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Longboat Key venues promote private beach and unique weddings

A wedding at the Longboat Island Chapel in its outside garden.
A wedding at the Longboat Island Chapel in its outside garden.
Courtesy image
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A couple's wedding venue is an emotional decision, said Ayla Goggin. 

As the director of events and catering at the Longboat Key Club (LBKC), she sees how much the location affects a couple’s special day.

“When people pick a wedding venue, they're gonna remember it for the rest of their lives,” said Goggin.

The Observer spoke with Goggin and Longboat Island Chapel wedding coordinator Diane Lehman to learn what it takes to plan a wedding at a destination location like Longboat Key.

Longboat Key Club

Goggin said that about 80% of her weddings are destination weddings taking place on the beach. Through its Weddings at Longboat Key Club Instagram page, LBKC has been able to reach people from around the country and show them how stunning a Longboat Key wedding could be.

When it comes to having a wedding on the beach at the Longboat Key Club, the world is your oyster. Goggin said that some people just have a welcome barbecue or a ceremony on the beach. Other people request to put a whole dance floor and white tent on the sand for a ceremony and reception overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. 

A beach wedding at the Resort at Longboat Key Club
Courtesy image

No matter what your vision is, what makes Longboat Key beach weddings unique from other beach locations is the privacy. Goggin said the biggest concern people have for beach weddings is the possibility of random disturbances. Having weddings at public beach parks like Lido and Siesta Key means you don’t have the same guarantee that LBKC offers with a private beach. No beach runners or families of tourists will ruin the ceremony or parties of the special day.

Along with the beach, LBKC has five lawn spaces, including Sandy Cove, which overlooks the marina, and the Harbourside Lawn and ballroom. Her team works with local vendors to provide as many options for the couples as possible. People can choose from several packages to customize their weddings including catering, photography, decorations, florals, etc. For budget-friendly purposes, Goggin said she always gives the total number upfront for couples to plan accordingly.

A wedding at the Resort at Longboat Key Club
Courtesy image by Jamie Mercurio

Every quarter, Goggin will throw grand tastings for all couples getting married at LBKC to try different meals and vendors. The restaurant team will make the entire wedding menu and her design team will bring many decoration options. 

The grand tastings allow the team to provide as many options as possible for the couples as opposed to a private tasting where only a select number can be shown. It also allows couples to visualize what their wedding will look like with a greater number of people.

Originally from Wisconsin, Goggin started working in Sarasota at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse. She cultivated many relationships in the restaurant and event space by planning its events. Through these connections, she was hired as the event manager at Longboat Key Club in 2016. In 2020, she became its director of events and catering. 

From her eight years of working events and weddings, Goggin has seen it all. She said one time a couple threw a Batman-themed wedding without telling her specifically what the theme was. With the colors being black and purple and the bride walking down the aisle to the "Dark Knight Rises" theme song, Goggin had to put this together on her own and think on her feet.

Once a bride requested turtle-shaped butter because it was turtle season. Though Goggin thought the idea was endearing, the summer weather had other plans. Having to deal with random tidbits like bowls of melted butter, Goggin’s key to accommodating so many people is being flexible. She is prepared for any weather and guest concerns to make sure it's the perfect day for these couples. 

The Longboat Island Chapel

At the Longboat Island Chapel, Lehman hosts unique weddings for all types of couples.

A wedding at the Longboat Island Chapel in its outside garden.
Courtesy image

“What makes us so unique is that we are nondenominational,” said Lehman. “We do all kinds of different ceremonies for all religions, all sexes, everything is on the table.”

The chapel’s arch and the scenery of the garden and Sarasota Bay have provided many couples with a simple and memorable spot for their special day. Lehman said that she works closely with the Rev. Brock Patterson to throw a wedding almost every weekend of the year without double booking.

Just like LBKC, the chapel has multiple packages for customization for the ceremony and reception with the different locations of the chapel, garden and indoor reception space. The packages offer choices of decoration, music, flowers and connections with local vendors. Couples have the option to have the Rev. Patterson officiate or use their own officiant. 

Lehman started planning weddings at the chapel 20 years ago after having her own event business. After doing it for a few years, she stopped event planning to go into hospital sales. When the opportunity opened up again, Lehman didn’t hesitate to become the chapel's wedding coordinator because of the joy it gave her. 

An upcoming chapel wedding is for a bride who was baptized at the chapel. Her parents and her grandparents were also married there. Lehman said it is weddings like these that come full circle that remind her how much she loves her job. 

A wedding at Zota Beach Resort
Image courtesy of Paige Stelluto

All in the family

Both Goggin and Lehman said that it is very common to work with each other or other venues, restaurants and businesses such as Zota Beach Resort, St. Mary Star of the Sea and Cafe L’Europe. Some couples will have a combination of venues for different parts of their weddings. 

These venues maintain close relationships because they all have the same goal in mind: to give couples a unique experience to make their special day one they won’t forget.



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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