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The Short Version: Also known as America’s Caribbean, the Florida Keys and Key West stretch 125 miles into the crystalline waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Boasting the only living coral reef in the continental United States — as well as parks, sanctuaries, and some of the country’s best seafood — the Florida Keys provides a scenic backdrop for a romantic getaway or a destination to hold a gorgeous tropical wedding. Couples can indulge in countless activities throughout the archipelago — from diving and fishing, to literary tours and cultural events. Once you visit the Florida Keys, you’ll never want to be off island time again.
Offered as a gift to the Underwater Society of America by Italian scuba diving legend Egidi Cressi, the famed “Christ of the Deep” sculpture was fixed to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys in the 1960s. The 9-foot-tall 4,000-pound statue is located at Key Largo Dry Rocks Reef and stands on a concrete base in approximately 25 feet of water.
Fifty years later, Miami natives Kimberly Triolet and Jorge Rodriguez celebrated the statue’s anniversary by tying the knot at its pedestal below the warm waters in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
“To be able to get married at the Christ statue on its 50th anniversary is amazing,” Kimberly said of one of the most photographed underwater sites in the world. “We’ll be coming back for our 50th anniversary to dive it again.”
“Yes, we will,” Jorge said with a proud smile.
With the help of a notary public and an underwater slate, the couple scribed their vows in front of their audience of fellow divers and barracudas.
While not everyone is up to the task of getting hitched underwater, the sun-splashed islands of the Florida Keys offer an enchanting setting for a picturesque wedding. Stretching 125 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the archipelago’s emerald waters, palm trees, and cultural sites are the perfect backdrops to take the plunge into a lifelong commitment to your partner.
“With the Florida Keys’ wide range of options for ceremonies and activities, couples can choose the ones most meaningful for the new life they’re beginning together,” said Liana Pyne, destination sales manager for the Florida Keys & Key West tourism council.
But the Keys aren’t just for weddings. The island chain is also an alluring destination for couples who want to get away from the everyday and escape to a tropical romantic retreat. The diving and fishing in the Keys are among the world’s best. And, as the locals know, the islands are a hub of Florida culture, providing an array of opportunities to connect with art, world-class cuisine, and an open-minded island attitude.
With fiery sunsets, plenty of shoreline to walk along, and more activities than one can imagine, a romantic getaway in the Florida Keys is what every relationship needs. Not many places can boast as many water sports as the Florida island chain does. Diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and boating, among others, wait for water enthusiasts of all types.
Divers and snorkelers from all over the world come to the Keys to experience the continental United States’ only living coral reef. The bristly polyps provide shelter to an incredibly diverse population of fish species — from blue-striped grunts to green moray eels.
In addition to the natural reef, diving duos can voyage to the bottom of the sea to visit coral-encrusted shipwrecks — one of the most famous of which is the Spiegel Grove. This 510-foot-long Navy Landing Ship Dock is the largest ship to be intentionally sunk to cultivate a coral reef, and it provides a new attraction for advanced divers.
If you’ve already reeled in the big one relationship-wise, head out to sea with him or her to catch some real fish. Whether you’re an angler looking to hook some bonefish or a deep-sea fisher after a blue marlin, the Florida Keys has the excursion for you. Take a day trip out at sea with your special someone and enjoy the beautiful water, the relaxing rock of the sea, and maybe even a memorable sunset before heading back to the shore.
If you love the ocean but aren’t into baiting hooks, snuggle into a tandem kayak and test your compatibility with a little paddle time. These are just a few of the activities the Keys have in store for adventurous, water-going couples.
Not to be overshadowed by the broad array of sporting activities, the Florida Keys also have diverse arts and culture offerings. World-class cuisine abounds in the Keys with some of the globe’s freshest seafood and most innovative dishes (as well as best-loved classics).
From outdoor public galleries to historical tours of the properties of literary giants who made the area home, the Florida Keys are an artist’s dream. Visit the Morada Ways Arts and Culturale District to enjoy art showcases with one-of-a-kind works. If you want to do more than just view artistic creations, you and your love can head to the Art Studio in the Middle Keys to take workshops in oil painting, watercolors, and acrylics in addition to throwing clay and making jewelry.
Literary luminaries, including Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway, called Key West home, and there is no shortage of attractions you can visit to soak in some creative literary genius. In July, head to the southernmost point in the United States for the Hemingway Days celebration for fun that “Papa” Hemingway would certainly love.
As with all the chain’s islands, Key Largo has some incredible dining. Schedule a private party at Snook’s Bayside Restaurant and Grand Tiki for a memorable night out in the quaint town. Pilot House Restaurant and Marina is not only dockside and casual, but kids can feed fish from the dock while you dine. If you’re seeking the juiciest steaks and largest martinis in Key West, look no further than Grand Café for dinner with your beloved. Of course, the Keys is known for its bar scene, too, so get a little extra snuggle time with your sweetie and head out for the Bone Island Haunted Pub Crawl.
Every destination wedding has one requirement in common — picturesque views. Couples don’t travel near and far for a plain background, and the Florida Keys provides one of the most gorgeous locations for weddings and honeymoons on the planet.
“The Florida Keys offers enough variety of attractions that appeal to every stage of life,” Liana said. “And, because you’re on U.S. soil, a valid marriage license is easy to obtain.”
Imagine pairing one of the galleries on Duval Street in Key West with a wedding feast from Hot Tin Roof to complement an artsy, chic union. It’s just one of the many options for a memorable “I do” in the Florida Keys.
Take your bridal pictures on a dock looking out into your new life together. The Florida Keys sunsets provide the perfect backdrop for beautiful, unforgettable photos. The area’s numerous professional photographers can lead newlyweds to scenic cultural spots, such as the African Queen and The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, for fun, artistic wedding shoots. For something more exotic, head to one of several Keys offshore islands to capture unique photos you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
If you’re looking for a wedding venue, the Keys offer a wide range of options — from quaint island bungalows to luxurious five-star resorts. In the Upper Keys, the Playa Largo Resort and Spa boasts an 8,000-square-foot ballroom to host large weddings with almost 400 guests. If a small affair at a private beach is more your speed, the Autograph Collection Hotel provides a 6,000-square-foot shoreline where couples can exchange vows and indulge in cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
“Couples want something personal that speaks to the tone of who they are,” said Julie Shreck, owner-planner of Simply You Weddings in Key West. “The biggest trend we will continue to see is anything that is personalized and unique to the couple.”
The weather is great year-round in the Keys, but, if you want to hold your big day in the summer, be sure to plan an evening event. Because of the Keys’ subtropical climate, it can get quite steamy in the afternoons.
The Florida Keys have a rich history of celebrating cultural diversity as well as a legacy that values living a fun life. The Red Shoe Drop on New Year’s Eve is a can’t-miss Key West event. Here, drag diva Sushi leads a celebration of female impersonators and other entertainers while waiting for the clock to strike midnight.
Every August brings Tropical Heat — an all-male weekend of fun and adventure. But don’t feel left out, women! September’s Womenfest Key West has thousands of ladies flocking to the island to join the fun and camaraderie.
Key West is also home to the One Human Family movement — a cause centered around inclusion and equality for all people. The founder of One Human Family, J.T. Thompson, has distributed over 2.75 million bumper stickers and 350,000 wristbands promoting this message. While you are in the Keys, you are certain to see them and feel confident that this long stretch of islands understands community and how to live a good life. It’s this dedication to diversity and the island chain’s open mindset that creates a welcoming atmosphere couples from all walks enjoy.
Whether you’re planning to get hitched 25 feet under the sea, like Kimberly and Jorge, or are seeking a romantic getaway from the everyday, the Florida Keys & Key West should be on your radar. The islands are a wonderful place to enjoy a laid-back, fun-filled, and culturally gratifying bit of quality time with your honey.
For more information, visit www.fla-keys.com.