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February 26, 2006
The Bridal Magazine for the Florida Keys


Tropical Weddings Are More Popular Than Ever
BY SARA MATTHIS
Special Sections Editor


There two major forces at play on wedding trends in 2009 — the economy and technology. Today’s weddings in the Keys also feature lots of green ideas, creative wedding favors and the increasingly popular after-party. While the nation as a whole struggles with economic matters, the destination wedding industry in Key West seems largely unaffected.

For one, destination weddings are planned far in advance and it may very well be too late to back out now. Secondly, airfare prices have fallen, making it feasible for more guests to join the couple for far-flung nuptials.

“Yes, the economy is on a down turn right now, but I think people still want to escape and get away on a vacation. The guests are capitalizing on the fact that travel expenses have dropped,” said Kristin Artz, wedding director of We’ve Got the Keys. “I was expecting the wedding party size to decrease, get smaller, and I haven’t seen that yet. In fact, I just met with a bride at a local resort who expected about 75 guests to attend and now the guest list has actually doubled.”

Technology also plays a big part in Keys weddings. Professional photographers have more and more options for couples to consider. Stylized photos created with professional software, personalized and professionally printed wedding albums, save-the-date cards and eventhank you notes are commonly offered by area photographers and graphic designers. All of it is made possible with the advent of digital photography.

Today, couples also create personalized wedding Web sites that detail the plans for the ceremony, reception, hotel stays and more. Many couples planning weddings in the Keys are inquiring about “green” weddings. The Southernmost Collection of resorts — Southernmost Hotel in the U.S.A., Southernmost on the Beach, La Mer Hotel and Dewey House — are not only a green “One Palm” resort, they also have green alternatives for wedding receptions. It offers brides the choice of using environmentally friendly biodegradable serving products such as plates and cups, according to sales manager Lisa Malcom. Artz said Keys wedding consultation businesses often fields requests for green celebrations.

“At the request of the bride, we use e-vites instead of paper invitations and design organic meals,” she said. “Many couples choose to hand out little bags of seeds and vegetables as wedding favors because they really care about the environment.”

The rest of the wedding scene in the Keys is just pure fun. Favors run the gamut from hand-rolled Cuban cigars made on site to photo booths that spit out strips of images reminiscent of the closet-sized mall contraptions. Larger groups also make use of designated afterparty sites.

“They usually leave the reception and are looking for a place that can fit them all,” Artz said. “They end up utilizing the private rooms at places such as Hog’s Breath or Hard Rock. They bring an iPod, plug it in and keep on having fun.” Artz said one recent wedding party made up of about 125 locals took trolleys to the old VFW building on Emma Street. “We set up a hot dog cart and popcorn stand and everyone had a great time,” she said.

Many of the Keys’ wedding professionals have the same advice for couples planning a destination wedding: Find someone — whether it’s a hairdresser, photographer or wedding consultant that you trust, that understands the vision, and let him or her be your “spiritual” guide to planning a wedding in the Keys.

Local photographers know the best locations to get married. Key West’s Historic garden personnel know the best caterers. Cake makers in the Upper Keys can recommend florists and vice versa.

Finally, for the sake of simplicity we’ve used the terms bride, groom and wedding ceremony throughout this guide. However, there are almost as many commitment ceremonies between same-sex couples as there are traditional weddings in Key West. And the two have much in common — receptions, flowers, cakes, tuxedos and bridal gowns. Local wedding planners, and the entire town for that matter, welcome these couples with open arms and acceptance.


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