded. It’s probably first on my list of St. Petersburg wedding beaches.
St. Pete Beach Access
This is the biggest parking lot in the area and you still might not get a spot. Always busy, it’s not my favorite spot in St. Petersburg for a beach wedding. The best thing about it is that it’s across from Chic-Fil-A at Gulf Blvd and 46th Ave.
Best Wedding Beach in Pass-a-grille
The best wedding beach in Pass-a-grille is, well, the whole beach. Pass-a-grille is unique in Tampa Bay because it’s the only beach that has parking that runs the whole length of the beach so it’s just a matter of picking the boardwalk where you want to get married. That being said, I think the best spot is at the north end of the beach at the end of 22nd Ave. There’s more parking here than any other spot and it’s as far as possible from the big bathroom/concession stand area that is always crowded with tourists.
Final Thoughts on Florida Beach Weddings
You may have notices that I mentioned parking a lot in this article. If you are getting married on a Florida beach and inviting guests, parking is a big deal. Make sure you pick a beach that people will be able to park at easily so that your wedding can be on time. I can’t tell you how many times a wedding starts late because the guests can’t find a place to park. When you are getting married at sunset, you don’t want to start late because you will lose your light.
Tourists are another consideration. Never get married on the fourth of July at a busy beach as you will be surrounded by drunks and hell-raisers. Try to get married during the week at a beach like Sunset or Sand key or Avalon where it’s less crowded and easy to access.
Finally, get a good beach wedding planner like Perfect Florida Wedding to handle everything for you. It’s worth it, believe me.
Oh, and a good beach wedding photographer. :)
I am a member of the Professional Photographers of America, the largest photography organization in the world that was founded 150 years ago. Have you ever seen the Ken Burns documentary about the Civil War? All those battlefield images were shot by Matthew Brady. He was a founding member of the PPA.
One of the things that this organization does is bestow “degrees.” There are three you can earn.
This degree is for teaching. It requires 25 merits: 13 must be from teaching and 12 from any source. You typically get 1 merit each time you teach a seminar, etc. I received my Craftsman several years ago because I travel and teach quite a bit.
The “photoshop” degree. This degree is for your art. You don’t even have to have shot the photo. It requires 25 merits: 13 must be from the International Photographic Competition and 12 from any source.
Master of Photography
This degree is for your photography (with a generous helping of photoshop in most cases). It requires 25 merits: 13 must be from the International Photographic Competition and 12 from any source. To be clear, it is considered a big deal if you can merit all 4 images in the competition. It takes years to get the 13 you need. I’ve posted about these competitions several times..
There are 30,000 members in the PPA. Last year there were 95 awarded the Master of Photography Degree.
It is generally acknowledged that the hardest images to “merit” in competition are wedding images. We don’t have the time on a wedding day to be as “perfect” as a portrait photographer. We also have no control over location, time of day, clothing, subject… and there’s a severe time limit. For years I have been a very vocal critic of how wedding photographers are treated in the competition. So vocal that it’s a running joke among my fellow photographers, “Oh God, don’t get Booray started about Image Competition!”
And so, when the day came that I finally had accrued the 13 merits (10 with wedding images) that I needed to become a Master, all my friends breathed a sigh of relief that I would finally shut up about wedding photographers not being judged correctly for the Master of Photography degree.
Because I had been such a whiner about competition for so long, my friends decided to make sure that I had the loudest cheering section in the hall when the time came for me to get my degree. Everyone should have friends like these.
Master of Wedding Photography
But here’s the best part. The day before I received my degree I voted for a new degree to be added with it’s own competition at PPA. The Master Wedding Photographers Degree! Now there will be FOUR degrees including one specifically for the wedding photographers, the “Iron Chefs” of photography who work under extreme pressure in extreme circumstances and produce incredible images. Hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be announcing that I’ve received THAT degree as well. :)
So, this last year has been a wonderful experience for me. I became a Master of Photography and I helped create a new Master of Wedding Photography degree in the hope that my fellow wedding photographers will be recognized for the unique skills required to be truly good at this very special type of photography. I’m proud to have my Masters but I’m even more proud to have participated in creating something new and long overdue for my peeps!
I finally shipped a beautiful album today for a Bat Mitzvah at Schaarai Zedek with the party at Palma Ceia Country Club that I photographed almost 5 years ago! It’s a running joke in my business that people often take years to finally finish their Bat Mitzvah album and this one may be the record.
But here’s the thing: I don’t mind.
Most photographers have a time limit for completion of an album but I never have. I know how it is after a Bat Mitzvah…. you’ve spent all this time planning the event and now you just want a break… you’ll make your album image selections next month. Then, it’s school so maybe this summer. Then it’s sleep-away camp and school again and the next thing you know it’s been a year.
The great thing is that it doesn’t matter if you finish in one month or 12, I’m always here. We’ll get it done when you are ready and it will be great. Having the album right away has the advantage of being done but waiting a while can have perks too. One mom told me that waiting gave her daughter time to reflect on who was really deserving of being in this family heirloom. When you’re a teenager, your “best friends” can change pretty fast. A few years later and you might look back on that time differently. I had never really thought about it that way.
I also don’t mind waiting because I’m so frequently interacting with my clients long after the event anyway. In this particular case, I did Lainey’s brother’s Bar Mitzvah as well. I photographed a family reunion. I did the headshots in her Dad’s office just last year. I’m at Schaarai Zedek Temple so often that sometimes I forget I’m not Jewish. So for me it’s one long job and since I really seem to have great relationships with my clients I honestly enjoy being in contact for years. :)
Be sure and check out my Bat Mitzvah page for more information and albums!
Here’s Lainey’s album pages!