Destination Weddings: A Tropical Variant
When planning a destination wedding, the bride or her designee, tends to think big, circus big. Then the details are teased out leaving the best ingredients for a memorable production. This is as it should be. The most amazing destination wedding I can recall was in Nags Head. The bridesmaids walked up the beach from a large house to where the groom and groomsmen awaited. They all met at the edge of the surf. A large family flanked them. Then the bride appeared with her grandfather on a deck high above the gathering and descended to join everyone. Sheer class. The nearby reception was one for the record books. Big is always expected at such affairs.
But sometimes, if you’re cool – really cool – less is more. Recently, I was invited to cover a wedding of a young successful couple; Kirk and Jessica. These two could have had any kind of wedding they wanted. This is the story of the one they created.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, at the assigned hour, I arrived at Casa Redondo. I had expected a large bustling hotel, the staff making preparations, nervous bride, tuxes and gowns, the whole nine. Boy, was I surprised! Casa Redondo is a large, tasteful, seaside villa about 3 miles South of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. It features an eternity pool; a spacious veranda surrounded by lush landscaping and coconut trees. There is a small sandy beach for swimming, snorkeling or relaxing. Timid lizards scurry about on a nearby jetty. A large second floor deck overlooks all. There was no staff in evidence and no panicky wedding party. The place looked deserted. I walked tentatively around the grounds, crossing the veranda near the pool. “Hey!” From behind sliding screen doors the groom, Kirk was calling. “Look who’s here!” I stepped into the house.
Did I say these kids were cool? It’s after one o’clock. There’s a wedding in less than two hours. The wedding party is lounging in the parlor playing trivial pursuit. Half the guests are still in town. It appears the florist has completely forgotten about the event. Jessica, the bride, is holding hands with Kirk, calm and half listening to the trivia questions Craig, the minister for today, is reading from little cards. Best man and brother Kenneth is dominating the game.
“Wow!” I say leaning toward bride and groom, “If this was back home in Philly, the uncles and the brothers would be on their way to see the florist. Something unfortunate would probably occur. The bride would be in need of a sedative.”
“Not me”, Jess says. “I’ve been to those kinds of weddings.” Kirk and Jessica had decided at the very outset that this was going to be a romantic, light, airy occasion. If there was to be flowers, fine. If not…”Hey, I’m getting married today!” Jessica says with happy conviction.
A few months earlier, they started considering what kind of wedding they wanted. Jessica thought a destination wedding would be nice. Kirk came up with Belize. It fit their interests, diving, fishing, snorkeling. Kirk and Jess are very athletic and outdoorsy. With a little research they came away with this place and Casa de Lisa next door, more than enough room for the guests. The original guest list was at least a hundred strong. Jessica knew that not everyone would make the trip and that would thin the numbers. Kirk was a bit saddened but realistic that a life-long friend would not be there.
After an hour, the rest of the family and friends started to roll in. People started getting dressed. Everyone was joking, enjoying cocktails posing for silly pictures and not hurrying. At three, I was talking to the best man, the father of the groom and the minister, still in tee shirts, by the pool.
A thundercloud passed late in the afternoon providing a short drizzle and a rainbow over the water. That seemed to be the cue. The guests made their way across painstakingly groomed sand and gathered on the beach alongside aisles formed by palm leaves and flowers. Kirk, Kenneth and Craig stepped up to an arbor, their backs to the water. The moment had arrived.
The bride steps from the side of the villa and walks to join her betrothed. Craig conducts a well thought-out, unrehearsed ceremony. The bride and groom tearfully sniff their way through vows they’d each written. Craig reads an inspirational quote from William Fielding , rings are exchanged. And in the fading blue and pink sunlight Jessica and Kirk are declared man and wife.
Rock solid, undiluted cool.
Upon returning to the villa, even before climbing to the upper deck, our attention was captured by the smokey, savory scent of the Jamaican feast awaiting us. That was the work of Fitz Brown and his crew from the Jambel’s in San Pedro. He had been commissioned to cater this affair 18 hours prior. Jess and Kirk were in his restaurant the night before and simply asked him to take the job.
Featured in his buffet presentation:
Veggie and Fruit salads
Conch Fritters made with tartar, jerk sauce, mayo and lime.
Barbecued Jerk Ribs with a BBQ, jerk blend with just a touch of chili pepper.
Jamaican Mi Crazy Shrimp with sweet and sour, spicy jerk sauce
Fisherman soup (lobster and shrimp) with coconut and okra
Fitz didn’t reveal all the ingredients. He’s no fool and the food was fantastic. The ribs and shrimp must be tasted to be believed. Language fails. Incredible! The food is always just as good at Jambel’s Jerk Pit on the beach in San Pedro. Fitz is hard-working and urbane without being the least bit stuffy. His staff is, as I would find in other accommodations throughout Ambergris, delightful.
If you are planning a destination wedding, you can hardly put a foot wrong choosing Belize. Flights are always reasonable. And there are a range of options available to suit your plans. Many resorts have wedding planners either in house or within easy reach. Of course if you are as cool as Kirk and Jessica, and sweet and simple is your goal, you can do it yourself. That includes the minister. Craig was registered as a celebrant just for this ceremony. But you can always call ahead to a local church or local justice. The planner will always be able to help with that as well.
As for Casa Redondo, you can find this unit through M&M Rentals of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. They’re on the web at http://www.mandmrentalsbelize.com/villa.html. Casa Redondo sleeps 16 people and is comfortable and well appointed. I didn’t take pictures indoors as the villa was heavily occupied. But the photos on their site are accurate.
Resorts in Belize are still fairly easy to come by, but for an event like this, always give yourself plenty of lead-time and call ahead for vacancies.
Leonardo Melendez was chosen to photograph this wedding. 36 Tangerine Street Orange Walk Town, Belize www.leonardomelendez.com (501) 627 3320
If you're looking for good Jamaican BBQ, you'll find Fitz at Jambels, where the water taxis tie up in san Pedro. Jambels now has a location in Corozal as well.