One-of-a-Kind Wedding Wonders

Hotels, Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By Julie on April 6, 2010 at 7:30 pm

What little girl doesn’t dream of her wedding day?  While some dreams are more unusual than others, for the bride who wants to walk off the beaten path to the altar, the Florida Keys & Key West offer warm weather, breathtaking sunsets and one-of-a-kind wedding opportunities.

Photo by Bob Care

In Key Largo, certified divers can pledge their vows beside a coral reef or at the bronze Christ of the Deep statue. Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo specializes in underwater weddings, whether a diver’s dream is an intimate ceremony for two or a soiree for more than 200. Couples dive down to exchange vows written on a slate and check the “I do” box to seal the deal. The resort provides the bride with flower-filled conch shell for her bouquet and the groom with a tuxedo T-shirt. Guests can dive with the couple, snorkel from above or wait on the dive boat during the ceremony. Receptions can take place aboard Amoray’s 45-foot catamaran or back at the beautiful bayfront resort.

In the Keys, the underwater theme can even be extended to the honeymoon. Clothes and personal items must be packed in the waterproof suitcases provided to couples spending their first night of wedded bliss at  Jules Verne Underseas Lodge, the world’s only underseas overnight accommodations.

Arrrghhhh, ye mateys! Couples can swallow the anchor — the pirate term for getting married — in a pirate–themed wedding by Key West FantaSea Weddings. Options range from an elaborate sunset ceremony aboard a private ship, with guests dressed as scallywag crew, to an informal dockside wedding for two with the officiator and photographer dressed in pirate garb.

All pirate weddings by FantaSea Weddings feature vows exchanged in “authentic” pirate lingo. Drinks typically include champagne, rum, rum punch and grog, a mixture of rum, sugar water and of course lime to prevent scurvy. Because many Key West residents are pirates at heart, some ceremonies have been attended by local pirates singing songs and reading poems in true buccaneering spirit.

Animal lovers can enjoy a playful celebration with gentle bottlenose dolphins in attendance at Islamorada’s Theater of the Sea, where wedding guests enjoy a private dolphin and sea lion show before the ceremony. A watery chariot pulled by dolphins can carry couples to the altar to exchange vows, with dolphins serving as ring bearers as well.

To make the bride and groom’s first dance a memorable one, Theater of the Sea trainers can choreograph special dolphin behaviors to go along with the couple’s favorite love song. After vows are exchanged, guests can attend a lush island paradise reception at the Starlight Terrace. The terrace is surrounded by exotic orchid-filled tropical gardens, with a winding path lined with fiery torches and natural saltwater pools featuring reef and game fish, sea turtles and sharks.

Avid anglers have been known to cast lines after officially getting “hooked” by ordained minister Jill Atkinson of Mile Marker Party Rentals aboard one of the many charter outfits she works with. With more than 300 weddings under her belt, Atkinson has become an expert in off-the-beaten-path ceremonies and displays a “be anywhere at any time” attitude. As well as hooking fish with expert anglers, she’s married couples aboard a powerboat during a parade at the annual Marathon Grand Prix, on private islands, aboard jet skis and even on a whim with less than an hour’s notice.

Atkinson especially recalls a wedding at sea when the water seemed to stand still as the bride and groom took their vows against an orange sunset, and a pod of wild dolphins jumped up near the boat to celebrate with them following the ceremony. Mile Marker Party Rentals’ office is based in Marathon. To learn more, call 305-743-4466.

Six-toed polydactyl cats roam the grounds of Hemingway Home & Museum. Photo by Rob O'Neal

Literary buffs can say “I do” at the former home of Ernest Hemingway, one of America’s most influential 20th-century writers, who lived in Key West throughout the 1930s. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, now an historical landmark, occupies an acre of land with lush tropical gardens, swarms of polydactyl cats, and a breathtaking historical home that is an official historical landmark. Special events at the Hemingway Home are held outdoors and can include private guided tours through the museum for guests. An Ernest Hemingway look-alike can make an appearance as well, putting a new spin on being walked down the aisle by “Papa.”

Events director Dave Gonzales, whose family has lived next door to the home since Hemingway lived there, can accommodate virtually any request the bride and groom may have. The property also features three live Web cameras to capture the wedding action for guests who can’t attend the ceremony.

Tags: commitment ceremony, Florida Keys, Key Largo, marriage, outdoor weddings, pirate weddings, pirates, undersea, underwater weddings, weddings