WED­DINGS AND HONEYMOONS: Love is in the air

Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY ROCHELLE LASH

Florida is home to scores of gor­geous wed­ding venues and hon­ey­moon havens, all of which are poised to cre­ate mem­o­rable cel­e­bra­tions.

You can say “I do” in an or­nate ball­room or on a breezy sun-drenched beach. Or in­dulge your per­sonal pas­sion at any type of life­style get­away. Whether you love lav­ish trop­i­cal gar­dens, the arts, horses, the high seas or golf, Florida has the per­fect des­ti­na­tion to ful­fill your dream cel­e­bra­tions, as well as the ex­pert or­ga­niz­ers to make it hap­pen.

THE GOR­GEOUS GULF

The rel­a­tively calm wa­ters and un­par­al­leled sun­sets of the Gulf of Mex­ico are a back­drop to some of Florida’s most splen­did wed­ding and hon­ey­moon ex­pe­ri­ences.

Ro­mance and fam­ily life are in per­fect har­mony at the idyl­lic Sun­dial Beach Re­sort & Spa on beau­ti­ful Sani­bel Is­land, near Fort My­ers. The prop­erty is home to con­ve­nient condo-style ac­com­mo­da­tion as well as bi­cy­cling, kayak­ing, pad­dle­board­ing, ten­nis and trendy new pick­le­ball.

An­other fam­ily trea­sure is the eco­con­scious Plan­ta­tion on Crys­tal River, about an hour’s drive north of Tampa on in­land wa­ter­ways. Here, guests can swim with man­a­tees, play golf, fish or re­ju­ve­nate at Spa Bleu, which has hon­ey­moon pack­ages— with cham­pagne.

In crys­talline Clear­wa­ter Beach, the new Opal Sands Re­sort, a sis­ter prop­erty of the lux­u­ri­ous Sand­pearl Re­sort, com­mands a mag­nif­i­cent lo­ca­tion on a Gulf point.

Head­ing north to the Florida Pan­han­dle, The Hen­der­son is a new star in Destin, sit­u­ated on an ex­quis­ite beach­front be­tween Panama City and Pen­sacola.

HEAV­ENLY HONEYMOONS

On the sexy Gold Coast of the At­lantic Ocean, The Sea­gate Hotel & Spa is an in­ti­mate and classy hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tion, and the cen­ter­piece of the charm­ing town of Del­ray Beach in The Palm Beaches.

Honey­moon­ers head­ing out of Port Mi­ami, the largest cruise ter­mi­nal in the world, can start the fes­tiv­i­ties at ex­cit­ing main­land

Mi­ami hotels. The rich choice in­cludes Dou­ble Tree by Hil­ton Grand Hotel Bis­cayne Bay, a city within a city of shops and restau­rants, about one mile from the port; In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Mi­ami, an­other full-ser­vice beauty on Bis­cayne Bay; and bou­tique babes Aloft Mi­ami Brick­ell and YVE Mi­ami that pulse with mil­len­nial style.

Mi­ami Beach ex­udes heat and sex ap­peal, so ro­mance is al­ways on, not to men­tion the most rockin’ bach­e­lor and bach­e­lorette par­ties. Among the new­est stops is The Gates Hotel South Beach, a Dou­ble Tree by Hil­ton, which pops with retro style and color­ful decor and a hap­pen­ing cock­tail cul­ture.

Boom­ing Fort Laud­erdale can han­dle any­thing with panache—wed­dings large or small, and honeymoons that are pri­vate or party-cen­tric.

Greater Fort Laud­erdale’s Re­sort Col­lec­tion (for­merly the Laud­erdale Luxe Col­lec­tion) in­cludes sev­eral At­lantic oceanfront beau­ties among its 15 mem­bers: The Ritz-Carl­ton Fort Laud­erdale, Mar­gar­i­taville Hol­ly­wood Beach Re­sort, Pel­i­can Grand Beach Re­sort, Fort Laud­erdale Mar­riott Pom­pano Beach Re­sort & Spa, the tra­di­tional and tony Lago Mar Beach Re­sort & Club, and the clas­sic queen of Hol­ly­wood Beach, The Diplo­mat Beach Re­sort, which has been to­tally re­done with a new name, new guest rooms and new bars and restau­rants.

Dur­ing sum­mer and through Oc­to­ber 15, Greater Fort Laud­erdale’s “Va­ca­tion Like a VIP” pro­mo­tion at the Re­sort Col­lec­tion prop­er­ties adds perks such as up­grades, re­sort cred­its and shop­ping coupons. And your bach­e­lor and bach­e­lorette ac­tiv­i­ties will be good value with the area’s “Sum­mer Sav­ings 2-for-1” card on boat­ing, wa­ter sports, spa life and mu­se­ums.

The rain­bow spirit is strong in Fort Laud­erdale, the LGBTQ cap­i­tal of Florida, with 16 gay-friendly hotels and hun­dreds of gay-owned and op­er­ated busi­nesses.

Cruises also are part of Fort Laud­erdale’s DNA. Port Ever­glades Cruise Port, one of the top three cruise ports in the world (along with Mi­ami and Port Canaveral), is a 10-minute drive from the Fort Laud­erdale-Hol­ly­wood In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Sev­eral hotels of­fer air­port-cruise trans­porta­tion dis­counts or shut­tles, as well as spe­cial deals for cruise pas­sen­gers, on avail­abil­ity. These in­clude the River­side Hotel at the heart of the bou­tiques and bistros of trendy Las Olas Boule­vard, Hy­att Place Fort Laud­erdale 17th Street Con­ven­tion Cen­ter and Court­yard By Mar­riott Fort Laud­erdale Beach.

The Florida Keys are the quin­tes­sen­tial des­ti­na­tion for in­ti­mate li­aisons. Imag­ine the azure wa­ters, the for­ever views and the seren­ity!

The elegant Playa Largo Re­sort & Spa in Key Largo has an impressive va­ri­ety of lodg­ings—all achingly ro­man­tic—that in­clude adorable one-bed­room cot­tages and a mag­nif­i­cent three-bed­room Beach House with a pri­vate pool.

Forbes Travel Guide, a leader in lux­ury travel, also re­cently rec­om­mended five Keys re­sorts, all of which have su­pe­rior wed­ding and hon­ey­moon op­tions: Lit­tle Palm Is­land Re­sort & Spa on a pri­vate is­land off Lit­tle Torch Key; and in Key West, The Marker Water­front Re­sort; The Casa Ma­rina, A Wal­dorf As­to­ria Re­sort; The Reach, A Wal­dorf As­to­ria Re­sort; and South­ern­most Beach Re­sort.

NORTH­EAST NUP­TIALS

In pic­turesque St. Augustine in North­east Florida, the savvy con­sul­tants at St. Augustine Wed­dings and Spe­cial Events can or­ga­nize ev­ery­thing from tux rentals to ta­ble linens. With more than 450 years of his­tory, St. Augustine is home to dis­tinc­tive venues such as the Light­ner Mu­seum of 19th-cen­tury arts and the Peña-Peck House, built in 1750 and a for­mer home of both Span­ish and Bri­tish colo­nial aris­to­crats.

St. Augustine’s sin­gu­lar va­ri­ety of lodg­ing in­cludes many vin­tage bed and break­fasts such as the in­ti­mate Bayfront Marin House, as well as pres­ti­gious hotels such as the ma­jes­tic, Mediter­ranean-in­spired Casa Mon­ica Re­sort & Spa and the elegant Ponte Ve­dra Inn & Club.

On the At­lantic coast east of Jack­sonville, One Ocean Re­sort & Spa is a lux­u­ri­ous des­ti­na­tion for bridal par­ties and honey­moon­ers. Just north of Jack­sonville across a cause­way, en­chant­ing Amelia Is­land fea­tures his­tor­i­cal sites, thrilling sail­ing ex­cur­sions and splen­did re­sorts. The elegant Ritz-Carl­ton, Amelia Is­land, and the pic­turesque Omni Amelia Is­land Plan­ta­tion Re­sort are two clas­sic choices for ex­quis­ite wed­dings and in­dul­gent honeymoons. The El­iz­a­beth Pointe Lodge, also on Amelia Is­land, is a won­der­fully ro­man­tic bou­tique hotel on the beach.

The Sweet­wa­ter Branch Inn in Gainesville/Alachua County re­flects Vic­to­rian ro­mance and South­ern hos­pi­tal­ity with 20 charm­ing guest rooms, suites and cot­tages. Sweet­wa­ter’s events team has one goal: to cre­ate mem­o­rable oc­ca­sions.

THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

The Palm Beaches, a huge, var­ied va­ca­tion play­ground be­tween Fort Laud­erdale and Or­lando, is home to ex­quis­ite ball­rooms at grand hotels such as The Breakers and the Boca Ra­ton Re­sort & Club. But the great out­doors beck­ons as well.

If you love golf as much as you love your part­ner, the PGA Na­tional Re­sort & Spa in Palm Beach Gar­dens has un­der­gone a thor­ough ren­o­va­tion, from guest rooms to golf cour­ses, to the tune of more than US$125 mil­lion. The Lake­side Lawn is PGA’s new­est wed­ding venue.

Brides who dare to be dif­fer­ent can plan their nup­tials at innovative Palm Beach County venues such as the im­pos­ing Jupiter In­let Light­house & Mu­seum or the glam­orous In­ter­na­tional Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Welling­ton, which or­ga­nizes events fea­tur­ing daz­zling five-star chefs and thrilling polo matches.

TOP: A wed­ding at The Hen­der­son in Destin. ABOVE: A wed­ding at the Trea­sury in St. Augustine.

OP­PO­SITE TOP: A bride at Marie Selby Gar­dens in Sara­sota. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: Wed­ding at the Palm Beach In­ter­na­tional Polo Club. ABOVE: Pre-wed­ding golf prac­tice at the PGA Re­sort and Spa in Palm Beach Gar­dens.

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