Conch: A Royal Gift
Pretty Picket Fences
Selected feature stories from Abaco Life magazine
UNINVITED GLITCHES SOMETIMES MAKE A BAREFOOT WEDDING MORE MEMORABLE
The wedding cake, a three-tiered structure filled with strawberries, had collapsed.
As the Jeep Wagoner crept ever so slowly along the road from town to Bluff House on Green Turtle Cay, even the most painstaking care had failed. The wedding, an elaborate if barefoot affair, was in half an hour. But the cake would be repaired quietly, behind the scenes and out of sight, never to distract or dismay a single soul on this otherwise joyous occasion.
"Usually, there is some kind of glitch," says Molly McIntosh, who, after presiding over arrangements for hundreds of weddings at Bluff House over the years, ought to know. "But it's always a memorable experience, not just for the bride and groom, but for everyone."
Minor snafus and last-minute, "island-style" adjustments are common; a sudden rain shower, late arrivals, lost luggage. There's the cake that melts on the ferry or topples on the table, requiring a rebuild. Or the minister from afar who has forgotten his "vow book," and has to dispatch a runner to fetch it an hour before the ceremony. But the island glitches are balanced with warm beachy days, starry night skies, moonlit walks on the sand, sun tans, painted-sky sunsets, and the increduity of first-time snorkeling. Dolphins frolicking in the bow wake of a sunset harbour cruise, appearing as though on cue, have been among the positive omens. And these, as well as the snafus, are the shared and treasured memories that will last a lifetime.
Around the island archipelago, from Elbow Cay to Marsh Harbour, from Guana Cay to Green Turtle Cay, folks are getting hitched Abaco style. Both locals and foreign visitors arrange resort weddings and do it up in big and small ways; from 100 friends and relatives to intimate and quiet ceremonies. Attire ranges from tux and gown in church, to barefoot on the beach. Abaco's resorts are averaging more than 100 weddings a year, and almost every resort has an assigned wedding guru who has developed an expertise which goes far beyond flowers and photography.
"A wedding here is unique and beautiful," says Tania Duncombe, food and beverage manager at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. "People want an experience that everyone can enjoy. It's great for young professionals who want a casual, stress free getaway they can share with their family and friends."
Sometimes, however, it's not quite stress-free for Tania. Not long ago three straight days of rain preceded a large wedding during which a secret fireworks display was planned. The bride, groom and wedding party were returning from the Methodist Church at 4 pm., and still it poured. A construction crew had already rigged up a tent over the entire outside patio where greenery, gathered hastily from the bush by Tania and her helpers, hid the tent poles. But then, lo and behold, the skies cleared as the bride and groom made their way back up the street to the lodge, and a dazzling sunset, like a heavenly omen, lit the western sky behind the lighthouse. The fireworks followed, the stars came out, dancing ensued.
At the Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbour, Kevi Thomas is a popular fixture in sales and marketing whose portfolio includes the title of wedding coordinator. As such she deals with many couples who want an island wedding that will fulfill a pre-conceived dream of tropical bliss. It's up to Kevi to provide all the attendant props and atmosphere.
"A couple from Michigan wanted to be married in The Bahamas, but had never been here. They wanted the simplicity of the island, but they wanted elegance too. We made an aisleway up the beach lined with potted palms, conch shells and overflowing bougainvillea. There were tiki torches, and the sun was setting. The sky was serene and beautiful."
The resort organizes a dozen weddings a year, averaging about 20 people, although 40 rooms in the resort have been booked for one wedding in November. And regardless of how elaborate or simple a ceremony might be, the event is almost always a five to seven-day affair. The bride and groom may get joined in holy matrimony, but the guests often cut loose in down-to-earth fun.
If the wedding is at the Abaco Inn or Hope Town Harbour Lodge, the wedding party might head out aboard Froggies Island Adventure for a day-long snorkeling trip to Fowl Cay Reef; or climb into rental boats and head for Cracker P's for a gourmet luncheon on Lubbers Quarters. Mostly, however, they stay in town - lounging around on hammocks, walking the beach, riding rented bikes and sipping frothy sunset drinks.
"We set up dinners around the island," says Tania. "They get a feel for the whole place. It's a great getaway experience. It's unique and beautiful - an international destination that's close, intimate and civilized, and costs far less that a big city wedding."
The Lodge averaged 60 to 75 people for seven weddings so far this year, with another 10 planned through the end of 2002. Guests not only fill the resort's 24 rooms, but rent houses as well.
Bluff House has orchestrated as many as 36 weddings in one year. Fortunately, says Molly, some are small with just a couple of friends, or even the hotel staff, as witnesses. The resort sells a basic wedding package, which includes the minister, license, ceremony, cake, bottle of champagne, hors'd'oeurves, a bridal bouquet, groom's button hole flower, and photography, for $1,000. From there, the sky's the limit. Options include a special cake with sugar shells, a decorated beach setting, a soloist singer or entire band, and T-shirts with "Bluff House" and the wedding date emblazoned on them. Activities can include a day's snorkeling and picnicing with Brendal, of Brendal's Dive Center, a guest golf tournament at Treasure Cay, sailing or bone fishing charters.
A wedding in Abaco - regardless of whether it's a first for the bride or groom - is always an event the wedding couple wants to share. "They are very much into each other," says Molly. "but at home, weddings are often more for everyone else. Here, you are giving your guests something different."
Traditionally, the bride and groom arrive mid-week before the Saturday wedding and pick up their license from either the commissioner's office in Marsh Harbour or in Green Turtle Cay. They need to be in the Bahamas 24 hours before the wedding. (See side bar on requirements). If they are already familiar with Abaco, locals often become invited guests to the wedding. Afterwards, Abaco usually becomes the site of the honeymoon, and, more often than not, the wedding guests - or a portion of them - stay on as well. By then, the sailing is usually smooth, the glitches gone. The wedding is over, the luggage has arrived, calm prevails.
For Molly, Tania, Kevi and other wedding arrangers in Abaco who deal with behind-the-scenes surprises, there's a sense of relief - until the next one.
GETTING HITCHED BAHAMAS STYLE IN ABACO
To qualify for marriage in the Bahamas, you must be a resident in the Bahamas for a minimum of one day (24 hours) prior to the wedding. The following is necessary to obtain a marriage license, available at the commissioner's office either in Marsh Harbour or Green Turtle Cay:
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