A warm salty breeze gently washes over your shoulders as you look your loved one in the eyes, toes wiggling nervously in the sand. You can almost smell the sunshine, as you hold hands and smile at one another as if sharing a secret. The turquoise blue ocean kisses the shore just beyond your love standing opposite, providing a soothing backdrop where everyone in attendance seems to blend away until it’s just the two of you.
If this sounds like the ideal setting for your marriage vows, then Jamaica is a destination you need to consider. Just a short less than 2 hour plane ride from Florida, the Caribbean island of Jamaica boasts numerous pristine white sand beaches, exhilarating land and sea adventures whilst maintaining a year round temperature in the 80s. A fantastic choice for sun-loving couples, here are my Top 5 Reasons to Have Your Destination Wedding in Jamaica.
It’s Quick and Easy
Unlike many foreign countries, Jamaica offers no residency requirements and even better, no blood test. Couples can marry just 24 hours after arriving in Jamaica, but need to make sure they have applied for their marriage license (approx $50) from the Ministry of Justice first. Make sure you also bring a certified copy of birth certificate, copy of passport, copy of divorce papers if divorced or death certificate if widowed, and parents legal consent if under 18.
While some might think that your wedding venue options would be limited on a tropical island, there are actually a wide variety to choose from with almost any backdrop imaginable. Traditionalists will love the grandeur of the 1911 built Holy Trinity Cathedral, in Kingston, Jamaica while others may choose a resort with breathtaking cliffs hanging over the water. If none of the pristine white or exotic black sand beaches suit your fancy, a lush jungle waterfall with bright tropical flowers might. For a rustic DIY wedding, Rose Hall is Jamaica’s most famous plantation house and would be an unforgettable choice. For those that want a little bit of seclusion along with a personal butler, cook and housekeeper, Half Moon is one of the most luxurious resorts in Jamaica with 4-7 bedroom villas that provide an ideal location for families or friends to relax and play.
Location, Location, Location
With three international airports, every bit of Jamaica is easy to get to from the US. It’s three major airports are:
- Sangster International Airport (MBJ – Montego Bay)
- Norman Manley International Airport (KIN – Kingston)
- Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ – Ocho Rios)
Flights depart daily from many major US airports like Miami (just over an hour!), Los Angeles (about 9 hours with a stop) and New York (4 hours) with very affordable fares.
There is so much to do on the island that your guests will never be bored. With so many options, you are free to put your own personal spin on the usually mundane aspects and create memories no one will forget. For instance, choose a sunset sail and dinner cruise for your rehearsal dinner or invite everyone for a day of play White River Tubing in Ocho Rios as the welcome party. Plus, all of these extras make it the perfect place to stay and honeymoon after the wedding. (I suggest getting married on one side of the island and then moving to the other side to honeymoon!)
- Cliff Diving in Negril at Rick’s Cafe
- Green Grotto Caves in Discovery Bay
- White River Tubing in Ochos Rios
- Explore old Sugar Plantations or Coffee Estates
- Relive your favorite Cool Runnings moment and bobsled down a mountain
- Swing away at one of 12 Golf Courses
- Swim with Dolphins or Sharks
- Tour the Appleton Rum Estate
- Zip Line through the Jungle
- Tour countless Waterfalls (most notably Dunns River Falls)
- Scuba Dive the famous ‘City that Sank‘ in Kingston
- Wander through on of the many Wildlife Sanctuaries
- Relax on the Beach (my personal favorite!)
The Eats and Meets
An incredible mix of both friendly and fun loving, Jamaica has some of the most amazing locals I’ve ever met. Stressed out brides-to-be may feel a little less tense with the relaxed atmosphere and calm “island time” attitude. The culture has a heavy music influence with genres like reggae, rocksteady and dub originating in the island’s vibrant, popular urban recording industry just perfect for dancing the night away. And where else can you liven up your reception with the sounds of a Jamaican steel drum band? Pair all of the above with the incredible local gastronomic favorites like spicy Jamaican jerk chicken, sweet caramelized fried plantains, addicting Jamaican patty, Red Stripe beer and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, and you have the undeniable makings of the best. party. ever.
So when is the best time to travel? If you’re looking to save money by traveling in the off season, most travelers recommend October – December. At this time of year, hurricane season has tapered off but hotel rates are still at their lowest. If you’re willing to brave an increased chance of showers, you could also try low season (April – June) where hotels offer numerous incentives.
Working with the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Jamaica Bridal Expo Team is holding the Jamaica Bridal Expo 2014 on September 20th and the 21st this year. The event will take place at the Montego Bay Convention Centre and promises to be ‘one of the top Bridal Shows in the Caribbean’. Last year the expo showcased over 80 exhibitors, 800 patrons & 200 Travel Agents in 2 blissful days. This year they’re promising something even bigger and better so stay tuned as I’ll be attending and reporting back!