My wife and I knew we wanted a wedding that was equal parts fun and simple, something that everyone could enjoy. The more we talked about it though, the less simple it seemed to be. We could feel it starting to overwhelm us, so we put a moratorium on discussing it for a week while we regrouped. Sometime during that week she saw an ad for Key West, Florida and thought that might be the solution.
When she brought it up to me, we looked into everything the island had to offer. We realized that it was easy to get to in a variety of different ways, and there were plenty of different types of hotels and inns to choose from. With July being the slower season, rates would be lower and availability would be greater. Since we were having this discussion in January, we decided that gave everyone, including us, enough time to make plans.
The only thing we did before we chose the date and sent out the invitations was look through the Key West restaurants and decide which one we’d have the reception at. Once the day was picked, we were just like everyone else: looking for a great deal on hotel and airfare. Since there was almost no planning involved, it kind of felt like we were eloping. Even a couple of days before we left it almost hadn’t hit us that we were getting married. But when we showed up at the beach with the justice of the peace and one hundred invited guests, we knew we’d made the right decision.
One of the things that attracted me to my boyfriend at the time was the sense of adventure we both had. It was certainly something that brought us together and made for exciting times. When we decided to get married, we wanted our wedding to be an adventure as well. We were looking at all sorts of crazy ideas, but we both realized we were feeling the same thing: it wouldn’t be the same without our friends and family. We needed something that was bit of a compromise, and that was when we discovered Key West.
So much about it appeals to so many different people that we knew it would be the perfect choice. People who loved to spend time on the water would have plenty to do, as would those who enjoy history. There were coffee shops for early birds, bars and night clubs for night owls, and an amazing number of Key West restaurants for everyone to choose from.
Of course, we weren’t just concerned about our guests. We wanted to make sure our wedding was meaningful and special for us. We found a wedding planner who understood what we wanted and she helped us find the right location for the ceremony and a great restaurant that had an amazing reception menu of fresh seafood and crab cakes, not to mention a killer view. She even helped us violate one of the pre-wedding traditions that says a bride and groom aren’t supposed to see each other on their wedding day until the ceremony.
We spent that morning sky-diving.
I think I’m the only girl who didn’t have a dream wedding planned out in her mind. I knew I would like to be married someday, but the marriage itself seemed far more important than the wedding day itself. That was when my fiancé suggested Key West as a tropical island wedding, I said “Sure, why not?” We’d both been there on vacation, separately as well as when we were dating, we both liked it, and it would be a nice change of atmosphere for us and our friends.
I was definitely excited about getting married, and as we went around the island with our wedding planner, I certainly had opinions of what I wanted and didn’t want, but maybe because I had never built it up in my head, it never became super overwhelming. That all changed on the morning of the wedding.
If I had scripted the day, it could not have been more perfect. The weather was warm, but the breezes were blowing all day so it felt relaxing. The ceremony on the beach was perfect, with the sun setting behind several sailboats. The reception, on an outdoor dining patio under the stars with fresh seafood and key lime pie, went off without a hitch, and afterwards, a few of us were even up for a little karaoke on the Duval crawl.
It wasn’t until I went to bed that night, my first as a married woman, that I realized how perfect my Key West dream wedding had been. Certainly, some of it had to do with everything that beautiful island has to offer, but a lot of what made it perfect was the guy snoring in bed next to me.
One of the toughest challenges my wife and I had was planning our wedding. I’m not kidding. It got heated from time to time, and what made it worse was it wasn’t us putting the pressure on ourselves. It was everyone else. As the first child to get married in each family, everybody had an opinion on what we should do and nobody was shy about sharing them. It got to the point where we almost eloped, but then we did the next best thing: we decided to get married in Key West, Florida.
We invited everybody that we had planned on, told them all that is was going to be a very simple beachfront ceremony, and that if they wanted to come to the reception, we needed to know a month in advance. Once we had our number, we then scrambled to pick from the Key West restaurants to find the perfect place. We wanted a combination of fresh seafood on the reception menu and outdoor patio areas so we could dine and dance under the stars. We were lucky enough to get a booking at our first choice, and after that, the planning was basically done.
My cousin thought it was the coolest idea ever, so he got his certification online so he could marry us. Most of the people who had shared an opinion agreed that we had managed to throw one heck of a wedding, and as the two of us danced to our first song, both in our flip flops, we knew that we had made the right decision as well…so much so that we booked our one year anniversary trip even before we left Key West.
When I found out my niece was planning a tropical wedding, I assumed that meant no invitation. Not because she wouldn’t want me there, but because there’d be no way she could afford a large number of guests. When my wife and I got the invitation, I assumed that meant we wouldn’t be able to make it because it would cost too much and be too difficult to get there. When my wife showed me just how easy and affordable it would be, I realized I needed to stop making assumptions and start paying attention.
She picked Key West as the tropical island for her destination wedding, and I could see that, in many ways, it was no different (and therefore probably not more expensive) than a wedding back home would have been. She wasn’t stuck using a specific wedding package from a resort but instead could create her own ceremony and reception, hire her own entertainment and work within her budget.
Key West also meant there were dozens of hotels to choose from and several different travel options, which helped keep the costs low for her guests. Many of the family members I talked to at the reception remarked on the same thing I had thought, that once they heard about it they wouldn’t be able to make it. Instead, some of them had the opportunity not only to see her get married but also take their first vacation to the tropics. My own daughter has a few years to go before she’s marrying age (thank God) but at least I can now say I won’t be too worried if she says she wants an island wedding as well.
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.
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.