March/April 2001

Planning an Island Wedding

What bride hasn’t dreamed of a tropical wedding? Swaying palms, sunsets on the beach… the photography possibilities alone are inspiring.
    Sanibel and Captiva islands are perfect for a couple wanting to say their vows in paradise. The settings will make it
memorable and, best of all, there are several terrific wedding professionals to help couples plan their island nuptials.
    For inspiration, first check out photographer Frank Simonetti’s Web site. Simonetti captures the essence of an island wedding; a quick stop by will help you envision your own perfect setting and style of wedding. Simonetti can be reached at 941/267-5156 or by e-mail at
    British import Nick Adams also has photographed several bridal parties on Sanibel and Captiva since founding his company, Impact UK ( “There couldn’t be a better experience,” he says with a smile. “You’ve got beautiful sunsets, blue water, sandy beaches; it just makes for a photographer’s dream.” Impact UK has several different wedding packages, including portraiture. Bridal parties may view all their photos online. For more information, call Impact UK at 941/410-4111.
    The first choice a couple must make is what time of year to marry. Certain considerations come into play. Are room rates an issue? If your friends and family would rather not be subjected to seasonal room rates, think about shoulder seasons (late spring or fall) or summer. If the bride has her heart set on taffeta gowns and tuxedos in an outdoor wedding, it’s best not to wed in summer, when temperatures and humidity can be oppressive in clothing other than swimsuits or shorts. Is comfortable weather your main concern? Then focus on February through May, or late October and November.
    Is the groom picturing his bachelor party as a tarpon fishing adventure? Great idea! Tarpon generally run May through August. A couple with golfers on the guest list might want to look at times of year when tee times are easy to acquire, or greens fees lower. And because we want your wedding to be perfect, we note simply that hurricane season gives one slightly less control. If you worry that a tropical storm might force your wedding inside, you’d do best to marry between Dec. 1 and May 31.
    Plenty of great advice is available to help you plan. A Wedding Dream in Paradise has more than 20 years of experience in planning weddings, honeymoons, and travel. The company will handle everything from “helping you select the wedding site to arranging for accommodations, as well as airline and rental car reservations for you and your guests.” The staff of A Wedding Dream in Paradise also includes professional local photographers, as well as wedding coordinators and specialists. Learn more at the Web site ( To reach A Wedding Dream in Paradise, call 800/846-LOVE, or e-mail
    With more than 4,800 weddings under her belt, islander Patricia Slater has organized almost every type of island wedding one can imagine. Patricia Slater’s Weddings by the Sea handles accommodations, receptions, rehearsal dinners, wedding cakes, champagne, flowers, music, wedding attire, salon or spa appointments, photography, and more.
    When asked about the most common island wedding request she gets, Slater doesn’t even hesitate. “On the beach at sunset!” she exclaims. “That’s the dream. Girls e-mail me all the time, saying I have a dream of being married at sunset, in bare feet, on the beach. And they do it. They take off their shoes!”
    Slater can perform the ceremony or she can secure a notary or minister. Her real expertise, however, comes in helping select the site for the wedding. Weddings by the Sea can be reached at 800/808-2163 or 941/472-8712. The Web site is
    Couples also can contact Pastor Jamie Stilson of The Vineyard about conducting their island wedding ceremony at 941/549-8075, or e-mail
The beach wedding is a sight that always gets a smile from passers-by. Usually (but not always) scheduled for sunset, these Gulf-front affairs range in style from tuxedos, string quartets, and flower-filled arches, to tropical shirts, bare feet, and a strumming guitarist.
    Do you want margaritas and Jimmy Buffett music at your reception? No problem. A lobster dinner for 100 aboard a cruise boat? It’s possible. Do you envision a honeymoon cottage on a remote island without cars? You’ll be heading for North Captiva. Or perhaps you’d like to honeymoon where George W. and his family celebrated the holidays. Boca Grande is a short but
delightful trip by water taxi or cruise boat.
    Many couples do incorporate boating in their wedding plans. Captiva Cruises ( is a great resource for water-minded brides and grooms. With several vessels to choose from and a staff accustomed to private parties, Captiva Cruises offers a wide variety of options. Plan a wedding and reception on a large cruise boat, complete with catering and sunset. Treat a smaller group to a pre-wedding shelling party on a nearby island. Plan to depart your wedding on a sloop for a romantic sail. Make arrangements by calling Captiva Cruises at 941/472-5200.
    Thinking of something smaller? Capt. Mick Gurley can take a party of six out on his beautiful 39-foot classic sloop, The New Moon, for an intimate wedding at sea. The sailboat departs from ’Tween Waters Inn. For more information, call New Moon Sailing at 941/395-1782.
    Few islanders haven’t danced, through the years, to the island tunes of Danny Morgan. Danny’s style is evocative of Jimmy Buffett, but is completely his own. While Danny still performs locally, he also acts as music consultant for resorts, restaurants, and such special events as weddings. Consider hiring Danny ( as a solo act, part of a band, or to help you find the music you’re looking for, whether it’s harp and flute, country, jazz, steel drum, or Latin. Call Danny Morgan Musical Services at 941/472-4774.
    Honeymoon packages abound on the islands. Casa Ybel Resort offers honeymoon packages that include accommodations, a romantic dinner for two, a wedding-day massage for the bridal couple, champagne, and a keepsake.
    Many small inns and cottages will create a honeymoon package for couples
wanting to tie the knot on-island. Call the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce for more information at 941/472-1080, or visit these Web sites:, or
    West Wind Inn, on West Gulf Drive in Sanibel, also offers honeymoon packages. “When anybody comes here for a honeymoon, we give them wine, a rose in a vase, a day of bicycling, two T-shirts, and memento glasses,” says Jay Halcrow, director of sales and marketing. If the couple is marrying between May 1 and mid-December, she adds, “We also offer special honeymoon rates.” Contact West Wind Inn at 800/824-0476 or 941/472-1541, or visit the Web site at
    Meristar Resorts has properties of all types and sizes on Sanibel and Captiva, from the tiny Seaside Inn and Song of the Sea, to the full-amenity Sundial and South Seas Resorts. For details, call the Vacation Planning Center at 800/237-4184 or visit the Web site at
However you choose to create your island wedding, it will provide a lifetime of romantic memories.
Libby Boren McMillan has seen plenty of beautiful weddings on Sanibel, where she lives and works as a freelance writer.