Weddings in the breezy, balmy Florida Keys can be romantically barefoot or more dressy and elegant affairs. And while a sun-drenched beach wedding might be the first thing that comes to mind, the Keys offer far more unusual sites for couples who want their ceremony’s venue to be as memorable as their love.
They include historic Civil War-era forts, the picturesque homes of famed authors and other notables, and waterfront or even underwater settings. And that means couples can choose a setting that reflects their interests and passions — as well as the Keys’ historic, literary or maritime heritage.
Listed here are eight possibilities designed to intrigue those getting ready to do “I Do.”
ONE: In Key Largo, couples whose love story is worthy of a blockbuster film can stage an intimate ceremony aboard the African Queen — yes, the original vessel from John Huston’s 1951 classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Parties of six can cruise, and it’s also possible to marry at the dock.
TWO: Ready to dive into matrimony? Certified divers can exchange underwater vows (really!) at the Christ of the Deep statue, located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and adjacent to Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Alternately, marriages can take place at fascinating Pennekamp, the United States’ first undersea park.
THREE: In Islamorada, Morada Bay’s Pierre’s Restaurant & Lounge and The Beach Cafe are island-style settings known for their delicious cuisine and scenic sunsets. Pierre’s is a gorgeous two-story colonial plantation-style venue, and The Beach Café fronts a palm-lined white beach overlooking Florida Bay. Both are ideal if casual tropical chic is the goal.
FOUR: At Theater of the Sea (also in Islamorada), wedding parties can enjoy a private dolphin and sea lion show before an evening ceremony. The location is great for large parties, since it accommodates up to 200 guests.
FIVE: In the Middle Keys near Marathon, couples with a love for marine mammals can marry at the acclaimed Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. During a “Private Dolphin Encounter,” a dolphin can serve as a wedding attendant. How magical is that?
SIX: Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys is a picturesque beach park with one of the top 10 beaches in the U.S. (as designated by several travel studies). It’s possible to exchange vows in the park or on the Bahia Honda Rail Bridge — which was originally built by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway.
SEVEN: In Key West, literary aficionados can speak their vows outdoors on the grounds of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. The legendary author lived (and wrote some of his most iconic works) in the Spanish colonial villa, a registered National Historic Landmark, for most of the 1930s. Up to 100 guests can be accommodated and private evening house tours can be arranged.
EIGHT: For a wedding befitting a world leader, consider the Harry S. Truman Little White House, Florida’s only presidential museum. During his 1945-53 administration, former President Truman spent 11 working vacations at the sprawling West Indian-style residence in Key West. The property offers lush palm-framed gardens and three lawns that span an acre — and the museum can host indoor rehearsal dinners.