Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine named the Florida Keys the top U.S. destination in its “Best Wedding Destinations” ranking of 2016.
“The destination provides an entertaining and secure option for both weddings and honeymoons,” said Guy Ross, LGBT sales manager for the Florida Keys tourism council. “There are so many romantic, charming guest houses and resorts on the island — both same-sex and all-welcome.”
Leading the nation in the historic fight for same-sex legal rights, Key West was Florida’s first city to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships and to encourage marriage equality. Monroe County was Florida’s first county to recognize those rights for the entire Keys island chain.
Both the city and county adopted the official motto One Human Family more than 15 years ago, proclaiming the inherent unity and equality of all people.
History was made on Key West’s Monroe County Courthouse steps at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 6, 2015, when the Florida Keys’ first same-sex marriage united local gay activists Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones.
Less than six months later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all states. More than 625 gay and lesbian marriages have been conducted in Key West since early 2015, according to the Monroe County Clerk of Court’s office.
Current trends indicate that most gay and lesbian weddings in Key West and the Florida Keys are intimate personal events with fewer than 30 guests, Ross said.
Historic Key West churches with lovely traditional indoor settings include St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Duval Street. At the nondenominational Metropolitan Community Church, pastors began performing commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples in 1984.
Domestic partnership and commitment ceremonies were the only option for gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry before the Supreme Court’s June 2013 reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Three years after that reversal, we are seeing more and larger ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples though, without question, smaller more intimate affairs still dominate,” Ross said.
“Because Key West and the Florida Keys continue to be one of the top five U.S. wedding destinations for mainstream couples, it is no surprise that our destination is equally popular with gay and lesbian couples,” said Ross.
Key West’s outdoor wedding settings, framed by fiery sunsets, include the half-mile-long Smathers Beach on the island’s southern side; gardens at the former home of author Ernest Hemingway, the Audubon House or the Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower; the White Street Pier; the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters; and many others.
Couples have married on paddleboards and bicycles, and scuba aficionados have tied the knot underwater. At Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, couples can marry on the beach or at a Civil War–era fort.
Florida Keys honeymoons can be spent in a luxury oceanfront resort, an intimate island suite or a lovingly restored historic guest house. Romantic activities might include taking the wheel of a tall ship during a sunset cruise, chartering a sailboat or booking a seaplane flight for a truly memorable day trip to the Dry Tortugas.
Throughout the Keys, experienced gay and lesbian wedding specialists can offer subtropical expertise in finding just the right attire, flowers, music, wedding rings, catering, cakes, photographers, videographers, decorators, transportation and officiants.
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/gay, www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Gay Key West Visitor Center: www.gaykeywestfl.com, 305-294-4603 or 1-800-535-7797
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