10TV Reporter Maureen Kocot Reflects on Her Carefree Destination Wedding

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

At a romantic dinner for two, my husband, K.J., popped the question using a custom label on my favorite bottle of wine. Admittedly, I experienced a blond flash of confusion.There's a wine called Will You Marry Me? It was the brilliance of the diamond ring that brought me back to my senses.One great big "Yes" and a year later, friends and family were still asking, "When are you getting married?"

K.J. is a firefighter paramedic, and I'm a television news crime reporter.We were juggling two high-stress careers and raising his four children, so we barely had time to eat standing up much less plan a wedding celebration. We knew we needed a simple and family-friendly plan.And the answer was as glaring as the hot Florida sun, literally.

As far back as the kids can remember, the white-sand beaches of Destin have been a vacation destination.It's a place associated with memories of carefree, barefoot, sand-and-surf summer joy.This, my friends, was a no-brainer.We wanted the ceremony to feel like a unification of a family, so our three girls and I all wore ivory dresses.If I had any pre-wedding jitters, they were dissolved by the sight of K.J. hot-gluing tiny starfish onto sparkly headbands for my little brides(mer)maids.I was marrying a saint.

At sunset on August 19, 2014, we exchanged our vows at the edge of a turquoise sea beneath a pink-streaked sky surrounded by our families.I can't imagine how any wedding venue could have outdone it.The children surprised us by selecting and reading four love poems. And K.J., the creative artist of the family, came up with the idea of sand art.Using a hurricane lantern, we sandwiched four layers of colored sand, one for each child, between scoops of sand from the beach where we became a family.

If you have reservations about planning a sight-unseen destination wedding, I reassure you our experience was stress-free.Most restaurants cater to tourists and easily accommodate large parties. Our group of 19 shared a wonderful celebration dinner at a restaurant called the Louisiana Lagniappe, and the manager not only prepared a private room but had no problem allowing everyone to order off the menu.Our sand-art lantern is now placed in the entryway of our home, and the children's poems are tucked away as precious keepsakes. I plan to give each child a copy of their poem on their own wedding day.For now, daddy and I still need to plan a romantic honeymoon.As we say in TV, stay tuned…