An Overview of Popular Caribbean Destination Wedding Venues
Thinking of planning a destination Caribbean wedding, or already committed to heading to one of these gorgeous islands? The sheer amount of choices for your ceremony and reception, along with the multitude of wonderful spots competing for your attention, may seem a little overwhelming. Start by considering what type of venue works best for you and your partner, using this overview as a general guideline for pros, cons, and descriptions of popular locations. Once you narrow down a venue, the rest of your planning (vendors, officiates, guest accommodations, etc.) begins to more easily fall into place!
Town Hall/ Courthouse/ Registrar’s Office
For a simple, non-denominational ceremony without the fuss and frills, a civil ceremony may be perfect for you. It is often cheaper to marry in a courthouse or town hall than in another venue, and the ceremony doesn’t need to be overseen by a religious authority (a judge or registrar can easily complete the ceremony.) Some town halls and courthouses are beautiful, historical buildings, so don’t cross out the option on the basis that it sounds boring! This type of ceremony requires less fuss and less mess than some of the more complicated options, and couples can always follow up with an elaborate reception, either on the island or at home!
A wedding in a church of certain faith or denomination holds significance for many couples, and the Caribbean presents almost limitless options for your religious ceremony. Depending upon your specific religion, first locate the synagogue, church, or other area of your preference, and then communicate closely with both your religious leader from home and your Caribbean officiate to ensure everything flows smoothly. Caribbean establishments range from the grand to small and local places of worship, some steeped in island history and some fairly new – people of all religions can come here to celebrate their faith, as well as the beautiful surroundings.
Church weddings typically require extra time and extra fees, as you must plan accordingly with your local licensed Caribbean minister as well as your minister from home, and extra documents are usually required (for example, Catholic weddings usually require 3-6 months prior notice, confirmation of single status, proof of baptism, and pre-marriage counseling.) When working with churches you must also deal with banns, a document that publicly declares your intention to get married. These usually must be read in your chosen church 3 Sundays before your wedding takes place.
For some religions, there may be no other options besides marrying in a church. If your religion and personal beliefs permit, several other methods for incorporating religion into your wedding exist – officiates on several islands are willing to perform interfaith ceremonies, travel to your location, or otherwise try to work out a meaningful ceremony that is a compromise for both you and your future spouse. Talk with your partner to determine the best situation for both of you, and then seek out your home minister or religious leader to discuss your possibilities.
Enjoy the comfort of your own private accommodations in a spacious island villa, away from the bustle and crowds of the hotels. Villa rentals lend themselves perfectly to wedding ceremonies and even receptions, with plenty of amenities and space minus extra noise or crowds. Imagine yourself at an intimate reception around your private pool, facing out onto a stunning view of the Caribbean Sea – just you, your closest friends and family, and a beautiful night that is truly your own. Fortunately for Caribbean brides, the islands are hotspots for luxury villas, in a variety of sizes, price ranges, and locations. Rent one for your wedding, and enjoy a blissful honeymoon immediately after without ever moving a foot.
Unique Island Settings
Increasingly, couples search for island locations unique from the standard beach wedding – a spot with an extra “wow” factor. Consider the grounds of an old plantation or sugar mill, surrounded by beautiful ruins lit by flickering candlelight in St. John. Perhaps you’d prefer the top of a cliff with breathtaking views of the endless blue Caribbean Sea in St. Lucia, a dramatic waterfall in Jamaica, or saying your vows on an underwater submarine surrounded by reef. Explore the possibilities of these gorgeous island landscapes, and think outside the box! An island wedding planner or coordinator will know what’s available and what’s feasible, so take advantage of their services before trying to tackle an entire Caribbean island on your own!
Resort and hotel weddings, perhaps the most common type of Caribbean wedding, first and foremost offer luxury and convenience. These spots are ideal for relaxing, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, and letting someone else iron out every tiny detail for you. Plan as much or as little as you prefer, and rest easy knowing that your wedding sits in capable, experienced hands. Benefits to a resort wedding include:
Planners and Other Services
Many large hotels and resorts offer the services of a coordinator, who is an immediate benefit to planning your wedding. Coordinators are familiar with the rules for marrying in your island of choice, and help to ease fears about planning from far away. They can also occasionally expedite wait times on the islands to receive marriage licenses, and act as the go-between in getting required documents to your island officials. Besides the coordinators, large hotels usually have, or can at least recommend, someone for catering, music, and so on.
A Range of Locations
Resorts and hotels also usually offer a selection of locations for your wedding ceremony. Many feature beautiful manicured grounds, gardens, beaches private to the hotel (depending on your location), and the ultimate comforting factor for the nervous bride, in-door areas for rainy-day backup plans. Rather than locking yourself into one location, you have a choice to find the spot that best expresses you and your ideal wedding!
Several hotels offer wedding or honeymoon packages, many of which offer room for customization. These packages vary, ranging from the simple to the elaborately themed, and often include romantic additions such as candlelight dinners, massages, ocean-view rooms, and other amenities. If you plan carefully, combining the honeymoon and the ceremony at the same hotel can actually save you money in the long run as opposed to an elaborate ceremony at home, so take advantage of these offers!
When many people hear the words “destination wedding”, they immediately think of the classic beachside ceremony – and for good reason. Saying “I do” as the sun sets over the crystal Caribbean waters, warm sand under bare feet and your closest family and friends nearby, is a vision of perfection. Beach ceremonies are typically laidback and small, and invite your friends and family to relax in a beautiful setting on the most important day of your life.
However, when imagining their beach wedding, many couples underestimate the sheer variety of beaches in the Caribbean islands – no two are alike, and there’s one to fit every personality. Consider the exotic, coarse black sand beaches of St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Grenada, or Dominica, which take their color from nearby volcanoes, or the pretty pink beaches of the Bahamas or Bermuda. Aruba, Anguilla, Martinique, Barbados, and Aruba, and St. Maarten all feature stunning, soft white beaches, perfect for a classic beach ceremony. Think about whether you’d prefer a dramatic rocky coast, a tiny secluded cove, or a wide stretch of gently sloping sand. Whatever your style, you’re sure to find a location that speaks to you in the Caribbean.
Keep a few things in mind when planning your Caribbean beach wedding. Some beaches are public and some are privately owned by hotels, cottages, or villas. Some charge a fee or may require permission for large numbers of people, and some are particularly loud and crowded during certain times of the year. Use our links for each island to determine some of the premier locations, but the best way to avoid potential issues is to invest in a wedding planner, particularly if you’re too far away to travel and see the locations yourself. The wedding planner’s job is to know the ins and outs of different wedding locations, and you’ll have an upper hand on what spots work best for your ceremony!
The other potential danger of a beach wedding, of course, is the option no one likes to think about – rain, or even an island storm. Consider researching your island’s monthly weather averages ahead of time, but in the end you’re still leaving a certain amount up to fate. Especially if you plan on having your wedding on an isolated beach far from shelter, think about preparing a plan B!
Wedding at Sea
For something truly different, look into exchanging vows in the middle of the brilliant blue Caribbean waters, aboard a luxury yacht or a beautiful catamaran. Watch the beautiful scenery glide by as you complete your ceremony, and fully experience the natural Caribbean! While many believe that a ship’s captain has the power to marry people at sea, this is just a rumor. He or she must also be a minister or a justice of the peace, or you must supply your own. For those dreaming of marrying of a luxury cruise ship ceremony, a common alternative is to marry in a port city (be sure to make arrangements ahead of time for a marriage license.)