by Caitlin Clark
I was never the kind of girl who had a vision for her wedding day. An aha moment finally came two years ago, when my parents purchased a second home in a charming little beach town along Florida’s Highway 30A called Rosemary Beach. On our first night there as a family, we watched a wedding reception—wineglasses in hand—on the sweeping, well-manicured lawn just outside our balcony. There was a live band, a pretty white tent, and twinkly lights. While the dress and the man at the end of the aisle have always been up for interpretation, the destination had suddenly come into focus.
But as we continued to explore the West Indies- and New Orleans-inspired architecture, boutiques, and restaurants of the little town, we eventually wandered just beyond Rosemary Beach boundaries, discovering another coastal town.
My first glimpse of Alys Beach came while grabbing lunch at George’s, a must-visit restaurant in 30A that has a Dallas connection. George’s is just on the cusp of Alys, offering a small glimpse of the town’s Moroccan-style homes, along with their distinctive all-white stucco, sophisticated courtyards, and light stone covered pathways punctuated by palm trees. The area was quiet, serene, and impossibly pretty. We always headed straight back to Rosemary after George’s, but I desperately wanted a reason to soak up Alys and its sea of chic, white dwellings.
That reason finally arrived in March 2017, thanks to the 30A Wine Festival. Splitting a bottle of Cabernet or Sauvignon Blanc has become my favorite mother-daughter activity (post-college), but more importantly, the annual three-day festival is set in Alys Beach. This was my chance.
We picked a lovely townhome nestled between the extravagantly beautiful Caliza pool and the adorable white and blue food truck housing Charlie’s Donuts. (Alys Beach somehow manages to feel consistently opulent and quaint all at once. This is a little bizarre, but mostly wonderful.) Between wine tastings and bourbon seminars, we spent as much time attempting to tan by the pool as possible.
On our first afternoon at Caliza, we witnessed a very fun-looking group of twenty-something girls who—given their matching, monogrammed totes and one girl’s white bathing suit—were clearly there for a bachelorette party. At this point, we were a couple glasses of wine deep, so we asked them outright. Several chimed in in their sweet Southern accents (almost everyone in Alys uses one) to explain that yes, they’d come from Atlanta to Alys for a bachelorette. The bride had wanted a beach destination, but also loved wine. Google’s magic had led them here.
We continued to see our new friends throughout the weekend. From the grand tasting along Charles Street to the Rosé and croquet match on Alys’ beachfront Kelly Green, we were continuously reunited, and happily served as their photographers for any Instagram-worthy moments—of which there are many in a town as picture-perfect as Alys. The little town was clearly an excellent place for a bachelorette, but personally, it felt more wedding-appropriate. With every group shot we captured between the glossy black shutters or perfectly proportioned palm trees dotting the white-stucco backdrops, my vision of a Rosemary wedding faded. I suddenly remembered seeing Alys while perusing a local blogger’s wedding (Sally, of A Piece of Toast—you’ll get why it’s memorable when you see it), and felt further justified in my convictions.
Sure, I felt loyalty to the town my family had begun to call home, but in an age when the wedding photos can be almost as important as the big day (almost), Alys Beach and its almost ridiculous attractiveness cannot be denied. As we soaked up our meticulously manicured surroundings throughout the weekend, it became increasingly easy to imagine guests grabbing a coffee at Fonville Press, a glass of wine at Neat, or trying to score a Charlie’s donut before they sold out for the day. And our now beloved George’s would certainly play some sort of role in any wedding weekend I would hopefully someday have.
While I drank my last glass of rose on the festival’s final day, I peacefully resigned myself to my new dream. Whoever the indiscernible man at the end of the aisle turns out to be, I’m sure it won’t be hard to get him on board.