The idea of saying “I do” while standing barefoot in the soft sand with warm tropical waters just metres away has become very appealing for couples planning the perfect wedding.
Sandals, the luxury all-inclusive Caribbean chain for couples only, has been aware of this trend for years and includes imaginative wedding packages at each of its properties.
The newest Sandals resort has just opened on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas, 230 kilometres south of Nassau, and it’s already become a hot destination for wedding parties and honeymooners. Until last year, Sandals Emerald Bay was a Four Seasons resort, but a $15-million makeover has turned it into the most luxurious and romantic of the 14 Sandals properties.
In addition to a huge zero-entry swimming pool and the Caribbean’s largest jacuzzi, this Sandals offers butler service in all its oceanfront and ocean view rooms (a first for the chain), a major Red Lane spa (perfect for brides and their attendants) and several new bars and restaurants offering beachside seafood, outstanding thin-crust pizza and a pub with traditional British food and drink. The two more formal restaurants are holdovers from Four Seasons but with enhanced menus. Adjacent to the 200-hectare property is an 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed championship golf course with many fairways hugging the sea.
Guests who arrive from the airport (just 10 minutes away) are immediately impressed by the landscaping and the colourful displays of plants and flowers. The Landscape manager, Canadian Steve McFarlane has successfully “Sandalized” the grounds with five container loads of new flora.
But it’s the beach that has the most appeal for wedding seekers, honeymooners or couples wanting a break from their kids. Vancouver native Robert Lemky, a veteran Sandals trainer, says this property is unique because of its setting. “The beach is probably the nicest one we have in the company,” he told us.
The kilometre and a half of perfect soft white sand facing a brilliant turquoise sea is the major draw for couples wanting a memorable wedding in the tropics. Sandals has partnered with Martha Stewart to offer six distinctive and romantic beach wedding themes ranging from butterflies and white roses to multicoloured orchids. Most couples stay for the perfect honeymoon where pampering prevails and together they can take cooking, dance, golf or tennis lessons.
The General Manager of Sandals Emerald Bay, John Keating, has opened 10 hotels in his long career and admits that teething challenges are always prevalent in a new property.
“We’re not yet as polished as we’d like to be, “ he admitted. “But we want the butler service to be outstanding and we’re bringing in several more from India.” His veteran restaurant managers (one from Germany; one from Russia) have intensified the training programmes to bring service to the five star level. By Easter, Sandals Emerald Bay will be at or near 100 per cent capacity and the managers are confident that food, accommodation and service will all make this resort the best in the Sandals chain.
Tim Godfrey and his wife, Barbara, of Toronto think they’re close to that already.
“People here are wonderful and friendly,” he told us. “We knew there’d be growing pains but it didn’t bother us a bit. We love the laid-back attitude, the white sand and the vivid turquoise water… There’s no place on the planet that looks like this.”