The days of a traditional church wedding may not be over, but couples are certainly searching out other options more than I have ever seen. Last year I attended two wintertime family destination weddings within a month of each other – one in Captiva Island, Florida and one in Cancun, Mexico.
I know it was a struggle for both sets of couples to make the choice of having a destination wedding. It meant not having as many close relatives and friends able to attend compared to having had one closer to home. But in truth both families are so spread out that many of the VIP guests would have had to travel to the wedding no matter where it was held.
For those who were able to attend, the trips became a wedding/vacation trip, and the outcome for both were impressive. Unfortunately a warm weather destination does not guarantee a good weather destination. Both weddings went off without a hitch, and were beyond beautiful, but overcast skies and windy conditions prevailed over both beach weddings.
A small island off the east coast of Florida with a look and feel that make you want to listen to Jimmy Buffet songs and drink margaritas. Many of the shops and restaurants sport a bright pastel color mix. And laid back is the language spoken. There are equally as many bikes being ridden up and down the one main island road as there are cars being driven.
About an hour drive from the Fort Meyers airport takes you to the taupe sandy beaches that line the Gulf side of the island. Beautiful homes line the landward side of the main road giving way to spectacular ocean views and some of the best sea shell hunting anywhere.
The wedding took place on the public beach located directly across from one of the main resorts on the island – “Tween Waters Inn”, where the reception and dinner was held afterwards. A structure made of wood poles and silk drapings on a slatted wood platform served as the altar, while the guests sat in chairs lined up along the sandy beach, with the Gulf providing a stunning backdrop. People walking up and down the beach, stopped to ooh and ahh at the beautiful couple. The bridesmaids dressed in turquoise ocean blue and the groom and his attendants in sand color, and everyone in bare feet.
Back across the street, we enjoyed an evening of feasting on local fare. The wedding reception was a blissful mixing of families and cultures – while the groom’s family taught the bride’s family how to dance to the rhythm of hip-hop, the bride’s family taught the groom’s family the footwork of a polka . It was quite a sight to see and kept everyone entertained for hours. The most lasting memory was of the bride dancing with her father, the love and pride so evident.
A hot spot for winter getaways and spring break, but also a great place for a destination wedding. The white sandy beaches and turquoise waters provided a picture perfect backdrop. Sadly the sun didn’t shine until the last day of the wedding week, blurring the usually vibrant colors, but not blurring the fun times and colorful drinks.
Smartly my niece booked all 42 of us into the adults only, all-inclusive Secrets resort just south of Cancun. Once at the resort we never left, except for the bachelor and bachelorette parties held separately but together in Playa del Carmen. The resort has 6 restaurants covering enough ethnic flavors to please every palette. An outdoor dance floor that we closed down more than once only to head to the indoors dance floor that didn’t even open until 11 pm and we closed that down more than once.
The wedding was supposed to be staged on the beach, with all of the bridesmaids in beach toned dresses and the guys in reddish button down shirts with sand colored pants – and everyone in bare feet. On the day of the wedding, the rain that had been falling for 5 days did not let up, so the wedding was moved to a large thatch-roofed gazebo jutting out over the water. It was just big enough to hold the wedding party and all the guests, and it was one of the most beautiful, emotionally charged weddings I’ve ever witnessed.
Each member of the wedding party gave a personal gesture to the couple – a song, a poem or a personal salute to the couple and the couple wrote their own vows. Only to be outdone by the bride’s father reciting a song to his daughter that left not a dry eye in the house, or in this case the gazebo.
After witnessing the special outcome of both of these destination weddings I told my two kids, ages 22 and 21, to take note and that their father and I would be in full support if they chose to follow in their cousins foot prints, in the sand, for their future nuptials.
This post is dedicated to the father of the bride who was married on Captiva Island. He sadly passed away two days after the wedding. But we all know he left with a smile on his face being able to see his daughter marry the love of her life, have his other daughters by his side and to have had all seven of his siblings there to share in that special occasion.