As many of you know, Matt and I tied the knot on August 5th, which was hands-down the single most magical day of my life.
See, there’s the magic. (More pics will be posted on the next blog post – stay tuned!)
Anyways, Matt and I decided from the early days of our engagement that we were going to budget extremely tight for this wedding – but still make our dreams happen. Did you know the national average cost of a wedding (as of 2016) is over $35,000??? Yeah, not happening. We didn’t want any of the money we received from the wedding going towards massive credit card bills or ridiculous wedding loans. We also didn’t want the typical house decor or kitchen appliances, since we’ve lived together for quite some time and have all that stuff already. Instead, we started a Honeyfund page, and raised money for our dream honeymoon – and guess what – we actually pulled it off! I’m sharing this post as a kind of half-personal-post and half-guide to honeymooning or vacationing in Clearwater Beach. Let’s start with the Honeyfund…
Honeyfund.com is Wedding registry app/website that allows you to create your own personal honeymoon profile, listing all the activities you both want to do while on your honeymoon. For example, we created our profile for Clearwater Beach, Florida (our favorite vacation spot), and then we selected every aspect of the trip our family and friends could donate to – such as our hotel, airfare, drinks, food, jet skiis, a dinner cruise, shopping, etc.
The page is linked directly to your Paypal or bank account, so when a guest donates to your page, you get the money right away. This also makes it more fun for your guests, because instead of stuffing money into an envelope, they get to choose to help with specific aspects of your trip. The site also allows your guests to leave a personal note with their donation. Honeyfund does take a very small portion of each donation for payment of using the site, but it doesn’t make a dent in your gifts.
I highly recommend saying “screw that” to our new ridiculous national $35,000 average wedding, and taking a paid-for trip you’ve always dreamed of with your new hubby – guilt-free. The relaxation post-wedding chaos was a NECESSITY. Honeyfund made that possible for us. Of course, many people gave us money and checks in cards at the wedding, but we didn’t have a wedding registry loaded with gifts. When people saw that we registered on Honeyfund and only wanted donations to our honeymoon, everyone pretty much followed along.
Now for the fun stuff – CLEARWATER BEACH!
We stayed the entire week at the newly-built Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. This Resort exceeded both of our expectations – you didn’t even have to leave the place, it was paradise in itself. It’s located right on the Gulf Coast, right next to the famous and popular Pier 60, with about 75% of the rooms having a breathtaking Gulf-view balcony (which means Gulf sunset views!).
The rooms were modern, spotless and gorgeous. They made me want to redesign our own bedroom at home. The 24/7 room service was not outrageously expensive, and the breakfast-in-bed was oh-so convenient when we slept in way too late. Their amazing “lobby bar”, Eskpades, serves Maui Mules in a copper (painted) pineapple mug (totally isntagram-worthy!), and their in-hotel restaurant, Ocean Hai, has the best vegetarian gluten-free sushi I’ve ever had (order the Roll with the Beet!). Matt loved his sushi and ribs, too!
The pool has a hot-tub, comfortable mattress lounge cabanas for two or more, and pool-side food and bar service brought right to your chair. Also, they’re one of the only hotels on the beach that actually have the fancy mattress beach cabanas. They will run you about $80 for a day – so if you’re gonna do it, make a day of it and get on the beach early!
The gym (which I sadly only glanced at) overlooks the pool and Gulf, and the hotel spa is spotless and five-stars, hands-down. We did a couple’s swedish massage package, where we had a private couple’s room, complete with a jacuzzi and champagne. Two steamrooms, luxury rain showers, complete privacy, and an actually relaxing relaxation room proved this place to be top-of-the-line. It was a little pricy, but totally worth it after a year and a half of stressful wedding planning, with the stress from the actual wedding day topping it off.
Aside from the resort, there was TOO much we wanted to do, but we managed to do it all. We’re basically professional Clearwater Beach tourists at this point, so we already narrowed it down to the TOP best things to do while visiting. Instead of going into detail for the rest, I’ll share our carefully-crafted honeymoon dining, drinking and activities to-do list with you all here:
A nightly festival on the Pier. This is a tourist MUST. The Pier is filled with artists of all kinds, setting up a nightly craft show just in time for the breathtaking sunset. AND – I’ve seen dolphins swimming next to the Pier at sunset every time I’ve gone! Pro-tip – don’t forget to bring a couple bucks to get to the “fishing” side of the pier – aka the best view of the sunset (and dolphins!).
Speaking of Dolphins – this is my absolute favorite thing to do in Clearwater. It’s only about $25 a person, and you get taken out onto the Gulf looking for dolphins. When they’re spotted, the boat crew speeds the boat up, creating a wake, to see if the dolphins are up for some fun. Both times I’ve gone, the dolphins have body surfed with our boat – it’s unbelievable. Here’s my crappy snapchat I took while I was freaking out in awe!
Honeymoon Island is the perfect place to go if you like shelling. Matt and I woke up early one morning and drove a little north of CWB to get first dibs on the morning shells that washed up overnight. Honeymoon Island is actually a Florida State Park, full of wildlife and even rattlesnakes. It’s beautiful and quiet. Not tourist-filled, but you can swim and set up camp on the beach for the day.
Matt and I were extremely pleased with our choice of dinner cruise this year at StarShip! Eating on vacation can be extremely difficult when you’re a gluten-free vegetarian. This cruise line has a gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly buffet, with salad, seasonal vegetables, and a delicious gluten-free citrus rice pilaf choice of entree. The drinks are enormous and worth their money, because you get to take the giant glass home as a souvenir. They go the whole nine yards, with dinner, drinks, dancing, and pictures printed on-site. Tickets are $50 a person, dinner is included, drinks and photos are separate. We both thought it was well worth the money for our “fancy” dinner night!
This place is newly remodeled – and its views are amazing – but we primarily came back this year because this is where we went immediately after Matt proposed on the beach at sunset. The third-story open-air rooftop bar overlooking the Gulf is the best part – throw in the rum and margarita buckets and you’ve got a good night ahead!
Speaking of sunsets, Gulf views and dranks, you cannot take a trip to Clearwater Beach and skip Jimmy’s Crows Nest at Sunset. Jimmy’s is a rooftop bar overlooking the Gulf, and they do a countdown to sunset with free sunset punch shots for anyone who’s there to witness it!
Celiacs always take a risk when they eat at ANY restaurant – but I tend to be more risky eating at Mexican restaurants, because you can’t keep me away from tacos. This cantina restaurant is actually newish to CWB and it’s located on the little downtown strip. They are vegetarian-friendly as well. I ordered corn tacos with fajita veggies, avo, cheese, black beans, pico de Gallo, and more, and they were super accommodating, even though a build-your-own taco was definitely NOT on the menu. We both enjoyed our food so much that we went back for a second time during our one week stay! When I asked Matt what his favorite “place” was in CWB – this was his first response.
If you’re looking for a place to DRINK drink, but don’t want to end up at the CWB version of Molly’s (DeKalb people know), Palm Pavilion is perfect. It’s right on the beach; their drinks don’t break the bank; and they have music blasting all night. It’s an all-around great atmosphere, and let’s just say we didn’t even mind the loooong walk back to our hotel.
Clearwater Beach will probably always be our favorite vacation spot. From our engagement to our honeymoon, we’ve built such great memories there, and hopefully this guide helps anyone else planning a trip there!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next blog post full of wedding day details and pictures!