fairmont hamilton princess, bermuda
No surprise the typical wedding party at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess numbers well north of 30 attendees; Bermuda’s convenient location and this resort’s facilities are great for events in which multiple guests from the eastern seaboard are making brief, back-and-forth trips. It takes less than 2-1/2 hours to reach Bermuda from JFK, and even less time from DCA (Washington, D.C.) and CLT (Charlotte, North Carolina).
As Bermuda’s only luxury urban resort, the “Pink Palace” offers easy access to Hamilton’s historic buildings, shops, museums, and other fine things; the challenge guests face is convincing themselves to leave the premises. The 200+ recently renovated guestrooms make newlyweds happy to just stay in their rooms (not that newlyweds need much convincing on that score), and the views of the sea from the open-air 1609 Bar and Restaurant are breathtaking. Then there’s the spa, the fitness center, a grand and sprawling infinity pool, and a concierge who books tee times for Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club, one of the best courses in North America.
A team of professionals customizes every wedding, so settings vary to match: outdoor terraces, a ballroom, a quintessential pink beach, the marina, a hilltop, etc. In addition to renovating rooms and public spaces, the Hamilton Princess has brought on culinary star Marcus Samuelsson as consulting chef, and he is developing a “Samuelsson Experience” featuring his dishes at banquets. The typical wedding, if there is such a thing, costs $25,000 or more. Rooms start at $369; renovated units (well worth it, especially for The Couple) start at $399. Incentives through Fairmont’s Famous Agents program include monetary rewards, education, and upgrades. thehamiltonprincess.com or fairmont.com/hamilton-bermuda or famousagents.frhi.com
grace bay club, turks & caicos
Unlike resorts whose buildings stretch back from a small beach, this one has plenty of beach because it was a pioneer on Providenciales. Thus, all those rooms with ocean views. Grace Bay Club also excels at hosting both adults-only and family weddings, because its three sections include both an adults-only hotel and the family-friendly (and renovated) Villas and The Estate.
The food service is exemplary, as evidenced by Grace Bay Club’s waterfront Infiniti Restaurant; other choices include a foodie-driven pop-up restaurant. Anani Spa offers state-of-the-art wellness/beauty treatments and fitness equipment. Grace Bay also has complimentary non-motorized watersports and Kids Town activities, plus a premium Very Important Kids programs.
Wedding parties number anywhere from two to 120, and the choice of venues—the beach, one of the restaurants, a pool, the lawn, a catamaran—might tempt people to wed three or four times. (Solution: an annual renewal-of-vows?) Instead of promoting pre-packaged weddings, Grace Bay Club is big on customization. It also uses one of the best photography studios in the Turks and Caicos.
The adults-only Junior Suites in the hotel measure 1,080 sq. ft., with kitchenettes (the concierge can stock refrigerators in advance) and WiFi and iPod docking (because, some would argue, you can’t wed without them). One- and 2-bedroom hotel units are available, too. Families in the wedding party and/or babymoon couples can get a 1-bedroom suite in the Villa section with full kitchen and 1-1/2 baths from $504. Rates include breakfasts. Grace Bay Club pays commissions on wedding packages. gracebayresorts.com/gracebayclub
calabash cove, saint lucia
This all-suite hideaway is pure Saint Lucia: A private beach on the northwest coast of the island, an infinity pool with a waterfall, sea and sunset views from guestrooms, and natural materials—wood, stone, bamboo—used in exteriors and interiors. The smallest suites (Sunset Junior) measure 620 sq. ft., and all guest accommodations have WiFi, contemporary baths, and balconies or patios with teak tables and chairs. Most have a daybed and jacuzzi, too. The Balinese-style Water’s Edge Cottages boast hammocks, an outdoor rain shower, and private plunge pools. The library/music room, appropriately, is called Whispers.
Calabash Cove has a terrific spa, fitness center, kayaks and snorkeling gear (there’s a reef near the beach), live entertainment, an Asian-influenced restaurant on a terrace, and a swim-up pool bar/restaurant. Behind the resort lies Saint Lucia, one of the most beautiful islands, above and below sea level.
Although Calabash Cove can and does host larger weddings, the typical wedding party numbers six to 10, as befits a resort with this sense of intimacy and romance. Naturally, there is a full-time wedding coordinator. The average cost of a wedding is about $1,500; many guests keep that tab down by opting for the all-inclusive plan.
Sunset Junior Suites start at $412 for two adults with breakfast, Swim-Up Junior Suites abutting an infinity pool start at $512, and Water’s Edge Cottages, $728. Add about $230 per day for the all-inclusive plan. FYI, wedding parties can buy out the entire resort: up to 52 guests, all-inclusive. Surprisingly, this small, independent property has a well-rounded incentives program that includes both points toward free stays and cash incentives. Joining the program brings a $50 reward. The base commission is 15 percent, and Calabash Cove pays commissions on weddings, too. calabashcove.com or calabashcoverewards.com
westin st. john, USVI
A wedding at the Westin St. John Resort serves various categories of people: Invitees who lack passports can still attend, nature lovers (snorkelers, hikers, kayakers, etc.) in the wedding party can explore an unusually well-preserved island, children can attend the Westin Kids Club, and people who just want to hang out at a beach resort can do just that. In fact, they can hang out at a better resort than they would have two years ago, because the Westin has just completed a $50 million renovation of its 96 guestrooms and public spaces.
There are two restaurants, including a beach bar & grill, plus a shop that sells take-out sandwiches, pastries, etc., and nearby Cruz Bay offers yet more options. The spa features massages under a canopy by the sea as well as in the spa itself, and water aerobics, Vinyasa yoga, Pilates and aerobic classes are complimentary. The resort also offers parking for guests—a good thing, because this island was made for exploring—and complimentary non-motorized watersports and tennis, with two courts lit until 8 p.m. The children’s programs feature evening sessions until 10 p.m. (from $60, including dinner) that are handy for guests attending bachelor/bachelorette parties.
Ceremonies usually take place in a tented sort of gazebo area near the water. Although couples can go there by themselves to get married, the typical wedding party at this resort numbers 20-30, and the cost ranges from about $7,000 to $12,000. Rooms, dispersed in small buildings, all have a balcony or patio, refrigerator, and Westin’s Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath. Rates start at $199, but an upgrade to a Beachfront Deluxe (from $247) makes sense. The Westin doesn’t pay commissions on wedding ceremonies, but its room commissions are part of Starwood’s SPG Pro program, which includes points toward stays and other awards, training modules, and free WiFi for agents and their clients. The villas on the property do not participate in SPG Pro, but they do pay agents 10 percent.
westinresortstjohn.com or spgpro.com
avila hotel, curaçao
Think arts hotel, but on a beach—a beach near the UNESCO World Heritage site that is Willemstad in Curaçao. Think history, too: The main building (c. 1790) was a governor’s residence; the Octagon building, now a museum, was home to Simon Bolivar’s sisters; and one family has run this 150-room gem for decades.
Weddings and commitment ceremonies take place at the beach and in the Octagon Museum, and couples can arrive on The Big Day in a 1926 Rolls Royce Landaulet convertible. Each wedding is so customized, and sizes vary so dramatically, that there is no “typical” wedding, but figure on the venue, welcome drinks, toast, dinner and 3-hour open bar costing about $100 per person. Although Curaçao does not offer gay marriages (that may change), sales coordinator Gabriella Hoop points out that “we were the first hotel in Curaçao to become a proud member of IGLTA…and we’re also a TAG-approved gay-friendly hotel.”
There’s a fine dining restaurant, a bar/restaurant with live jazz, a breakfast cafe, and three bars, including one in a grounded schooner. The Wellness Centre has TechnoGym gear, the spa employs Asian techniques, and the mansion hosts classical music concerts.
Rooms sport contemporary decor and start at $175; a newly renovated room in the Blues Wing, which extends out over the water, starts at $203; large Octagon Deluxe room, $291. Commissions are on rooms not wedding events. avilahotel.com