I had an amazing Caribbean wedding experience and I wasn’t even the bride. If you’re considering getting married on a far-flung paradise island beach, this is one I can personally recommend. Here’s why Sandals really are the experts in weddings abroad.
I visited Sandals South Coast, Jamaica and experienced everything the resort has to offer, from the white sandy beaches to a full bridal consultation, a beautiful wedding in the Over-the-Water wedding chapel, stylish cocktail reception and a superb wedding breakfast on the beach.
At Sandals resorts everything is included, you pay one price and you can eat and drink to your heart’s content. They say all you need is love; and Sandals resorts are made for lovers. It’s ideal for a wedding, honeymoon or ‘weddingmoon’.
Caribbean Wedding Experience
When you’re travelling as far as the Caribbean, it makes sense to incorporate your wedding into your honeymoon. As soon as you say your vows, you know you won’t have to go anywhere else as it’s all right there for you. Jamaica has seven Sandals resorts, each with its own unique style. It’s nine hours by plane to Montego Bay and then a further taxi transfer to the idyllic South Coast where you can enjoy tranquil peace and quiet, or a bit of a party lifestyle – or both.
Sandals South Coast
Sandals South Coast is a luxurious European-style beach resort and spa, featuring architecturally designed beachfront villages in Italian, Dutch and French styles. It’s truly beautiful with so much greenery, colourful exotic flowers and peacocks roaming free. The high ceilings and large windows make every building seem very grand and there’s a real feeling of informal elegance all around.
You’ll be taken on a brief tour of the resort so you know where everything is and shown the different options for your wedding ceremony and reception. They have thought of everything, including ‘plan b’ indoor options in case of inclement weather, or ‘liquid sunshine’ as they call it with smiles on their faces. Outside of the rainy season, even when it does pour, it never seems to last long and it’s often just a lovely refreshing relief to the heat.
Sandals Bridal Consultation
Although much of the initial wedding planning is done in the weeks before the big day, there is an opportunity to meet with your wedding co-ordinator to ensure you have the wedding you want, right down to the finest details. It’s your chance to ask questions, finalise your colour palette, decide on linen, ribbons and floral accessories, add any personalisation, and most importantly, fill in the forms that will make your legal marriage certificate.
The consultation with the very personable (and extraordinarily well organised) Sacha was informative, extremely professional and great fun, lasting just over an hour. There was Champagne and cake tasting with six choices of wedding cake including traditional Jamaican fruit cake and contemporary red velvet with another six choices of buttercream filling flavours from coconut to Pina Colada!
Over-the-Water Wedding Chapel
The wedding took place at the Over-the-Water Serenity Wedding Chapel, a short walk along a pier with ocean views all around. White chairs decorated simply with chiffon ribbons and fresh flowers were arranged inside the chapel on either side of the central glass bottom floor through which you can see the clear-turquoise ocean below. The bride walked the length of the pier as her aisle and met her bride with the pastor at the furthest point. Wedding photos were taken with the congregation outside the chapel and further down the aisle where the white sandy beach met the water. It was truly stunning, having the ocean surrounding us all as the couple took their vows.
Each room and suite overlooks the beautiful two mile beach, and there are thirty two one-bedroom Butler-serviced suites featuring full room service. My room was huge with a large king size four-poster bed, full air-con, ceiling fan and luxury bathroom with double shower and bath. My balcony overlooked the garden, Italian Jacuzzi, the ocean and the hills in the distance.
Exquisite new Over-the-Water Butler Honeymoon Bungalows are due to open on November 1, 2017. I went to see the existing Over-the-Water villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean, which is nearer to the airport, and I can honestly say they are the most incredible places I have ever seen; the height of luxury with gorgeous interior and exterior styling. The butlers were lovely and nothing was too much trouble. Everything was served with a smile and a little joke so I never felt uneasy about asking for help. The staff seem to love what they do and they do everything so well.
Bars with a Difference
There’s a choice of seven very different bars, from Latitudes, the Over-the-Water Bar with all-round ocean views and lovely lazy over-the-water hammocks (don’t try to get in if you’ve had a few too many!), swim-up bars in the pools and Casablanca Martini Bar, a small piano bar hidden out of the way up a few steps, with resident DJ Smokey playing requests till late (and far enough away from rooms that no one asleep will hear a thing.) The swim-up bars are a great excuse for a dip; I want to swim for my gin and tonic.
What doesn’t come across in the photos is the sheer warmth of the people there and their sense of humour. At every bar there is at least one barman recreating a moment worthy of Tom Cruise in Cocktail! Broad smiles and friendly banter made every drink and every trip out of my room a real pleasure.
Restaurants with a view
The restaurants are all very different offering cuisine from around the world including Thai, Italian and French as well as a choice of sushi at Sushi on the Sand, relaxed buffet dining at the Bayside Diner, more formal dining at Eleanor’s and, of course, an authentic Jamaican jerk chicken shack on the beach. At many of the restaurants the food is exquisite with brilliantly concocted menus of fresh, local produce expertly made and entertainingly served. On our last night, at Giuseppe’s the Italian restaurant, the waiting staff all sang, the perfect end to a perfect night.
I watched the sun set on the Lover’s Rock Cruise, an incredible three and a half hour catamaran trip, with a fully stocked bar and music all the way. You can sunbathe on board or jump off the side and swim in the ocean before heading back in time for dinner on land.
We took a trip to JamWest with Island Routes to discover the wildlife in the rain forest on a safari jeep tour and stopped for a swim at the mineral bath. Island Routes are experts at adventure and discovery and organised both the Lover’s Rock Cruise boat trip and the jeep safari and mineral bath tour.
Water sports on offer at Sandals include: Hobie Cats, kayaks and Kneeboarding, Underwater Vision (glass bottom) boats, scuba diving* snorkelling, tubing, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, water-skiing and windsurfing. Or you can just swim for your drinks…
There are weekly cocktail party events if you want an excuse to meet other couples or just feel part of a party while you’re there, a theatre with shows and even a fully equipped gym with morning yoga classes.
If it’s relaxation you are looking for, or pampering before the wedding, the amazing Red Lane Spa has everything you need in beautiful tranquil surroundings. I had a relaxing full body massage with facial at the Red Lane Spa which also offers NuFace, the very latest anti-ageing facial that does give instant results.
More Sandals Resorts
For a slightly different Caribbean wedding experience, there are three other Jamaican Sandals resorts in close proximity to each other and the beauty of flying into Montego Bay is you can stay at one resort and play at all three. I also visited Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island and was struck by how different it was to Sandals South Coast as each has its own character and theme.
Sandals Royal Caribbean
Sandals Royal Caribbean is built in an old colonial style and has a lively playful vibe to it complete and its own off-shore island with an authentic, and extremely popular Thai restaurant. I took the short boat trip to the island and explored the wedding locations at this resort too. There’s a lot to do at Sandals Royal Caribbean, it even has karaoke nights and it’s the place Prince Harry chose to holiday not so long ago.
And if it’s playing you want on your honeymoon, consider their newest resort, Sandals Royal Barbados, which is due to open 20 December 2017. New features include Sandals’ first rooftop infinity pool and a bowling alley called Lover’s Lanes. Perfect.
Alongside their glorious ‘all-inclusive’ luxury, it’s good to know they also have an ethical and environmental ethos with the Sandals Foundation.
If you’re considering planning your wedding or honeymoon at Sandals South Coast in Jamaica and want to know more from someone who’s been there, please feel free to ask me anything in the comments below. For further information please visit Sandals.
Explore Sandals Weddings, Honeymoons and WeddingMoons. Love is all you need. Everything else is included.