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    Unique Wedding Destinations in St. Augustine, Florida

    St. Augustine- Painting by Lily Azera-Goldman

    Unique Wedding Destinations in St. Augustine, Florida
    -Article by: Norm Goldman
    -Painting by: Lily Azerad-Goldman

    If you have not as yet discovered the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the USA, St. Augustine Florida, you are in for a real treat.

    How would you like to tie the knot where much of the Spanish architecture and cultural beauty of the 16th century have for the most part been preserved?

    The first Europeans to set foot in St. Augustine, Florida were the Spaniards in 1565, and yes, contrary to common belief, this was forty-two years prior to the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock.

    Imagine being able to celebrate your wedding in one of the scenic, historic or cultural St. Augustine venues or one of the scores of beautiful gardens that will create memories lasting a lifetime.

    Rest assured, a wedding celebrated in St. Augustine will have friends and relatives reminiscing for years about your legendary wedding.

    Best of all, for the guests and even the honeymoon couple, who wish to vacation in St. Augustine after the "big day," this fascinating city offers the best in accommodations, restaurants and attractions without the lines and crowds that intrude on romantic getaways experienced in other destinations.

    A word of caution, with so many venues to choose from, it is wise to engage the services of a local wedding planner, who can get you on the right track and save you a great deal of time and money. Lily and I were fortunate to have as our personal guide Karen Erwin of St Augustine Weddings & Special Events, who provided us with a tour of several possible wedding sites while we were visiting St. Augustine.

    We were also fortunate to have made previous contact with a certified tour guide of St. Augustine, Kellie Sharpe, whose knowledge and website pertaining to St. Augustine are unbeatable. Kellie has provided an invaluable service to many visitors to St. Augustine.

    Two other invaluable sources were Jay Humphreys, director of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra &The Beaches Florida Convention Bureau and Kay Burtin of the St. Augustine Art Association. Jay's knowledge of the history of St. Augustine was just amazing! Kay's knowledge of the art scene in St. Augustine made us aware of the great art community of this fascinating city.

    The following is a general sampling of some of the more popular venues Lily and I visited.

    Castillo de San Marcos
    1 South Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, Fl, 32084
    Tel: 904-829-6506 ext 246
    Fax: 904-824-3817

    For many years the northern most outpost of Spain's vast New World Empire was the Castillo de San Marcos. The last rest stop for the Treasure Fleets returning to Spain, the fort was built between 1672 -1695, and exemplifies the best-preserved Spanish colonial fortification in the continental United States. It also served as a protection for St. Augustine from pirate raids as well as from the British, who were very much interested in acquiring Florida. The fort's structure is built entirely of a very soft shell/sandstone type material called Coquina. As a result of using this material, the fort was nearly impervious to cannon fire.

    Notwithstanding its stringent restrictions, many wedding ceremonies have been celebrated within the walls of this fort (only along the North Green). One of the main reasons is its impressive setting and minimal fees.

    However, bear in mind that ceremonies may not mar or harm the park or interfere with visitor use or administration of the park. No tent stakes or other objects may be driven into the ground. No generators are permitted. Amplified sound systems are permitted for events occurring after 5:30 p.m. No alcohol is permitted on the grounds.

    Before deciding on this venue, it would be wise to pick up the Weddings Packet describing the "do and don'ts" as well as the various fees.
    St. Augustine Lighthouse
    St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
    81 Lighthouse Avenue
    St. Augustine, Florida 32080
    Tel: 902-829-0745: Fax: 904-808-1248
    Email Rick Cain:

    Imagine celebrating your wedding next to a lighthouse dating back to 1824, when an old Spanish watchtower became Florida's first lighthouse.

    The Spanish constructed the original wooden watchtower at the end of the 16th century due to the dangerous waters around St. Augustine. From the watchtower the sentries were able to spot enemy vessels, and they were also able to guide ships through the shallow harbor.

    Using the front lawn with its natural beauty and beautiful oak trees you can set up a tent, "et voilà" you have one of the most unique wedding settings. If you prefer, you can rent the Anastasia Gallery that has a maximum capacity of 150 people, however, only 80 persons can be comfortably seated for dinner.

    What makes the gallery particularly appealing is its outdoor balcony where you can set up a bar and guests can mingle.

    Provided the park is still open to the public during your celebrations, your guests can try climbing the 219 stairs to the top of the lighthouse and they can learn about the daily lives of those who were employed to operate the beacon.

    If you decide to opt for this venue, be advised that it is extremely popular and reservations are very often required one year in advance.
    Lightner Museum gardens
    Lightner Museum
    75 King Street, St. Augustine
    Tel: 908-824-2874

    Once the Alcazer Hotel, this fifty-year old museum is an extremely popular wedding venue.

    Railroad magnet Henry Flagler built the Spanish Renaissance style hotel in 1887 to accommodate many wealthy visitors who would vacation during the winter months in St. Augustine. In 1946, after the hotel had been closed for several years, Chicago publisher, Otto C. Lightner purchased the building and two years late opened the museum. Eventually, the museum was donated to the City of St. Augustine and it is listed on the National Register Of Historic Places.

    The architecture of the building had been inspired by the Royal Palace of Seville Spain with its towers, spires and terracotta tile ornamentation.

    Weddings are celebrated in a lush tropical garden that can be decorated with exotic plants and flowers. The foyers and passageways of the museum are nothing less than majestic with their 18-foot arched ceilings and antique lighting.

    The museum is home to some of the most beautiful antiques in the world as well as a brilliant collection of Tiffany glass.

    No doubt, the museum is a most perfect venue for a wedding.
    Schooner Freedom
    Schooner Freedom
    St. Augustine Marina
    Tel: 904-810-1010

    Here is something particularly novel. If you have a fairly small wedding party, how about boarding a 72' Topsail three -mast schooner with your guests and tying the knot at sea? One word of caution, the schooner's charming owners, John and Sarah Zaruba warn us there may be pirates in the waters of Matanzas Bay! Oh well, you only live once and why not brave it, particularly if it is your wedding day.

    The schooner is certified for 49 passengers and is located at the City Municipal Marina
    next to the Bridge of Lions. They will provide everything you need to make the event memorable from
    photographers, catering etc. No doubt, the ceremony will certainly be different as you step back in time and experience the romance and adventure of the high seas sailing into the flaming sunset surrounded by beautiful flowers, a fresh sea breeze, and even music serenading you.

    Now that is what I call truly romantic!

    St. Augustine- Painting by Lily Azera-Goldman
    The Oldest House (The Gonzalez-Alvarez)
    14 St. Francis Street, St. Augustine
    (Mailing address:
    241 Charlotte Street, St. Augustine, Fl, 32084)
    Tel: 904-824-2872:

    Florida's oldest surviving Spanish Colonial House is located in the old neighborhood of St. Augustine. In fact, archaeologists can provide evidence of continuous occupancy of the house from the early 1600s until today.

    The beautiful manicured gardens provide a most romantic setting for a memorable wedding. How delightful it is to watch the wedding party slowly stroll along the garden paths while you listen to horses' hooves clopping along the cobbled streets adjacent to the house.

    You may wonder, were weddings celebrated or receptions held in the courtyard hundreds of years ago? Perhaps.

    St. Augustine Art Association
    22 Marine Street
    St. Augustine, Florida
    Tel: 904-824-2310
    Fax: 904-724-0716

    Considered to be one of the best small town art towns in America, this prestigious association does a great job in serving all of the arts, while providing a cultural center for the entire St. Augustine community.

    The newly renovated and expanded Association's building provides a beautiful setting for an intimate wedding where the wedding guests will be surrounded with some of the most fantastic art produced by some of St. Augustine artists. Very often receptions are celebrated at the Association, while the ceremony takes place elsewhere.
    Casa Monica
    Casa Monica Hotel
    95 Cordova Street
    St. Augustine Fl
    Tel: 1-800-648-1888

    This historic Triple A Four Diamond historic hotel was first established in 1888 and was built by Franklin Smith and later purchased from him by Henry Flagler across the street from his Alcazer hotel. The hotel resembles a medieval castle and has been the home away from home for kings, presidents, dignitaries and industry czars.

    Unfortunately, during the depression the hotel, then named The Cordova, was forced to close its doors and did not re-open until 1962, when it was converted into the St. Johns County Courthouse. In 1997, The Kessler Enterprise Inc purchased the courthouse and restored the building to its original elegance.

    Today, many an elegant wedding is celebrated in one of the many banquet halls that comprise more than 12,000 square feet of flexible space. For larger size weddings, the Casa Monica Ballroom offers 4000 square feet that can be divided into three sections. For the intimate affairs, the Alcazar Room, Cordova Room or the San Marcos Room provides ideal settings.

    We did have the opportunity to sample a lunch at the hotel prepared by the hotel's Swiss born and European trained chef, René Nyfeler, and if this is any indication of the quality of their banquet menus, you certainly are in for a treat! His New World Electric Cuisine has put St. Augustine on the culinary map.

    For something different, the personnel of this old world charm hotel will even arrange to have you arrive at your reception in one of their antique cars.


    Trust me when I say, St. Augustine has probably some of the most fantastic restaurants in all of Florida. If you do opt for a restaurant celebration, or if you wish to combine any one of the above with a restaurant venue, your biggest decision is where?

    Here are a few ideas, and yes, we did sample the scrumptious food in each of the following dining establishments- all received excellent grades and passed the test with flying colors!

    Raintree Restaurant
    102 San Marco Avenue
    St. Augustine
    Tel: 904-824-7211:

    The Raintree Restaurant is an 1879 restored Victorian home, where weddings are celebrated in their beautiful courtyards and gazebos. The Raintree has been classified as one of Florida's best restaurants for the past 20 years, and after sampling some of their dishes, Lily and I understood why so many couples have chosen this venue.

    The building housing the restaurant is a replica of the yacht that brought the MacDonald family to North American from England. These brave individuals left their native homeland on a 45-foot yacht in 1979, after selling all of their assets in order to make a new life in the USA.

    If your party consists of fifty persons or less, the restaurant's gazebo area and courtyard is a great place to have a wedding. The iron gates located within the courtyard can be decorated with flowers and other trimmings. Trellises and archways can be rented and decorated and they can be set up along the paths for the bridge to walk through on the way to the ceremony.

    Menus are varied and they do have the personnel to help you organize your important event.

    The beauty of this venue is that in the event of some nasty weather, which is always a possibility, the interior of the restaurant facilities can be an alternative.

    The Raintree's wedding staff is the same as their regular staff and this means that they don't just "hire out" part-time banquet personnel. They also do not have a minimum of a few or more thousand dollars that are often the case in many other restaurants.

    1 King Street
    St. Augustine, Fl
    Tel: 904-829-2977

    When we first heard the name A1A ALE WORKS, we thought we were going to dine in some kind of a tavern! Well, Lily and I were pleasantly surprised when we visited this St. Augustine landmark. Yes it is a microbrewery and they do brew their own beer, however, it certainly is not a tavern! In fact, its beautiful banquet room can comfortably accommodate 150-170 guests.

    The banquet room leads unto a balcony that overlooks Matanzas Bay and the City Marina, and while your guests meander onto the balcony, they can munch on hors d' oeuvres ranging from Spinach Mushroom Royal, Ragtime Coconut Shrimp and Bruschetta.

    The restaurant specializes in "New World Cuisine" (not to be confused with "nouvelle cuisine" where you need a magnifying glass to find your food). They are also known for their Caribbean style food, and of course don't forget about the beer!

    Columbia Restaurant
    98 St. George Street
    St. Augustine, Fl
    Tel: 904-824-3341
    colsaug@columbiarestaurant.com (Contact-John Pedaggi)

    This Florida landmark chain of restaurants was first established in Ybor City just outside of Tampa in 1905. In 1988 the St. Augustine branch located in the heart of the city opened its doors and its outdoor courtyards, 3 fountains and hundreds of hand-painted tiles make for a delightful setting.

    The restaurant can accommodate groups of 10-200 in private dining areas.

    Famous for its excellent cuisine, the restaurant has been inducted into the Nation's Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame. It has also received the Florida Trend magazine's Golden Spoon Award and the Epicurean Rendevouz Award for the finest 100 restaurants in Florida. Does it live up to its reputation? Well after Lily and I savored some of their dishes, all we had to say was, "utterly delicious."

    In fact, even the Government of Spain has recognized the restaurant by awarding the "Five Forks" rating as one of the outstanding Spanish restaurants in America. That certainly sums it all up!

    If excellent cuisine together with a Spanish ambience is what you are seeking, be sure to check out this venue.

    Harry's Seafood-Bar-Grille
    Jesse Jabot, General Manager
    46 Avenida Menendez
    St. Augustine, Florida
    Tel: 904-824-7765

    This landmark restaurant has a definite New Orleans flair to it, and they certainly live up to their Cajun philosophy- "Lagniappe (pronounced Lan-Yap) that translates- "to give a little something extra."

    Harry's has private rooms where you and your guests can enjoy a private intimate affair while savoring their fabulous menu. Their general manager, Jesse Talbot, will be more than happy to offer suggestions and tips on how best to celebrate the big event.

    Their menu includes fresh fish, seafood specialties, Bourbon street favorites, Pasta, fried platters, steak, New Orleans Po'Boys, Burgers, & Mo.

    Norm and Lily Goldman are a unique husband and wife team, writer and water colorist, who write and paint about romantic destinations. You can see more of Norm and Lily's work at their website sketchandtravel.com

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