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 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.
There’s an old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I have always found this to be a great way to travel, especially if I am taking island vacations. It gives me a chance to see the island from a different perspective and grants me a greater appreciation of where I am. Key West, Florida is no different. Granted, as part of the United States, it is certainly less exotic than other islands I‘ve gone to, but this doesn’t mean it’s the same as a trip to St. Louis or Seattle. To get the best out of it, I immerse myself in it.
Keep this in mind when you are planning the reception for your island weddings. The seafood there is some of the freshest you will ever be able to experience, so why would you want to limit yourself and your guests to the same choices they could have back home? Keep in mind that Key West restaurants host hundreds of weddings every year, and that most of those people getting married aren’t from just down the street or the next island over. These restaurants know how to take care of even the pickiest eaters, and the last thing you want to hear after your wedding is how cousin Jerry couldn’t find anything he liked to eat.
The joy of destination weddings is wedding receptions featuring outdoor dining of casual elegance with the finest foods. A wedding in Key West is going to be so special and beautiful. Don’t ruin that beauty by limiting your menu choices to the same old options. Let your guests taste the flavors that brought you there in the first place.
Picking a great reception menu for your banquet, wedding reception or other big event isn’t so hard when you’re in sunny Key West, Florida. This island is known for its thriving fine dining culture and entertainment scene, and these venues and performers get plenty of practice. Unlike other regions where the wedding season is the only busy time of the year, Key West remains sunny and warm 365 days a year, meaning that there is a constant influx of tourists no matter what the season. With its cozy climate, beautiful architecture, rich literary history and food, it really is no surprise. This is the go-to spot for destination weddings and destination vacations in the United States, drawing people from diverse backgrounds to enjoy some fun in the sun.
Key West restaurants have a unique draw. Not only do they provide some of the best crab cakes in Florida and what is certainly the best key lime pie in the world, they also are in the midst of a revolution. New island cuisine, a cultural menu upheaval currently being undergone by some of the best restaurants and pioneers of Key West food culture, is on the rise. This menu is an attempt at accurately reflecting all the modern influences of the island’s culture, bringing a plethora of exciting new possibilities in terms of dishes and flavor combinations. When you are planning your great reception menu for your island wedding, consider giving your guests the most authentic experience possible. Look for the new island cuisine for seafood staples and the cuisine of Florida’s future.
Destination weddings and Key West, Florida just go together. As one of the most popular locations for island weddings in the world, Key West is uniquely prepared to handle the various stresses of wedding planning and event hosting. Most of the fine dining establishments in the region have had years of experience that you can take advantage of for your wedding reception planning. The high traffic of the area, which receives large parties during wedding season but has tourists and vacation goers visiting all year round, can be made easier if you take advantage of restaurant review websites like Urban Spoon.
Having customers year-round and a thriving fine dining and wedding reception culture means that there are more engaged customers utilizing social media to discuss the important questions. Questions such as which spaces can handle large wedding parties gracefully, local entertainment acts for hire, and where you can get the best crab cakes and best key lime pie on the island to serve your guests. Many places will offer patio dining and outdoor dining options in addition to banquet rooms, giving you full range to decide how much of the natural island atmosphere you would like for your event. After all, it is beautiful, but the heat can be trying on older and younger family members! At the end of the day, the biggest advantage Key West establishments have over others in the world is that not only do they have the experience to make your wedding dreams come true, they are also invested in making it happen. Congratulations and good luck!