If you have been looking at the romantic images of some magical Caribbean beach weddings, you will already understand how truly lovely the experience can be. What images cannot really express though are the many unique and special events that can be woven into your perfect wedding – before and after the ceremony itself.
Whether you are a very small party who wish for the intimacy and serenity of a ceremony at sunset on your own private beach or a large group who are keen on the Caribbean destination wedding party of a lifetime, there is something for absolutely everyone.
So, how do you work out where is best for you? I’ve set out some useful information here that might help you narrow your sphere of investigation as you try to locate the island destination weddings spot of your dream.
Why get married in the Caribbean?
What’s brilliant about any of the Caribbean beach weddings is that you can embrace the whole white dress and veil theme under a floral bower overlooking the ocean or opt for a more informal barefooted, bohemian vibe and dress in a way that celebrates the joy you both take in being slightly less conventional and left of center. There are no rules here. You get to choose how your day looks and feels.
It’s also an opportunity to bring together friends and family for a meaningful vacation where your wedding is the climax of a joyful and fun holiday.
Is a Caribbean wedding valid back home?
First of all, let’s cover the basics. If you marry in the Caribbean will your marriage be legally recognized back home? I won’t name and shame, but a rather famous rock star got married on a tropical island back in the 1990s. It transpired that in some sort of legal loophole the wedding wasn’t recognized by European / US courts. A neat strategy if you are (a) a cynical (b) miser who hopes to hold onto his cash in the event of a split.
Well, rest assured, if you are heading to the Caribbean to be hitched regardless of whether you front one of the biggest rock bands in the world, your wedding is most likely completely legal … provided you complete the necessary paperwork according to local laws.
Most of the island destinations have a requirement that one or both of the parties to be married need to be ‘resident’ for a prescribed period of time in order to obtain a marriage license.
Here is a quick list of residency requirements for some of the main destinations in the Caribbean. NOTE: Laws and regulations do change from time to time, so please always do due diligence to ensure you are fully aware of all that is needed.
- St Martin – Dutch Side – There is no residency requirement but permission must be obtained in advance by writing to the Lt Governor’s office.
- British Virgin Islands – Three-day lead time during which you apply for the License.
- St Barths – Either the bride or groom will need to show a residency of at least 1 month prior to the wedding.
- Antigua and Barbuda – No residency requirement.
- Dominica – ideal for elopement. Either the bride or groom must be on the island a mere 2 days before tying the knot.
- St Martin – French Side – the bride or groom must be resident for at least 6 months before the proposed date of marriage.
- St Lucia – four-day residency requirement.
- Barbados – no residency requirement but the couple must apply in person for the license on Barbados.
- St Vincent and the Grenadines – it takes 3 days to process the license and there is a one-day residency rule.
- Grenada – it takes 3 days to process the licence with no residency rule.
- Jamaica – persons must be in the country for at least 24 hours before getting married.
- St Kitts and Nevis – there’s a 2 day lead time to obtain a license.
- Turks and Caicos – 3 days of residency required to apply for a license.
What about a Church or Synagogue Wedding?
If you are of religious persuasion and feel that a wedding doesn’t seem complete without being blessed in some hallowed church or temple, you will be delighted to know that there are so many gorgeous churches and synagogues to be found across the Caribbean. Ever since Columbus arrived brandishing his Christian flag and settlers from other religious denominations arrived, churches and a few synagogues have popped up across the islands.
Of course, it’s important to understand what the rules are surrounding permissions within any given faith. This is where local knowledge becomes vital. Look no further than Exceptional Villas who, with their amazing concierge teams and partnering with local wedding planners, can best advise you on what is possible.
Red Tape and Paperwork / What you Need?
Well, it varies according to each territory.
- Proof of citizenship – passports and birth certificates always useful. Some documents may need to be translated into a language approved by the Caribbean island.
- Any paperwork that shows that you are legally divorced or widowed.
- In some cases, blood tests.
- Payment of fees to the government bureau issuing the license.
This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you a flavour of some of the bureaucracy surrounding a wedding in the Caribbean. It’s certainly very doable but my advice is plan ahead, gather all of your paperwork so that your happy event isn’t snagged by some silly formality.
What Island is Best for you?
Draw up a wish-list of what you want for your wedding: a big party, small group? Adults only, family Caribbean vacation? Exclusive and Private or Exclusive but within a Resort? The age profile of you and your guests and their specific needs? What activities do you want to build into your wedding vacation experience? Golf, sailing, fishing, snorkelling, luxurious spa treats etc.
Once you have your ‘shopping list’ of key ingredients, simply call Exceptional Villas. Our experienced team will be able to shortlist the perfect islands, villas or resorts that can deliver all – and more – of your deal-breakers wishes.
To get you excited about what we can offer you, take a look at a very short selection of some of the loveliest properties that can deliver the Caribbean wedding destination of your dreams:
Ideal for Big (or small) Groups
If you are looking for that traditional style wedding where guests sit for a decadent 8-course feast under a star-filled sky or perhaps a sophisticated cocktail party or casual barbecue for a large party, look no further than some of these best Caribbean wedding resorts and villas.
Round Hill Resort and Villas in Jamaica really understands how to create that magical experience for a large group. The rolling green lawns that stretch down to the beach are ideally suited for a wedding ceremony and the resort offers amazing menu choices for the wedding dinner. Wedding villas in Jamaica are the perfect place to tie the knot with a loved one!
St Peter’s Bay in Barbados can create that romantic wedding on the beach. It has a collection of spectacular beachfront villas that make the perfect accommodation for families travelling to a wedding in Barbados. The St Peter’s Bay Resort has communal pools, kids club and all the amenities that will ensure guests have a fabulous vacation before and after your wedding. Wedding Villas in Barbados offer everything to make your special day perfect!
Silent Waters Villa in Jamaica is a large property that can comfortably host a private wedding. With space for a reception of up to 150 guests depending on the style of the event, this is ideal for a very bespoke and private experience.
The Lazy Lizard in Antigua’s Jumby Bay is a contemporary property with an Asian theme. Pretty pavilions around a private pool just a few steps from your own private stretch of beach make this as private a location for that lovely wedding event.
Ideal for Privacy and Space
If you are a group who want the ultimate in intimate weddings, there’s a lot to be said for staying in one stunning villa where you can party and enjoy together during the time leading up to the big day.
Belle Mont Farm on St Kitts is one of those lovely properties with breath-taking views over the Caribbean taking in the islands of Saba and St Barths. Sitting within 400 acres of a lush rain forest with adjacent golf course, this beautiful location is tranquillity personified.
If you are looking for a gorgeous location on Grand Cayman, look no further than the 5-bedroomed, Coral Kai Villa at Rum Point in Grand Cayman.
Anguilla’s Spyglass Hill Villa commands views across the Caribbean. You can laze in your infinity pool watching the yachts glide across the horizon. Part of the British West Indies, Anguilla is that magical destination island that offers a very laid-back wedding experience.
You might have a very original idea of how you want your wedding to unfold. The white dress, speeches and rum punch jamboree style might give way to an event that celebrates your love and life in a unique way. Maybe your wedding service will be followed by a day whale watching with a picnic on a deserted cay or cove. Bring your own flavour of originality to your day and allow us to help you create the day that says everything about your values.
Little Whale Cay in the Bahamas is an entire island that can host your dream wedding. Its space and numerous accommodation choices, make it a fabulous place for your guests to enjoy a blissful and carefree vacation too.
The amazing British Virgin Island destination that is Necker Island is an unforgettable place for your wedding. With a team onsite that specialises in creating the most bespoke of weddings, this is one of our top picks for exclusivity.
Second Time Rounders
Oscar Wilde did say that a second marriage was the triumph of hope over experience. In my view, though, when you are looking at planning a second wedding, you will absolutely know what it is that you really don’t wish to recreate for your event. So many Second Time Rounders gravitate to the Caribbean. Why? For a smaller, bespoke wedding experience, nothing matches that romantic exchange of vows on your own private villa terrace. Tasteful and timeless are the words to best describe your event.
It’s wonderful to see that the US has led the way in the Caribbean through its Supreme Court ruling that same-gender couples have the constitutional right to marry in all US territories and States. This covers the island of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Although the Caribbean is not always viewed as the most LGBT attuned region, this is a wonderful step forward. Barbados, Cayman Islands and Antigua are working on their legislation and it’s hoped that very soon same-sex marriage will not only be recognised but possible in their territories. Watch this space!
Last of all …. Best Tips
- Have a shortlist of the key ingredients for your perfect day ie. Romantic, lively, relaxed – choose a theme and let the decisions evolve from that central theme.
- Pick a destination that provides the necessary basics for you and your guests ie. Luxury, private pools, beach-side, child-friendly, party-central etc.
- Work out how much lead time you want to give guests prior to the ceremony eg. Would you like to build a series of activities and adventures for the guests before the wedding? Snorkelling, rum tasting, golf, glorious spa days, hikes, horse riding through the surf …
- Do you want to have a get-away organised so you and your beloved can go and enjoy some alone time at another villa destination after the celebrations?
- Utilise the proven talents of Exceptional Villa’s concierge teams who can guide you when choosing the best Caribbean wedding destinations.
- … and the very best tip of all ….choose the Perfect Partner … maybe not ‘perfect’ in the eyes of the world, but quite simply ‘perfect’ for you!
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!
Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.
Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.
Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.