Every day between sunrise and sunset, Florida Keys weddings take place … on beaches and boats, and in historic homes, hotels, guesthouses, gardens, and other picturesque locales.
Nadene Grossman is the go-to planner for upscale “I Do’s” in the heart of Key West. For a decade she has guided nervous brides (and their traveling wedding parties and guests) through their nuptial gaieties.
A Long Island native, Nadene is the founder of the wedding and events planning enterprise known as We’ve Got the Keys. But when she left upstate New York after college, she had no idea that matrimonial coordination would become her career.
In October 1991, with two suitcases in tow and $250 in her pocket, Nadene arrived in Key West to manage High Tide Gallery after being asked to fill in for a gallery owner friend while he was on his honeymoon.
“My first customers were a set of grandparents — a feather boa–clad woman leading her husband into the gallery by a studded leather leash,” she recalled. “I got a crash course in Fantasy Fest and it sparked my passion for people.”
Nadene eventually developed a strong connection with Fantasy Fest, a world-famous costuming and masking festival held each October in Key West. In 2003 she was crowned Fantasy Fest queen — a title bestowed each year on the candidate who raises the most money for the local AIDS Help organization.
Nadene put her zesty creative flair and suave people skills to work in Key West, embracing jobs that proved to be excellent stepping stones to a successful career. The gallery springboarded into what she calls the “three Cs” of surviving island life: cocktailing, crewing on a catamaran and concierge services.
She excelled at all three — earning kudos and serious know-how in sales, overseeing corporate groups and catering. As a concierge at the Key West Hilton, she explored wedding planning … and had an entrepreneurial epiphany.
“I knew I could do this on my own; the corporate world taught me well to plan great events,” said Nadene, who worked solo for the first 18 months of her new career.
Her faith in herself was justified when her first wedding customer tipped her as much as the entire planning fee.
Today, We’ve Got the Keys employs four event planners who specialize in weddings and other group gatherings. In addition, the company has been the creative driving force behind the Key West Songwriter’s Festival for a decade — and launched the inaugural Key West Film Festival in 2012.
Now 42 and married with two adopted dogs, Nadene leads her team to arrange destination weddings for groups of 40 to 200 people — with everything from personal websites to planning mini-vacations for guests. Their goal is to take care of every detail necessary for the ideal wedding experience, right down to advising clients where to get the best Cuban coffee, slice of Key lime pie or fishing charter.
“I’m surrounded by talented people,” Nadene enthused. “If you’re good at something and have a name for yourself, you’ll do well.”
She should know — because Nadene Grossman herself is living proof of that assertion.