Key Largo dockside wedding couple
  • A joyful bridal couple strolls down a Key Largo dock after sunset. (Photo by Lindsay Swanson, Stacia Morgan Photography)

     

  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • July 3, 2019

My husband and I got married in a Florida Keys park beside the Atlantic Ocean, less than two miles from the home we 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 — towing our startled four-year-old flower girl behind him.

Florida Keys wedding Flower Dog

As my father walks me down the woodsy park path, my “flower dog” suddenly decides to abandon wedding duties and head for the beach. (Photo by Richard Watherwax)

And we certainly didn’t expect the sport fishing boat that motored by carrying an on-the-water “wedding crasher” with a pre-matrimonial 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 marital peril? 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). And 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 among 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 opportunity 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 their relationship and their lives together.

underwater wedding Florida Keys Key Largo

Even underwater weddings are popular in the Keys. British Army Sergeant Thomas Mould and Sandra Hyde “dive into matrimony” in the waters off Key Largo. (Photo by Frazier Nivens, Florida Keys News Bureau)

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 attire, making the wedding a more laid-back and comfortable experience for the whole group (and eliminating the cost of an item that’s only worn once).

And the food options couldn’t be better — whether gourmet or waterfront casual. Many Keys restaurants overlook marinas, beaches or picturesque sunset spots, and can easily accommodate groups.

Imagine a reception menu of fresh local seafood: sweet Key West pink shrimp and sustainable stone crab claws, conch fritters and chowder, Key lime pie and dishes with a Caribbean or Cuban flair.

Naturally, more traditional cuisine is also available — and trust me, Keys caterers are happy to provide full on-site service at wedding hotspots like Key West’s Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum.

Looking for a setting for intriguing wedding photos? Try the Southernmost Point that marks the southernmost spot of land in the continental U.S., the Lower Keys’ deservedly famous Bahia Honda State Park, or the tiny island of Pigeon Key beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon.

Or pose aboard a classy charterboat at a world-class Islamorada marina, or cruising on Key Largo’s restored African Queen (yes, the actual vessel used in the classic Bogart film).

In fact, if you’re making wedding plans of any kind, consider saying your “I Dos” in the Keys. Just avoid rescue-minded “wedding crashers” — and keep an eye on your flower dog!

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