“So I know you don’t like traditional wedding stuff, but what if we got married on a beach somewhere… toes in the sand, tropical drinks with umbrellas… that sort of thing?”
He had just woken up on the couch after coming home from work. Walking into the living room, I sat down next to him on the edge of the cushion and laid my head on his chest. A long inhale, and then a smile, “I think I could handle that…”
This was the first time we had ever really talked about getting married. We had been dating for maybe three months. It’s utter cliche, but you know what they say: When you know, you just know.
So how does one simply “go shopping” for a wedding venue? We took a look at who we are, who are friends and family really are, and what makes us “Us.” Our initial assumptions were to keep the wedding on the smaller side, consider the pros and cons of partying in the northeast versus somewhere adventurous, and while we both worked in the wedding industry, the less we had to manage the better it would be.
Local Wedding, Local Talent: We instantly wanted a full ‘plug & play’ rig ready for our local music friends to play for each other as well as everyone else. But this is a horrible idea — we’ve all played weddings, and why would anyone want to ‘work’ at their friend’s wedding? Creatives tend to get tricked into doing favors that become more like occupational obligations and less like the lighthearted intention they were meant to be.
Local Faces: Let’s invite everyone! Even the friends of the family that might be polite ‘political’ maneuvers…! Also, everyone can, and probably will attend. ‘Everyone’ may also add up to more than 200 people. One day has now become 200 x $100/plate = sad-faced wallet.
Local Places: We’ve lived in the northeast our entire life and encountered a few gem-like celebration locations. We made a short list of three places that truly fit our style and inquired, “What do your Saturday weddings usually run?” The towering site fees of ‘floor space only’ crushed our local dreams. All tables, chairs, linens, silverware, food and beverage would have to be brought in a la carte. The quick and inexpensiveness of eloping was beginning to tip the scales.
Eloping: Speaking of which, our families knew marriage was a possibility worth putting money on. We went on vacation to Las Vegas with some friends (before we got engaged) and, not one, but BOTH mothers called each of us to say “If you get married out there, we want to be there! Don’t you DARE do it without us.” We walked down Chapel Row just to check it out and I have to say, the gaudiness of astroturf and rusted white filigree is far tackier in person than either of us imagined.
Destination Wedding: Sun & Sand in a Foreign Land: I was gunning for invitations that said, “Belize it or not, Stacey’s getting married!” (When you spend ten years telling people you’re never getting married, they really start to believe you.) A handful of friends had been to weddings down there and had reported all aspects of tropical, sand, and tiny umbrellas. However, lots of our potential attendees were without a passport. This would certainly help to keep the numbers down, but we didn’t want a wedding that small — primarily made of family and thus missing the friends we wanted to celebrate with the most.
Destination: Southern Most Point: “What if we kept it in the US but found a spot that felt like a tropical paradise?” This was a brilliant idea (*tips hat to the fiance*). We brainstormed a bit and started to hone in on the Florida Keys as an ‘In the US but doesn’t really feel like it’ option. Now we’re getting somewhere!
After researching online, talking to resident wedding planners, and emailing back and forth with the hotel staff, we picked three wedding venue choices: Postcard Inn of Holiday Isle, Hawks Cay of Duck Key, and the Hemingway House of Key West. Postcard Inn and Hawks Cay are all inclusive resorts that have plenty of locations, catering, and supplies to bring a wedding to life onsite. The Hemingway House was an a la carte venue where we would have to rent the space, and then bring in everything else separately. The latter was not what we desired, especially on the planning from afar perspective. But, you don’t know until you get there so we planned a trip to visit the first two, and thought if neither was a great fit, we’d hit up the Hemingway House.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and stayed overnight to enjoy breakfast on the beach. Then hopped down Route 1 to Holiday Isle, on to Duck Key, and finally landed in Key West for the remainder of the week. It was a lot to book, but, with Key West waiting for us at the end, it was worth all the hours spent discussing details and pricing.
In the end, we chose Hawks Cay, and enjoyed the hop from Duck Key to Key West so much, we hit ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ to make it the overarching plan of our wedding! Wedding at the top of the week (Sunday – Tuesday), and party (Wednesday – Saturday) at the end!
We encouraged everyone to come down to the Keys early and spend time enjoying the sun before the big day. Then, we invited the guests to join us for ‘The Afters’ in Key West. We had 66 people attend the wedding (pre-party included) and 22 people joined us in Key West for the rest of the week.
If you’re wondering, there was no additional honeymoon. We chose to combine it all into one big group celebration that lasted seven days. After moving out of state a few years back and spending plenty of time alone with each other, tying the knot with our closest friends and family was absolutely the icing on our cake.
Check out the sister post next!
10 Tips for Reviewing Potential Wedding Venues