WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS: Love is in the air
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.
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.
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.