The Florida Keys & Key West

Florida Keys News

Key West Offers Unique Meaningful Marriage Ceremonies

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, history was made as marriage equality began in Florida and the Florida Keys' first same-sex wedding was performed on the steps of Key West's historic Monroe County Courthouse.

The courthouse complex is the same location where a 2014 lawsuit challenging the state's Definition of Marriage Amendment was filed and the amendment ultimately was deemed unconstitutional.

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones received the Keys' first marriage license and then exchanged vows outside the courthouse.

As might be expected in one of the country's top-rated destinations for gay and lesbian travelers, for years commitment ceremonies have been performed in Key West by clergy and notaries — and as of Jan. 6, same-sex couples can marry legally in the island's many welcoming venues.

Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, Key West was the first city in Florida, and the Keys' Monroe County the first county in Florida, to officially recognize same-sex domestic partnerships and to encourage and embrace marriage equality.

For couples planning to wed, the Florida Keys & Key West's natural beauty is as appealing as its unique freedoms. The romantic subtropical island chain begins just about an hour's drive south of Miami.

Key West offers couples a welcoming atmosphere and some of the most memorable settings imaginable for their wedding.

For instance, imagine a ceremony performed aboard a historic schooner, cresting the waves as the sun sinks into an azure ocean, with sails billowing and friends gathered around to share the joy.

Couples can pledge to love and honor each other in a variety of other settings on the island. For example, a lush rainforest garden surrounded by whispering palms and fragrant orchids; the sandy beach at Fort Zachary Taylor, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico; or the serene, secluded courtyard of a lovely guesthouse.

Key West's Metropolitan Community Church, located in a historic wooden building on a quiet, tree-lined side street, is an especially meaningful setting for celebrating the marriage of loving couples. MCC is a gay-oriented nondenominational church, and its pastors have been performing commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples since 1984 in anticipation of marriage equality.

Key West weddings may be religious or civil and take place at a church, on the Monroe County Courthouse steps where the first same-sex marriage occurred or elsewhere on the island. They can range from a simple exchange of vows to a full ceremony with music by an organist or classical ensemble.

In addition, couples can arrange for complete coordination and photography packages, whether the event is designed to be small and intimate or delightfully elaborate.

Once the ceremony has concluded, there's no better place for new spouses to spend a honeymoon than the Keys, because the islands' open, accepting attitude means the welcome is as warm as the weather. Couples might indulge in a luxury oceanfront resort stay, charter a sailboat for a romantic getaway or escape to an intimate suite in a lovingly maintained guesthouse. All provide breathtakingly beautiful beginnings for a lifetime of togetherness.

For more details on weddings in the Florida Keys, go to fla-keys.com/weddings.

For LGBT travel information, visit fla-keys.com/gay.

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones received the Keys' first marriage license and then exchanged vows outside the courthouse.

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones received the Keys' first marriage license and then exchanged vows outside the courthouse.

Key West was the first city in Florida, and the Keys' Monroe County the first county in Florida, to officially recognize same-sex domestic partnerships and to encourage and embrace marriage equality.

Key West was the first city in Florida, and the Keys' Monroe County the first county in Florida, to officially recognize same-sex domestic partnerships and to encourage and embrace marriage equality.

Ceremonies are often held at Key West's Metropolitan Community Church, located in a historic wooden building on a quiet, tree-lined side street.

Ceremonies are often held at Key West's Metropolitan Community Church, located in a historic wooden building on a quiet, tree-lined side street.

For couples planning to wed, the Florida Keys & Key West's natural beauty is as appealing as its unique freedoms. The romantic subtropical island chain begins just about an hour's drive south of Miami.

For couples planning to wed, the Florida Keys & Key West's natural beauty is as appealing as its unique freedoms. The romantic subtropical island chain begins just about an hour's drive south of Miami.

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