A destination wedding is always a good decision in our book, but how do you decide where to plan your not-so-near nuptials? Do you choose a place with a meaningful connection to your past (a long-time vacation hub of your family’s, perhaps?) or a memorable getaway spot you’ve shared with your soon-to-be spouse? Either qualifier certainly bodes well for a beautiful celebration to come, but consideration of your guests’ good time can also help you pick a perfect locale. After all, guest enjoyment and experience have always been a huge part of the wedding planning picture. If you can ‘shore up’ a fun jaunt via a destination that offers so much in the way of recreation and exploration opportunities for the people you love, then you can almost guarantee the guest experience is chart-topping (in the best way ever). Whether you’ve been digging a destination wedding for a while or just started imagining what an off-site soiree could look like, you’ll definitely want to keep Fort Myers’ islands, beaches and neighborhoods in mind.
It’s a fete in Florida, so your guests will already know they’re in for a treat when they get their invites in the mail — what with the tropical settings, white-sand beaches and spectacular sunsets — but we’re even more excited by the plethora of pre- and post-wedding activities and adventures that guests can enjoy while they’re there. From relaxing spa experiences, water sports, and on-the-water adventures to events on stage, nature encounters, and scintillating dining and spirits scenes, your guests will have so many things to see and do and you’ll have the best time putting together their wedding weekend itineraries!
Spas and Wellness
Of course, you’ll want to schedule some time at the spa if you’re the couple saying ‘I do’ in a few days’ time, but for your guests, especially those friends and fam who need a reason to treat themselves (i.e. if they’re on vacation and already in relaxation beast mode), there are so many world-class resorts to put some ‘me time’ on the books.
Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point
Stillwater Spa is the heart of the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa (and if you need extra ammunition to take your walk down the aisle here, then here you go!) and it’s every bit as beautiful as it is blissful. All of their treatments are meant to restore the body’s natural rhythms, renew the client’s sense of balance, and rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul — and we can’t think of a better way to log some down-time than being wrapped in a robe or steeped in an immersion bath with the most serene background sounds around.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shangri-La Springs
What about asking your bridesmaids and your best friends to join you for a hydra sea facial at Shangri-La Springs? Going back to the idea of stubborn friends needing incentives to reach inner sanctum (at the spa), this stunning estate (which features a natural spring and lush botanic gardens, just to paint you a picture) is all about healing. And after the last two years of uncertainty and chaos, isn’t that what everyone in your world needs? Come to think of it, we haven’t stopped daydreaming about mud wraps and massages ever since the word ‘spa’ entered the chat (i.e. this post).
Mindful meditation also does the trick, with a number of the resorts in the greater Fort Myers area offering beach-side yoga sessions. We’re particularly fond of something like this for a first-day-in-Fort-Myers welcome event.
On the beach
Okay, so yes, we did say that we’d be looking beyond the obvious aesthetic draws of this Southwest Florida destination, but c’mon, we can’t ignore the picture-perfect backdrop that describes the islands, beaches, and neighborhoods of Fort Myers. And when pristine beaches are sprawling, you’ll always have a built-in excuse for your guests to exhale and take in all the sand and sun.
Searching for Shells
Collecting seashells isn’t an earth-shattering suggestion for your adult guests and tiny attendants, but when you’ve chosen Fort Myers to host your wedding, every day creates a unique shell-hunt experience different from the day before. The change in tide reveals a whole new set of shoreside specimens, thanks to the currents from the Caribbean. With Sanibel’s east-west orientation, gentle waters push along the Gulf’s sloping sea floor to ensure that shells arrive unharmed, and as a mom who has spent hours calming down a toddler who was beside himself over not finding a single seashell intact at the beach last year, this reality is gold.
You can even consider arranging a private seashell exploration cruise/charter to whisk your wanderlusters away to more remote locations, at which point you can enjoy a sunset and watch dolphins play in your boat wake during the trip from shore.
Granted, rental facilities are plentiful anywhere near the water, with guided tours that can direct your exhilaration-enthusiasts to notable spots. But The Great Calusa Blueway is a must-paddle for anyone able to sit in a canoe or kayak, or stand on a paddleboard, because it’s arguably the finest paddling trail in the U.S. This nearly 200-mile water trail threads gently through Southwest Florida, providing a close look at hundreds of resident birds and fascinating marine creatures at peace in their native habitat. Who wouldn’t want their friends and family to experience that?
We’ve talked about alternative rehearsal dinners before, but Captiva Cruises on Captiva Island offers some of the most exciting sunset cruises around — and they’re perfect for a cool and very-out-of-the-box pre-wedding evening. If you’ve invited kids to your wedding, you might like to consider a wildlife or dolphin cruise, but something that entertains younger and older guests alike can be found in a privately-chartered 40’ sailing catamaran named “Adventure!” Live music, cocktails, an open-air top deck, and time to unwind with everyone who matters the most in your life = everything!
Nature and Wildlife
Given how fast-paced our world is and how preoccupied we all can become with work, our personal lives, family issues and/or concerns, there’s barely enough time left over for a spin session on our Pelotons let alone nature hikes and walkabouts with wildlife. That’s why we’re so overwhelmed with love for the Fort Myers area and its creature features. Plus, the parks and preserves are free (with nominal costs for parking) and open to the public, which makes them a fabulous point of interest for guests who might share your love for animals or who just want to unplug, leave their wallets back at the hotel, and disconnect for a morning or afternoon.
Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Over 3,500 acres of wetland ecosystem with a Boardwalk trail and Interpretive Center comprise the Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. It catches and slowly filters rainwater on its way towards Estero Bay (another amazing place to kayak and paddleboard throughout Fort Myers), and serves as home for a myriad of animal species including otters, alligators, turtles, wading birds, and more.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
There are few things more gratifying for outdoor enthusiasts than a trip to Wildlife Drive at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is open every day, with the exception of Friday, all year-round from dawn to dusk — providing a four-mile, one way road, with a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, and lots of exciting sites to see. Your guests can try a 90-minute tram tour or explore the refuge on their own, pulling over and parking on the right side of the road to traverse trails, survey the overlooks, and take in all the top sites of the observation tower.
Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium & Rotary Park, Preserve and Butterfly Garden
You might also find that your wedding weekend has several open pockets of time, ideal for some excellent private group outings like a Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium field trip or a paint-n-sip party at Rotary Park! Both locations also have exquisite butterfly houses that host sundry varieties of native Florida butterfly species. We’re not fans of butterfly releases at weddings, because they’re inhumane, but inviting your guests to enjoy these winged wonders in a safe and non-intrusive way, is a great way to celebrate love, hope, life, beauty, and the start of a happily ever after ahead.
Festivals, Events, and Performances
Sure, a wedding is one of the best ‘live performances’ your guests will witness in their lives, but that’s not to say that while they’re in town to see you tie the knot they can’t also attend a festival to see other talents bring their artforms to life or snag tickets (or you for them! If it’s in the budget!) to the theater to watch another triumph on stage.
Fort Myers Artfest
One of the things we love about destination weddings is how much of a cultural experience they can provide. Your guests don’t have to stick to wedding-related errands the whole time they’re in town. For instance, the annual early-winter ArtFest brings hundreds of pieces of original, high-quality art created by more than 200 participating artists from around the country for a weekend full of artful inspiration. It also affords guests opportunities to add mementos from the trip [to their at-home collections], and a 5K Fun Run is a blast for the whole wedding crew (could even be a great way to end your stay and get everyone out in the fresh, open air before they rush to the airport and head home).
American Sand Sculpting Championship
Speaking of fresh air… if your wedding falls during the 10 days of American Sand Sculpting Championships on Fort Myers Beach, you and the rest of your beachcomber crew have to check out the most amazing display of sandcrafting couturiership in the whole United States. It’s a wonderful day activity, plus you can even make it into a fun bonding outing for yourselves and your guests. Maybe even choose two sand creations to be ‘team bride’ or ‘team groom’ and whoever’s cohort wins (even if you don’t find that out until you’ve returned home #somethingtolookforwardto), gets a special post-winning prize.
Florida Repertory Theatre
This fully professional performing arts company, set up in the hallowed and historic Arcade Theatre of the Fort Myers River District on Bay Street between Jackson and Hendry Streets, produces a wide variety of comedies, dramas, and musicals, and brings more than 87,000 people to the Fort Myers River District annually throughout its September to May season. Why not add your guests to that growing number of patrons? We couldn’t think of a sweeter send-off than an evening spent out on the town.
Dining, Shopping, and Nightlife
Yes, your guests will likely be spending a lot of time at your greater Fort Myers area resort (because, nearly all of them throughout the area offer a one-stop-shop for the wedding, lodging, and lounging), but venturing off-site for food, fine drinks, and fun will never end in disappointment — just pure delight. We’re obsessed with Times Square on Fort Myers Beach and have so many favorites on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, too.
Any place with a name like this is going to be one of the most iconic areas of the town. And Times Square, the downtown area of Fort Myers Beach at the north end of Estero Island and the base of Matanzas Pass Bridge, is no different. Here, your guests can hit up a variety of beachfront retail and restaurant establishments along with the famous pier and public beach access. The vacation vibes are alive and well all year long, and your guests will fall head over heels for the colors and vibrancy radiating through this energetic enclave.
The Island Cow
At the Island Cow, your guests will get to graze over the largest menu on Sanibel Island! Their bangin’ bites are the result of years of domestic and global culinary travel: two parts Southwest Florida, one part Southern Comfort food; a cup of Sanibel island culture; a dash of Caribbean spice and flair – and the result is ALL delicious. With great cookin’, cold drinks, outdoor games, and live entertainment, this local fave is a fun and festive choice for a welcome brunch or to kick off a bar crawl with your besties.
Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery
Located in Cape Coral, just miles from the fertile sugarcane fields of Florida, Wicked Dolphin Rum was born out of an idea for a true Florida Rum (and they’re celebrating a full decade in business this year!). Using 100% Florida sugar and local ingredients, their rum is handcrafted in small batches using an American copper pot still, the largest in South Florida. You and your guests can visit the distillery to tour, taste, and see how Florida’s premium rum is made. We also think it’s an awesome site to host a joint bachelor/bachelorette party or even host your wedding morning (a drink or two before the I dos can calm all those pre-ceremony jitters!). Bonding, but make it #weddingappropos.
Start planning your destination wedding around the Fort Myers area, complete with open-air venues, wonder-laden natural spaces, hospitality, stewardship, and a selection of shining must-sees for your esteemed guests, by visiting the Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods website and reaching out for more information!
A wedding here is the best gateway for guests to make memories and return home with a newfound favorite vacation spot!
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