North America

Picture-Perfect Destination Weddings in Florida

written by | Posted on June 1st, 2009

Another good reason to steer couples to the Don is because the destination itself is a great place to honeymoon—there’s the resort’s new Spa Oceana, offering expansive suites and beachside massages—a true delight—more than seven miles of beach area, and concierge services that can coordinate such romantic excursions as a sunset dolphin cruise.

The newlyweds get the night of their wedding complimentary in a suite and the second night at a discounted rate (there’s a 2-night minimum). Summer social block rates begin at $179 midweek and $211 on weekends. Seasonal social block rates begin at $229 midweek and $256 weekends.

on the atlantic With just 97 suites and with the lure of South Beach being just a short drive away, the 51-story Acqualina Resort & Spa, located in Sunny Isles Beach on 4.5 beachfront acres, is simply perfect for more intimate festivities.

“This is the perfect setting for a group to come and spend an entire weekend to celebrate the wedding and be really the only event going on. We specialize in weddings for 100 people or less,” says Susan Wesselhoft, director of catering and wedding planner/coordinator, “and do on average about three to four a month.” In fact, the resort, she says, really promotes the fact that they are a boutique hotel because “we try and personalize the event as opposed to a cookie-cutter event where there might be five weddings at the hotel that weekend. We really personalize the group to their particular personalities.”

Additionally, before the big day, the event staff can assist the bride and groom in organizing group activities, including an indulgent afternoon for the bride and her bridesmaids at the 20,000-sq.-ft. ESPA at Acqualina spa and an afternoon of fishing for the groom and his groomsmen.

For the big day, couples can choose from four oceanfront rooms, the center pool, or one of the more popular locales, the oceanfront great lawn, which can be tented and air-conditioned for truly elaborate affairs. “We are the only property in South Florida that has a lawn located right on the beach. So guests can have the beach wedding without having to be in the sand, and we also don’t have to get all the permits involved in having a beach wedding,” says Wesselhoft.

Weddings here start at $175 pp and that’s all-inclusive including the ceremony, 5-hour open bar with cocktail, reception with menu, cake, and wine with dinner. Wesselhoft does point out that due to the economy couples are toning it down a bit. “It’s a big trend we are seeing these days. People from the northeast markets, and also Chicago and Texas, if they want to marry in their home state, they are obligated to do a large-scale event of maybe 300 people and couples are really looking to do less-complicated events where they can have a high-quality celebration and spend a whole weekend together with their closest friends. And it does tend to be less expensive in that regard.”

The travel agent, she says, is crucial to creating a seamless experience for the couple because they can get the group rates, which are usually lower than transient rates, and they also “take a much big-ger part in the planning, as they are booking the hotel and travel arrangements, maybe organizing transportation once they are here. I have several destination weddings right now that have been organized through the travel agent.” The group rate at Acqualina is for 10 or more rooms and the average for a wedding is 20 to 25 rooms.

And although, says Wesselhoft, couples don’t necessarily honeymoon at the resort, they do stay on for a couple of days and then “a lot of them will take off on either a cruise or another destination. Miami is a great location for destination weddings because it’s a main hub for cruise lines and for access to the Caribbean or Mexico.”

Group rates for this summer season, for example, start at $299 to $425 for 10 or more rooms. Newlyweds receive a champagne amenity as well as a room upgrade.

fairytale weddings Although a Florida destination wedding brings to mind a beachfront locale, the most popular spot, in fact, is Walt Disney World, with more than 1,600 couples tying the knot each year at this fairytale landscape. Indeed, girls are all princesses at heart. Here, the sky’s the limit—from an enchanting Cinderella-like wedding at the Magic Kingdom to a Hollywood extravaganza in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with after hour dancing under The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride. Even a safari-themed reception at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.