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Year-Round Weddings at a Florida Panhandle State Park
By Tom Adkinson

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. – Eden Gardens State Park is popular for expected activities such as canoeing, hiking and picnicking, plus one you might not expect – weddings. This 167-acre natural enclave in Florida’s panhandle has weddings almost every day of the year, according to Lauren Hayes, the park staffer whose job description includes “wedding coordinator.”

Live oaks; image by Tom Adkinson.

Ornamental gardens are the park’s main attraction. Camellias and azaleas bring color from October through May, with the peak bloom usually in March. In addition, there are a heritage rose garden, a butterfly garden and a reflection pond filled with water lilies and koi. A wedding photographer who doesn’t succeed here should be ashamed.

wedding cellist
Cellist; image by Tom Adkinson
wedding harpist
Harpist; image by Tom Adkinson

The Wesley House, a colonnaded two-story home built in 1897 by the owner of a lumber company, provides additional photographic opportunities, especially when it is framed by moss-draped live oak trees. A subsequent owner, Lois Maxon, developed the ornamental gardens and eventually donated Eden Gardens to the state of Florida. Blissful wedding couples from as far away at Colorado, Montana and California appreciate that gift, Hayes said.

Trip-planning resources: Florida State Parks

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published March 8, 2019

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