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.
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.
My niece decided to have a destination wedding in Key West, Florida. My wife and I were invited but were on the fence about going. We wanted to be there, but we both work full-time and getting time off might be a challenge. Plus, we both thought that maybe we were too old to go there. It seemed to us to be a younger person’s island. But we love our niece so we decided to look into it.
The first surprise was finding a flight that got us directly into Key West and only involved us taking two vacation days. The second surprise was discovering the number of quirky little inns to choose from. Based on the recommendations and reviews we read online, we chose one that was close to where everything would be happening but far enough away that it would be quiet at night (the third surprise was actually getting there and discovering that the reviews were true. The place was beautiful, relaxing, and, yes, quiet).
Since we had had so much luck trusting anonymous reviews for where to stay, we decided to try our luck again when it came to the Key West restaurants. We went online and found several places that had received great recommendations, so we checked them out. We were blown away by not only how amazing the food was, but also the level of service and the beauty of the outdoor dining.
We had such a great time that after the reception was over and some of the younger people were going out, we decided to join them. We may not have stayed up as late as they did, but we discovered Key West is perfect for just about everyone.
My wife and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary last year, and we wanted to do something really special to commemorate the occasion. When we got married, neither of us had much money, so the ceremony was really simple and the honeymoon was just a quick weekend getaway. Over the years, we talked about all the things we would have done if we could have afforded them. She saw all these people having destination weddings and said she would have loved to have gotten married on a tropical island.
Over the years, we have taken a few trips to Key West, first as a few hour stop on a cruise and then for a few days or a week. When I got to thinking about how we could make the anniversary something special, it dawned on me: why not have the wedding my wife wishes she could’ve had? We have both been successful enough with our careers that we could easily do all the things we had to skimp on 25 years earlier.
During our trips down there, we have seen several couples getting married, so I made a few phone calls and started putting the plan together. My wife was so surprised when I told her, she started to cry. Several of our friends were able to make the trip and have destination vacations of their own. Just like she pictured it, we said our vows on a silky sand beach with a palm tree waving in the breeze, and kissed right as the sun was setting. A nice perk was not wearing a tux this time.
Having one daughter, my friends laughed at me the whole time she was growing up. They knew that she was daddy’s little girl and I was spoiling her rotten. To her credit, she has grown up into a level-headed young woman who doesn’t act entitled or take anything for granted (of course I’m going to say that. I’m her father). Still, I was taken aback when she told me that island weddings were all the rage and she wanted to have hers in Key West, Florida.
All I could think of was how much more of a logistical nightmare it was going to be planning a wedding on a tiny island a thousand miles away from where we live and that I have never been to. Turns out that, not only was it no more expensive than what it would have cost here at home, there were so many people down there who work on weddings for a career that it was a breeze. The first thing we did was hire a trustworthy wedding planner who was our point person. She had all the tips for planning an island wedding and made everything, from finding the perfect beach to choosing from between the Key West restaurants, a snap.
When the big day came, everything could not have gone more perfectly. The weather was beautiful, my daughter and her husband were ecstatic, and I discovered a place where I could both go fishing and play golf on the same vacation. For that reason alone, I don’t think my wife will ever forgive my daughter for having her wedding in Key West
Planning a wedding reception is like buying a car. You may know exactly what you think you want, but you probably don’t know the best way to go about getting it. It takes a certain amount of trust and believing that the person you are working with is going to help you make the best decision. The difference is you probably haven’t spent a fair amount of time picturing the day you buy a car, surrounded by family and friends, wearing a beautiful dress and committing to spending the rest of your life with that car. Sometimes it can be tough letting go of some of the decision making when it comes to planning a wedding reception, but it might be the best thing for you, especially if yours happens to be a destination wedding in Key West.
It’s the little things that are going to make your wedding and reception the memorable event that you want it to be, and those little things are going to be best handled by the professionals. Key West hosts over 1,000 island weddings a year, which means the Key West restaurants know how to make the perfect wedding reception. Obviously, they know this is your event and will work with you to make it perfect, but remember that this is (hopefully) the first wedding reception you’ve planned. Much like when you bought your first new car, the people selling it to you had plenty of experience, so is it with the planning of your island wedding reception. They want to make it just as special as you do, and they know just how to do that.
No matter what kind of wedding reception you are planning, from a traditional affair at a banquet hall, an informal gathering in your back yard or as the crowning moment of your island weddings, everyone will have a great time as long as you take care of the three D’s: dancing, drinking and dining.
Dancing is easy. Just make sure you hire a high energy band or a DJ who knows how to work a room and follow the crowd. If you have a fully stocked bar with maybe a “signature drink” that is special for the occasion, you’ll have the drinking part down pat. It is the dining part that can be the most easily messed up, but if you are planning a great destination wedding in Key West, Florida, it is also the part of the night that will keep the guests talking.
Key West is known for having the freshest seafood and the best key lime pie, and there are dozens of Key West restaurants that specialize not only in fine dining with a degree of casual elegance, but also have the experience at hosting the perfect wedding receptions. They know that most people who have their weddings there are looking for fun over formality, so they will put together a menu that features all of their great food and presents it in an easygoing way so people can relax and enjoy themselves. When it comes to island weddings, the wedding may be for you, but the island is for your guests, so make sure you give them a 3-D wedding reception they will never forget.