round hill hotel and villas, jamaica
WHY WE CHOSE IT: This Montego Bay classic has a track record of creating sublime weddings for families who can pay top dollar for flawless accommodations and impeccable service.
For 60 years an international Who’s Who of Hollywood stars, musicians, business titans, and aristocrats have celebrated their big events at this boutique (110 rooms, suites and villas) resort. Round Hill engenders so much loyalty that a few years ago, one of the villa owners agreed to personally redecorate the guestrooms in the Pineapple House. That villa owner’s name is Ralph Lauren.
Round Hill’s signature wedding package includes an onsite wedding coordinator, help with the legalities, a wedding officiator (and, if needed, witnesses), hair styling and make-up for the bride, a massage for the groom (oh, the stress!), a wedding at the Seaside Gazebo or the Infinity Sundeck, a violinist, a photographer and videographer, flowers, champagne, a wedding cake, and gifts ($2,695 for two to eight people). Round Hill also offers a sweet One Love Vow Renewal package for $1,195 (contact Racquel Bernard; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Guestrooms? There are no bad ones. The Oceanfront King rooms (from about $400 in May) sport cool white Lauren furnishings, a let’s-copy-this-at-home bathroom, and gracious outdoor spaces. The Ocean View Villa Suites with semi-private pools (from about $470) have expansive indoor and outdoor areas for entertaining. Families in the wedding party often take an entire Round Hill villa.
“The party’s over” feeling never sets in here. Meals are prepared by a James Beard award-winner who serves farm-to-table dishes, the watersports gear is in mint condition, and the 5-court tennis facility is one of the best in Jamaica (“proper tennis wear required”). Future golf widow alert: Round Hill can arrange tee times at the championship Tryall Golf Club, and three other world-class layouts are also in the neighborhood; see the Caribbean golf feature in last month’s issue of Recommend. The fitness center is state-of-the-art, and the spa occupies an 18th century plantation house on a beachfront lawn.
Round Hill pays commissions on accommodations only, but consider this: The average wedding party here numbers 80 participants. At certain times of the year Round Hill offers discounted rates to agents.
(800) 972-2159 or roundhill.com
tamarind by elegant hotels, barbados
WHY WE CHOSE IT: Tamarind offers a Platinum Coast location without Sandy Lane sticker shock, a good wedding program, and recreational options.
With 104 units and 750 ft. of beachfront, this member of the five-resort Elegant Hotels group is small enough so guests feel special but just large enough to have three pools, a full-service spa and fitness center, and an array of watersports. Although Tamarind has the ambiance of couples-only hotels—stylish pastel rooms, a serene atmosphere—the nieces and nephews, not to mention children the couple may already have are welcome.
Wedding packages start at $950, and that includes a wedding coordinator, a license and registration, a magistrate or minister, a wedding cake and champagne, and the services of a best man and maid of honor, if needed. The Perfect Indulgence package, at $2,999, is especially popular because it also includes (just a partial list here) airport transfers by limousine, a room upgrade, a champagne breakfast in bed (careful with those crumbs!), a manicure and hair styling for the bride, a haircut and shave for the groom, a photographer or videographer, a couple’s massage, and a romantic dinner for two on the beach. All taxes and gratuities are included.
When not canoodling, the young marrieds and whoever is along for the ride can enjoy the watersports, which include snorkeling right off the beach. A ferry takes guests to two other Elegant Hotels beaches so they can test-drive the other resorts’ sand, surf, and snorkeling. Another golf widow warning: Tamarind can arrange tee times at the new Apes Hill Golf & Polo Club and at Royal Westmoreland, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. There are nannies to care for golf orphans, and the Flying Fish Kids Club entertains children ages 4-12. Finally, Barbados is unusually blessed with sightseeing ops for non-athletes, from gardens to great houses, and from cave tours to a historic pink synagogue.
Rooms in May start at about $270, but for the newlyweds there’s a large Junior Suite Ocean View ($464), which has splashes of Caribbean color, a sitting area, a spacious bathroom, and a safe big enough for a laptop. Because let’s face it, newlyweds should not be spending the week surfing YouTube.
The Elegant Escapes Agent Rewards program includes cash bonuses for additional bookings and/or room nights and one point per 1-night stay at The House, Colony Club, or Tamarind. Two points earns a 1-night stay at all-inclusives Crystal Cove or Turtle Beach. To enroll visit eleganthotelsrewards.com.
(888) 996-9948 or tamarindbarbados.com
bucuti & tara beach resorts, aruba
WHY WE CHOSE IT: This small, stylish hideaway is our couples-only pick—a splendid place to continue the honeymoon after the relatives have returned home.
One of Conde Nast Traveler’s top-10 Readers’ Choice picks, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts (effectively one resort) hug Eagle Beach, which is more low-rise than Palm Beach to the north. Bucuti actually provides enough beach beds and umbrellas for every guest, and certain nights movies are shown right on the beach. The cuisine is sophisticated yet approachable (e.g. red snapper with passion curry sauce). Speaking of food, as you read this the Pirate’s Nest restaurant is being demolished; a new restaurant, Elements, will open in August.
“We can accommodate 50 people for weddings,” says wedding coordinator Nashette Wouters. “The average wedding party here is 20 or 25 people.” Receptions for fewer than 20 people tend to be sit-down dinners; beach receptions for more than 20 are buffets with an open bar.
Wouters can customize weddings; contact her at (297) 583-1100 x145 or email@example.com. Wedding packages start at $1,025, but the Diamond package ($3,985) is hard to resist: a legal ceremony in town, a ceremony on the beach, flowers, a photographer and videographer, and, one-upping the traditional church organ, a steel pan player. LGBT-friendly Bucuti arranges same-sex as well as traditional ceremonies, but note that LGBT weddings do not yet have legal status in Aruba. Operative word: yet.
Book one of the 36 Tara Beach Suites for the happy couple or, if they plan to host private get-togethers, book a Bungalow Suite (smaller room, larger terrace); both cost $488 in May 2014, including fees, taxes, and breakfast. Agents earn 15 percent commission
for booking blocks of rooms. Book wedding party members with children into the nearby Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa (manchebo.com).
bolongo bay beach resort, u.s.v.i.
WHY WE CHOSE IT: This St. Thomas resort is for weddings whose attendees want the option of an all-inclusive plan, don’t all have passports, and prefer partying to parsing the wine list.
With slogans like “fun tings is definitely our ting” and a weekly Snorkel Booze Hunt, Bolongo might sound a tad too unpretentious, but this 62-unit, family-run resort is so good at what it does that not only does it score high on social media sites, but it beats out many more costly hotels to make a Frommers top-10 list. Bolongo Bay occupies a 1,000-ft. beach with soft sand, palm trees, watersports, and Iggies Beach Bar & Grill, a rollicking, good-times spot for celebrating every night.
Bolongo’s $3,800 Heavenly Days Fantasy Wedding, one of many customizable options, is unique enough to give any newlywed couple bragging rites. It includes a wedding coordinator, photographer, flowers, and a wedding ceremony aboard the resort’s 53-ft. catamaran that segues into a sunset cruise with an open bar for up to 20. (The boat will accommodate up to 49 people; it costs $55 per passenger above 20). “Our goal is to make the couple feel like guests at their own wedding,” says romance director Lorena Leonard (firstname.lastname@example.org). Her message for brides: “Your only responsibility will be to look radiant.”
Rates in spring start at $225 (add a $10-a-day resort fee), or $488 + $10 for the all-inclusive plan. Book the newlyweds into one of the beachfront rooms, $620 with the all-inclusive plan. A reasonably short walk from the edge of the sand—about three feet—these rooms feature handsome dark wood furniture, pastel walls and accents, and good taste without grand pretense. In addition to free non-motorized sports, the resort can arrange Waverunner rentals, horseback riding, snorkeling and scuba diving cruises, fishing…the works.
Important: Bolongo offers commissions not only on the rooms but also on the wedding packages. FAM prices of 50 percent off
EP rates are subject to availability, and Bolongo welcomes agents on cruise ships with complimentary day passes that include watersports, use of beach chairs and hammocks, and 50 percent off lunch and catamaran sails.
(800) 524-4746 or bolongobay.com
the reefs resort & club, bermuda
WHY WE CHOSE IT: This perennial on Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure top-resorts lists offers exceptional service and wedding planning, the shortest commute in the region, and a secret off-season.
The Reefs is ideal for wedding parties whose participants can only stay a couple of days, but it would be worth the trip even if it were a 12-hour flight from Philly (it’s barely two hours). With 62 guestrooms, 19 suites, and the superb La Serena Spa, the buildings sit upon a 20-ft. limestone shelf above a pre-Photoshopped pink Bermuda beach. Not only is the entire view romantic, but one of The Reefs’ three restaurants, Coconuts, is frequently named the best place in Bermuda to fall in love. Of course, one hopes that the newlyweds have done that by this point.
This property also has two certified wedding planners to shepherd future couples through every step of the wedding-planning process. Contact Kathleen and Emily at (441) 236-9469 or email@example.com. “The average size of a wedding party here is 50-60 guests, but the resort can host seated dinners up to 80,” says spokesperson Jane Wilder. “The typical spend for the ceremony and celebration is $20,000-$25,000.”
Given the expertise of Kathleen and Emily, everything is extremely customizable. Just for starters, music to accompany the ceremony can be anything from a steel pan band to a string quartet (hey, this is Bermuda). FYI, weddings in Bermuda generally include two different wedding cakes: one representing the bride, one for the groom. There’s a custom worth adopting. Venues for the ceremony include the two-tiered deck at Caso’s Point and the trademark pink sand beach. The various options for the celebration range from Coconuts restaurant to the wine room to a formal table on the sand.
The least expensive unit, a Poolside Room with views of the ocean, will run about $615 in May; a spacious Junior Suite will be about $960. All rates include breakfast, and given the quality of the cuisine, the $50 pp dinner plan is a good value. Some couples tack a honeymoon package onto their wedding week. For example, $4,505 (for a Poolside Room) or $7,265 (for a “view-tiful” Point Suite) includes airport transfers, 5-night lodging, welcome cocktails and chocolate-covered strawberries, a couple’s massage, afternoon tea, dinner for two on the beach (May-October), drink vouchers, a gift, and all taxes and gratuities.
Finally, remember that high season here is May through October, the opposite of high season in the actual Caribbean. Bermuda’s winter weather is crisp and spring-like, so ocean swimming is not in the cards, but the heated pool, golf, tennis, exploring Hamilton, and candlelit dinners work pretty darned well in those months. In fact, some people prefer the cool, off-season weather, so this is an opportunity to offer certain clients a five-star venue at four-star rates. For example, from December through March that $960 Junior Suite costs $555—and yes, that includes Christmas week.
(800) 742-2008 or thereefs.com
legal requirements for marrying in the caribbean & bermuda
Just as each resort in this story has a different vibe, each island has different marriage laws.
♥ Jamaica (Round Hill Resort and Villas): Visit visitjamaica.com/articles/getting-married-in-jamaica.aspx. There’s also an easier way to do it: Go to visitjamaica.com and enter “getting married” in the search box.
♥ Barbados (Tamarind by Elegant Hotels): Visit barbados. org/weddings.htm#. UX65NeBgrQc. (Again, it may be easier to just go to barbados.org and enter “getting married” in the search box.) Tamarind itself has an application on its website.
♥ Aruba (Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts): Bucuti’s website lists marriage requirements on its weddings FAQ Page: bucuti.com/weddings/wedding-faq.
♥ U.S.V.I. (Bongo Bay Reach Resort): Visit usviwedding. com/wedding_application_process.html. There’s also a link to the application on that site.
♥ Bermuda (The Reefs): Visit bermuda.com/visitors/weddings.aspx.
♥ Beyond Bucuti, other Dutch island resorts, especially Sandton Kura Hulanda on Curaçao (kurahulanda.com) and the Queen’s Gardens Resort in Saba (see the Caribbean honeymoons story in this issue) offer additional options for LGBT ceremonies.
♥ The French islands have quite a few gay-friendly resorts. This is especially true of St. Barths; for an update/guide to that island, see page 34 in the November 2012 issue of Recommend.