Trains, Boats & Great Houses – The Wedding Options In The Caribbean Are Endless

beach bequiaBequia Beach Hotel

By Melanie Reffes

There are weddings and then there are really memorable weddings and although taking the plunge in the Caribbean is reliably memorable, choosing a venue that’s a tad less predictable than barefoot on the beach at sunset offers pretty good odds you’ll never forget your anniversary. Whether it’s the first time down the aisle, three times lucky, vow renewal ceremony or a week in a honeymoon haven, heart-pumping romance in the tropics comes with awesome bragging rights once you get back home.

Vows & Wows

A wedding on a yacht that doubles as a chapel, exchanging vows in front of a captain who is also a minister and a bottle of chilled bubbly is the new cool in St. Croix. ‘Romance on the High Seas’, offered by Big Beards Adventure Tours, is a ceremony on a catamaran as it cruises Christiansted Harbor and anchors at Green Cay. Seafarers can marry in wedding attire although without their shoes (barefoot only on the boat) which may save a few shekels on formal shoe rentals.

For couples who prefer to say’ I Do ‘on land, St. Nicholas Abbey in Barbados is one of three Jacobean Great Houses in the western hemisphere. Weddings are stylish on the croquet lawn, under the silk cotton trees, on the terrace that salutes the gullies or in the Chapel that fits 30 guests. To toast the newlyweds, the original rum distillery still produces a mighty potent blend.

Close to the cruise pier in Falmouth, weddings at Jamaica’s Good Hope Estate are a grand affair on the lawn overlooking the Queen of Spain Valley and Cockpit Mountains that rise in the distance for what seems like forever. Classic and classy, the estate is fitting for a wedding as the original owner, Colonel Thomas Williams, built it in 1755 for his wife Elizabeth. Chukka Caribbean arranges the details including a horse-drawn carriage to deliver the bride and groom in high style.

Imagine getting hitched on a double-decker train as it chugs along tracks that are more than a century old. In St. Kitts, railroad romantics tie the knot on the sweetly nicknamed ‘Sugar Train’ that was built in 1912 to carry sugar from one side of the island to the other. Vows are said as the train circles the coastline passing the slopes of Mt. Liamuiga and Brimstone Hill where history buffs can also marry at the top.

Sitting pretty in Puerto Rico where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, El Yunque is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. With the Luquillo Mountains rising high above sea level and the ubiquitous two-note chirping El Coqui tree frog providing a gratis serenade, a wedding in the woods is Mother Nature Unplugged. A 90-day advance permit is needed –– for a ceremony in El Portal (visitors’ centre) although no permit is required for a post-ceremony dip in El Mina Falls.

synagogueCuracao Tourism Board

For couples marrying in the Jewish tradition, look no further than Curacao where the oldest synagogue in continuous use on this continent does a brisk business in bar mitzvahs and weddings. In Willemstad, Mikve Israel Emanuel was built in 1732 with floors that are covered in sand; this was used to muffle the sounds of those praying in secret during the Spanish Inquisition. For good luck, a wine glass is tossed onto a battered silver tray and during the procession, the bride walks with her father, the groom with his mother and the other two parents walk together as a pipe organ plays in the background. Also in Willemstad, Renaissance Curacao is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year with Marriot Rewards incentives including a fifth night gratis. The modern resort is a big hit with newlyweds who try their luck in largest casino on the island, shop at the adjacent Renaissance Mall, take a dip at the Infinity Beach Club and enjoy mouth-watering dinners at the Cru Steakhouse and Wine Bar.

grand lucayanGrand Lucayan

Something Blue

A coveted outpost for couples on a honeymoon, Bequia Beach Hotel is a quick flight from St. Lucia or a fast ferry from Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent. On Friendship Beach in Bequia, one of the isles in the Grenadine chain, the charming hotel is honeymoon haven with a spa, its own beach and the Bequia Blue Tropic for a dinner pour deux. “We’re happy to work with couples with a large wedding party as we can accommodate up to one hundred people which is a lot on a small island,” says Florinda Marshall, general manager.

Grand Lucayan on Grand Bahama Island is rolling out the red carpet for Canadian newlyweds with a myriad of wedding and honeymoon packages and a wedding gazebo in the sand. Close to the Florida coast, the resort tempts with golf at the 18-hole course and a relaxation menu at the Senses Spa. “Brides and grooms looking to break away from the traditional wedding tap into the local culture as our planners provide a classic Bahamian experience from menus to booking a Junkanoo band,” said Jennifer Ellis, wedding manager.

frustic houseFustic House

Viva Villas

One of the fabulous villas in the new Blue Sky Luxury collection, Fustic House in Barbados is simply spectacular on a coral ridge overlooking the sea. Built in the 18th century, the gardens were created by the same designer who landscaped the Royal Palace of Hampton Court and the pool was designed to resemble a natural lagoon which at night is lit from below. With seven suites in four wings, tying the knot at the koi-filled lotus lake is among the most picturesque in the Caribbean. “Couples can create a truly bespoke wedding when they choose a villa for their nuptials,” said Dominique Silvera, manager, holiday rentals. There are 200 villas in the Blue Sky Luxury portfolio including in Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica and St. Lucia.

It’s some enchanted evening at C’est La Vie in St. Lucia where the Royal Palm Cottage is perfectly private for honeymooners. Close to Rodney Bay, add-ons include a butler, chef and the ‘J’Adore’ package that comes with two bottles of Prosecco and massages for the bride. “Whether waking up to a breakfast in bed or morning yoga in our garden,” said Maria Thom, general manager, “pre-ceremony jitters easily diminish”.

Pretty and petite, Little Butterfly in Anguilla is aces for a honeymoon with packages that include seven nights, wine basket and candle lit dinners. With views of St. Martin from the deck, bedrooms are divine with Jacuzzis and pillow-top beds. “Our property provides a flexible setting where couples can choose from a variety of chefs, menus, wedding planners, florists and spa therapists which would be unusual to find at a resort,” said Janine Edwards, director marketing.