By Karla Vernon
Edited by Naturalight Productions Ltd.
NB: Remember to click on the links in the article to see all the images.
How it came to be ...
My fiancé and I knew from the time of our engagement that we wanted a ceremony by the sea. But it was not until one June afternoon when Trevor and I stopped in for lunch at Pleasure Island Resort on St. George's Caye (just a half an hour away from our home on the mainland of Belize) that we began to visualize what we might be able to pull off.
Actually, the whole thing was the manager, Lily Bowman's idea. As usual, Trevor could not resist showing off our engagement ring, and rather than just admire it, Lily whipped out her office calendar and said, "Okay, so what day do you two want?" I was sure he was just humoring her as he poured over the calendar until he announced, "New Year's Eve!"
I tried not to wonder if he really meant it or if we'd just laugh about the whole thing when we got home. But the idea of a wedding at Pleasure Island was so attractive, and sure enough, seven months later on January 14th (New Year's Eve got a bit too complicated for guests coming from abroad) Trevor and I did tie the knot on St. George's Caye.
The planning period ...
In-between June and January, Lily and I met only once to plan the menu. We decided on roast pork, shrimp pasta salad, parsley potatoes, salads, and coconut pie with a beverage selection consisting of Belikin beer, rum punch, and champagne. All other arrangements were made through email or telephone calls.
During the months leading up to the wedding, I developed the beach/caye theme by downloading images of sea shell wedding cakes off of the Internet, collecting sea shells and gluing them onto headbands for myself and my attendants, and making a shell ring holder for our youngest daughter to carry down the aisle.
I chose a white silk off-the-shoulder dress for myself and wanted light blues and greens for my attendants, although some of them ended up in conch shell pink, which worked just as well.
The nautical décor, shells, and doilies gave a Colonial-Victorian feel and matched well with the architecture of the inn and our theme of "tying the knot." In all, I believe the look we achieved was a good mix of traditional and contemporary--which sort of typifies our relationship.
Putting aside dreams of hiring a steel band, we decided on a flutist and guitar player to provide some classical music. No boom box or karaoke for us, we wanted something that would carry softly on the breeze under the tent on the beach and set the mood for our guests as they arrived and waited for the bridal procession and the ceremony to begin.
The day before the wedding ...
I spent the afternoon at Old Belize and Cucumber Beach with family members before we all headed out from Cucumber Beach Marina to Pleasure Island. With my uncle at the wheel it was a smooth, beautiful ride. As we passed Belize City Harbor, I watched for Trevor's boat as he was bringing Canon Leroy Flowers, our officiant, who was kind enough to come out for the rehearsal and to help us prepare mentally and spiritually for the ceremony the following day.
Postponing our wedding from January 1st to the 14th had given us an extra bonus: a magnificent full moon. It gave us a real night of reflection--figuratively and literally--and made everything, and everyone, feel twice as romantic. Friends walked down the beach hand in hand and our relatives made their way out onto the pier to enjoy the moonlight.
We all agreed the most hectic part was behind us. From here on in everything would be smooth sailing ...
But when we woke up, the wind was blowing at around 35 knots, the sea was choppy, and there was a light rain. We began to panic. Trevor secured our boat, and friends helped to tie down ropes which had come loose on the tent. I hastily took down the shell valance we had strung in place of an altar in case it blew down. Chairs had tipped over and the tables were wet. I thought our day was ruined. Surely no one would want to get in the boat and come out in conditions like this!
Reassuringly, one of the hotel employees calmly told me the wind was sure to lift, and she knew by the time the guests were ready to catch the boat at the Radisson pier everything would be calm again. Sure enough, she was right.
As we put the finishing touches on the table arrangements of sand and shells, my aunt Prem arrived with our flowers--damas de la noche for me, pink and red ginger lilies for the girls. I insisted on all native tropical flowers--no imported blossoms for this Belizean wedding.
Trevor and his best man, his brother Kingsley, along with our honorary best man Wayne, got ready in our room and I dressed with my mother and sister in the family suite they had on the other side of the compound.
Suddenly the news: the guests had arrived!
A brief report by my cousin Heather who came to do my hair and makeup indicated just about everyone had caught the boat and the musicians were already setting the mood outside. She assured me we could not have asked for a more beautiful day, the sun was bright and so was the sea. Then she told me to close my eyes; it was my turn to look beautiful.
When she was through and my gown and headpiece were set, I peeked out to make sure my husband-to-be had taken his place.
My father took my arm for the bridal procession and we followed my maid of honor, the bridesmaids, and ring bearer through the coconut trees towards the tent and a sea of glowing smiling faces.
As we took our vows, Trevor and I silently told each other that everything was just as wonderful as we imagined it would be, if not better. There we were by the Caribbean Sea, which we had grown up loving, at a lovely little inn, surrounded by people who wished us well.
We dug our toes in the sand and sipped champagne for the rest of the afternoon.
We thought of the millions of couples all over the world and those in Belize who would love to have a "destination wedding" like ours, but think that they may not be able to afford it or believe it is too much trouble to plan. Several guests told us they were even thinking of renewing their vows again at Pleasure Island or some other exotic place because our wedding had been so enjoyable.
I suppose I am writing this partly to thank Lily and her staff for taking our special day from an idea and making it into an actual event. And partly to assure other couples that with careful planning and budgeting, you too can have your dream wedding on a tropical island like St. George's Caye.
And after you are wed, the banquet is served, the toasts are made, and the bouquet is tossed (no matter how many relatives and friends may be there on the island with you) you can also find your privacy on your wedding night.
While we were distracted on the pier saying farewell to those returning to the city, Lily and her staff decorated our bed with flower petals and put out a bottle of champagne. She took us to the door, pushed us through the threshold, and whispered "Goodnight!" Then it really was just the two of us, unless we parted the curtains to let the moonlight in. It was a wedding and a honeymoon all in one.
Images Courtesy of:
Tony Rath Photography
Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina