It took my breath away.
The beautiful bride and her handsome groom saying their vows before a minister, standing on a platform decorated with fresh flowers under a billowing white arch, or canopy, fashioned in part from a hand-embroidered family heirloom amid the soaring ocean waves surrounded by family and friends, some standing, some on white chairs around them.
Most had traveled hundreds of miles to join the weekend-long celebration of their beach wedding.
I had a first-row seat, holding my husband’s and children’s hands and wiping away tears of joy. Like twenty five percent of American couples getting married this year, according to research , my daughter, and her new husband opted for a destination wedding in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the beach, at sunset. These days, all of the family are often part of the destination wedding equation. In our case, there were a lot of children present, including a baby who had come from the Bahamas and one preschooler very excited to show off her own “bridal gown”.
10 years ago we had a destination wedding in New York City where we lived. Such weddings were far more uncommon and truth be told, I don’t think my mom was particularly pleased. We thought it would be easier with our busy work schedules and with family spread from Vancouver and Dallas.
Today, when you think destination weddings, you might think, as I had, a beach in the Caribbean with just a few people making the trip. But Florida is becoming as popular these days. As the ease of coming in and out of our airports and not having to deal with passports and governments of foreign countries is also in our bride’s and groom’s minds.
But in fact, destination weddings average 75 guests and more destination weddings take place in the United States than abroad, according to the research from The Knot.com, often with celebrations spread out over a few days, which gives far-flung family a chance to reconnect. Almost half the destination weddings in the U.S. occur in three states: Florida, California and Nevada. One New England couple I know, for example, chose Miami so that the groom’s elderly and disabled grandparents, Florida residents, could attend.
Sometimes, the destination is purposely chosen because it will be kid-friendly. The beach is one of those family friendly wedding destinations. Packages combine the wedding, multigenerational celebration and honeymoon.
In our case, the celebration started in Ft. Lauderdale where the bride and groom chose to take a cruise from, the Wednesday before the wedding and didn’t really end until two days after the wedding.
Couples often choose a place that has special meaning for them. Places that couples have enjoyed vacationing in the past or the site of the proposal are especially popular.
The bride and groom also wanted their guests to enjoy the surrounding area including diving and fishing and tours of Miami, the Florida Keys and the Everglades, which they had come to love.
The couple detailed some of their favorite activities in the welcome bags they left for guests and were gratified that most took note of their suggestions. Of course, it was tough for the mother of the bride to be 1,000 miles away during the planning — this was not an all-inclusive resort where an in-house planner sweats all the details. I hired everyone from the officiant, to the photographer to the caterer for the Sunday brunch based on a phone calls and emails. All worked out well.
But like at any wedding, things didn’t go exactly as planned, like the unseasonably cool weather. Everyone just grabbed an extra jacket or sweater over their wedding finery. After the afternoon rain, we quickly wipes the chairs dry before the guests arrived. The key — just like on any trip — is not to sweat the small stuff, keep smiling, and enjoy the moment for all it’s worth.
So there we and the groom’s parents sat on the beach, the afternoon after the wedding, looking out at the crashing waves at Hillsboro inlet with our kids and the friends who had traveled so far.
Keep in mind that South Florida Beach Weddings are great for all ages!