Love the Water? Here’s Where You Should Have Your Destination Wedding

From beachside ceremonies to sunset cruises, Marathon is a water lover’s paradise.
by Kelsey Paine

You and your partner are sure of one thing when it comes to your wedding: You want a picturesque destination that has to be near your favorite place, the ocean. Let us save you an online deep dive—Marathon in the Florida Keys is the charming island getaway you’re looking for. With its retro nautical atmosphere, friendly people, stunning beaches and an abundance of water activities (from fishing to parasailing), Marathon is the ideal wedding spot for water-loving couples and their guests. Read on for our picks for where to host your celebration and what to do (and eat!) during your destination wedding. There’ll be plenty of sandy toes, suntans and tropical drinks in your future.

Where to Tie the Knot

Want to say “I do” out on the open ocean just the two of you, or throw a giant party with all your family and friends? You can do both, and then some, at these five venues.

For timeless elegance: Isla Bella Beach Resort

If you want all the bells and whistles of modern-day luxury, set your sights on this oceanside oasis. With 20,000 square feet of event space and 24 acres of oceanfront, Isla Bella has a number of distinctive ceremony and reception sites. Host your nuptials right at the water’s edge, on a terrace overlooking the ocean, or in one of their opulent ballrooms with capacity up to 150. An event manager will even help you orchestrate the whole day. Bonus: Every room has an ocean view and there’s an on-site spa for day-of primping (or a postwedding massage).

For an exciting on-the-water experience: Hawks Cay Resort

Think outside the box, and say your vows on a boat—Helios, the 49-passenger catamaran stationed at Hawks Cay Resort, to be exact. You and your guests can set sail on calm turquoise seas while the sun sets beyond the horizon. Want to really lean into your love of the water? Have your entire ceremony while balancing on paddleboards in their enclosed saltwater lagoon. Then dance the night away barefoot in the sand at the Oasis Cay (complete with firepit) or enjoy the Dolphin Deck, which overlooks the resort’s ocean-fed lagoon: home to a pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

For a chic nautical venue: Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club

A postcard-ready backdrop awaits at this resort’s famous lighthouse, a local landmark on the island since the 1950s. Whether your guest list consists of 10 people or 300, the on-site team will help you plan every aspect of your wedding on their great lawns or indoor ballrooms. Plus, Lighthouse Grill, the resort’s well-known seafood-centric restaurant, can cater your reception with a menu featuring the freshest local fish.

For an easy, breezy and intimate ceremony: Tranquility Bay

What’s in a name? In this case, a lot of relaxation. At Tranquility Bay, you’ll walk down the aisle on a palm tree-lined beach toward a picturesque gazebo. There, you’ll enjoy the intimate ceremony you’ve always imagined with 25 of your nearest and dearest. Time it just right so the sun sets as you and your partner are enjoying your first kiss as a married couple. Then toast to your newlywed status on the alfresco patio at Butterfly Bay restaurant, which offers a wide range of options (with a Caribbean twist) for you and your guests. 

For getting your tiki on: Sunset Grille & Raw Bar

If you love laid-back aloha vibes, host your ceremony at this charming restaurant, which boasts the largest tiki hut structure in the state—a cute, kitschy spot to say your vows. Located at the east end of the historic Seven Mile Bridge (which connects the Middle and Lower Keys), Sunset Grille offers arguably the best sunset views in the area. Reception food and drink is super-easy to arrange: Sample their famous frozen tiki drinks, including large fish bowls that come with the open bar package. Then choose from a variety of catering menus (think: barbecued lobster tails or a buffet with dishes like Key lime snapper). And don’t be surprised if all your guests end up in the pool before the end of the night! 

What to Do

While a visit to Marathon is all about the beach, there’s still lots of action on the island to keep your guests entertained all weekend long.

  • Get On (or In) the Water: Head to Captain Pip’s Marina & Hideaway, where you can book private snorkeling, parasailing, Jet Ski or kayak tours. Or invite your guests aboard one of Manic Sportfishing’s chartered boats for a day of reef and wreck fishing. Keep an eye out for the massive tarpon fish—they do acrobatic leaps above the waterline when hooked.
  • See Marine Life: Interact with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center, feed stingrays at Aquarium Encounters, or learn more about sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital
  • Enjoy Some R&R: Take a picnic to Sombrero Beach, one of the best kept secrets in the Keys and a local favorite thanks to its nicely shady palm trees and gentle surf.

Where to Eat and Drink

Whether you’re looking for a casual spot for welcome drinks or more refined rehearsal dinner digs, Marathon has plenty of restaurants and bars where you can enjoy locally caught seafood and vacation-worthy cocktails.

  • Kick Off the Weekend Right: Enjoy welcome drinks at Castaway, an island institution since 1951. There’s plenty of room in the semi open-air restaurant for all your guests to spread out and—attention, beer lovers—try some of the 52 brews on draft. Don’t miss their famous sushi or shrimp steamed in beer.
  • Have an Upscale Rehearsal Dinner: Barracuda Grill has a maritime theme, comfortable dining room and delicious menu items like braised short ribs, seared tuna and homemade bread pudding. 
  • Host an Epic Send-Off: Have your after-party at the longest tiki bar in the Florida Keys: The Island Fish Co. You can rent out the entire open-air bar area, situated on the Gulf of Mexico overlooking their marina. Sip on frozen daiquiris and marvel at the sky full of stars above you—we can’t think of a better place to toast to the end of an unforgettable wedding weekend. 

Learn more about why you should consider the beautiful setting of Marathon for your wedding here.

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