An Elegant Island Wedding at Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande, Florida

Although Emily (27 and a graduate student) and Jason (27 and a graduate student) call New York home, they whisked their friends and family off to Gasparilla Island on Florida's Gulf Coast for a relaxed weekend by the beach. The Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande was an easy choice for the pair, who were smitten with the venue’s innate intimacy, Southern hospitality, world-class food and ample amenities. “We love that when you cross over the bridge and arrive on Gasparilla Island, you instantly feel like you’re on vacation,” Emily says. “And all the wedding events, the beach, the town and our guests’ rooms were within close walking distance of one another.” With most of their guests coming from a New York winter, Emily and Jason emphasized the island's warm vibe with an alfresco affair filled with soft white, green, purple and blue hues, golden seashells and lush greenery. Lavish garden-inspired florals carried offered a marked contrast to the snow-covered landscape the couple’s guests left behind in the North and carried the evening’s decor. Verdant bundles of greenery and white blooms lined the ceremony aisle, creating the illusion of seagrass, while arrangements of proteas, roses and hydrangeas infused the open-air reception tent with an air of effortless elegance. “We knew everyone would be excited to eat dinner outside by the water,” Emily says. The views paired with dishes such as Florida crab cakes and filet mignon served over creamy polenta and sauteed kale for an unforgettable feast, made even more memorable with a spread of decadent desserts, including mini sticky toffee puddings, spiked milkshakes and freshly made doughnuts. After dinner, the newlyweds ushered their family and friends onto the dance floor, where Powerhouse Band pumped out high-energy tunes late into the night. A tip from Emily: “The couple set the tone for the weekend. If you relax and have fun, your guests will follow your lead.” —Libby MacCarthy