Destination weddings are all about providing memorable experiences and the best resorts host a lavish and exotic affair, while providing everything from fine dining and unique event settings to exciting activities that help seal the bond between the bride and groom and their guests, says destination-wedding expert Marianne Weiman-Nelson of Special Occasions, Inc.
Mexico and the Caribbean are home to resorts than can do it with style, whether on a private island in the British Virgin Islands or an authentic hacienda in the backcountry of Mexico. “These properties are able to offer a wide range of activities without guests ever having to leave,” says Weiman-Nelson.
Necker Island, the British Virgin Islands home of Sir Richard Branson, is an Asian-inspired hideaway that can accommodate destination weddings of up to 28 guests in five Bali-style houses. “It’s the jewel for small destination weddings; there’s total privacy,” says Weiman-Nelson. “Couples like the island because you can use different parts for different things.”
The Great House, for example, has a huge Great Room with a sky-lit peaked roof and open sides that are ideal for a reception, while the island’s private Main Beach or Turtle Beach are favorite spots for wedding ceremonies. The home’s private staff “is here just for you,” says Weiman-Nelson. “They will cook a private gourmet meal for two or for a group of 20 on the beach. They cater to your every need.”
For a larger wedding in a similar setting, the nearby Biras Creek Resort on Virgin Gorda has 33 suites on a 140-acre estate navigated mainly by bicycle. “It’s spread out enough that you can offer different events in unique settings,” says Weiman-Nelson.
Guests at this Relais & Châteaux resort can hold a seaside wedding on Berchers Bay or in the dramatic Arawak Room with its 360-degree ocean views. A beachside pavilion, the resort’s arrival dock (in a narrow, mangrove-edged cove) and the funky Fat Virgin’s Café are options for more casual receptions. Since all Biras Creek guests can sign up for boating lessons, scuba and snorkel expeditions, and guided nature walks, arranging group activities is simple and parties of up to 100 can set sail on the resort’s private yacht.
Located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya is an excellent choice for couples seeking a “retreat resort” that provides world-class luxury service, says Weiman-Nelson. “You just walk in and you feel relaxed,” she says of this tropical resort, which has a huge spa offering Asian and Mayaninspired treatments. The “vast and extravagant” Presidential Villa is a private beachfront hideaway for newlyweds, served by a private butler and chef.
“It has 128 rooms but doesn’t feel like a big hotel,” says Weiman-Nelson regarding the Mandarin Oriental. “It’s for couples who want their guests to be together, but also want some privacy.” The many lagoons on the property provide a wonderful backdrop for rehearsal dinners and a beach wedding is a “mustdo.” And a large ballroom welcomes destination weddings with up to 200 guests.
Also located on the Riviera Maya is the 128-suite Rosewood Mayakobá, described by Weiman-Nelson as “luxury surrounded by jungle.” She adds: “You can hold events in four different settings—in the jungle, on the beach, on a boat for a lagoon party or even at the Mayan ruins—without ever crossing over locations,” she says. The 1,600-acre resort has a Greg Norman designed golf course, spa and long private beaches.
Weiman-Nelson says the 166-room Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita is “for couples who want to play it safe in Mexico.” This Pacific coast resort, located near Puerto Vallarta, in the newlylaunched area of Riviera Nayarit, delivers the kind of five-star service you’d expect at any Four Seasons, from luxury casitas to an onsite wedding specialist who can walk couples through every detail. The Takua Courtyard is a magnificent setting for an outdoor wedding and golfers will love playing the resort’s Jack Nicklaus designed golf course followed by a reception at the nearby Golf Garden.
For a more intimate affair, the Hacienda de San Antonio can provide a range of unique experiences and magical settings for a destination wedding and reception. Weiman-Nelson describes the Hacienda as a “five-star ranch experience,” surrounded by royal gardens and standing in the shadow of a towering volcano. The lovingly restored stables can be used for a memorable rehearsal dinner prepared by a French chef and a ceremony in the historic chapel on the resort grounds is simply magical.
Weiman-Nelson says that the Hacienda is perfect for the couple looking for a cool, winter destination, with up to 50 guests, and don’t need a beach nearby. “February and March at the Hacienda are beautiful,” she says. “The Hacienda is for lovers of Old Mexico.”
Location: Biras Creek Resort, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands