Every year for work, I have to attend several different conferences. Most of these happen in large stale convention centers in Midwestern towns or hotel complexes conveniently located next to an airport. I’m not sure who thought having a conference in Key West was a good idea, but I was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
When I posted on social media that I would be going, many people who had been there before started telling me all the places I should go. I made up a list of the most recommended places, and when I had free time I went to check them out. I expected to enjoy myself while I was there, but what I didn’t expect was how amazing the dining experiences were.
In my mind (thanks to several childhood vacations to beachside tourist towns in New England) I expected every restaurant to offer their own version of deep fried seafood and that would be about it. I was blown away by the level of creativity and flavor that some of these Key West restaurants had come up with. Needless to say the seafood was as fresh as could be, I had some amazing crab cakes and, of course, I had to try what each place claimed was the best key lime pie on the island.
My husband wasn’t able to make the trip with me, but as soon as I got home, I told him to start planning some vacation time. I can’t wait to go back and try all the places I missed while revisiting those that are already my new favorite.
There are plenty of times where having a fancy sit down fine dining experience is the perfect plan for a wedding reception. Having a destination wedding in Key West on New Year’s Eve is neither the time nor the place. This is the most fun night of the year – which is probably part of the reason you chose to throw the biggest party of your life on that night – so make sure that the menu you pick for your reception is one that allows for your guests to enjoy themselves.
Conch, Florida lobster and stone crab are three of the fresh seafood choices Key West is most well known for. All of these are certainly items you should consider, especially because there are many ways to serve them as bite sized appetizers. This is the perfect way to combine the exotic flavors you wouldn’t be able to provide at a party back home with the convenience of being able to enjoy them while moving around the dance floor. And don’t worry if you have some picky eaters in your crowd. There are plenty of traditional menu items to choose from as well.
There may be a lot of seafood options, but dessert in Key West comes down to the best key lime pie you’ll find anywhere. Best of all is that it doesn’t have to be served just as a pie. You can have them make a wedding cake with it, or create an easily sharable dessert option as well. Perhaps a little key lime on a stick as your guest’s first bite to eat in 2015 while in Key West.
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.
I get along great with my mother-in-law now, but I almost didn’t, and it was all because of, you guessed it…the wedding. My wife and I had been to a few island weddings and we decided that was what we wanted: a simple affair on the beach at sunset, with a wedding reception that featured great seafood and an outdoor dining place where we could dance under the stars. Unfortunately, my wife was an only daughter, and when her mom saw that engagement ring, she went into overdrive trying to micromanage and plan every little detail for us. It got to the point where the two of us, plus my wife’s dad, scheduled an intervention.
We went out to dinner, figuring a public place would diminish the likelihood of a “scene”, and tried to explain the reason we wanted an island wedding and wedding reception was because we weren’t looking for a stressful environment for anybody. She was skeptical at first, but when we invited her to come with us to Key West while we made the arrangements, she decided she could use a vacation.
We imagined that she would watch us like a hawk, asking questions and making demands, but when she saw how professional all of the Key West restaurants were in making arrangements (not to mention how beautiful she found the island), she understood what we were looking for. At our island reception, I saw her having the time of her life, and she confided that from now on, island weddings were the only type of weddings she was going to attend.
If you ask one hundred people what they like least about their job, most of them will say the commute. I’m no different. My husband doesn’t understand, probably because he only drives ten minutes, whereas I ‘m in the car for almost an hour each way. That dreaded commute is why I insist that, when we go on vacation, it is to a tropical island paradise. My favorite island by far is Key West, Florida.
I discovered it years ago when my best friend decided that island weddings were the only way to go. Ever since that first trip, I have been going back at least every other year, and one of the little but important deciding factors was that I didn’t have to rent a car. In fact, once the taxi lets us off at our hotel, we either walk to where we are going or rent bikes for the week.
Don’t get me wrong. This car-less-ness wouldn’t mean a thing if the rest of the vacation was only so-so, but there is so much to fall in love with. The Key West restaurants are some of the best I’ve ever dined at, and that isn’t just the joy of outdoor dining under the stars talking. The seafood, as you can imagine, is amazingly fresh, and many of the restaurants feature what they call “new island cuisine.” I’ve tried making it at home and it isn’t just the same. Some days we go exploring and others we just relax by the pool, but I always smile when I first wake up, knowing I don’t have to drive anywhere.
When attempting to plan a wedding reception, the choices can often be overwhelming and the tasks become quite daunting. Generally, with a destination wedding, the goal is to keep it simple. You have fewer guests, you are far from home, and you want it to be about each other and not about hundreds of people that are on the guest list because your parents want them invited. So, the reception should be no different. To maintain the casual elegance of the setting is simple; there are plenty of venues to choose from, and by simply selecting the setting of the outdoors for dining, you can achieve this. The other thing you can do is to select buffet rather than plating the meal.
Next is the food. When in Rome, do as the Romans. So, if in the Keys, have seafood. You can have pasta or meat as an option if you like, but again, you are a smaller crowd and will generally know if you have anyone who is not a lover of seafood or perhaps has allergies where an offered substitute is suitable. Fresh fruits, grilled veggies, pastries, and a variety of drinks on hand will keep everyone happy and tummies filled. You can do traditional wedding cake, and if you’d like some variety and a little twist, add the option of key lime pie to the dessert table, too. Or even forgo the cake and go with the pie alone. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Whatever you choose for food, you will be thrilled, and having the reception outdoors will provide the perfect backdrop to the perfect reception. Cheers!
Thinking of a wedding on the islands? Maybe the Caribbean? The distance and expense of that may be a bit out of your budget. There is an alternative that will give you the same dream wedding but for a whole lot less. Come to the Keys! An island wedding in the Florida Keys could be the destination wedding of your dreams.
The Keys have so many options to choose from when it comes to planning your perfect nuptials. The islands are a stunning backdrop for any ceremony during that moment that you promise yourselves to one another. Nothing could be more beautiful than a sunset with the ocean waves in the background and the sand in your toes. You and your betrothed can declare your love before your closest friends and family without all the pomp and circumstance that so often clouds the occasion, and then the point gets lost in all the confusion and fuss of the petty details and annoying guests that your mother said just had to be invited. This wedding affair is sure to be intimate, romantic, and filled with moments to remember for a lifetime. The surf, the sun, the breeze, the sand and nothing more. It’s a dream come true for everyone there.
After the ceremony, continue the dream of a lifetime with a reception that is intimate, fun, and full of casual elegance. Outdoor dining venues with rooftop views or oceanfront charm are absolutely delightful and continue with the tone of the event. Dine on delectable seafood and flavors of the island that will make your senses come alive. Take a twist on tradition and serve the best key lime pie instead of cake and treat your taste buds.
Have your special moment be unforgettable. Mazel Tov!