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 fiancé and I wanted to do something different for our wedding. We both grew up in the same part of the state and over the years had attended far too many weddings at the reception hall not so affectionately known as “the wedding factory.” We had both been to Key West before and we knew that having a tropical island wedding would be just the special sort of event we were looking for. We started looking into it and realized it would be a lot easier than we thought.
Apparently we aren’t the only people who thought Key West would make a good destination wedding spot. It is voted year after year as the number one choice for couples looking for a tropical wedding. It’s an obvious choice, not just because of how beautiful it is, but also because of how easy it is to get to, all the different choices for the ceremony and reception and the fact that you don’t need passports. In fact, with so many people getting married there each year, we were a little daunted that we wouldn’t have the experience we wanted.
Turns out we had nothing to worry about. We interviewed a few different wedding planners and once we made our decision, we told her exactly what we were looking for. She came back with a list of options that all fit within our budget and we put together not just a scenic ceremony and a fun reception, but also several activities for our guests to do as well. We are both so excited to head back down to Key West this summer to make our dreams come true.
We live in Ithaca, New York, and this past winter, our town achieved fifteen minutes of internet fame when our board of tourism replaced its typical web pages with links to the Florida Keys tourism board. When you’re buried under six feet of snow and the temperature is hovering in single digits, it’s pretty obvious that Key West is a better vacation spot than upstate New York.
As much as we would have liked to get away during this horrendous winter, between our kids being in school (when it wasn’t closed) and the airport being buried, we could do nothing but dream. That didn’t stop my husband from looking into what a vacation in Key West would be like. He was smart enough to look at times when all four of us could go, and that was when he made some surprising discoveries.
Discovery one was that there was plenty to do for everybody. Key West has a reputation as a party town, but we found several different activities that would keep us all busy. And when we didn’t want to be busy, there was always a beach to go to. Discovery two was that the average summer temperature in Key West is lower than other more “touristy” locations in Florida. We all talked about it and decided we would try something new this year.
We’re still undecided about flying in or driving down on the Overseas Highway, but no matter how we get there, we are already looking into planning our summer vacation by letting everyone pick one day where they get to choose what it is we do. With so much to choose from, we’re going to run out of days before we run out of options.
Pretty much from the first date, my husband and I knew how to compromise on almost everything so we would both enjoy what we were doing. Still, I was a little nervous when we started talking wedding plans. I always envisioned a traditional ceremony and reception, while he wanted a tropical island wedding. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out until we discovered Key West.
We went down on an early scouting trip even before we knew much about it, and almost right away, many of my fears were put at ease. There were several churches to choose from, and many Key West restaurants had the menu, style and décor that I was looking for, but then a strange thing started to happen to me.
The more I thought about our time down there, the more I realized I didn’t want to have the same wedding I could back home. We started looking at some of the different options, including getting married on a boat at sunset, or at a historic fort on the beach, and I realized how much fun and how memorable that could be.
My husband was so excited about my change of mind that he blindsided me and found the perfect reception spot that was everything I could have hoped for. There were beautiful outdoor dining decks, some of the best seafood I ever had, and a casual elegance to the whole evening that was fancy enough to make the event special but relaxed enough so everyone had a great time. And when the reception was over, we didn’t even have to pack for the honeymoon.
Anyone who has gone on a spring break trip usually has a story about some crazy romance that lasted just as long as the vacation did. We all thought that happened to one of our friends when we went down to Key West for spring break several years ago. Little did we know that the two of them stayed in touch, made the long distance relationship work, and even took a couple of vacations on their own back to Key West.
Naturally, when it came time for their wedding, they first thought of honeymooning in Key West. Then they decided to have an island wedding as well. Since they had met during spring break, and many of the people whom they would be inviting had been on that same trip with them, they decided to have the wedding the same calendar week. Talk about a trip down memory lane.
We tried to do as many of the same silly things we had done back then – late night karaoke followed by an early morning Jet Ski tour – but found we didn’t bounce back the way we used to. Luckily, calmer heads prevailed and this time, we spent doing things we hadn’t thought of all those years earlier. This included visiting some of the Key West restaurants and having the best meals of our lives.
They got married on a sailboat right as the sun was setting, and we sailed back into the harbor under the starlight. As they went off to start their honeymoon, the rest of us tried to do the Duval crawl one last time. We were all in bed long before last call!
My son is getting married later this year, and in a move that flipped a lot of wedding traditions on its ear, he was the insistent one on where and how it would happen. He has always had a love for tropical paradises ever since I first read him “Treasure Island,” and when he proposed to his fiancé, he did it with the caveat they would get married on a beach with a palm tree blowing in the background. She said yes with a caveat of her own: it better not include any more work than planning a wedding at home would be.
Luckily for both of them, he did his work ahead of time and knew that Key West, Florida was going to be the perfect location. It offered multiple choices for every aspect, from how to get there and where to stay to where to hold it and what kind of food to serve at the wedding reception. Best of all was the number of full-time professional wedding planners living and working on the island. He and his fiancé had a chance to meet with several of them to choose the one that they felt most comfortable working with and thought could help make their dreams – okay, his dream – come true.
Already, the wedding planner has proven her worth by setting up tasting meals at several of the finest Key West restaurants to help them choose the reception menu. She checks in by phone and email constantly to keep them up to date and responds promptly whenever they have a question or concern. I’m just worried my son is setting a dangerous precedent of efficiency for the rest of his marriage.
Part of the reason my fiancé and I chose to have a tropical island wedding was because we wanted to create a complete experience for our guests. We knew that no matter how hard we tried to recreate the feel of Key West, Florida – an island that was special to each of us even before we met – it still wouldn’t be the same as if we were there. We also knew that meant making sure the menu for our reception wasn’t full of the same choices we could have gotten at home.
Part of why we love going to visit the southernmost island is to visit the amazing Key West restaurants. The hardest part of any vacation down there is deciding which restaurants we are going to visit. There are so many great ones to discover, but at the same time, we don’t want to forget about our favorites. Let’s just say that, even though the fresh seafood is healthy for you, when we get home from eating all that amazing key lime pie, we spend a lot of extra time at the gym.
We’re making sure that our reception menu features some of those great food choices. Obviously, you can’t be in Key West and not have some conch fritters, but we are also going to have Mahi sliders, shrimp and crab cakes, and plenty of Key West pink shrimp as well. The seafood is too fresh to not make it a featured part of the menu. One thing we are not doing is having a wedding cake. We’re going to replace that with a wedding key lime pie.
Your island wedding is supposed to be all about you, right? Right! This is your time to shine! Yes, there will be a groom there too, but for the most part, it is all about the bride! This is the one time in your life where you can be a little crazy and get away with it without any flak from your friends. It will be hectic. It will be exhausting, but it will also be one the greatest things you have ever done. In the end, you will be glad it turned out the way it did.
When it comes to the entertainment and food served at your island wedding, make sure you keep your guests happy, but also stay true to your beliefs. Your best friend may be a little over the top with the organic health food, but you enjoy a bloody steak and french fries! There is always a healthy balance when it comes to having options for your guests and still enjoying what you like. Of course, if there are allergies in anyone’s families, they can take that into consideration. It is the polite thing to do. Everyone who has gotten married in the past will tell you to make sure you have a good caterer! This person will make your life so much easier worrying about all of the food for your event!
This will certainly be the island wedding of the century if you do your research and stay true to what you like as a couple, of course.
So, you want to have an island wedding? You will have to make some difficult decisions in the near future so why don’t you sit down and ask yourself some questions first?
Where is your ideal wedding venue and why?
This is a question many couples planning a wedding face. It may seem like a really great idea to have a wedding in Bora Bora, but how much does it rain there and what are your options for a backup plan? Lucky for you, the answers to these and many other questions can be found online. In this day and age, every resort should have a virtual tour on their website so potential customers can see exactly what they are paying for before they make the purchase. Planning an island wedding costs a lot of money so it is natural to be a little nervous in this situation. Customer service is crucial to letting people feel at ease and like they are spending their money in a good way.
How many of your family and friends could make it to this island wedding? Are you okay with that?
You may think a small intimate wedding is what you want, but when you sit down to make your guest list, you will soon realize that you know a lot of people! More guests at a wedding means more money spent! This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your budget. An out of town, tropical wedding packed with entertainment may be just the thing to make your guests spring for a plane ticket!
One of the biggest mistakes my husband and I almost made when we were planning our island wedding in Key West, Florida was with the reception menu. We thought we had all the tips for picking a great reception menu, but we forgot that the reception we were planning was not going to happen in our small town. Our wedding planner made us realize what the point was of having such a beautiful ceremony if we were going to offer the same experience and not embrace all that Key West had to offer. Armed with this realization, we sat back down and rethought our plan of attack.
We knew that we wanted the menu to feature seafood. One of the reasons my husband and I fell in love with the island was because of all the great Key West restaurants and the chance to have amazing food we had never heard of before. We wanted to be sure that our guests would have a chance to experience some of the food that Key West is famous for, like its crab cakes and pink shrimp. That was when my husband had a great idea.
“Why not go all the way,” he said, “and trade in the traditional wedding cake for a key lime wedding pie?” That was exactly what we did. It was one of the biggest pies I had ever seen in my life and it was delicious. Everyone loved it. It was such a memorable part of our island wedding that I don’t even mind the little green stain of it that my husband got on my wedding dress.