As children, we believe in fairy tales and happily ever after. As teen-agers, we thrive on spontaneous romantic gestures. It's only as adults that we push our storybook endings into the private world of our daydreams. For many of us, our wedding day is our last adult fantasy holdout.
Michelle Falk, who lives in Florida, made her fantasy come true. "I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a big wedding and please a lot of other people rather than myself. The only thing important to me was to marry the man I loved in a private ceremony on the beach with only the sun, the sea and God present."
Last August, Michelle married Eddie Hill at the Sandal's Ocho Rios Resort on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. "The wedding was all I had ever dreamed of," she said, then added with a chuckle, "except we had to have a minister and witnesses in order to make the marriage legal."
Turning your wedding fantasy into a memory-of-a-lifetime reality is just one reason that island weddings are growing in popularity. Another is cost: Getting married in the islands is downright reasonable when compared to throwing a traditional wedding in the United States, which, according to the Sept. 2 issue of Forbes magazine, averaged a whopping $13,000 -- and that's without the honeymoon. And for those saying "I do" the second or third time around, it's a way to avoid the stress and hassles of planning another wedding.
Most couples who marry in the islands also honeymoon there, and more and more resorts are offering wedding packages. It's not difficult to marry in the islands; it just takes some planning, which is why we've put together the following guide.
Legal marriage ceremonies on foreign soil are recognized in the United States. You can make your own arrangements, work with the resort where you intend to honeymoon or hire a wedding consultant. Be aware that some islands, like Aruba, only allow couples who are already married to renew their vows. Other places, like Cozumel, beg for the services of a wedding planner, as their requirements are so complicated that if you try to complete them on your own, you're more likely to end up with a headache than a honeymoon.
Consultants are especially adept at arranging ceremonies in plantation great houses and private estates, on yachts and at scenic island spots. Two U.S. companies that are pros at organizing island weddings are Far Away Weddings, (800) 882-WEDS, and Weddings Around the World, (800) 648-7000.
Pink-tinged beaches, pastel-painted buildings, rolling hills and impeccable British hospitality welcome couples wishing to marry here. A beribboned, horse-drawn surrey can transport you to your ceremony. Nuptials can take place under a Chinese moon-gate, a Bermudan symbol of unity and lasting, undivided love; in the Botanical Gardens amid roses, oleanders and hibiscus; or at Honeymoon Point, a cliff on the property of the Sonesta Beach Hotel and Spa that overlooks a waterfall and the sea.
Requirements and documentation
* Obtain a "notice of intended marriage" form from the Bermuda Department of Tourism, (800) 223-6106. No health tests are required.
* Send this form, along with a bank draft for $134, made out to the accountant general, to the registrar general's office at the Government Administrations Building, 30 Parliament St., Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda; (809) 295-5151. When this form is received, the notice will be published in the local paper. Assuming there is no formal objection, you will receive your license 14 days later. This license is valid for three months.
* A civil ceremony costs another $134 and is held in the registrar's office. There are more than 100 churches on island. If you want to marry in one of them, contact the Bishop of Hamilton, P.O. Box HM 1191, Hamilton HM EX, Bermuda.
If you prefer to leave the arrangements to others, Bermuda Travel Planners Ltd., (800) 323-2020, offers personalized wedding packages that include the minister or reverend, marriage license and fees, site and transportation, a bottle of champagne, a wedding cake and the services of a photographer. Contact them at least 45 days in advance. Bermuda Wedding Planners, (809) 236-7309, and the Wedding Salon, (809) 292-5677, offer similar on-island services.
With more than 700 islands, islets and uninhabited cays, the Bahamas abound with white beaches on which to wed. Let the surf caress your bare feet as you exchange vows, while the setting sun streaks the sky with golden blessings. However, the most stunning backdrop for a marriage ceremony is the Versailles Gardens, located on the grounds of the Ocean Club Golf and Tennis Resort on Paradise Island. Designed after the famous gardens of King Louis XIV of France, these seven-tiered grounds are flanked at one end by the majestic stone arches and columns of a reassembled 14th-century Augustinian cloister. Contact Terri Adderley at (809) 363-3000.
Requirements and documentation