FOR A TOES-IN-THE-SAND WEDDING… THE RITZ-CARLTON, NAPLES
Couples can host true toes-in-the-sand ceremonies at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, or opt to have a carpeted platform placed on the beach so guests don’t have to remove their formal footwear.
Timing is of the essence when planning a beachfront wedding. To coordinate cocktails at golden hour, Lydia Redmond, director of wedding sales at The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples, says the optimal time to walk down the aisle is an hour and a half before sunset.
After the ‘I dos,’ the bridal party can head to the Tea Garden to take photos while guests move to the beach house, which can host up to 120 people and has panoramic, floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of the Gulf of Mexico. “Our venue’s perfect couple is one that has a very strong emotional connection to the Naples area,” Redmond says. “They’re what we refer to as a legacy couple, where either one or both have spent time in Naples growing up.”
The property also hosts many destination weddings and offers remote, full-service planning and execution of everything from rehearsal dinners by the pool to moonlight and candlelight ceremonies on the beach to receptions ending with fireworks.
FOR A QUINTESSENTIAL FLORIDA UNION … SEA OATS LUXURY ESTATE
A historic banyan tree sets the scene for a classic Florida ceremony on Captiva Island. Sea Oats Luxury Estate, said to have once belonged to an inheritor of the Quaker Oats fortune, sits on four acres of paradise between the Gulf and a pristine wildlife preserve. The home, which sleeps 30 guests, is a dreamy setting for an elopement or intimate wedding of up to 75 attendees.
Couples can host rehearsal dinners after a sunset sail, provided by Captiva Cruises, which picks them up at the dock right outside. The property’s planning and design firm, Wedding Hero, takes care of everything, including setting up the reception tent or coordinating for a Champagne wall, a Prosecco truck, a Vespa, balloon art— whatever the bride and groom envision. For a true Florida vibe, the venue offers a tropical design, which includes exotic florals, handmade wooden tables and a locally inspired menu.
FOR A DREAMY WEDDING AT A HISTORIC ESTATE … THE HEITMAN HOUSE
Given from Gilmer Heitman to his wife in 1908 as an engagement gift, The Heitman House was built as a celebration of love. Guests enter through the Fort Myers home’s foyer and walk all the way through to the backyard where the ceremony and reception—with up to 225 attendees—takes place under bistro lights by the bay. “Being on the water is a huge selling point,” Cece Baschieri, The Heitman House wedding planner and events coordinator, says. “The sun sets on this side, so we have the beautiful sunset pictures on the dock.”
On the wedding day, the second floor of the home becomes the bridal suite, while the carriage room above the garage (which has a poker table and bar), is where the gentlemen get ready. Baschieri coordinates the food, the bar, the valet, the DJ—all the couple secures on their own is the officiant, photographer and cake.
FOR A COUNTRYSIDE CELEBRATION … THE RUSTIC BARN AT BUCKINGHAM FARMS
Set on 85 acres of family-owned land, The Rustic Barn at Buckingham Farms has for seven years hosted everything from whimsical weddings to black-tie nuptials. “When we built the barn, we thought we would attract more of the country crowd, but we’ve done pretty much everything,” Anna Edmondson, event coordinator at The Rustic Barn at Buckingham Farms, says.
Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Fort Myers, where wedding guests can stay at the Hotel Indigo or Luminary Hotel, is an unspoiled, lush setting for a ceremony under a canopy of oak trees.
Once the couple has exchanged their vows, 75 to 150 attendees can enjoy a cocktail hour on the Tuscan patio, which is adorned with an ambient fire pit.
Heading into the barn for the reception, the full-service farm staff will have taken care of every detail down to the white china, Chiavari chairs and elegant drapery.
Meanwhile, an in-house chef creates the farm-to-table meals, sourced largely from Buckingham Farms. Guests enjoy the culinary experience below an antlers chandelier and brilliant Edison lighting that makes it possible to continue documenting the evening with pictures well after dark.