My husband and I got married in a Florida Keys park beside the Atlantic Ocean, less than half a mile from the home we still share.
We wanted a simple wedding, one that reflected the easygoing way we live. We had no idea that our ceremony would be serendipitously blessed by a pod of dolphins frolicking just offshore, or that our golden retriever “flower dog” would unexpectedly abandon his duties and take off, tail wagging, for the nearby beach — followed by our startled four-year-old flower girl.
And we certainly didn’t expect that a sport fishing boat would motor by and one of its anglers would offer us a wedding-day message.
Spotting the celebratory crowd, and a man and woman obviously about to tie the knot, he cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered across the water, “It’s not too late — JUMP! We’ll pick you up!”
Was he trying to rescue my husband-to-be from the perils of matrimony? Or me? We’ve laughed about the incident many times since that day, but we’ll never know.
Actually, we’ve laughed about a number of offbeat wedding occurrences (including the wandering flower dog). Though we could have held our ceremony practically anywhere in the U.S. or Caribbean, we know our beloved Keys were the perfect spot.
We’re far from alone; the Florida Keys are one of the country’s top wedding destinations.
Why? For one thing, the attitude is very easygoing and informal — which means much of the stress of typical wedding planning simply doesn’t happen. Terrific planners can be found from Key Largo to Key West to handle every detail.
Plus, a visit to the Keys is generally regarded as a lighthearted vacation occasion for the entire wedding group — so the experience of the wedding becomes a unique, eagerly anticipated occasion for everyone involved.
And once the wedding party and guests arrive, they’ll be happily entertained. So many activities can be arranged for family and friends — from deep-sea fishing to tall ship sailing excursions to salon services — that the bride and groom don’t need to worry about taking care of their guests. Instead, they can focus on the deepening of their relationship and their lives together.
Another plus is that, while the Keys certainly host formal weddings, many are delightfully informal. The “tux and unflattering bridesmaids’ dress” cliché simply doesn’t have to apply.
Shorts or khakis for men and pretty sundresses for women are popular wedding attire, making the wedding a more laid-back and comfortable experience for the whole group (and eliminating the cost of an item that’s worn only once).
Looking for a setting for intriguing wedding photos? Try the water’s edge with a famed Keys sunset as the backdrop, a historic Civil War-era fort, the Southernmost Point that marks the southernmost spot of land in the continental U.S., or the tiny island of Pigeon Key beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon.
In fact, if you’re making wedding plans of any kind, consider saying your “I Dos” in the Keys. Just remember to avoid wandering anglers — and keep an eye on your flower dog!