Wedding Venues on Florida's Gulf Coast

Sarasota County is a perfect location to plan your dream wedding. With enchanting venues and intimate settings, the sky's the limit for your romantic moment.

Imagine an enchanted evening of southern tropical charm under the banyan trees at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Maybe it's the romantic and classic setting of The Ringling, Ca' d'Zan and The Powel Crosley Estate. Or could the sugary sands of the local beaches and the quaintness of Mary's Chapel at Historic Spanish Point be more suited for your style?

However you may have imagined your special day, the wedding of your dreams awaits you at one of these beautiful Sarasota County venues.

The Ringling & Ca' d'Zan

Voted The Knot Best of Weddings 2013, The Ringling's grounds are treasured for their romantic settings, architecture and breathtaking views of Sarasota Bay.

"I love The Ringling and Ca' d'Zan properties — they are regal with a hint of that eclectic whimsy that is such a unique part of Sarasota," says Sage Hall, owner of StarFruit Productions.

The Museum of Art Courtyard provides a magnificent and romantic setting surrounded by ancient Greek, Roman and Baroque statues and accommodates up to 400 guests, while the Ca' d'Zan Terrace and Bayfront, located along the Bayfront Promenade, is illuminated when the sun and stars set over Sarasota Bay. For an intimate and elegant affair, the Belvedere Tower is a choice location for its panoramic view of The Ringling grounds and Sarasota Bay, in addition to Sarasota and Longboat Key. It accommodates up to seven guests. For couples who wish to delight in a circus-inspired theme, the Circus Museum features a miniature circus and reception area beneath a tent reminiscent of the big top.

The Powel Crosley Estate

This Mediterranean Revival-style bayfront Powel Crosley Estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 21-room estate built in 1929 for Powel Crosley’s wife, Gwendolyn. The mansion, named "Seagate," is perfect for hosting 1920s-themed events, such as "The Great Gatsby" or "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Bigger wedding parties can also add tenting behind the mansion.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Every other day, Roger Capote, philanthropic and special events manager at Selby Botanical Gardens, is walking couples from the historic Selby Mansion through the lush, ever-changing landscaping and blooming flowers and under the banyan trees.

"I would get married here in a heartbeat," Capote says. "The imagination is endless. With Selby, you can have your extremely elegant black-tie wedding or amazing garden chic. You can go completely across the border with the gardens, and it's the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding."

While weddings may be held anywhere in the gardens, the most popular locations are the Schimmel Wedding Lawn and Pavilion, situated on the bayfront with stunning sunset views and a seating capacity of up to 1,000 guests; the enchanting Gazebo and its vines of queen's wreath; the Banyan Grove, the most photographed location for bridal parties; and the Wedding Oak near the Christy Payne Mansion, which boasts ever-blooming orchids.

"I'm not a ballroom guy," Capote says. "I love the setup we have — you literally experience the gardens all at once."

Historic Spanish Point

In 2010, StarFruit Productions shot a commitment ceremony in the reconstructed 1890s Mary's Chapel at Historic Spanish Point.

"It is a gorgeous spot for an intimate ceremony surrounded by Florida jungle and right next to the water," Hall says. "The kindness and sincerity that flow from both Kirsten and Michelle individually is incredible; with the two of them together, it is truly awesome. The love between them and from their friends and family is so powerful, I was literally buzzing when I left the wedding. And what a wedding it was!"

The Historic Spanish Point bayfront site spans 30 acres and is a memorable wedding venue. In addition to Mary's Chapel, the neo-classic style Pergola and Sunken Garden that overlook Little Sarasota Bay are a sublime setting for a garden wedding. On-site receptions can be held at the White Cottage or the Osprey School.

The Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach

Situated right on the white-sand beach, the Sandcastle Resort is surrounded by 600 feet of private beach on Lido Key with a picturesque view of the Gulf of Mexico. Nostalgic and not over-the-top fancy, it's a prime outdoor venue.

"Formerly the Helmsley, this up-and-coming venue plays off of an old surfer '60s vibe," says Erica Urban, owner of Urban Event Planners. "It has been a Sarasota staple forever and has some history to it, but it's a fun venue with a cool and relaxed vibe. I can envision hanging old Tuscan lighting from a clear tent right by the tiki hut, and the ceremony would of course be on the beach with some white and light blue floral on the wedding arch."

During their stay, guests can spend time wind surfing, playing beach volleyball, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, or shopping and dining on St. Armands Circle.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

The Van Wezel is more than a performing arts hall, it's also a picturesque wedding venue on Sarasota's beloved bayfront. The recently renovated Roskamp Auditorium, the Grand Foyer and the Bayfront Lawn are set to make your wedding the performance it is meant to be. The Van Wezel can accommodate small and large groups, depending on what the goals are and can offer catering provided by their resident caterer or another caterer of your choosing.

Hyatt Regency Sarasota

With five locations to choose from, the Hyatt Regency Sarasota — globally recognized as a LGBT-friendly hotel company for all guests and associates — is an ideal venue to tie the knot.

Bigger ceremonies and receptions can be held at Palm Terrace, a private tropical garden setting for up to 150 guests; Boulevard of the Arts Park, a grassy waterfront park set on Sarasota Bay that accommodates more than 500 guests; or the Sarasota Ballroom, a 10,000-square-foot space that seats from 75 to 750 guests and is perfect for elegant dining and dancing. Smaller, more intimate weddings are perfect for Tropics, a chic, contemporary space featuring floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Hyatt's lagoon pool, waterfall and private marina; The Boathouse, offering panoramic water views, bistro bar tables and a main dining room that accommodates 120 to 175 guests; and the Florida Room and Poolside.

Hotel rooms and suites feature "Florida chic" décor inspired by the brightly colored designs of Lilly Pulitzer and amenities spanning from views of the marina or bay to spacious parlors and a spiral stairway to a loft bedroom.

"I had the honor of documenting Renee Oteri & Bracy Maynard's Sarasota wedding reception at the Hyatt Regency," says Naomi Chokr, owner of Naomi Chokr Photography. "About 100 of their closest family and friends were in attendance. Even several of Renee's fellow Bachelor co-stars (Lauren, Clare, Alli, Chelsie and Cassandra) were there to have fun and party! My favorite moment during the entire day was when Bracy was watching Renee get dressed and she was excited because her little bump was starting to show. Bracy got so excited when he saw it. He even said that he loves seeing the bump. It made my heart melt into mush!"

Hotel Indigo

With its luxury coastal décor and furnishings and murals of Selby Gardens, Hotel Indigo is the perfect spot for the bride, groom and guests to curl up after the big day. Make Indigo's calm and relaxing rooms your own personal sanctuary. They offer everything from plush bedding and pillows to spa-inspired showers. Should you be too tired to venture out for food, the hotel’s in-house H20 Bistro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. And downtown restaurants, shopping and the arts are just a few blocks away.

I Do Diamond Ring Boutique, St. Armands Circle

For the past 15 months, Operating Partner of I Do Diamond Ring Boutique Adora Thompson has been using a 3D design program called the I Do Sketch Pad to create custom design wedding rings — a trend that has become widely popular with Sarasota’s gay community, especially now that gay marriage has been legalized in Florida.

"When I work with clients, I really get to get into their heads and create for them that ring — that bond — that they have with each other and will wear for the rest of their life," Thompson said. "I can make the ring in any metal with any center stone and they can try it on virtually."

Recently, a couple purchasing wedding rings from the boutique had completely opposite taste in rings, and it was up to Thompson to create a special ring they would both treasure.

"One of the gentlemen was from the South and wanted very traditional, while his partner was from France and wanted diamonds," Thompson said. "They went with no diamonds, but I planted a little diamond on the inside of the band for both of them."

One of the newest trends for lesbian couples is birthstone rings.

"They'll ask for matching bands with diamonds, but also incorporate each other's birthstones, or the month that they got engaged or married," Thompson said. "For example, one couple that married in May chose eternity bands with diamonds all the way around, but every other stone was an emerald. I love when people come in and want something that they can't find. Bring 'em on."

Truly a destination

"For those planning a destination wedding who are here for a whole week, you have the beach, great dining, gay-friendly bars, arts and entertainment — everything," Urban says. "Go see a show at the Van Wezel, the opera and the ballet, and wrap it up with (Florida Studio Theatre) improv, Drag Queen Bingo and Black Diamond Burlesque."