Katie McGonagle joins a wedding-themed fam trip to seek out the Bahamas' best spots to tie the knot
“Most of our weddings take place on the island, but every so often we get a couple who wants to jump straight in with the dolphins,” says Kelly Meister, as we skim across the waves towards Blue Lagoon Island, where her family has owned Dolphin Encounters for nearly a quarter of a century.
“The dolphins bring the rings over, and we have a reverend who just gets into his bathing suit to officiate. He thinks it’s good fun.”
This sounded like a rather outlandish way to stage a wedding. But as we stepped off the boat onto a tiny tropical island – the backdrop for Beyoncé’s latest fashion shoot with H&M – it was easy to see why couples would be tempted to swap the sun-starved British Isles for these pristine white-sand shores and sparkling cyan water.
The dolphins are the stars of the show, though, and can apply their ring-bearing skills to marriage proposals as well as ceremonies.
Even without a wedding, we got a few kisses courtesy of dolphins Dot and Abaco. It proved to be one of the highlights of our weddings-themed educational, organised by the Bahamas Tourist Office and specialist operator Bahamas Flavour, which offers 10% commission on all wedding packages, plus £50 of shopping vouchers for all bookings in 2013 14. (All sample prices below are through Bahamas Flavour).
BEST FOR... THE WEDDING ALBUM
Where: One&Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island
Location: Paradise Island is adjacent to New Providence, home to capital Nassau. It’s connected by two bridges across Nassau Harbour, easily reached by car.
Venue vibe: This resort boasts such Zen-like tranquillity, it feels more like walking into a yoga retreat than a 105-room hotel. Perhaps it’s the size – the estate hides an 18-hole golf course, surprisingly spacious rooms and eight Balinese spa villas in its expansive grounds – or the high staff-to-guest ratio, which means every need is attended to almost before you’ve thought of it.
Wow factor: The 12th century Augustinian cloisters, shipped piece-by-piece from France, and Versailles-inspired manicured gardens ooze glamour and sophistication – a real masterpiece.
Agent opinion: Joanne Jordan, Northampton Travel Services: “This was a very elegant property, whose attention to detail far exceeded anything else we experienced. The setting for its weddings, in gardens with a 12th-century cloister, is breathtaking.”
Book it: Wedding packages start at £3,000 per couple, including a personal consultant, licence, minister, bouquet and boutonnière. A seven-night stay in a Garden View Room with flights to Nassau and transfers costs from £2,199.
BEST FOR... SAND BETWEEN YOUR TOES
Where: Pink Sands Resort, Harbour Island
Location: For a small place, Harbour Island attracts big names – Elle Macpherson, Johnny Depp and Brooke Shields are just a few to frequent this hot celebrity hangout – and given the size of the yachts moored in the marina during our visit, they weren’t the only high-profile guests.
It’s as unpretentious as it gets, though, with pastel-coloured clapboard houses, welcoming locals, and golf buggies the only means of transport. To get there in the first place, fly to Eleuthera and catch the ferry, or take a three hour ferry from Nassau.
Venue vibe: With 25 chic suites dotted around a 20-acre resort, Pink Sands is a simple yet elegant escape. Decor is subtle and contemporary, with Ocean View Rooms boasting private paths straight down to the beach.
Wow factor: As the name suggests, this beautiful boutique property leads on to a three-mile stretch of rosy-hued sand perfectly suited to saying ‘I do’. It’s one of the best beaches in the Bahamas – and on these islands, that’s saying something.
Agent opinion: Gabi Birbeck, Rendezvous Travel Group: “I thought Pink Sands was perfect for weddings – so pretty, fabulous views, with no hustle and bustle in the background. The couple could tie the knot and be virtually guaranteed not to have other holidaymakers in the photos.”
Book it: Wedding packages are tailor-made, but a ceremony starts at $5,000 for on-site consultant, document help, licence, officiant, cake, flowers and champagne. Reception venue hire costs $1,500-$2,500 plus food and drink.
BEST FOR... A QUIET HIDEAWAY
Where: Kamalame Cay, Andros
Location: Andros is a natural wonder: despite being the largest island in the Bahamas, the mangrove-lined estuaries cutting through mean it is only sparsely populated. Marine life is plentiful, though, with the world’s third largest reef just offshore, plus blue holes and a mile-deep abyss, the Tongue of the Ocean, teeming with different species – a haven for diving and snorkelling.
Venue vibe: Kamalame Cay is a private island featuring a family-run property of just 12 lodges. The central Great House brings guests together to enjoy innovative Bahamian cooking and some of the best rum cocktails in the Caribbean. Access is easy: a 15-minute flight from Nassau to Andros Town, followed by a short ferry ride or seaplane transfer.
Wow factor: This little gem hides a charming overwater spa – a wooden structure jutting across sea so shallow, it takes on the golden colour of the sand below.
Agent opinion: Julie Wells, Travelux: “My favourite place for a honeymoon has to be the barefoot luxury of Kamalame Cay. It is completely off the beaten track, so staying in one of the private and spacious beachfront cottages would be bliss: even the bathtubs have a view of the beach.”
Book it: Weddings cost from £9,500 per couple including a 10-night stay with flights to Nassau and connections to Andros, all meals, drinks and in-room bar, accommodation in a beach suite, plus a beach ceremony with gazebo, flowers, minister and licence. Honeymoon-only starts at £2,850 per person.
BEST FOR... VALUE FOR MONEY
Where: Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma
Location: Exuma encompasses more than 360 cays, breathtaking viewed from the air on the short connecting flight from Nassau. This long line of islands stretches 130 miles, and includes several celebrity-owned private isles.
Venue vibe: Compared to its sister property, Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, this is quieter and more spread-out. A comprehensive all-inclusive offering features premium-brand spirits, varied dining options and access to its 18-hole golf course. Group discounts are available for larger wedding parties, and the Beautiful Beginnings wedding package is free for stays of at least six nights.
Wow factor: Impossibly bright turquoise waters lap gently at the shore, making it the ultimate beach setting.
Agent opinion: Julie Wells: “Sandals Emerald Bay would be ideal for honeymoon clients who want an all-inclusive hotel. It was originally owned by Four Seasons and the rooms are a generous size. From here, couples can take a day trip around the beautiful Exuma cays to see some of the Bahamas’ best beaches and sea life.”
Book it: A Beautiful Beginnings wedding with seven nights’ all-inclusive accommodation in a honeymoon luxury suite with concierge service starts at £3,999 per couple, with flights to Nassau and connections to Great Exuma, airport transfers, marriage officer, licence and a wedding gift.
BEST FOR... COLONIAL ELEGANCE
Where: Graycliff Hotel, Nassau
Location: In the heart of the historic capital, easily accessed via direct British Airways flights from Heathrow.
Venue vibe: This iconic hotel has played a central role in centuries of Bahamian history. It was built in 1740 by a pirate ship captain, becoming a garrison for the American Navy in the War of Independence, an officers’ mess during the American civil war, a supplier of bootleg booze to Al Capone during prohibition, and a host to high-profile guests such as Winston Churchill.
Wow factor: The Graycliff has plenty of special touches – not least its cigar factory, chocolate workshop and top-notch dining – but chief among them is its renowned wine cellar. It’s one of the largest collections in the world, with more than 250,000 bottles, one dating from 1727. For an extra-special wedding meal, guests can dine in the atmospheric private cellar room.
Agent opinion: Joanne Jordan: “The position of this 18th-century mansion gives no indication of what lies behind its doors. It’s a property unlike any other, offering elegant surroundings and a beautiful setting for weddings around the gardens and pool.”
Book it: A consultant designs each wedding individually, but a Ruby Package starts at £950 including documents, minister, flowers, and bottle of champagne, but excluding accommodation and flights. Weddings are not held over Christmas, New Year or Easter.
This is a community-moderated forum.
All post are the individual views of the respective commenter and are not the expressed views of Travel Weekly.
By posting your comments you agree to accept our Terms & Conditions.