I’ve been engaged now for about three years. It’s been so long that our friends have stopped asking us “when” and started asking us “if.” The truth is that we want to make sure our wedding is special for us. Not necessarily “big church, lots of attendants, fancy reception” special – although we’re not opposed to that – but meaningful, so that when we look back, we know we did it right. We never thought that might include basically eloping.
My fiancé was reading an article about destination weddings and how couples were already making plans for 2016. The article mentioned that Key West was actually the most popular choice for island weddings. She looked at me, I looked at her, we looked at our summer schedule and we started making phone calls and online searches. In three days’ time we hired a wedding planner and booked a weekend trip to meet with her and discuss our options.
The trip was great. We ate at a few of the Key West restaurants she suggested for our reception, looked at some of the locations for the ceremony and got an overall feel for the island. When we reached some decisions, she had a schedule ready so we could be sure to pick a weekend when we could have all we wanted.
Those same friends that started asking “if” aren’t really surprised by our decision. Most of them are pretty happy, in spite of their good natured grumbling. I mean, who wouldn’t want an excuse to have to take a vacation to Key West this July?
My husband jokes that I could be the star of my own reality show regarding the lengths I go to when it comes to saving money. But he certainly appreciates when we take all that money I save us and spend it on a destination vacation. Of course, me being me, I can’t book us a trip without making sure we’re saving money in the process. That’s why we’ve been going to Key West for our summer vacation the last few years.
Part of the reason we manage to save so much money on the trip is because a lot of people seem to think like our friends do: “Isn’t it hot there in the summer?” Well, yes and no. I mean it’s summer, so it’s hot everywhere, but Key West is actually cooler, by as much as ten degrees or more, than most of Florida, including many of the destination vacation spots. Plus, it’s cooler in a lot of other ways.
There is no place quite like Key West. If we want to spend an action packed day doing all sorts of activities, we can, and we can just as easily spend a quiet day walking the streets looking at the old houses or sitting by the pool with a book. The good thing about people thinking it’s too hot to visit means that rates are lower and lines are shorter, so not only do we save money over what that trip would cost us in February, we also get to enjoy more of it by not having to worry about crowds.
My boyfriend and I got engaged a couple of months ago, and almost immediately, everyone started barraging us with questions and suggestions about our wedding. Neither one of us are that uptight about it, so we decided that we would plan it as stress-free as possible. Turns out that only took three easy steps.
Step 1: Don’t do it at home. We knew if we tried to do it local, everybody would be even more in our face, so we decided to have an island wedding in one of our favorite places: Key West, Florida. Our intention wasn’t to do it right away, but we realized we could get great prices at Key West restaurants and hotels over the summer.
Step 2: Work with a professional. Naturally, it would be hard to plan it from a thousand miles away. That was why we got ourselves an awesome wedding planner. We told her what we were looking for, some of our favorite places on the island and how much we wanted to spend. So far she’s found us everything we’ve asked for and is constantly keeping us up to date on how things are going.
Step 3: Watch everyone get jealous. When we started mailing out invitations – not save the date cards, mind you, but actual invitations – everyone was blown away by how quickly we put it together. The great thing is many of our friends have never been to Key West so it’s an extra incentive for them to come see us get married and have a great tropical island vacation.
When my wife and I got married, we were both fresh out of college and just starting our careers, so money and time was tight. We had a simple ceremony followed by a reception in her parent’s back yard, and our honeymoon was a weekend getaway. Although we never regretted having something so small, we talked from time to time about what we would have done differently if we could have.
Flash forward about twenty years and our upcoming anniversary. We wanted to do something special so we decided to renew our vows. This time, we were going to do it the way we wanted, and that meant by making it happen in Key West. That had been our dream honeymoon destination back then, and we had been fortunate enough to vacation there a few times over the years.
Even though we were already married (obviously), we still hired a wedding planner to take care of the logistics. Then we went through our old guest list and re-invited everyone who had been there the first time, plus some new friends we had made over the years. I’m not sure if it was because they wanted to support us or just wanted a tropical island vacation, but most of them said yes.
We had a blast. We got to say “I do” on the beach as the sun set, we took our friends to several of our favorite Key West restaurants, and we even got to spend the night in a honeymoon suite. We may have been one of the older couples having a tropical island wedding that weekend, but we felt like newlyweds all over again.
I wish I could say I was carefree enough to live on a tropical island, but there is just too much practicality in me. At least I try to always live in a relaxed manner and spend as much time as I can getting away and enjoying life. Needless to say, when it came time to getting married, there was no doubt it was going to be a tropical island wedding.
I had visited Key West once, years ago, and my fiancé had been there a couple of times more recently, and we pretty quickly picked up that it would be the perfect place. There were so many beautiful locations to choose from for the ceremony, several dozen great Key West restaurants for us to have our reception at, and plenty of hotels and resorts to choose from so we didn’t have to worry about limiting our guest list. We met with a terrific wedding planner who helped us every step of the way, and two weeks ago, we tied the knot.
I can’t even say it was all I hoped for, because it was so much more than that. The weather was epic, the whole experience was wonderful, but the highlight was just how beautiful it felt to be standing barefoot on a Key West beach, sand in our toes, telling each other we were going to love each other forever while the sun set in the background. We both know it’s not even a matter of if we’ll go back, but only a question of how soon.
My fiancé and I wanted to have a special destination wedding. We felt it was important to start our marriage together in a meaningful place. We both love to travel, and between the two of us, have visited most of the states and about a dozen countries, but neither of us had ever been to Key West.
At first we kind of dismissed it, mostly because all we knew about it was its reputation as a party town. But we decided that the place we chose should be new to both of us, so our first memories of it could be together, so we bought a couple of plane tickets and headed down for a week to see if it would be our tropical island wedding.
It turned out to be far more than that. We immediately fell in love with the beautiful weather, the warmth of the people and the laid back island lifestyle. We understood the reason why so many people we met told us stories of having come down for a week ten years ago. We knew we couldn’t quite do that – we each had responsibilities back home and there was still a wedding to plan – but we decided to do the next best thing.
We still had a destination wedding. We had a beautiful oceanfront ceremony and chose among our favorite new Key West restaurants for our reception. The only thing that made our wedding different than most was that when everything was over, all of our guests went back, and we stayed in our beautiful new island home.
My husband and I are perfect examples of opposites that attract. Luckily, we’ve always been able to compromise. He teaches art and sculpture at the local college while I commute to the city for my finance job. I own at least two dozen professional outfits and I think he has one suit and maybe two ties. When it came to our wedding, I wanted a traditional church service and he wanted a tropical island celebration. Key West offered us the perfect solution.
We told the local Key West wedding planner we hired what all of our concerns were and she helped us arrange the perfect destination wedding. We found a beautiful church to hold the ceremony at, and she took us to several different Key West restaurants to look at for the reception venue. We got to sample some of the fresh seafood and key lime pie that would be part of the menu, and found a beautiful location with outdoor patios and plenty of room for dancing.
Most of the guests on my side were a bit surprised when they saw the invite for a tropical wedding, knowing as they did my traditional wedding dreams. I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, too. Much of that was due to how little people know about Key West beyond its reputation as a partying resort town. Everyone thanked us afterwards not only for having such a beautiful wedding, but also for introducing them to a great new vacation destination. Every time someone said that, my husband just gave me a wink. He was too polite to take credit himself, but if not for him, I never would have learned how beautiful Key West is.