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.
My husband always wanted to get married in Key West. I always wanted a traditional church wedding in June. Much to the shock and surprise of our friends and family, we each got we wanted, and it turned out to be a magical time.
We had been on vacation to Key West a couple of times while dating when he brought up the idea of a tropical island destination wedding. We had started talking about marriage but not about our plans. Needless to say, this caught me off guard. I had imagined a big wedding in a church, followed by fun relaxed reception. I couldn’t possibly see myself abandoning all of that, but I didn’t think there would be much of a way to compromise. Instead of letting it blow up into something big, he proposed a compromise. Since it included a vacation, I was game.
We returned to Key West that June. We certainly did all the fun things we loved to do down there, but we also took the time to explore the life of the island. We even found our denomination’s church and talked to the pastor about having a wedding there. Discovering how easy it would be to arrange it was like the first domino falling. Soon everything else started falling into place.
The following summer we returned with 120 of our closest friends. The wedding was everything I had always pictured in my head with one stunning difference: a beautiful beachside tropical sunset that we took our pictures in front of before going off to the reception.
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.
I have always wanted to have a tropical island wedding. There has never been any question in my mind about it, so when my boyfriend and I first started talking about getting married, I let him know that in no uncertain terms. He laughed and made some “bridezilla” joke, but when he saw the look on my face, he knew now was not the time for joking, so he did what he does best. He went to work researching our options.
Many of the resorts that offered tropical island weddings had very specific packages and other restrictions that made my dream seem more like a nightmare. I wanted the wedding to be on my – okay, our – terms, which meant being able to choose where we held it, what type of reception we could have and the number of guests we could invite.
At first, that didn’t look like it was going to be an option, but them my fiancé stumbled across an article about tropical destination weddings in Key West, Florida. The article made it seem so easy I figured there had to be a catch, but we started making some inquiries, even talked to a few couples who had been married down there, and all of them said what a great experience it had been. We had never been there, but between all the great recommendations, we figured we’d give it a shot.
It ended up being an even better wedding than I imagined. Everything was beautiful and perfect, thanks to an amazing wedding planner. I even brought home a little sand stuck in my dress, and I’m going to keep it there as part of my memories.
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?