Florida attracts brides and grooms from all the country, drawn by sunny skies and some of the best beaches in the world. But before you book the same-old, same-old ceremony on the sand and a hotel reception, consider a one-of-a-kind setting at one of the state’s historic bed-and-breakfasts.
Herlong Mansion, Micanopy
The Herlong specializes in small, elegant weddings in the gardens or on the well-groomed lawn, with the three-story Southern mansion as a backdrop.
The grand front porch, flanked with Corinthian columns, may be used for the ceremony or reception, or both. Also available are the grounds, with abundant flower beds, rose-lined walkways and a gazebo draped in jasmine, and a banquet room that seats 60.
The bride and groom – and their family and friends – won’t want to leave when the celebration ends. Guests at the magnificent Herlong choose from 10 rooms and two free-standing cottages. The inn, built in 1845, features the 10 original fireplaces, mahogany inlaid floors and leaded glass windows.
Micanopy is a small town just south of Gainesville, with restaurants and little antique and gift shops for browsing. In 2015, the Huffington Post named Micanopy one of the “12 Cutest Small Towns in America,” along with the likes of Stowe, Vt., and Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.
The Honeymoon: The Carriage House and the Pump House Cottage are both free-standing options away from the main house, and both have Jacuzzis for two. But the Carriage House is the best choice for newlyweds. It has a king-sized bed (rather than queen) and is more secluded.
Sweetwater Branch Inn, Gainesville
The Sweetwater Branch Inn is another ideal setting for an outdoor B&B wedding – in the courtyard, gazebo or colonnade. The inn has two acres of surrounding gardens, plus the McKenzie Hall and the smaller McKenzie House for indoor banquet space.
The McKenzie House, built in 1895, is a three-story Victorian home on the National Register of Historic Places. In all, the Sweetwater has 20 rooms, suites and cottages for guests.
The Honeymoon: What could be better than your own Honeymoon Cottage? It’s made for two, with a king-sized bed, a large Jacuzzi and fireplace in the living room and a kitchen.
Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast
At the Palmetto Riverside B&B, guests may arrive by boat at a private 200-foot pier. The 1913 inn, on the National Register, faces the Manatee River.
An expansion in 2011 added a ballroom/reception hall and outdoor marble patio that can host up to 150 guests.
The B&B offers six restored waterfront rooms furnished with French period antiques.
The Honeymoon: The octagonal-shaped Riverview Suite offers magnificent river views from its many windows, plus teak floors and a cathedral ceiling. The large bathroom has a walk-in rain shower.
Courtyard at Lake Lucerne, Downtown Orlando
Lake Lucerne hosts weddings and receptions at two of its four buildings – the antebellum I.W. Phillips House and the grand Victorian Dr. Phillips Mansion.
For outdoor events, the B&B offers two intimate garden courtyards adjacent to the homes. The Dr. Phillips courtyard is larger and contains a large gazebo.
Accommodations are available in the two Phillips houses, plus another historic house and an Art Deco building with one-bedroom suites.
The Honeymoon: The Dr. Phillips House contains several rooms sure to please any bride and groom. One of the most luxurious – and unusual – is the Turret Room at the top, with spectacular views of Lake Lucerne. (I have always wanted to stay in the Turret.) The room is furnished with a king-sized sleigh bed and offers a double whirlpool tub and marble shower as well.
St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine
Weddings are held in the inn’s enclosed Spanish courtyard, with award-winning gardens of lush greenery and tropical flowers. The courtyard can be used for up to an hour, accommodating the bridal couple and a witness, or up to 30 guests.
The St. Francis dates back to 1791 and is located in the heart of the oldest part of St. Augustine.
The Honeymoon: Several guest rooms are made for romance. The Garden Hideaway is separate from the inn. A two-person whirlpool tub is in a second room, with an electric fireplace. For more space, choose the two-room Wilson Suite or three-room Saffron’s Suite.
Amelia Island Williams House
Your guests arrive through a pre-Civil War wrought iron fleur-de-lis fence and gather on the front lawn of the antebellum mansion to hear your vows.
Your reception could be held in the secret garden of the Williams House, underneath the rose-covered pergola; on the backyard patio, surrounded by fountains and old oak trees; or indoors, in the 1856 parlor, with its gingerbread veranda.
The Honeymoon: Catherine’s Chamber is the B&B’s most luxurious room. French doors lead to a semi-private porch. Other features: gas fireplace, Jacuzzi tub for two, separate shower with dual showerheads and king-sized bed.
1872 John Denham House, Monticello
For those looking for a no-muss, no-fuss wedding, this historic home – offering an “Elopement Wedding” – could be a good, low-cost option.
Just show up ready to go, with marriage license in hand, and the staff will take care of the rest. Up to 10 guests are allowed. The price begins at $400.
Last-minute wedding? No problem, according to the website.
The John Denham mansion, listed on the National Register, sits on an acre lot and has eight fireplaces and a cupola.
The Honeymoon: The Honeymoon/Anniversary Suite was named by Florida Monthly Magazine among top 20 spots to spend your honeymoon. It has a fireplace and the bath has an extra-large claw foot tub/shower combination. And the cost is only $120 a night.
Sundy House, Delray Beach
An acre of lush tropical wonder surrounds the historic Sundy House B&B and its restaurant, with quiet coral paths, gazebos and benches hidden among streams and waterfalls. The expansive lawn provides a stunning setting for wedding ceremonies.
For accommodation, choose from 12 different rooms, suites and cottages that reflect the landscape.
The Honeymoon: A historic cottage offers the ultimate in luxury and privacy. Featuring one bedroom, two bathrooms, full kitchen and dining room, living room area with decorative fireplace, Jacuzzi and patio with garden view.
Henderson Park Inn, Destin
This beachfront New England-style resort hosts outdoor weddings and receptions for up to 150 people with spectacular views of the gulf and sunset.
The inn’s beachfront hotel rooms have private terraces and some have fireplaces and Jacuzzis or whirlpool tubs. The nightly rate includes not only a breakfast buffet, but a daily boxed lunch.
The Honeymoon: The inn’s largest and most luxurious accommodation is the 700-square-foot Presidential Suite, which has a direct view of the beach and the Gulf and a large private balcony. There’s a kitchenette, living and dining area and split bathroom with large walk-in shower with dual heads and vanity on one side, and toilet and vanity on the other.
Night Swan Intracoastal, New Smyrna Beach
Say “I Do” on the wide green lawn of this traditional inn facing the Indian River, in front of two historic homes and a cottage. What could be more tranquil?
Afterward, you and your guests could stay in one of 16 rooms, sail on the 53-foot schooner docked in front of the B&B and enjoy the beach and other charms of small-town New Smyrna.
The Honeymoon: For the best views of the river, the newlyweds should book the Dolphin Domain Room, where they can cuddle up on their own 20-foot enclosed porch. They will sleep in a king-sized four poster bed. The room also has its own entrance for privacy.
Some bed-and-breakfasts offer wedding packages. Amelia Island Williams House, for instance, promotes a variety of wedding packages on its website, ranging from “An Intimate Affair” for two to a “Fairytale Event Wedding and Reception” for up to 50 guests. (Look under “Weddings & Events.”)
If you don’t see what you want – as far as price or amenities – call the inn and discuss creating a custom package to suit your needs.
Ask about honeymoon specials, too, and look for them on the Discounts list. The Magnolia Inn, in Mount Dora, offers honeymooners four weeknights in its Carriage Suite for $550.
And, needless to say, plan your B&B wedding as far in advance as possible.
(Note: As always, I accepted no compensation in exchange for writing this article.)