Elopement ceremonies can be held in front of the Ca d'Zan mansion, or on the bayfront terrace. (Photo by Hunter Ryan).

Image: Hunter Ryan

If you have always dreamed of tying the knot at Sarasota's Ringling Museum, your dream may soon come true.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, weddings have been canceled and venues shut down, leaving couples with the choice of elopement at the courthouse or justice of peace. But what if you still want the magical, intimate experience of marrying in a beautiful setting? From now until Sept. 30, the Ringling Museum is offering summer elopement ceremonies with a maximum of 10 guests per couple at one of several stunning locations on property, plus a professional photo shoot on museum grounds. 

Ringling Museum wedding coordinator Tina Bass says manager Christina Fraser was the brainchild of this offer. "We figured since we are a mostly outdoor property and recently reopened, this might be a great opportunity for smaller groups to come together," she says.

Couples have the choice to book a daytime or evening ceremony, with daytime ceremonies averaging $500 plus tax, and evening ceremonies between $750-$850 plus tax, depending on ceremony length. Daytime ceremonies take place during normal business hours (9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) and more private evening ceremonies take place after hours (5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.). Couples can also include a photo shoot for $200 extra to document their special day. 

The same locations are offered as traditional Ringling weddings, like the Ca D' Zan terrace, the Museum of Art courtyard, under the banyan trees or in Mable's Rose Garden. 

Bass says three ceremonies have taken place since the offer began, and all have been special. One bride brought her own makeup artist, and another called in family members over video chat who had been unable to travel.  "We could hear the guests on video chat gasping at how gorgeous everything looked," says Bass.

Mable's Rose Garden.

While receptions are not yet offered, to comply with social distancing, Bass suggests booking an evening ceremony with dinner at a local restaurant afterward. "This way you can still celebrate, and have a larger reception later in the year," she says. The museum  plans to reopen its own restaurant after renovation of it is complete, to offer a post-ceremony dinner.

A typical wedding season at the Ringling sees 30 to 4o weddings, sometimes two to three per day, with 50 to 400 guests in attendance, and they usually cost around $12,000. Museum staff are hoping to restore these numbers in the future, but are happy to provide small elopements in the meantime, especially for those who can't afford a luxury wedding. "For someone who has always dreamed of getting married at the Ringling yet can't afford it, this is their opportunity," says Bass.

Ringling guests should have no problem social distancing on the 66 acres of museum property. Ceremony guests and the public must wear masks indoors and are encouraged, although not required, to wear them outside. Museum staff are also working diligently to keep the property clean and safe for guests.

"We feel blessed to provide for these couples, given our current museum atmosphere and services we can still offer," says Bass. "This is one of the best moments of their lives, and we want to help celebrate love and their next chapter together." 

For more Ringling Museum updates, click here or call (941) 359-5700.

Located at 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. 

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