Wedding in Paradise December 2017

Stacey - thanks so much for connecting with Guru Travel about your upcoming wedding. Although it is only spring, making a decision and moving forward on this is the utmost importance. We are finding very limited availability on locations for the holidays.

The job right now is to narrow down the options. This is the hardest part of the entire process - you want to make sure you have the perfect location for your wedding in paradise. To do this, we recommend you take into consideration what is the most important thing to you and work backwards. Is it?

  • Actual ceremony venue - beach, historic site, gazebo. Where do you picture yourself getting married?
  • Amenities at the resort and probability of excursions. Are you a group of people who want to hang out on the beach, check out the island/area, have adventurous excursions?
  • Location and probability of good weather.
  • What does the wedding package entail? Are you thinking of a reception with dinner or a champagne toast and cake - or something in between?
  • What amenities are there for booking your wedding at this resort? Are you able to get any incentives based on the number of people.

Kelly and I have worked together to look at options that will allow you stay within the parameters of leaving on December 25, 2017 for a week and choosing destinations that do not require passports. We also looked closely at the amenities of the resorts. We know you were interested in all inclusive options, but as Kelly mentioned to you, all-inclusive resorts are hard to find in certain countries. Resort by resort, here are four prime considerations for you in St. Croix, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico.

Note that all pricing, special booking incentives, and availability is subject to change per the vendor. Once deposits are received, those items are confirmed.

The Buccaneer in St. Croix, USVI

Gracious . Elegant . Legendary.

Founded in the 17th century and family-run for generations, St. Croix's Buccaneer is the Caribbean's longest running resort. Both historic and modern, the resort blends old world charm with warm hospitality and the amenities expected by today's traveler. Featured on ABC's The Bachelor, The Buccaneer is a premier destination resort for golf, tennis, water sports, weddings, honeymoons and family vacations.

The Buccaneer is a luxurious beach resort that encompasses the best that St. Croix has to offer. It is located on 300 tropical acres and is a 5 minute drive from the historic town of Christiansted. You and your guests can visit the town for sightseeing, dining and shopping.

There are three beaches at this resort, golfing on the onsite par 70 hill course, tennis at eight courts and there is a great health club and jogging train.

Resort amenities include live nightly entertainment, full service spa, free wi-fi in public area, kids club for ages 4-12. Four restaurants are on property and a complimentary breakfast is served to guest in an open air terrace. This is not an all inclusive property, only breakfast is included.

Passports are not required for U.S. citizens traveling to the territory. In the absence of a passport, proof of citizenship is required. A birth certificate with a raised seal plus a government issued photo ID will suffice in lieu of a passport.

Parents or guardians need to travel with documentation of their children's identity to clear through Customs when departing St. Croix. A birth certificate, passport or some form of ID will need to be presented to Customs for all children traveling.

Rooms

There are 138 rooms with expansive terraces and awe-inspiring views. This is a first class desintation. All rooms are designed and furnished to be an intimate retreat, reflecting the timeless elegance of The Buccaneer. Each room features a private patio or balcony for maximum enjoyment of our spectacular views and cooling breezes. All accommodation categories offer rooms suitable for handicapped guests.

Conveniences include air conditioners, small refrigerators, safes, hair dryers, telephones, satellite television, DVD players, irons and ironing boards, coffee makers, shower or shower/tub combination, double sinks and ceiling fans. Some rooms have soothing whirlpool tubs. Cribs, roll-aways, and microwaves are available upon request.

Resorts rates include a full American breakfast daily, snorkeling gear, kayaks, paddleboards, beach chairs and floating mats, introduction to SCUBA lessons, twice daily maid service, free wireless internet access, welcome rum or fruit punch, weekly owner’s cocktail reception hosted by Elizabeth Armstrong, owner/manager, live musical entertainment, and daily guest activities.

Pricing for the rooms varies of course on the type of room. For example, I priced this with a Great House room checking in on December 25 and checking out on January 1 for two adults with flights from O'Hare to St. Croix and the price was $7997.32. If this property becomes a finalist then we will work with our vendors and get pricing for the different variations of families within your group.

Weddings at The BUCCANEER

Enchantment of a Fairy Tale, the Legend of a Lifetime

The Buccaneer offers the timeless romance of the setting sun over a gentle sea. The historic charm of a centuries-old Sugar Mill. The bliss of a flowering garden.

Celebrate a memorable wedding for just the two of you, or a wedding and reception for up to 100 friends and family. Bridal Guide chose The Buccaneer and St. Croix as Paradise Found

The weddings at The Buccaneer are exquisite. There are three great packages to look at, just click on the name to see the details. Note that the wedding packages do include the reception and we can work directly with the resort to customize to your particular wishes.

Final thoughts on The Buccaneer

One tool we use helps us evaluate resorts in a super simple way. We look at Pros, Cons and the Bottom Line. Here is the information on this resort:

Pros

  • Conveniently located less than a 10-minute drive from Christiansted
  • Three on-site restaurants: fine dining at Kendrick’s and two beachside bars with lunch options
  • Multiple sandy beaches, two on-site pools with lovely views, plus a spa
  • Guest rooms are large and have balconies or terraces, many with ocean views
  • Free watersports equipment for guest use, and free two-hour scuba diving lesson
  • Modern fitness center, four tennis courts, and two-mile jogging course
  • Kid’s camp is free for families
  • An abundant free buffet breakfast
  • Free Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Some rooms aren't as contemporary as others
  • Meals at Kendrick's can be pricey
  • Restaurant service can be slow

Bottom Line

The Buccaneer, a four-pearl resort that's a short drive outside of Christiansted, is one of St. Croix's most attractive large-scale resorts. Stunning views all around, a golf course, a spa, two pools, three beaches, and three restaurants (not to mention plenty of on-site activities) make for a truly lavish stay. All 138 guest rooms are large, and many have stunning wood ceilings and handsome tropical details, but some are more contemporary than others.

Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas, USVI

Are you ready to get away from it all? Whether you’re looking for the ideal family vacation, a location for your picture-perfect wedding, or just want to let your worries slip away, we invite you to join us at Sugar Bay Beach Resort & Spa in beautiful St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Boasting breathtaking views, plenty of exciting activities, and access to a private beach, Sugar Bay is the perfect place to slow down, create memories, and remember to enjoy your life.

At this St. Thomas Resort you will enjoy access to exclusive amenities including a secluded beach, three pools, a swim-up bar, relaxed or fine dining options, a state-of-the-art fitness center, clean, spacious guestrooms and suites, and first-rate Virgin Island spa services. Join us to experience St. Thomas at its best with a Caribbean all-inclusive vacation.

Named one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean by USA Today, the resort boasts the most breathtaking views in St. Thomas. They offer 297 spacious and elegantly decorated guestrooms and over 16,000 square feet of meeting and special event space. As one of the most photographed wedding locations in the Caribbean, the resort features décor and layout specifically designed to provide a genuine island experience.

We choose this resort because it is an all inclusive option which is a very limited offering in St. Thomas. The resort is amazing.

All inclusive amenities include:

  • House Brand Cocktails
  • Domestic Beer
  • Wine by the Glass
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages
  • Welcome Punch upon Arrival
  • Dining in all Onsite Restaurants
  • Room, Tax, and Service Charge
  • Beach Towels
  • Beach and Poolside Chairs
  • Resort Shuttle on Property (does not leave resort)
  • Poolside Jacuzzi
  • Three Interconnecting Pools
  • Fitness Center
  • Kids Klub Half-Day Programs (4-12 years old)
  • Secluded Beach Access
  • Wi-Fi or In-Room Internet Access
  • Non-Motorized Water Sports
  • Snorkeling Equipment
  • Beach and Pool Volleyball
  • Miniature Golf
  • Daily Activity Programs
  • Tennis and Basketball Courts

Pricing for the rooms varies of course on the type of room. For example, I priced this with a Mountain View Room checking in on December 25 and checking out on January 1 for two adults with flights from O'Hare to St. Thomas and the price was $7157.12. If this property becomes a finalist then we will work with our vendors and get pricing for the different variations of families within your group. Remember that this is an all inclusive resort.

Weddings at Sugar Bay Resort & Spa

The professional wedding staff is ready to make your wedding dreams come true, whether you’re planning an intimate beachside ceremony with swaying palm trees, the waves crashing on the shore, and the sand between your toes, or an elegant ceremony on the St. John Terrace, a charming rooftop gazebo overlooking St. John and the British Virgin Islands.

Wedding experts work with you each step of the way, from making guest accommodations to ensuring your flowers and cake reflect your style and budget.

Your wedding package (wedding and reception) at Sugar Bay is customized just for you including a wedding coordinator on site, location of your choice, and everything you desire. They don't give pricing on weddings until we request an initial interview.

Pros

  • Five-minute drive to restaurants, shopping, and Red Hook ferry terminal
  • Clean, soft sand beach is safe for swimming and snorkeling
  • Two outdoor pools with a waterfall and a swim-up bar
  • Seven restaurants with sea views and a poolside snack shack
  • Modern rooms with minibars, flat-screen TVs, and bay-view balconies
  • Large full-service spa with a beauty salon
  • Spacious fitness center with excellent selection of equipment
  • Supervised kids’ club with mini-golf and bumper boats
  • All-inclusive rates include all meals, some alcohol, and kids' activities
  • Wi-Fi is free property-wide
  • Free self-parking

Cons

  • Food receives mixed reviews
  • Pool area can be loud (a pro for some)
  • Steep property may be difficult for guests with mobility issues
  • Complaints about consistency and service issues

Bottom Line

The all-inclusive Sugar Bay Resort & Spa offers plenty of resort features in a lovely beachfront setting overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Highlights of this upscale property include seven full restaurants, a two-pool complex with a waterfall, a soft sand beach, and a decent nightlife scene. The 294 rooms are bright and crisp, with tropical details plus free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and private balconies -- most have partial or full bay views. The shops, restaurants, and attractions of downtown Red Hook are less than five minutes away by car, but there isn't much going on in the immediate area.

Wyndam Grand Rio Mar - Puerto Rico

Resorts in Puerto Rico are not all inclusive. One of the main reasons is because they want you to get out and experience the local restaurants and culture.

On a palm-lined beach, in the shelter of lush mountains, Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, A Wyndham Grand Resort, is one of the Caribbean's premier beachfront resorts. All 600 luxurious guest rooms, including 72 suites, feature private balconies, and inspiring views. Natural woods, Italian tiles, plush fabrics, and quality amenities pamper each guest with privileged comfort.

Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the El Yunque Caribbean National Forest in a lush hideaway on the "Isle of Enchantment." Created to pamper and impress, this Puerto Rican resort has breathtaking ocean views and white-sand beaches. The resort has one mile of uninterrupted palm lined beach.

A golfer's paradise, the resort offers two championship golf courses: Greg Norman's 6,945 yard River Course and Tom and George Fazio's 6,487-yard Ocean Course, a 35,000 square foot clubhouse, putting green, and driving range. Other recreational activities include a Peter Burwash International Tennis Center with 11 courts, one mile of secluded beach, two oceanfront swimming pools, an array of water sports, the exclusive Mandara Spa with fitness center, an on-site casino, and several specialty shops.

Explore the culinary adventures that await you, and experience Puerto Rico dining at its finest. Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa offers some of the finest cuisine in the Caribbean. Choose from casual beachside bistro fare to an elegant dinner at one of three exciting signature restaurants: La Estancia, Palio, or Shimas. With eight restaurants to choose from, the possibilities for dining out are endless.

There is onsite tennis, fishing sunfish sailing scuba, snorkling, hobie cats, paddle boats, jetskis/waverunners, windsurfing, horseback riding and a health club. All are available at additional fees.

Rooms of course vary, it is a large resort with something for everyone. A nice thing about Puerto Rico is that often we can find direct flights. We found a direct flight there, but one stop on the way back. For the seven nights checking in on December 25 for two adults with air from Chicago O'Hare the cost is $6697.20.

Weddings at Wyndam Grand Rio Mar Beach

Breathtaking views of the sea or the rainforest provide a perfect backdrop for your dream island wedding. If you dream of being married in a tropical paradise, look no further. Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa sits on 500 acres of unparalleled natural beauty. Located on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, our beachfront property is ideal for destination weddings of all sizes. Say your vows by sunset on our secluded beach, then celebrate the night away in one of the Caribbean's largest ballrooms.

Weddings in Puerto Rico - Prior to commencing all wedding preparations, efforts should be made to obtain documents required by the Demographic Registry, formalities necessary for our agency and the conclusion of the ceremony. The future spouses must both visit the Demographic Registrar’s Office and comply with the following requisites:

1. A statement or certification from an authorized medical physician which indicates the compliance of all tests required to enter in marriage in their place of residence. The certification has a validity of ten (10) calendar days subsequent to the date of issuance, and following these, will not be able to get married until a new medical certification is issued.

2. A sworn statement or affidavit which stipulates the following:

 Non-residents of Puerto Rico;

 The purpose of the visit is solely to enter in marriage;

 Duration of the visit; if a foreign citizen, establish that he/she will not stay in Puerto Rico for more time than what was specified in the permission to enter a United States Territory, granted by the corresponding federal agency. If the sworn statement is written in the United States, the public notary’s signature, before who the statement was made, must be authenticated by the state County Clerk (in some cases, this corresponds to the Secretary of State).

3. Valid form of photo identification, issued by the government of the state or country of residence. The following are the most common forms of accepted identifications: Driver’s License, Passport or State Identification.

4. Puerto Rico Internal Revenue Stamp for the sum of $150.00**

5. Original birth certificates; the names will be documented per the way they appear on the certificates.

6. Divorce decrees from all previous marriages, or in the case of widowhood, the spouse’s death certificate. Original documents.

7. Celebrants must be registered through and authorized by the Demographic Registry in order to officiate marriages in Puerto Rico. The authorized Registrar shall provide the intending spouses with the form RD2014 – 3, to be completed in its totality and submit it to the local Demographic Registrar’s Office, supplemented by both the Sworn and Medical statements. The Registrar will verify that all information documented is correct, before completing the Marriage Certificate and issuing the License to get married. Minors of 18 years of age must be accompanied by both parents with legal guardianship, duly identified, who will sign the marriage certificate in the presence of the celebrant. The celebrant is obligated to submit the marriage certificate and matrimonial license to any Demographic Registrar’s Office, regardless of where the matrimonial rituals were celebrated during the subsequent ten (10) calendar days after the celebration.

The wedding packages at this resort start at $1499 for the ceremony package which includes the ceremony, bouquet/boutonniere, and arrangements. For a package that includes that plus cake, champagne toast and one hour of photography it is $2999. Custom add ons for beach location, music, additional photography, flowers, etc. can be included in the package.

Reception packages start at Timeless Love package which includes a cocktail reception, white gloved passed hors d'oeuvres, glass of wine, glass of champagne for the toast and a four course plated dinner at $76 per person to buffets which require a minimum of 35 guests and range from $72-$120 per person. Banquet beverage service is also available, depending on your brands and the number of hours you want the service. Everything can be totally customized to make this your dream wedding and reception.

Pros

  • Direct access to a beautiful beach, near El Yunque National Park
  • Classy rooms with narrow balconies, some with beach views
  • Two attractive outdoor pools with hot tubs, including one adults-only pool
  • Nine on-site restaurants offer cuisines ranging from Japanese to Italian
  • Some suites include separate living areas and multiple bathrooms
  • Two championship golf courses, clubhouse, putting green, and driving range
  • Largest tennis center in the Caribbean, with 13 courts
  • Lovely on-site spa and a no-frills fitness center
  • Flexible meeting and event space for up to 2200 guests
  • On-site casino features slot machines and table games
  • Regular activity programs for both adults and kids
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • Limited dining options within walking distance
  • On-site restaurants are expensive
  • Many facilities (fitness center, pool) close early in the evening
  • Fee for self or valet parking

Bottom Line

The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa is a four-pearl hotel, a 20-minute drive from downtown Rio Grande. The hotel’s 600 guest rooms are large and stylish, with some offering wrap-around balconies and separate living areas with sofa beds. The Rio Mar includes the diverse dining choices and activity options that most guests would expect from a big resort, yet its atmosphere remains pleasantly low-key. The hotel features direct access to a stunning stretch of beach, but attractions and dining options within walking distance are otherwise limited

El Conquistador Resort - Puerto Rico

Lose yourself in the vibrant beauty and captivating allure of Puerto Rico. Perched high above the ocean on a 300-foot cliff, El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, is an ultra-luxurious retreat on the Island of Enchantment. This high-end, award-winning resort is divided into five villages, with 750 rooms.

El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers many fun, family-friendly activities, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and amazing golf at the on-site Arthur Hills Golf Course. The resort also has an 8,500 square foot water park, perfect for families! Play all day in this huge pool that includes a lazy river, five slides, and an infinity edge. If you want a day of total rejuvenation, let the Waldorf Astoria Spa pamper you with massages, body scrubs, and facials.

The resort features a unique benefit: access to the neighboring Palomino Island, a private 100-acre tropical oasis of the luxurious Puerto Rico beach resort. A speedy catamaran will sweep you away to a paradise where palm trees and lounge chairs line the white sand beaches, and waiters come around to take your piña colada order. Spend the day snorkeling among rainbows of coral. Relax with a tropical drink from the waterfront café.

With 23 onsite restaurants, bars, and lounges, the choices are endless. At the fine dining restaurants, specialties range from American to Italian to Caribbean to Asian, and the cuisine is as unique and it is delicious. After dinner, sip a martini or cocktail at Drake's Martini Bar, a spacious lounge with plenty of seating.

Discover all the unspoiled scenic splendor of the island of Puerto Rico during your stay at El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Enjoy a long hike surrounded by the beauty of El Yunque National Rain Forest, explore the rich history of Old San Juan and El Morro Fort, or take a kayaking excursion through the famous glowing bioluminescent bay.

Rooms at this resort have everything you can think of and come in a variety of can think of. A garden view room with the airfare from O'Hare (direct on the way there, one stop on the way back) for two adults is $5815.20. This resort is a great option because of the family friendly atmosphere with the water park and the options for dining and activities.

Weddings at El Conquistador Resort

Hold your wedding ceremony at El Conquistador Resort and experience romantic elegance and unspoiled luxury in the heart of the Caribbean. The team of expert event planners will ensure your special occasion is a truly wondrous and unforgettable experience. Whether it be elegant and classic or simple and chic, let the team of gifted wedding specialists make your dream a reality. Discover the collection of exquisite indoor and outdoor venues.

Say ‘I Do’ against a backdrop of white sands and crystal blue waters on Palomino Island; host a lavish celebration in an opulent Grand Ballroom; or celebrate an intimate affair amidst the tropical gardens of an exclusive terrace. Whatever you desire, you’ll be sure to find it at El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

This resort will does not publish packages for weddings, although they do have them, they request details from us in order to begin the quote process. If you feel like this is the perfect venue for you, we will be happy to do this.

Pros

  • Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, a 35-minute drive to El Yunque rainforest
  • Spacious, mostly modern rooms with coffeemakers and flat-screen TVs
  • Many rooms have balconies overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
  • Dizzying number of dining and drinking options from Italian to Asian cuisine
  • Water taxi to Palomino Island featuring beach, water sports, and stables
  • Seven 24-hour pools, plus Coqui Water Park has slides, pools, and a cafe
  • Spa offering Thai massages, ocean detoxes, and aqua therapy
  • Main building features Starbucks, small market, and ice cream shop
  • Two game rooms with modern and old-school arcade games
  • Modest business center has computers, printer, and plenty of chairs
  • Two fitness centers with modern equipment and free weights
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel

Cons

  • Some of the older rooms and common areas need an update
  • Noise can be an issue in some of the rooms
  • Fees for parking

Bottom Line

The 984-room El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is perched on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, a 15-minute drive from Fajardo. With 23 restaurants serving everything from upmarket Asian to casual Puerto Rican grill fare, plus seven pools, two spas, and a 24-hour fitness center, amenities are beyond generous here. Rooms are spacious and mostly modern, featuring flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and oceanview balconies in many. Still, bathrooms look a little dated, as do some common areas. Two game rooms, private beaches, and the Coqui Water Park draw lots of families

Group Benefits

With this, we book everyone with a group code, meaning if each booking meets the criteria, then they get a discount on their package and then you also get a rebate just before travel. That amount depends on the number of people, nights booked, etc. We would not have any of those numbers until just before travel, so count it as a bonus, not something to plan into your budget.

Group Benefits

  • Your choose your destination and resort accommodations and I book your room, then we can get a group code
  • It takes 48 hours to get a group code
  • Please understand, the Group Ease program requires a minimum of 10 passengers to qualify for a discount. If the minimum of 10 passengers is not met, all discounts, rebates, and complimentary offers will no longer apply. Discounts will be removed from the existing bookings at approximately 30 days prior to departure.
  • Packages with a per person price (before taxes & fees) from: $499.99 pp – Save $20 per person, $1499.99 pp – Save $40 per person

Group-Ease Terms & Conditions

  • Booking period starts based on date shown on promo code verification letter.
  • Friends & family departure date must start within 7 days prior to the bride & groom's wedding date for destination wedding groups.
  • Varied lengths of stays will qualify for discount (minimum of 3 nights are required)
  • Discount is determined on a package price scale before taxes & fees
  • Standard payment and cancel fees apply
  • Standard change fees apply
  • Promo code discount can be used for an unlimited number of Friends & Family
  • Discount is based on per person rate. If minimum dollar amount of $499.99 is not met, passenger will not qualify for Friends and Family discount.
  • Availability and Rates are subject to change.

Promo Code Terms and Conditions:

  • Offer is not retroactive. Promo code cannot be applied after the booking is made. Promo code must be applied at the time of booking.
  • All packages are subject to availability and pricing at time of booking

Other Extras

We you book your destination wedding with us, we have a couple of complimentary items to help with your wedding:

  • Free wedding/honeymoon registry. We'll set up a special website link so that people can send you gifts of money that are applied directly to your wedding/honeymoon. 100% of the money goes to you, no fees.
  • We'll set up a private Facebook group so that everyone stays in communication and gets all of the information at the same time.
  • We serve as your liaison - so your guests do not have to bother you with details and pricing on their rooms. I take care of all questions and deal directly with them on their booking, making it less stressful for you.
  • We maintain a spreadsheet to share with you so you always know who has deposited and the running tally of the number of guests.

Conclusion

If you are looking at a destination wedding, time is of the essence, particularity for those places like the resorts I have listed. Dates go very very quickly. When we looked at options for this time of year, we were surprised how many dates were all ready booked.

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