As a premier Key West wedding photographer, I get to capture extraordinary moments - intimate, surprising, and joyous. Here on my blog, you'll see behind-the-scenes looks at these moments, tips from me to help plan for your shoot, as well as my insider's insights about places to stay, things to do, and where to eat here in the Conch Republic! Please feel free to comment or share with friends and family on your favorite social media sites!

Ally + Hunter Key West Wedding at the Beautiful Reach Resort

Along with their beautiful daughter Miller, Ally and Hunter said I Do in Key West, Florida at the famous Reach Resort on Saturday June 3rd, 2017! Every detail from the invites to the gorgeous leather name tags were very well thought out! Teamed together once again for an amazing set up and flawless evening was Erica from Simply You and Peter and the team from Milan Events. After the Unplugged Ceremony, the appetizers and drinks at cocktail hour were served by the Reach and dinner was just perfect. The evening continued with a major dance party and the ever so famous Cupcake Sushi! 

Congratulations to this beautiful family!

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Photographer: Rachel E Ligon

Assistant Photographer: Jessica Paar Robb

Planner: Erica Fuhrman at Simply You Weddings

Ceremony: Gazebo at the  Reach Resort 

Ceremony Music: Chad Burtch 

Florist: Milan Event Floral and Decor

Officiant: Mark Johnson 

Chair and Ceremony Rentals: Eventfully Yours 

Cake: Cupcake Sushi

DJ Extraordinaire: Shawna 


Kevin + Carlos Married In Key West

It may have been a little on the warm side here in paradise, but it was a flawless wedding day for Kevin and Carlos! The flowers and decor were perfect in the garden setting of the beautiful Audubon House. One of my personal favorites was the matted Audubon painting guestbook. Such a great idea! Grilled surf and turf, a homemade mac and cheese bar, and ice cold mojitos were just a few of the favorites from the lovely Great Events Catering Team. Jimmy Cooper kept the upbeat vibe going until everyone was ready to head off to the after party. The grooms' send off was in true Key West fashion... Drag queen style. What a unforgettable wedding!

Congratulations to Kevin and Carlos!

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Photographer: Rachel E Ligon

Assistant Photographer: Jessica Paar Robb

Videographer: Joann Cooper Soundwave

Wedding and Reception Venue: Audubon House and Gardens

Planner: Tera Slater Lucy Pop

Officiant: Elizabeth Weinstock Southernmost Reverend 

Caterer: Great Events

Florist: Milan Event Floral and Decor

Cake: Key West Cakes

DJ: Soundwave


Holly + Todd Ocean Key Resort 5.20.17

These two love birds meet in 2013 while working at Margaritaville! They were engaged July 8th, 2016 at a concert in Miami. Todd wanted to propose during the concert, but the security guard made him empty his pockets before going in. Todd found a big tree in a secluded spot to propose before security could ruin the surprise!

They said their I Do's at the beautiful Ocean Key Resort here in Key West, Florida. The day could have not been more perfect! Todd was so sweet that he wrote Holly several notes to get her through the day. She was to open one when her nerves were getting the best of her. My favorite was the one from their bird! Though their wasn't a First Look, I caught Holly's reaction seeing Todd for the first time greeting guests to the ceremony. Just precious! 

Congratulations to Holly + Todd. I hope you enjoy the sneak peek! 

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Photographer: Rachel E Ligon

Assistant Photographer: Jessica Paar Robb

Wedding Coordinator: Lee with Swankey Events

Wedding and Reception Venue: Ocean Key 

Hair + Makeup: Isle Style 

Bridal Shoes: Manolo Blahnik

Flowers: Love In Bloom 

Cake: Cakes by Karol 

DJ and Party Starter:  Visualize Entertainment 


Sara said YES in KEY WEST 6.4.17

Congratulations to Sara and John engaged yesterday at Fort Zachary Taylor here in Key West , Florida! John had contacted me to catch the proposal, and it was PERFECT! She Said YES! :) I am sooo happy for this super fun couple! 

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Nicole + Dominic Lombardo Key Wedding - Sneak Peek

Congratulations to Nicole and Dominic who were married at the Reach Resort here in Key West , Florida on May 21st, 2017! These two love to travel and take road trips together. The two were engaged in Key West in April of 2016 and it was only natural to come back and say their I Do's in front of their closet friends and family.

The day was absolutely perfect filled with blue skies, music by Rusty Lemon, and delicious food provided by the Reach!

Best wishes to you both!

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Photographer: Rachel E Ligon

Assistant Photographer: Jessica Paar Robb

Planner: Nicole at Simply You Weddings

Hair & Makeup: Studio Marie Pierre 

Florist: Milan Event Floral and Decor

Ceremony: Reach Resort 

Officiate: Michael Veron with Conch Concierge 

Music: Rusty Lemmon Florida Keys Wedding Music

Reception: Reach Resort 

Cake: Amazing Cakes and Creations

 

 


Carmella + Chris + Alex

“Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary.” 
― Oscar Wilde

I absolutely LOVED meeting Carmella, Chris, and Alex for the first time a few weeks ago. They are no ordinary couple! These two are over the top fun, have adventure for life, and are very kind hearted! Even sweet Alex! Woof woof! 

I am very excited to capture their wedding day memories in December at Casa Marina! The Simply You Team and Peter from Milan will be creating the perfect vision for this couple! 

 

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Shaun + Kristy- Engagement Photos In Key West

Congratulations to Kristy and Shaun on their wedding engagement! They commemorated with a photo shoot in Key West, FL  at Fort Zachary Taylor! This loving, fun, and quirky couple loves spending time with their amazing kids. They also enjoy playing pool, grilling out, and watching local sports teams together. 

It was such a pleasure capturing the memories of your first photos as an engaged couple. Best wishes to you ladies!  sneakpeek-1sneakpeek-1 sneakpeek-2sneakpeek-2 sneakpeek-3sneakpeek-3 sneakpeek-4sneakpeek-4 sneakpeek-5sneakpeek-5 sneakpeek-6sneakpeek-6


Tarah + Colin Klein Key West Wedding

Tarah and Colin got engaged at their favorite restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Colin proposed on September 12th at Taco Lu and had everyone close to them in on the surprise. When it came time to plan the wedding it was no surprise they chose Key West! This couple loves eating great food, having a nice cocktail, and relaxing! 

Their beautiful ocean ceremony took place on May 6th, 2017 at Margaritaville Key West (formerly known as the Westin). The beautiful flowers were tastefully decorated by Milan Events and Floral. The backdrop of the ocean was breathtaking. The reception soon followed at Little Truman White House in a Southern Chic style set up by the fabulous Kristin from Swivel Group Events. 

DJ Jimmy Jamz kept the party going while the bride and groom danced the night away! The Junkanoos came to march everyone down Duval Street to the very private balcony of Irish Kevin's. 

 

Congratulations to you and to your families on a beautiful wedding day! 

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Vendors:

Photographer: Rachel E Ligon

Planner: Kristin at Swivel Group Events

Florist: Milan

Hair & Makeup: Studio Marie Pierre 

Bridal Shoes:  Badgley Mischka

Dress: Hailey Paige

Suits: Vera Wang

Ceremony:  Margaritaville Resort and Marina

Officiant: Steve Torrence Key West Officiant 

Cake: Key West Cakes

Music: DJ Jimmy Jamz 

Party Rental: Prestige Party Rentals


Candis + Ken- Key West Wedding Pier House 5.13.17

Candis and Ken (aka #Kendis) met in a subway in NYC on September 26th, 2013. They were both on their way home from New Jersey. Candis sat down next to Ken and that was all she wrote! :) Fast forward a few years later to this beautiful couple who said their I Do's oceanside at the beautiful Pier House Resort here in Key West, Florida! 

This perfect wedding day was filled with love, laughter, and a few tears of joy. Best wishes to you and your families!

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Videographer: Matthew Dockery DockLight Productions

Planner: Eric Baker A Modern Romance 

Florist/ Table Decor: Duarte Floral Design

Ceremony Location: Pier House

Officiant: Pati Flowers

Reception Venue: Pier House

Arch flowers: Say Yes in Key West

Hair & Makeup: Lori Bolander Key West Hair and Makeup

Cake: Key West Cakes

DJ: MB Entertainment

Wedding Favors: Cupcake Sushi


Capturing Love in ALL its Forms

Love comes in many forms – all of which are worth celebrating! If you have perused my site or have worked with me in the past, you likely know that I spend a great deal of time with couples both leading up to and on their wedding day. I absolutely love doing shoots for these momentous occasions! But then I thought... why stop there?

My latest personal project represents a mission near and dear to my heart… to give anyone, in any life stage, with any type of meaningful relationship, the chance to honor the special bond they share! If you love love like I do, a complimentary Capturing Love Session offers a fun way for you and your loved one(s) to cherish the photos you deserve.

Who?

Anyone! Quite simply, this is for you & the object of your affection. I am envisioning couples celebrating their Golden Anniversary, proud cat moms, newlyweds coming back newly bronzed from their honeymoon, a single parents with their children, partners recreating a previous trip to Key West, young couples celebrating the anniversary of when they met, or a dog owner enjoying a carefree moment with their furry best friend. 

What?

The Capturing Love photoshoot is designed to celebrate love in its truest form, against a backdrop of everyday life scenarios. Family portraits and wedding photos typically are planned, staged, and arranged down to the last detail. As a wedding photographer myself, I can appreciate the need for carefully curating photos on these occasions. After over ten years of nuptial-related shoots, I understand the appeal of more traditional photographs. But shouldn’t couples also preserve memories from the “regular days” that make up the majority of their lives together? With this project, I want to collaborate with people as they enjoy the simple, natural moments that life throws their way. 

Where?

Anywhere! Relaxing at home, exploring the Keys on a boat, strolling down Duval Street, clinking glasses at a favorite bar, splashing in the surf at Smathers Beach, unwinding at the park. This is all about shooting real life situations, wherever you find yourself smiling in the course of your daily life. 

Why?

F. Scott Fitzgerald may have said it best: “There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice.” Love extends far beyond couples on their wedding day, and all those types of love are equally meaningful. This concept resonates with me on a personal level. As a single lady with a beloved 8-year old dog, I would love to preserve precious moments with Connor. 

When?

Anytime! Please contact me to coordinate. We can figure out an optimal window based on your location preferences, availability, and other factors like which type of lighting may be best to create a certain mood. Most likely, the timing will depend on when you naturally engage in that certain activity or hang out in your chosen location. After the complimentary session, you'll have the chance to purchase prints of your favorite photos via my website!


Say “Yes” to Key West for your Engagement Photos!

So, you're engaged! Congratulations!!! 

Whether you're basking in the festive afterglow or already feel like there are a million preparations filling up your to-do list, you may be thinking about celebrating this special time with an engagement shoot. With so many tasks on your plate, it’s important to slow down and enjoy these moments. It’s even better if you capture those moments as photos to cherish for a lifetime, and it’s BEST if those photos are taken in Key West! 
 
Maybe you’re planning your wedding in Key West, or maybe the Conch Republic is an island you’ve always wanted to visit (do I hear “pre-wedding getaway?”). Or, maybe your destination wedding is at an even farther locale but you’d like tropical engagement photos in Key West for your wedding invitations. No matter what, this colorful paradise is an ideal place for your engagement shoot! 

Everything that makes Key West perfect for a fun and relaxing vacation or beautiful wedding makes it conducive for stunning photos leading up to your big day. I have been a Key West wedding and engagement photographer for over a decade, and the exotic beauty here has never lost its allure. 

Because no two couples are the same, my engagement photography sessions can be completely customized to suit your tastes and personal aesthetics. My personal favorite is capturing a legendary Key West sunset as the backdrop. It’s tough to beat the breathtaking lighting of the golden hour! 
 
After getting to know you as a couple, I would love to suggest some locales that complement your personalities and give you amazing photos to treasure for years to come. If your wedding will be here, we could shoot at or near your wedding venue. Or, we can go to some completely different locations! Through the years, I have scoped out countless photogenic settings, ranging from classic to historical to quirky. Here are some of my go-to spots that showcase Key West for engagement photos! 

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Ft. Zach for short, this 87-acre park is full of idyllic scenery. First, there’s the red brick, Civil War-era fort itself. Its contemplative arches, spiral staircases, and impressive cannons make for jaw-dropping photos. The park’s beach is one of Key West’s best and perfect for sunset shots and romantic silhouettes. For the sure-footed, the nearby rocky outcropping can give your photos a rugged and adventurous flair. Finally, there are palm trees at the water’s edge to capture Key West’s tropical vibe, as well as paths through a pine grove for serene ambiance.

Key West Bight Marina

Located in Key West’s historic seaport, the marina can lend its many vessels as the setting for your photos! Especially if you two are nautical enthusiasts, the collection of sailboats and their towering masts make for romantic, stunning photos, especially during sunset! We can also capture an intimate moment of you two sitting or walking together on the dock.

Postcard Mural & Mac’s Sea Garden

The great thing about this spot is that there are several perfect backdrops within a few feet of each other! The postcard mural on the side of Cuban Coffee Queen is quintessential; couples often use a photo with this background for their wedding thank you notes! Next door is Mac’s Sea Garden, a shop with vivid buoys and a rustic wood exterior that are ideal for nautical-themed photos. Right on the corner is a vintage truck, and around the corner there’s a colorful signpost that shows the distance to a plethora of locations. Cuba’s only 90 miles away!

B. O.’s Fish Wagon

About a block away from Mac’s Sea Garden is B. O.’s Fish Wagon, which provides not only delicious seafood but also a one-of-a-kind backdrop for photos! This down to earth, open-air shack looks like it was built by a very creative castaway fisherman. Another vintage truck, covered in stickers, completes the funky setting! 

The Key West Shipwreck Museum

This attraction commemorates a key part of the island’s history, and I love the building itself for photos in front of large rustic doors. The simple yet elegant background highlights the most important thing - you! There are several other fun backdrops here on Wall Street, including several kitschy shops and a landlocked replica of a wreckers sloop

Higgs Beach Pier

Sand, sea, and sky meet at this picturesque pier! Especially if your wedding venue is the nearby Casa Marina, I love taking romantic photos at this location. You can walk along it, strike a pose, or even… jump off! Of course, we should probably plan ahead a bit if you’re interested in doing that!

There are plenty more locations for taking photos that feature Key West’s island spirit! The above are just a few of my favorites, and if you’re interested in an Around Key West session, we can decide on your favorite landmarks as well as places that complement your wedding’s theme. I can’t wait to work with you on capturing these treasured tropical memories!


The Many Faces of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

The island of Key West is not very large, but did you know it's home to an 87-acre park that includes beaches, pine trees, and a Civil War-era fort? That’s right, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (or Ft. Zach for short) is one of my absolute favorite locations for photos!

Whether you’re interested in Ft. Zach for an engagement session, part of an “Around Key West” session, or as the backdrop for your wedding, America’s southernmost state park offers a wealth of picturesque settings for photos!

Fort Zachary Taylor

Construction on this brick structure began in 1845. Held by the Union during the Civil War, the fort was also used during the 1898 Spanish-American War. Decades later, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. 

The fort offers unique settings for photos, from its contemplative arches and spiral staircases to its impressive cannons. From the top, the backdrop is a dramatic vista of where the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico meet.

The Beach

Did you know Fort Zachary Taylor originally was surrounded by water? Land was added around it in the 1960s, and it’s thanks to this that Key West now has one of its most beautiful beaches! The sand, sea, and sky make for a gorgeous setting for photos. It’s especially fun to shoot some photos of you walking hand in hand along the shore.

Sunset

The beach is especially beautiful during sunset! The lighting is at its most romantic and gives opportunities for fun silhouette photos. It’s also peak timing for passing sailboats to add some nautical charm.

Rocky Outcropping

For the sure-footed, clambering onto Ft. Zach’s seaside rocks can give your photos a rugged and adventurous flair.

Palms and Pines

Nothing says “tropical” like palm trees, and the park has plenty at the water’s edge to feature your island destination. We can incorporate them into some fun shots, like a clandestine kiss among the fronds.

Due to the warm climate, you might be surprised to see all the pine trees at Ft. Zach! Their presence around the park’s paths give a serene and natural ambiance to photos.

How to meet me there

With its historical, natural, and nautical settings, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is the perfect place for timeless Key West photos! Do its possibilities sound like a match for you? Unless we determine otherwise, here’s how to meet up with me there!

From Old Town Key West, head southeast on Southard Street through the Truman Annex neighborhood. Signage will guide you to the park’s gatehouse. After entering the park (small admission fee not included), follow the long, winding road ALL the way until you reach a gravel parking area. You will see the ocean, a tiki hut, and a large piece of driftwood. I will be there or meet you there shortly! You can’t miss me - I’ll have a big camera!


Rachel's Recommended Key West Accommodations

Whether you'll be visiting Key West for your own wedding or for a loved one's, make your trip to paradise a great one by booking your stay at one of the Conch Republic's best hotels, B&Bs, or resorts! Over my 11+ years as a local, both hosting guests as well as shooting photos all over this island, here are my recommendations for Key West's best places to stay, in alphabetical order! (Many of these are also perfect wedding venues!)

Angelina Guest House

For those seeking to unwind and go off the grid, this bed and breakfast offers quiet comfort at budget rates. With no phones, and a television in only one room, you can remove yourself from your routine and relax in a hammock by the poolside with a lush waterfall and palms. The Angelina Guest House is clean, charming, and only two blocks away from Duval Street.

Casa Marina

Casa Marina is a Waldorf Astoria Resort is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and overlooks more than 1,100 feet of beach reserved exclusively for guests. Outside, the lush grounds feature two swimming pools, swaying palm trees, an outdoor restaurant, and other amenities such as foosball and oceanside hammocks. Inside, the decor is simple, elegant, and contemporary with cool, neutral colors. Pet friendly and family oriented, the resort also offers many water activities such as snorkeling, fishing, and cruises.

Curry Mansion Inn

Built in 1869 by a prominent family in Key West's history but lovingly restored by Edith and Al Amsterdam, this wedding cake of a building is a unique bed and breakfast just steps from Duval Street. The mansion has 28 unique guest rooms in three different structures; tours of the historical property are available every day. Along with all its other amenities, your stay includes a wonderful two-hour cocktail party every evening!

Last Key Realty

Last Key Realty is a Key West vacation rental broker, a buyers' broker, and property manager. The rental properties include beautiful homes ranging from one to nine bedrooms with vibrant and elegant yet comfortable decor and features such as picket fences, pools, and lush gardens. A professional concierge service is available to guests seven days a week, as well as numerous activities such as kayaking, custom charters, bicycle rentals, and dinner cruises.

The Mermaid & The Alligator

This chic and stunning bed and breakfast, built in a Victorian style around 1904, offers classic and cozy decor - beautiful hardwood floors, elegant window treatments, four poster beds. The gardens are an especially delightful oasis where guests can retreat and unwind. Enjoy tropical plants, exotic flowers, and a chorus of lovebirds and parakeets. Breakfast, afternoon lemonade, and early evening wine are served for poolside every day for guests.

Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Recharge and re-energize at Ocean Key Resort & Spa, where the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean converge. The vibrant teal and Caribbean decor of the guest rooms, suites, and penthouse are casual yet opulent. Stroll on the resort's iconic pier or relax in the gorgeous pool lounge that provides towels, magazines, newspapers, fruit infused water, and a full cocktail and food menu. 

Old Town Manor

A top-rated bed and breakfast built in 1866, Old Town Manor unites the charm and beauty of the Victorian era with tropical decor and modern amenities. Enjoy the manor's fourteen beautiful rooms, each uniquely decorated and all including Wi-Fi and keyless entry. And if organic food and traveling with your pets are important to you, Old Town Manor offers a vegetarian, organic continental breakfast and allows pets of all sizes.

The Reach

A Waldorf Astoria Resort, The Reach is located on Key West's only private natural sand beach. The resort's 150 rooms are contemporary with classic color palettes, dark woods, a private balcony, and flat screen TVs. Stroll the beautiful pier or enjoy a game of chess on the giant chessboard set between giant palms near the pool.

Sunset Key Cottages

If you are seeking a secluded and luxurious escape, book your stay at Sunset Key Cottages, located on a 27-acre island just a short ferry ride from Key West. The resort offers beautifully appointed cottages with as many as four rooms, as well as a spa, pool, tennis courts, and waterfront dining. It's a perfect place for a honeymoon, too! In fact, the island so perfectly embodies paradise, its private beach was featured in the film Office Space's final scene!

Southernmost Beach Resort

This six-acre resort on a secluded part of the island offers 261 well-appointed rooms, as well as an extended stay residence. With the resorts' three pools, four tropical bars, and hammocks throughout the grounds, you may be tempted not to leave to explore the nearby boutiques, art galleries, and night life on Duval Street, all within walking distance. Enjoy a stroll or the sunset from the gorgeous pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. 


14 Questions to Ask Yourself when Creating your Wedding Day Timeline

After your marriage license, your wedding timeline is your wedding’s most important document! It helps organize all the moving parts, guiding you, your wedding party, your family, and your vendors through practically every moment of the day. The timeline is vital for making sure the everything runs smoothly and keeping stress to a minimum. 

While creating your own timeline can be challenging, many items will start to fall into place after making some of the big decisions. Here are 14 questions to ask yourself and items to consider when structuring your wedding timeline: 

1. When will your Ceremony Begin?

Your wedding day revolves around when you are actually getting married, of course! Are you thinking about a cheery brunch? Afternoon picnic? Evening soiree? All of these options play into the feel of your your wedding. Determining the general time is the biggest piece of the puzzle, and then other decisions can help you zero in on the exact ceremony time.

2. Traditional or First Look?

This decision plays a huge part in your timeline. The tradition is that on the day of the wedding, the couple should not see each other until their marriage ceremony begins. The alternative is what we call the “First Look,” a special moment when the couple sees each other before the ceremony. It doesn't replace the walking-down-the-aisle photo, but actually is an additional wonderful moment! The First Look allows for taking most the formal photos prior to the ceremony, avoiding the typical photo rush between the ceremony and the reception. 

3. How Much Time do you Need to get Ready? 

Whether you’re getting your hair, makeup, and nails done at a salon or are confident in doing it yourself, the time allotted for getting ready is not something to cut short! Plan on two or three hours, though a few additional items can help lock in this part of the timeline:

  • A hair and makeup run-through prior to your wedding day is very helpful in determining how much time you need and makes things more smoothly the day-of.
  • How big is your group of bridesmaids? This will help you figure out how much time will be needed for everyone to get their hair and makeup done.
  • Are you going to a salon? Double the transportation time you anticipate! Or, is a stylist coming to where you are getting ready? This option costs a bit more but saves you transit time.

4. How Long will your Ceremony Be?

When it comes down to it, getting married is the whole point of your wedding day! Religious ceremonies can last an hour or more. As far as secular ceremonies, some couples opt for short and sweet, while others add in proceedings such as readings or unity ceremonies. Think about which pieces of a ceremony are important to you and your fiancé to determine how long it will last. Don’t forget to include the time needed for the processional and recessional!

5. What Time does your Reception Venue Close?

If you’re doing an evening wedding, some venues have a set-in-stone ending time. Figure out how much time you want for your reception and work backwards to determine at what time the party should begin. 

If you opt to do a reception exit, such as bubbles or sparklers, plan enough time for that to end before the venue’s deadline.

6. Are the Venues for your Ceremony and Reception the Same or Different? 

If the two key parts of your wedding are at different places, build in ample time for transportation! 

7. How Big are your Wedding Party and Family?

The size and variety of these groups, as well as your desired shot list, helps determine how long this part of the timeline will last. However, if everyone is accounted for, the formal photos actually go pretty quickly - just two or three minutes per group!

8. How can you Avoid Hungry Guests?

Weddings can be long affairs, especially if a cocktail hour follows your ceremony. Guests can get surprisingly voracious, so try not to make them wait too long before the meal, or plan on providing them with appetizers or snacks. 

If you’re opting for a buffet over a plated meal, it may take longer than you’d think for each table to go through the line to get their food. If possible, have guests go on both sides of the buffet table to double the pace!

9. Which Wedding Reception Traditions are you Doing?

There are so many options for the festivities on your wedding day! By no means do you have do all of these traditions! The ones you do opt for is entirely up to you:

  • Wedding party reception entrance
  • First dance
  • Father-Daughter and Mother-Son dances
  • Toasts
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet toss
  • Garter toss

10. How can you Best Manage the Crowd?

Whichever of the above wedding festivities you choose, plan adequate time for them. There’s some time and strategy involved in “managing the crowd” and gathering your guests for a particular event. Structure a flow that minimizes the number of times they drift apart and must come back together. The larger your wedding is, the longer it takes to round up everyone, unless they’re already in the same place after an event such as the first dance.

11. Can you Stagger the Toasts?

Encourage your speakers to aim for short and sweet toasts about two or three minutes long. They will probably appreciate the lower pressure! Plus, long speeches delay the party and can be costly considering your wedding vendor team's hourly costs. Also, keep your reception's flow lively by breaking up toasts so your guests don’t have to listen to too many speeches in a row. For example, give the mic to the father of the bride before the meal and conclude it with toasts from your maid of honor and best man.

12. Would you like a Group Photo?

A group photo is a wonderful way to remember everyone who celebrated your special day with you. Again, plan enough time for this and keep the art of crowd management in mind. I usually recommend this at night when everyone has gathered on the dance floor!

13. Will you do a Receiving Line?

A receiving line is a good option if your wedding has 100 or more guests. It decreases the pressure on you to greet everyone but does take some time. As for timing, I recommend doing your formal wedding party and family photos, then joining your cocktail hour with a receiving line.

14. Would you like Sunset Photos? 

Key West is known for its beautiful sunsets, and they are an especially breathtaking backdrop on your wedding day! I highly recommend not passing up this opportunity. Whether you choose a traditional or First Look timeline, consider planning a quick getaway to capture some photos of you two and the sunset. Keep in mind that depending on the time of year, it can be as early as 5:38 pm in the winter or as late as 8:20 pm in the summer. 


Your 3-Day Key West Vacation Plan

Whether it's for your wedding, a loved one's big day, or just to get away, Key West is a wonderful island to stay for a few days - or in my case - over 11 years! Many of my photography clients and their guests ask me what they should do and see when they're not participating in wedding festivities. Showcasing my island home is one of my favorite things, so without further ado, here is my recommended itinerary for getting the most out of three days in Key West!

Day 1

Good morning! Start your first day in paradise off right with a visit to the Southernmost Point! Just 90 miles from Cuba, it’s a popular spot for photos, so the morning is a good time to go. Then, head north on Whitehead street for breakfast at Six Toed Cat. They have classic options like French toast, omelets, and Benedicts. It’s right next to the Hemingway Home and named after his famous polydactyl felines. 

Next, check out the Hemingway Home itself! Built in 1851 in a Spanish Colonial style, Ernest and his wife Pauline bought it in 1931. Enjoy the dozens of cats, the beautiful architecture, and some of Papa’s furniture while channeling your inner author; he wrote many of his famous books in the home, including For Whom the Bell Tolls. Afterwards, cross the street to tour the Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters. Can you make it up the 88 steps to the top?

If climbing all those stairs made you work up an appetite, walk two blocks to Blue Heaven for some incredible Key Lime Pie. It’s an iconic restaurant beloved by locals and visitors alike, and its KLP is out of this world! You might also notice some chickens roaming around - they're a common sight in Key West! Then, four blocks away is another classic locale - the Mile Marker 0 sign for US 1! Snap a pic, then make a stop at the “End of the Road” gift shop across the street for a memento.

Next, walk further north on Whitehead Street and choose your track:

Kids Track: Check out the Key West Aquarium and/or the Shipwreck Museum, depending on your family's pace and how much time you have. They’re very close to each other, and both are fantastically fun for families. The Aquarium features thousands of fish native to the keys, including sea turtles! At the Shipwreck museum, you’ll learn all about Key West’s formerly booming wrecking industry. You can also climb the 65’ tower for a spectacular view of the harbor! For dinner, stop at the nearby Red Fish Blue Fish. It has great seafood, a nice outdoor patio, and kids love the little paper boats their meals come in!

Grown-ups Track: Head east on Front Street to Alonzo’s Oyster Bar for their happy hour between 4:00 and 6:00 PM! All drinks (except bottles of wine) are half off, as is the entire page of their menu with appetizers and sides. Try some incredible fresh seafood such as oysters, clams, shrimp, and conch!

End your first day in the Conch Republic at Mallory Square’s Sunset Celebration. Enjoy the street performers, artisans, and most of all, a glorious Key West Sunset!

Grown-ups, not ready for bed? Go to The Green Parrot Bar, an institution since 1890. They host fantastic live music almost every night of the week! 

Day 2

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Head to Harpoon Harry’s for some chow in a delightfully retro diner setting.

Next, choose your track:

Presidential Track: Stop by the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Built for the Key West Naval Station officers in 1890, this incredible building began serving as President Truman’s winter retreat while president. 

Natural Track: Go to the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens! Tour the historic home, built by Captain John Huling Geiger in the 1840s, learn about the naturalist John James Audubon’s visit to Key West to paint native birds, and enjoy the acre of lush gardens.

Treasure Hunting Track: Head to the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum! Mel was the local hero who searched for the wreck of the Spanish ship The Atocha for 16 years and found the motherlode in 1985. Learn about his $450 million find and fascinating information about Key West’s maritime history at this quality museum. 

Now that you’ve had a history lesson, time for some shopping! Peruse Duval Street’s multitude of stores for keepsakes, clothing, homewares, fine art... you name it! I really love Mario Sanchez’s works, which are featured at Gallery on Green

It’s time to set sail! Danger Charters’ Wind & Wine Sunset Sail on a gorgeous schooner is an intrepid yet intimate way to experience Key West’s open waters. Book this one in advance! Finally, end your day with a romantic dinner at Santiago’s Bodega. One of my absolute favorite restaurants here, it’s a cozy tapas bar that serves an array of delectable small plates with house-specialty sangria.

Day 3

You’ve covered so much ground on land, so today is the day to dip your toes in the water! Head to Blue Heaven again for some island vibes and a spectacular breakfast. My personal favorite is the Lobster Benny, or, if you’re not into seafood, the Rooster Special. Also, another slice of that amazing Key Lime Pie wouldn’t hurt!

While you digest, hop on the Old Town Trolley at its nearby Bahama Village stop. For the next 90 minutes, you’ll cover the whole island and see 100 points of interest. 

Next, choose your track:

Adventurous: Jump in with Fury Water Adventures! You could do an island jet ski tour, go on a snorkeling trip, or even parasail! Keep in mind that depending of the timing of the excursion you choose, you might want to save the above trolley tour for afterward.

Relaxing: It’s time to hit the beach! Head to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. It’s such a beautiful beach that it’s where I do a lot of engagement and wedding photo shoots. It’s also a great spot for some snorkeling - no boat required! Hungry? Call Cuban Coffee Queen for a delivery of amazing Cuban fare.

Finally, enjoy one last Key West sunset during dinner. For a view of the Gulf of Mexico and wonderful island-inspired cuisine, try HarbourView Café, a part of the elegant Pier House Resort & Spa. Or, for a very special treat, go to Latitudes! Book in advance and then ride the ferry from the Westin to Sunset Key for an unforgettable dining experience.

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Special thanks to my past wedding photography client and fellow Key West resident Kara Gladish and her company Kahunify for collaborating on this guide!