The ABCs of a Caribbean wedding
By Michele Peterson
Although rain on your wedding day is said to bring good luck, most couples hope for sunshine on their big day. If you’re planning to tie the knot in the summer and have your heart set on a Caribbean destination wedding, it can be difficult to choose an island if you’re worried about weather. Officially, hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30. If you don’t want to be packing rain ponchos, one of the ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire or Curaçao — would be a good bet. These southern islands, located off the coast of Venezuela and outside the hurricane belt, offer virtually no threat of tropical storms.
Known as the Dutch Caribbean, these three islands have close ties to the Netherlands and local residents speak Papiamento, a charming mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. Each island has its own unique character — from barefoot beach casual to upscale sophistication — which means there’s something for every bridal couple.
Here’s an overview of each island to help you plan your dream wedding:
Signature Experience: With year-round cooling trade winds, Aruba’s white sandy beaches, upscale shopping and lively culture make it an especially fun wedding locale. Greet your guests with carnival beads and flower leis as they board the Kukoo Kunuku, a hand-painted parranda island bus. You’ll enjoy a welcome glass of champagne and then it’s party time with maracas and Caribbean music until you reach your destination. For the wedding, consider a traditional Aruban Kunuku House ceremony, followed by an intimate reception dinner at the acclaimed Papiamento Restaurant, located within a traditional cunucu (Aruban farmhouse). Nestled in an ultra-romantic tropical garden, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable evening dining under the stars.
Where to Stay: A $50 million renovation has made the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, situated on beautiful Palm Beach, a sought-after choice for destination weddings. The resort comes complete with the boutique-hotel style Tradewinds floor, luxurious spa, elegant venues and a team of Marriott-certified wedding planners who can coordinate weddings of all types, including ethnic and military. The hotel accepts only one wedding per day so you’ll never feel rushed on your special day. (www.weddings.arubamarriott.com)
Requirements: One month before the wedding date, couples must provide copies of birth certificates as well as official Canadian documents proving they are free to be married to each other. If either party has been divorced or widowed, copies of the divorce decree or death certificate are required. Copies of valid passports for the bridal couple and their witnesses are needed. An Apostille (authentication and legalization document) must be provided. Church or synagogue weddings have special documentation requirements and may need special permissions.
Signature Experience: Bonaire is a scuba diving and snorkeling paradise, so if you’re a couple who loves outdoor adventure, then this island could be a perfect fit. Take a horse and buggy to Pasan Grahan town hall, located within a charming colonial building, and follow the ceremony with a champagne toast, Caribbean steel-drum music and a tiki torch dinner on one of the island’s pretty beaches. Underwater lovers can even include the world-famous Washington–Slagbaai National Marine Park in their wedding memories or enjoy a relaxed wedding day exploring one of Bonaire’s 86 dive sites. Couples seeking seclusion will love a Robinson Crusoe Away escape to the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. (www.BonaireTours.com)
Where to Stay: Relax in your own well-appointed beachside villa with private terrace overlooking the palm trees and marina at the Harbour Village Beach Club. This stylish hotel is known for its expansive water sports, open water dive courses (beginner to advanced) and sumptuous spa. (www.harbourvillage.com)
Requirements: Two months before the wedding date, the couple must provide original birth certificates showing their parents’ names as well as official Canadian documents proving they are free to be married to each other. If applicable, a divorce decree or widow decree must be included. The couple and witnesses must arrive at least four working days before the wedding to register officially at City Hall, providing two passport photos of the bride and groom as well as copies of passports that are valid for at least six months. Witnesses must also provide photocopies of valid passports. Originals of all documents with an official government seal and an Apostille must be provided. (www.tourismbonaire.com)
Signature Experience: Getting married on this island is a colourful experience thanks to its turquoise waters, white sand beaches and picturesque kaleidoscope of pastel-hued historic buildings. The lively capital city and port of Willemstad is one of six UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Caribbean. Its unique architecture includes the oldest synagogue in the Western hemisphere and the Wedding Cake House (National Archives), an ornate green building with decorative white trim. When it comes to wedding locations, leave wedding day stress behind with a secluded sunset ceremony at the Curaçao Hyatt’s Shaman beach, a private oceanfront location facing calm, clean waters. Island cuisine is also a wedding day draw with a blend of ethnic influences — African, Dutch and European — each making a unique contribution. (www.Curacao.hyatt.com)
Where to Stay: The five-star Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino offers a boutique village experience in the centre of Willemstad, just 20 minutes from the airport. Your wedding party will enjoy exploring this resort village, which is spread over an eight-block radius and features two swimming pools, several restaurants and bars, upscale shops, a world-class museum, a luxurious spa and expansive gardens. For an ultra-romantic experience, book the Tree House Mansion, a thatched-roof suite decorated in exotic African artifacts, located on a raised platform perched on a cliff and accessed by a spiral staircase. (www.kurahulanda.com)
Requirements: Couples must submit a written marriage petition signed by both partners indicating two preferred wedding dates and times, birth certificates with the parents’ names as well as an international declaration of unmarried status. If applicable, a divorce decree or death certificate must be included. An Apostille completed at the Netherlands Embassy in Canada must accompany all documents, none of which can be older than six months. A Curaçao wedding planner can arrange for local witnesses, but if you plan to supply your own, they must be at least 21 years of age, have valid passports and apply for temporary residency. (www.curacao.com)
Having trouble deciding on which island suits you best? One of the most wonderful things about a wedding on any one of the ABC islands is that there are unlimited backdrops for stunning wedding photos. From the dramatic Bushiribana Gold Smelter Ruins on Aruba, to underwater coral formations on Bonaire, to the pretty pastel architecture of Curaçao, you’ll have a photo album of memories to be proud of.
When it comes to the islands, no matter which letter of the alphabet you choose, you’ll be assured of a destination wedding with a splendid — and sunny — Caribbean setting. W
Legal requirements vary from island to island and can change without notice, so be sure to check with local authorities or wedding planners as early as possible in the planning process.