29 January 2019
FLORIDA KEYS Florida Keys weddings are memorable affairs for a wide variety of people exchanging vows: mainstream couples, golden-age sweethearts, pairs with blended families, and gay and lesbian duos alike.
The naturally romantic and picturesque Florida Keys, a 125-mile-long chain of islands known as “America’s Caribbean,” are a top U.S. wedding destination with a subtropical climate ideal for ceremonies and honeymoons virtually year-round.
Honeymooners and wedding parties alike can savor their time spent in the Keys whether staying in a luxury oceanfront resort, an intimate island retreat or a restored historic guest house.
Couples can marry while diving underwater or on paddleboards, on a beach at sunrise or sunset, backdropped by a Civil War–era fort, or at the historic homes and gardens of former full- or part-time residents such as author Ernest Hemingway or President Harry S. Truman.
Distinctive activities during a wedding or honeymoon trip can include sailing on a tall ship or commandeering the wheel, chartering a sailboat, planting coral underwater or even mingling with flamingos. A variety of brew, rum and food tours also are growing in popularity for wedding parties.
Among the Florida Keys’ wedding and honeymoon offerings:
In Key Largo, the new adults-only Bungalows Key Largo, a 12-acre 135-unit “luxury inclusive’ resort at mile market 99 bayside, is the Keys’ first all-inclusive resort and is managed by Noble House Hotels & Resorts. Amenities include Zen Garden Spa, two in-ground pools, a fitness Tiki hut, 1,000 feet of shoreline, three piers to accommodate 40-foot-long boats; 800-square-foot bungalows; and 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Dining venues include Bogie & Bacall’s, Sea Señor, Fish Tales and a food truck, while two on-site bars can satisfy thirsty customers. Rates include golf cart pick-up and drop-off service, lodging, food and premium beverages, amenities and water toys, and on-site activities. Visit BungalowsKeyLargo.com or call 866-801-0195.
Accepting bookings for stays beginning on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, the Florida Keys’ only Curio Collection by Hilton property is the new 200-room, 13-acre Baker’s Cay Resort at mile marker 97 bayside in Key Largo. The resort features 12 venues with 25,000 square feet for weddings of up to 400 people, a 4,000-square-foot ballroom and 7,000-square-foot lawn. Want Fido in the ceremony? Choose “Cay-9” pet options with Tiki hut, customized pet wedding attire and even doggie wedding cakes. “Puptails” include bacon-flavored “yappetizers,” Cay-9 Kibble and Catch of the Day entrees, ice cream bones, Dog Perignon Champagne (filtered water with wild Alaskan salmon oil) and FetchMe Noir (filtered water infused with organic bacon extract). Visit bakerscayresort.com or call 305-852-5553.
Dolphin Point Villas, located at mile marker 102 bayside in Key Largo, can accommodate on-site wedding parties up to 62 and host weddings for 125 guests. The villa resort is adjacent to Dolphins Plus, where guests can swim with dolphins. Five villa homes offer one to three bedrooms. Additionally, the Nautilus House can sleep up to 16 with five bedrooms and five baths, as well as a private pool and large wrap-around porch. The property is located at 101910 Overseas Highway. Visit dolphinpointvillas.com or call 305-451-0315.
The 25-acre oceanfront, 114-room Islander Resort reopened in December in Islamorada as a greenhotels.com member. It offers contemporary cottage-style units with screened-in lanais, a new 6,000-square-foot Great Lawn and 110,000 square-foot beachfront event space, a 2,760-square-foot Blue Marlin Ballroom and Tarpon Terrace, and 25 nearby two-story, two-bedroom bayside townhomes. Snorkeling trips, sunset sails, two oceanfront pools and a hot tub, massage and wellness services, and new family splash pad are among resort offerings. Dining concepts include the casual poolside Tides Beachside Bar & Grill and Elements Lounge & Restaurant. Visit islanderfloridakeys.com or call 305-664-2031.
In Islamorada, the fully renovated 214-room, 27-acre oceanfront Cheeca Lodge & Spa offers 4,600 square feet of versatile space and a Tahitian-style Spa Island. There are six outdoor venues, and the resort has two pools: one adults-only and one for families. Its Bougainvillea Ballroom has 12-foot ceilings and 2,100 square feet for up to 150 guests in banquet round tables. A 1,900-square-foot Sunrise Ballroom and adjoining 750-square-foot Oceanfront Terrace host wedding parties of up to 110 in banquet rounds. The main lodge’s second level also has a 1,900-square-foot Sunset Ballroom and 750-square-foot Oceanfront Terrace. Groups can plan a sunrise breakfast on a 39-foot motor catamaran or an event on nearby Indian Key. A third oceanfront pool and second Tiki bar are planned. Cheeca Lodge is located at 81801 Overseas Highway. Visit cheeca.com or call 866-348-7053 or 305-712-7166.
The 60-acre Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key has wedding venue space that includes 20,000 square feet of waterfront and two ballrooms for 480 guests, or 450 banquet-style. Events for wedding parties include welcome receptions, pool parties, sunset cruises, fishing excursions, dolphin encounters and farewell brunches. The Preferred Hotel Group Lifestyle Collection and AAA Four Diamond Award–rated resort reopened with a $50 million renovation in fall 2018, offering 250 two- and three-bedroom villas and 177 guest rooms. Dining venues include Angler and Ale restaurant and the new Sixty-one Prime and Hawks Cay Marketplace. A new adults-only pool area offers a grill and bar serving specialty drinks. Visit hawkscayresort.com or call 855-395-5539.
Marathon’s 24-acre, 199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort, located at the Seven Mile Bridge oceanside at mile marker 47, is scheduled to open in April. It offers a 4,000-square-foot spa with five treatment rooms and treatments for bridal parties and flower girls; spa lounge and couples’ massage room. The resort has more than 24,000 square feet of event space including a 4,000-square-foot Hibiscus Center for weddings and anniversary celebrations, five pools, four food and beverage concepts, a full-service marina and a sunset pier. Dining venues include Il Postino, a Neapolitan-style Italian restaurant; The Beach Bar; The Burger Palace and Manatee Bay Marketplace, a waterfront cafe with shopping. Bocce, croquet, oversized chess, complimentary bicycles, on-site watersports and guided fishing expeditions are among available activities. The resort also is to feature two custom MOKE beach cruisers that can be creatively incorporated into weddings and events on the property. Visit islabellabeachresort.com or call 844-885-4706.
For a unique bachelorette party activity, Key Largo’s Ocean sirens, an International Mermaid Swimming Instructors Association mermaid academy, offers full- and half-day mermaid classes in a pool. Classes include a mermaid tail fitting and rental, instruction in breathing techniques and swimming with a tail, and information about mermaid history. Photo shoots and advanced classes on how to do handstands, bubble-blowing or underwater flips also are offered. Visit oceansirens.com or call 404-580-4756.
At Islamorada’s Aquaholic Adventures at the Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina at mile marker 84, water lovers can participate in “Sip and SUP” eco-tour experiences. The intriguingly named tour features paddleboarding and kayaking through Key Largo and Islamorada while enjoying libations from local bars. The company’s motto is “Paddling Makes Every Hour HAPPY HOUR,” and personalized paddleboard and kayak tours can be arranged. The outfitter delivers boards and kayaks to other venues in Key Largo and Islamorada. Group discounts are available for night, dolphin and “Sip and SUP” tours. And romantic sunset tours are ideal for couples in love.  Visit aquaholicadventures.com or call 305-330-9874.
In Islamorada, Florida Keys Brewing Co.’s new 1,100-square-foot taproom showcases two brewing systems, each dispensing 10 brews. It also has a beer garden. Brews are infused with flavors such as Key lime, citrus and local honey. The emporium also serves mead from Key Largo’s Keys’ Meads, the Keys’ only meadery, and draft kombucha. Florida Keys Brewing Co. is located at 81611 Overseas Highway, at Old Highway and Morada Way. Visit floridakeysbrewingco.com or call 305-916-5206.
Islamorada Beer Co. has launched Islamorada Distilling, distilling on-site branded gin, vodka, and dark barrel-aged and spiced rums. Spirits tastings are offered daily. The 450-square-foot distillery also has a 400-square-foot gift shop and tasting room. It’s located at 82229 Overseas Highway. Visit islamoradadistilling.com or islamoradabeerco.com or call 305-440-2162.
Wedding parties needing a ride on Islamorada’s Upper Matecumbe Key after shopping, dining or imbibing can take Freebee Islamorada, a free electric vehicle ride service available Thursdays through Sundays. Freebee’s service is offered Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturdays from noon to midnight and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit islamorada.fl.us/news_detail_T13_R188.php or ridefreebee.com/ or call 305-502-4191.
The 32-passenger When and If, a historic wooden schooner built for George S. Patton in 1939, has returned to the Keys for the season through mid-May, operating out of Stock Island Marina Village. Passengers can step aboard the classic vessel for day or sunset sails or private charters — perfect for a wedding group. The sleek black yacht originally was commissioned by Patton, then a U.S. Army colonel, for the intention of sailing around the world with wife Bea. Patton died in 1945 as a celebrated Army general. When and If was designed by noted marine architect John Alden, built by F.F. Pendleton for racing and safe, comfortable and luxurious family voyaging. Visit sailwhenandif.com or call 305-587-4488.
At the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, fans of resident pink flamingos Rhett and Scarlett, a 6-year-old male and female breeding pair, can “Flamingle” with the creatures during daily hourlong encounters. The conservatory is the only butterfly facility in the United States housing flamingos. Groups of four to six can get up close and personal during the exclusive “Flamingle” experience. Human participants sit in a white gazebo overlooking the pond and lushly planted conservatory, while Rhett and Scarlett walk free and interact as they choose. Participants are not allowed to touch the flamingos, but are encouraged to communicate and socialize with them. Visit keywestbutterfly.com or call 305-296-2988, ext. 11.
Fish ‘N Chicks Charters Key West, a private charter operation for groups of up to five, offers island and sandbar tours, sunset cruises and eco tours aboard an 18-foot Yamaha 150. Four-hour half-day tours, six-hour full-day tours and two-hour sunset cruises are available, captained by Raquel Crummitt, whose family has been in Key West for 40 years. The charter company is located at 1802 N. Roosevelt Blvd. Visit fishnchickskeywest.com or call 904-420-3090.
Key West First Legal Rum Distillery offers complimentary mojito-making classes and tastings Mondays through Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. Distillery owner Paul Menta recently sailed to Havana to learn secrets of an authentic mojito. Friends can also blend and label a celebratory bottle of rum (reservations are required). New locally made treats include rum Key lime and rum coconut Key lime pies and rum cakes. The distillery is located at 105 Simonton St. in Key West. Visit keywestlegalrum.com or call 305-294-1441.
The Hemingway Rum Co. Distillery in Key West hosts private parties and plans to open new 2,400-square-foot event center this year. The 8,200-square-foot brick attraction, once a tobacco warehouse, houses the Papa’s Pilar Rum production facility, experience center, tasting room and trading post. A 350-gallon still produces up to 80 gallons of rum daily from molasses, yeast and water. Thirty-minute tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the facility, located at 201 Simonton St. in Key West. Tours are priced at $10 per person and include a $5 certificate toward a bottle of rum. Visit papaspilar.com or call 305-414-8754.
Key West Food Tours features a three-hour The Craft Cocktail Crawl. Participants receive Key West signature drinks including a Hemingway daiquiri, locally brewed beer and a margarita. Three food pairings include tastings and a complimentary food tour booklet, with coupons and recommended eateries. The tour visits Mary’s Ellen’s Bar & Restaurant, The Saint Hotel, First Flight Brewery, Tiki House and Agave 308 tequila bar. Visit keywestfoodtours.com or call 305-396-2224.
Want to make an authentic Key lime pie? Classes at the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. teach participants to do just that. “Students” create mini-Key lime pies of graham cracker crust, Key lime filling and whipped topping. The tangy treat, linked to Key West’s history, is believed to have first been created by “Aunt Sally,” a cook for Key West’s first millionaire and ship salvager, William Curry, in the 1800s. Spongers and fishermen made it onboard their vessels with simple ingredients that didn’t require refrigeration. Classes take place in a live kitchen at 511 Greene St. Visit keylimepieco.com or call 855-SWT-PETE.
Florida Keys wedding information: fla-keys.com/weddings/
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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