Elope in Panama City Beach
How to Elope in Panama City Beach
It’s easier than you think!
With our white sandy coastline and turquoise colored waters dubbed as the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches, it’s no wonder more than 2500 people get married in Bay County alone each year!
Bay County is home to the popular Panama City Beach, covering 18 square miles and boasting 9 miles of sandy white shoreline. So what do you need to know and do to get married on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches? It’s actually easier than you think! There are no permits required and no extra fees to get married on the beach here. And my personal advice- get married at sunset! The sunsets here are absolutely picture perfect and each and every one is a little gift from above.
WHERE DO I START?
First, you need to apply for your marriage license. You can start the application online, but you MUST finish it IN-PERSON, together at the Bay County Clerk of Courts office located in the courthouse in Panama City. This process will take about 20 minutes and you should go prepared with a government issued photo ID and know your social security numbers. You must be 18 or older.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET A MARRIAGE LICENSE?
The cost of the license is $86 and payment is accepted at the time of application by cash or credit card. No personal checks will be accepted. You will have 60 days once your license is issued to get married and have your license returned to the clerk by your notary/ officiant. *Please note the clerk’s office no longer performs marriage ceremonies.
IS THERE A WAITING PERIOD?
If you are NOT a Florida resident, there is NO WAITING PERIOD to get married after your license has been issued.
If you ARE a Florida resident, there is a 3 day waiting period after you apply for your marriage license. This waiting period may be waived if you elect to take a pre-marital preparation course. More information can be found on the Clerk of Court Website.
OK, I HAVE MY MARRIAGE LICENSE AND AM READY TO SAY “I DO”. NOW WHAT?
WHERE CAN I GET MARRIED IN PANAMA CITY BEACH?
Chances are if you’re coming to Panama City Beach to elope, you are going to want to say your vows with the sun kissing your skin, the wind blowing your hair and the sand between your toes. With 9 miles of sandy coastline, you really can’t go wrong when choosing ‘where’, but some beach locations are much busier than others depending on the time of year you are here. Some of my absolute favorite locations to catch the sunset and have a bit of privacy, in no particular order:
St. Andrews State Park on Thomas Drive- there is a small fee to enter the state park, but I promise it is worth every penny. St. Andrews State Park alone boasts 1.5 miles of coastline, as well as nature trails full of wildlife including deer. I don’t think I have ever been to this park without seeing deer, and I go here sometimes 4 days per week!
Shell Island– Shell Island is just that, a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island that runs east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. Accessible through St. Andrews State Park, the only way to get there is by boat! The park offers shuttles you can take, or can also go for the boat rental by owner or a local company and make a day of the island.
Camp Helen State Park– Another great local state park, this one is on the other end of Panama City Beach and bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on three sides, and Lake Powell. With over 180 acres of natural Florida, this park is one of my favorites!
Oaks by the Bay– This ones takes us off the beach and into Panama City, into the downtown St. Andrews area. 5 acres full of oversized oak trees, a gazebo, and even a 4-headed palm tree, this park is also situated on the bay (hence the name!).
Inlet Beach– This beach is a half-mile past Camp Helen and actually is right outside of Bay County. One of the largest public beach access points in Walton County, this beach is full of rolling dunes and is condo-free.
WHO DO YOU RECOMMEND TO OFFICIATE MY WEDDING?
Now that you know WHERE you want to say “I do”, you need to find yourself an officiant. I have been fortunate to work with some great people while photographing weddings in Panama City Beach, and I’ll tell you what, these guys go above and beyond to make your day special. Some of my favorite officiants that I know will take amazing care of you:
Officiant Doug– “Working with me is about more than the wedding. It’s about creating a solid foundation for your marriage.”
Wedding Ceremony by Marie– “Unique, memorable, warm and loving. That’s what my ceremonies are! Allow me to create a memory for you.”
DO I REALLY NEED A PHOTOGRAPHER? IT’S JUST GOING TO BE THE 2 OF US.
Shameless plug here, but at the end of your wedding day, you walk away with a husband (or wife) and your memories. That’s it. The flowers wilt, the cake gets eaten and your dress gets cleaned and boxed up. So be sure to preserve those memories, and all the little moments you may not have caught throughout the day by hiring a professional photographer.
I am the photographer at Laura Jennings Photography. I have been in business for 8 years and photographed pretty close to 75 weddings, ranging from 2 people to 250 people. I also serve over 300 families per year on their vacations to our beautiful beaches.
In addition to my own photography, I own and manage LJ Studios which is comprised of several carefully selected up and coming photographers that I have mentored and worked with over the years. Some newer than others, some more experienced than others, we aim to give our clients OPTIONS for every budget and style. When you choose to work with LJ Studios, you will be working with some the area’s most talented photographers (who have been handpicked by me) without compromising quality or efficiency.
WHAT ABOUT THE DETAILS? WHAT ELSE SHOULD I CONSIDER?
You have several options when it comes to the details- flowers, cakes and even decor. I suspect that if you are eloping in Panama City Beach, you are looking for something quick and easy, yet classic and timeless. Even if it’s just the two of you and you choose to keep it intimate, consider a small bouquet for your pictures and a cake to celebrate your special day together!
Some of the most beautiful cakes and bouquets I’ve seen have come from the local business owners that do this every day because they LOVE what they do. They have such a passion for their industry and it shows with every customer they serve.
Beach House Florist– With over 13 years of business in Panama City Beach, several of my brides have chosen Beach House to serve their flower needs. From simple bridal bouquets to extravagant table centerpieces, there is sure to be something for everyone.
Cook Girls’ Bakery– I have personally ordered from the Cook Girls and let me tell you, every single thing I’ve eaten has been AMAZING. I’m not kidding.
WE’VE SAID OUR VOWS AND THE SUN HAS SET, NOW WHAT?
A girl’s got to eat! Head off the beach, brush the sand off your toes and get some dinner. It’s easy to find a list of restaurants and places to eat while in town, but here are a few of my local favorites that will give your day the perfect ending.
Firefly– This one might be my favorite. Classy and upscale yet you can even wear jeans. It’s just one of those places. From sushi to steak, Firefly has a little it of everything. Save room for dessert, they have the BEST creme brûlée (from a girl who doesn’t even like creme brûlée!!) It’s best to make reservations for dinner seating.
The Grand Marlin– New to Panama City Beach in 2017, this one is a contender for “favorite” in our household. Overlooking the Grand Lagoon, The Grand Marlin offers a tranquil, relaxed atmosphere paired with the area’s best selection of fresh seafood.
Runaway Island– Two floors of local seafood specializes, live entertainment and frosty drinks all with a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Mexico.
Hook’d Pier and Bar Grill– A little more on the casual side, Hook’d overlooks the pier at the base of Pier Park. A great selection of seafood, and some of the best gumbo we’ve eaten outside of NOLA!
I hope that this post has been helpful, informative and will guide you through the proper steps to take while you plan one of the biggest days of your life. Whether you are wanting small and intimate with just you, your spouse and officiant, or have dreams of something a little larger with close friends and family, we are all here every step of the way.
It’s no secret that Panama City Beach is an unbelievable destination for both families and couples. We are so glad you are considering making it part of your legacy.