Welcome to the new era of “destination weddings.” Large, lavish and expensive wedding ceremonies are becoming a thing of the past. Also less common are couples choosing to marry in the bride’s home town. A new trend seems to have emerged, where couples opt to travel to a foreign exotic destination to exchange their vows in beautiful, scenic settings, worthy of a lifetime of treasured memories. Family and close friends are usually the ones that make it to the Big Day, truly making it an event of “quality” instead of “quantity.”
We conducted a recent survey from a sample a dozen or so beach-wedding-goers to find out what they thought of their recent experiences tying the knot in the sand. Here are some of the funnier advantages they listed:
“The sand is a good excuse not to wear high heals!”
“No need to worry about whether your outdoor reception will get rained out!”
“Your honeymoon is only minutes away”
“It was the most beautiful setting a person could wish for a real fairy tale.”
Sabine Halabi is the Operator of wedding consulting company called Special Events Wedding & Party Planner, located in Curaçao. She is a trained wedding and party planner and has coordinated weddings on the island for five years now. We recently interviewed Sabine to find out more about Curaçao as a choice destination for weddings:
CURAÇAO EVENTS (CE): Sabine, can you please tell us why a couple should choose Curaçao over other destinations for their exotic wedding?
SABINE: The weather here in Curaçao is great and the white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and friendly people make everything complete. Here, you get sunny wedding pictures with a white beach and the blue Caribbean Sea in the background… an exotic and romantic reception in the sultry air on the patio of an authentic plantation house … your honeymoon on a tropical island where you can bathe in the sun, swim, snorkel and scuba dive, where you can dine at night under the stars…Need I say more?
Curaçao is a safe place. Tourists can easily go out and explore the island without apprehension. The fact that Curaçao is situated outside the hurricane belt is also a ‘safety’ issue when planning an outdoor event on an exotic Caribbean island. Lastly, Willemstad, with its historic inner city and harbor is listed on the World Heritage list. Wedding pictures on the pontoon bridge, ‘Emma Brug’ with the historic, typical old Dutch facade in the background, are special and unique.
CE: Where are most couple choosing to marry in Curaçao coming from? Any particular nationalities/religions over others?
SABINE: We host mostly visitors from the USA, of all denominations. Second in numbers to Americans are visitors from the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. There is a very active tourism board in Holland and Sweden promoting destination weddings in Curaçao.
CE: Any particular nationalities/religions over others?
SABINE: We see mostly secular, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant weddings. There are all types of religions on the island. You can get the officiator of your choice, whether secular or religious. It is also possible to hire an officer from the local registry office to get married civilly, which is what most couples do.
CE: The Curaçao registry reports increasing numbers of weddings every year. We are told that in 2004, there were147, in 2005 there were 172 and in 2006 there were 221 weddings in Curaçao. Up until July of 2007, which is the last time I checked, there were already 118 ceremonies performed. Do you expect the numbers to continue to rise?
SABINE: Well, let’s just say that people are discovering the hidden treasure that is Curaçao, which means that with word of mouth, the numbers should go up. But compared to other destination wedding islands, such as Jamaica, the numbers here are still small enough to make it a unique experience for anyone from abroad. Our company arranges approximately 2 or 3 weddings each month.
CE: Is a marriage licence required? How long does it take to get one and is it complicated?
SABINE: Foreigners must register at least two months in advance to get married on the island. They must send a letter signed by both future spouses and original identification documents (issued less than 6 months prior) such as birth certificate, divorce decree, death certificate and a declaration of not having been married (even after a death or divorce of a prior spouse). The documents must have an “apostil” attached to all originals. In the USA, visitors are often told that this is not necessary, which is wrong. The Registry Office in Curaçao does require the proper formalities on the documents in order to issue a marriage license to the couple. After the wedding, the Registry office issues a wedding certificate in the Dutch language, but we arrange to have it translated to English, and also fitted with an apostil, so that the couple can register their marriage in their home country. For Dutch citizens, the apostil process is not necessary. We can help the couple with all of their paperwork.
CE: Is there unrestricted access to the beaches for a private ceremony or must they be arranged through a resort?
SABINE: There are many options for weddings, and most beaches are available. You could say that there is unrestricted access, but the public beaches and most resorts can/will not close the whole beach for a wedding. At Special Events, we advise the clients to have the wedding around sunset. Around that time, the beaches are mostly quiet and you feel as if you have the beach to yourself. Most weddings take place at the resort beaches, although there are also some other public beaches that are very popular such as Cas Abao beach and Playa Kalki.
CE: How much can a wedding cost in Curaçao?
SABINE: For a smaller wedding of maximum 10 people, you can count on spending from $495 U.S. for the wedding coordination, plus the costs of the caterer and the music. The coordination is essential because you are not always on the island as you plan, and we can help you remotely. Also, we know all the ins and outs, whereas visitors may not.
CE: This seems quite affordable, doesn’t it?
SABINE: Yes, it is. Remember also that you are already on location to start your honeymoon right away. The cost of the honeymoon and the ceremony are rolled into one.
CE: Can you get any types of foods on the island?
SABINE: Yes, from Beach BBQ to Haute Cuisine and from Creole food to Italian or Indonesian (including vegetarian options). The only limit we have so far on the island food-wise is Kosher meals. Unfortunately we do not have facilities yet to provide an elegant 100% Kosher dinner. But depending on your budget, you can be creative and have kosher prepared meals flown in from Miami or New York.
CE: What was the most interesting and memorable wedding you saw in Curaçao?
SABINE: It was one of the first I did, for a Belgian couple. They came without friends or family. A colleague and I witnessed their civil wedding. Although I first found it strange that they would prefer to marry all alone – without friends and family – I then understood it completely during their ceremony: We, the witnesses, were invisible to them. It was just the two of them. Their love for each other was intense and focused. It was beautiful!
As for he most interesting wedding, I once had a lot of fun working with a decorator from Miami. We have created crazy and unforgettable events with fun party favors, such as maracas, hats, whistles and more. We even do fireworks!
CE: Thanks for all this helpful info, Sabine.
SABINE: Vriendelijke groet!
A wedding is a special time, to be shared by close ones, with as little stress as possible. For some reason, with the commercialization of our society over the years, wedding ceremonies all over the world have become a money-pit, where couples spend months and thousands of dollars on an event that will last a few hours. One wonders if the goal of marriage is the ceremony, or the actual lifelong relationship that is supposed to follow!
With a destination wedding in a remote and pristine location like Curaçao, the focus is brought back on the couple and the special life journey on which they are embarking together. Local event planners can help take the stress out of planning. The walls of your pricey banquet hall will become the sand and the palm trees. Key moments of silence will be filled with the sound of the ocean’s waves. Let Curaçao be the door to your new stage of life in a real, natural and relaxed paradise. After all, isn’t that what marriage is supposed to be all about?