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Beyond the Destination Wedding Weekend

Expand your special occasion with an extended stay

Sun, sand and drink — they add up to a state of mind that leads countless couples to beach and destination weddings in Northwest Florida. The area makes a wedding weekend seem like a vacation. Why not make it one by extending and making the most of your stay?

Given all the amenities that beach resorts provide, many couples opt for a long weekend or a weeklong celebration. This is especially popular for destination weddings.

Couples work with their resort or hotel to arrange a schedule of events, options and room rates for guests. As a couple, you’ll decide which events are attended by whom.

Sarah Salesses, marketing manager with The Henderson Beach Resort & Spa in Destin, provided a sample schedule for a long weekend.

Thursday could consist of a welcome party. Begin Friday with a pool or beach day complete with umbrella, beach chair and cabana rentals and end with an on-site rehearsal dinner. Wake up Saturday to room service and getting ready as a bridal party, pictures, the ceremony, cocktail hour, the reception and after-party all on property. Conclude the extended weekend on Sunday with a farewell brunch.

“When couples arrive, they never have to leave,” Salesses said. “Our team is happy to coordinate a schedule of activities like a spa day, cocktail hour at the rooftop bar or private event in Primrose, our signature dining experience.”

Add to this schedule at the front or back end. As a couple, you can plan to arrive a few days early to complete errands and enjoy some alone time before guests arrive. After the wedding, stay a day or so to relax, make it your mini-honeymoon, or enjoy a full honeymoon without changing venues.

Plan for your bachelor or bachelorette parties to be earlier in the week. For a bachelorette party, plan to sip cocktails poolside, indulge in spa treatments and explore the area’s shops, restaurants and watering holes. For a bachelor party, spend your days at the pool or beach or enjoy on-site or nearby golf courses, raise toasts at local breweries and dine at some of the best restaurants in the region.

“A full pre- and post-wedding itinerary is customizable to fit the specific interests of each group — a welcoming bonfire on the beach, a farewell brunch, spa treatments, yoga along the Gulf coast, various dining experiences, group volleyball tournaments on the beach and more can all be part of the celebrations,” said Angela Kramer, the wedding and special event manager at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Destin.

Resorts, including Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach, provide a free tram service that carries passengers to The Village of Baytowne Wharf with its shopping, dining, kid’s activities and nightlife; four golf courses; Hotel Effie with Ara rooftop bar; the tennis center; mini-golf; and of course, the Gulf of Mexico.

The beauty of beach resorts and hotels is they exist to make the guest experience as easy and enjoyable as possible with a multitude of amenities and extras to make your stay special. Beach bonfire with your bridal party? Gather around. Bottle of champagne for the happy couple? Coming right up. Beach umbrella? You say where.

The Oyster Bay Boutique Hotel in Pensacola offers the unique experience of a weekend buyout.

“The weekend buyout means the couple and their guests have the entire property to themselves for the weekend or longer,” said Mallory Studer, general manager of Oyster Bay Boutique Hotel. “This allows couples to take advantage of the extra time together with a welcome cocktail reception, on-site themed rehearsal dinner, the big day itself and a wrap-up breakfast or brunch. A wedding weekend buyout gives couples the opportunity to make memories all weekend.”

Most beach hotels and resorts have wedding planners on staff who help coordinate your entire stay and connect you with their list of vendors. Many properties are all-inclusive and can meet every wedding-related need. In most cases, there are multiple venue options should weather interfere and make it necessary for you to move your beach ceremony indoors.

Weddings and vacations are two occasions that most people never want to end. An end will come, but extend your stay and the bliss as long as possible.

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