Uncommon Beauty: Wedded Bliss, Island Style
Tying the knot the traditional way – staid ceremony at your local place of worship followed by stale reception complete with cheesy wedding singer and regrettable speeches – is beyond blasé. Today’s brides and grooms want exotic. They want unique. They want a destination wedding in the Caribbean.
Lots of full-service and all-inclusive resorts offer destination wedding packages. Some, like the Free Caribbean Wedding program offered by Holiday Inn Resorts Caribbean, include just about everything, even the cake, at little or no cost above what you’d pay for a normal resort stay. Best of all, the resorts take care of all the paperwork and legal issues, making this the easiest, most stress-free option.
But let’s say you want to take exotic and unique up a notch or 2 by handling all the details yourself. Here’s where it gets tricky. The Caribbean may be 1 big wonderful region, but within that region are 30+ individual countries, each with their own unique laws and requirements for destination weddings (and everything else).
Picking the right destination for your nuptials, then, will take some research. Here are a few tips to help get you started…
Easiest islands for U.S. couples
Not surprisingly, U.S. couples won’t encounter too many hurdles in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. There’s an 8-day waiting period in the USVI, though U.S. couples don’t actually need to be in the islands to meet the requirement, so really there is no waiting requirement (typical Crucian confusion). Puerto Rico calls for a battery of blood tests and a health certificate from a local doctor, but other than that, it’s a fairly painless process similar to the States. Of course, you won’t need a passport either, adding to the ease and convenience.
Outside of the U.S. islands, other Caribbean destinations with no waiting period include Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, and the Cayman Islands. You can basically just arrive, grab 2 witnesses, and get hitched – assuming your paperwork is in order and your fees have been paid, of course.
Speaking of Fees…
Marriage license and legal fees vary widely from island to island, even between the U.S. destinations. Getting married in Puerto Rico will only set you back $2, while in the USVI the cost is $200. In the French Caribbean islands there is no fee at all. Sounds good, but bear in mind that there is a 30-day residency requirement, which kind of kills the cash-savings. If you have the time and means, though, there are few better places to be “stuck” for a month. The best fee/waiting period combo is probably Suriname, where couples pay just $8 and only have to wait 1 day. Grenada’s 5-day waiting period and $15 cost are a good value option as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the $286 you’ll have to fork out to get married in St. Maarten.
The Caribbean’s colorful cultures and religious traditions carry a few quirks when it comes to destination weddings. Catholics wishing to get married in Anguilla, for instance, must provide 3-6 months notice. If you want to get married in a Christian Church in the BVI’s, marriage banns must be published on 3 consecutive Sundays or Saturdays prior to the ceremony. You’ll definitely want to be aware of these and other quirks well in advance of your wedding date.