Here in Key West, one of the most popular wedding venues is The Pier House Resort and Spa, in the middle of downtown. Combined with a great downtown location, luxury amenities, an onsite spa and salon, a spacious and beautiful beach (rare for Key West), waterfront views, and great staff, it's hard to beat.
Enjoy this visual tour of the Pier House, start to finish from the preparations, ceremony, portraits, and reception.
I have always found the rooms to be spacious, well decorated, spotlessly clean, and beautifully lit with sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains (this is something I personally like to see, as it makes the most flattering photographs that allow me to shape light on a subject without using artificial flash).
||Details, DetailsLighting doesn't come to mind to most people when choosing a hotel for their wedding, but it does create opportunities for images that have a different look and feel than those created with artificial flash.|
|So Thirsty!Never worry that your champagne wishes will be ignored! Delivery to the room often includes everything from fruit, to mini sandwich wraps, and of course, your beverage of choice!|
When you see each other for the first time on your wedding day, the moment will already be special. But since you will likely also have photos taken during this time, you want the surroundings to be stunning as well. Thankfully, the Pier House has several nice places that allow you the space and quiet atmosphere that is perfect for this.
In the GardenPier House has a beautiful garden throughout the center of the hotel that allows snug little spots to see each other for the first time.
||Privacy SettingsWith a moment like this, you want it documented, but you don't want your photographer to be in the middle of it.|
|Happy ExchangesThe "first look" is also a great time to exchange cards or other gifts. The balconies overlooking the harbor make a nice area to do so.||
Sneaking a PeekThe beachside covered patio area offers a shady spot where you can be perfectly alone...that is, until your bridesmaids find out where you are. :)
People often think that getting married on the beach in Key West means you have to forego the amenities and full service of a resort. With a wedding at the Pier House, you get the best of both. They have two primary ceremony locations on the property, both of which we see couples light up with delight when they see it all set up for the first time.
Beach CeremonyThe paved covered patio area leads out onto the white sand beach area, and offers a beautiful unobstructed blue sky background. One area of their beach extends all the way to the water's edge, however because this is near the bar and the restaurant, and is where other hotel guests go to relax in their lounge chairs, it's actually better to have the ceremony a little further down, tucked in behind the beautiful sea-grape foliage, with a view of the blue water in the background.
From a photographic standpoint, this site is actually the best because the setup allows the sunlight to come in from the side, which is a very flattering effect.
This spot also has a covered patio where the ceremony musician can set up in the shade, and a walled-off "staging area" from which you can line up with your bridesmaids, and give your dad a final kiss on the cheek before you make your grand entrance.
The other thing I like about it is that you have the entire area to yourself. Beach weddings on Smathers or Higgs require you to jockey for position when you arrive, and other hotels have beaches that are so small, you don't really have much separation from other guests. Here, the only people surrounding you are those you intended to be present.
Invite Them AllWhether it's an intimate gathering of your 10 closest family and friends, or you've got people flying into town by the dozens, the beach ceremony site at the Pier House can easily accommodate.
In terms of size, the Pier House excels again. You have so much flexibility with how many guests they can accommodate. Not only is their resort large enough that everyone can have a room on site, but their ceremony sites both can scale both up and down. It's very common for us to see very small weddings with 10 to 15 people, and you don't want to be getting married in a massive, expansive space that feels empty. At the same time, you don't want a venue that is so restrictive in its capacity that you have to worry if extra people show up.
The Pier House gives you a setting that is intimate enough for very small events, but scales easily when everyone is attending.
On the other side of the resort is the waterfront terrace ceremony location. This is a large private open balcony-type area that feels as if it sticks out over the water. It has wooden pylons that accent the corners, and a clean white railing that borders the area.
While I do find it to be a very pretty spot to have your wedding, there are few things to consider. Because it is not as "tucked away" from the water as the beach spot, you are more aware of the activity out on the harbor. There is a jetski rental company that departs nearby, so occasionally you'll see them zoom by. On the flip side, this also means you have a better view of the historic schooner sailboats as they float past, often waving and hooting in congratulations!
My biggest recommendation, however, when choosing this spot, is to talk with the coordinator about how the chairs will be positioned, and to be aware of how this will affect the images your photographer can capture. While the sun going down behind the altar area sounds like a romantic idea, this means everyone else will be facing directly into the sun. Guests will need to squint or wear sunglasses, or at worst will be holding up their hands to their eyes.
Sun SplashThe terrace location, while very beautiful, is going to give you a different look in your photos. Light flares and sun that spills in from behind can have a romantic look, but is not for everyone.
Your images will have to be taken in such a way that either allows sunlight to splash into the scene, or the photographer will have to position herself at angles that aren't always ideal. If guests are against the right railing, it limits images from that side, which is the direction the bride is usually facing.
If you have your ceremony on the terrace, maybe look into positioning the "aisle" perpendicular to the sunset, as opposed to facing it. You'll have a shorter aisle to walk down, but the positives may outweigh these considerations.
Whether you choose to have your bride and groom photos taken before or after the ceremony, one area that Pier House Resort really shines is its beautiful surroundings, lush garden walkways, and variety of scenic areas to shoot in, all of which are mostly devoid of people loitering in the background or disturbing the session.
In addition, the hotel is so centrally located to downtown Key West, that it is very easy to wander off property and incorporate the funky and colorful Duval Street attractions - all within walking distance - into your portraits.
Jump for JoyPier House beach shoreline makes a great place for group photos with the bridal party
||Beam of CreativityWith so many nooks and crannies to explore throughout the hotel, it's easy to pull out creative effects like this.|
|Perfect FitThe gardens throughout the resort give your photographs a true tropical feel.|
Once the wedding ceremony is over and all the portraits have been captured, it's time to party! Here is where you'll have a variety of options. While we have seen receptions take place in the conference center, most happen on the terrace, with select smaller weddings being hosted on the restaurant veranda.
|Indoor SpaceWhile not used as frequently, the Grand Ballroom at the Pier House Resort is a great indoor space to have your wedding reception.||Small Party. Cozy Setting.The veranda makes a nice comfortable setting if you are just celebrating with a small group of friends and family and aren't hosting a full reception. They can set it up with one long table, or a few round 8-Tops.||Under the StarsThe terrace reception area is the most popular and spacious spot at Pier House to have your post-wedding party.|
The terrace has plenty of space for the band or DJ, some open areas for dancing, pretty overhead strings of bulbs or lanterns, a full service bar, plenty of tables for family, gifts, guest book, and even room for a Photo Booth or a custom Cigar Rolling Station, if you're up for it!
|Make an EntranceAnother option is to have your reception under the beachside patio. The layout allows for a grand entrance and plenty of "room to groove".||
All Taken Care OfThe wedding packages at the Pier House mean all you have to do is choose your preferences, and they will order and deliver.
|Roll Your Own Cigar!Danny DiFabio with Rodriguez Cigars specializes in bringing custom cigar rolling tables and supplies, and will even teach guests how to roll their own.|
In addition to the space and amenities, the Pier House also wins in its delicious catering. Be sure to ask them to include their delicious conch chowder! The staff is always super friendly and attentive, and the receptions always run very smoothly. I've never had a bad experience as a vendor at this location, nor have I seen my couples run into any issues either.
|1, 2, 3, Smile!A photo booth is a really fun way to create memories without everyone feeling so formal and stiff.||Room to MoveThe fist pumping, macarena, YMCA, and cupid shuffling can go on all night long.|
|Dance with DadWith a large open space overlooking the ocean, dancing with dad (and anyone else, for that matter) is no problem.|
While there are many venues in Key West that can deliver a great experience for your wedding day, I have photographed enough events at the Pier House to know it is a solid choice for couples looking for a place to make their planning easy, and their event unforgettable.
Author: Karrie Porter
Karrie Porter Photography
Key West, Florida