If you are reading this I can only assume you recently got engaged, or you know someone who did, or at the very least you have already purchased the rope and duct tape to kidnap your boyfriend and hold him in captivity until he comes to his senses, drops on one knee and proposes.
If you do happen to have gotten engaged recently: CONGRATULATIONS. I wish you and your partner a lifetime of happiness but most importantly an eternity of patience.
As an ex island wedding planner turned blogger I have the inside scoop on what to look out for when planning a wedding on this beautiful 37 square mile rock called St. Maarten. I have seen many brides arrive here thinking that it would be super easy to plan a wedding here. It can’t be that much different than planning a wedding back home, can it? WRONG!!!! First of all to think that planning any wedding any where is an easy task is ludicrous and to think that planning a wedding here in the Caribbean is easy…….well, let’s just say that you, my friend, are in for a big surprise.
But not to worry, the Traveling Island Girl to the rescue (cue heroic superhero music). Here are 8 must-know facts when planning a destination wedding on St. Maarten:
Must-Know Fact #One – It rains here
Not to burst your bubble or anything but we do experience rain from time to time. I know, what a let down. It’s supposed to be the Caribbean for F’s sake. It’s supposed to always be sunny. I hear ya. I really do. Still, the sad fact remains we do get rain here. Sometimes it’s just a drizzle other times we get stuck in a cloudburst (ask my sister, she can tell you all about her very big wet wedding). Read up a bit on the island’s weather, is what I can advice you to do. Do some research. We have our rainy season and we have our dry season. The month of August has been known to get some storms, same goes for September and in my experience it always drizzles around Christmas and New Year’s. This does not mean though that the rest of the year is completely dry. How else would we have all these beautiful green hills? So don’t get sad or angry or frustrated when it rains while you’re here. After all, we locals consider rain on your wedding day to be a blessing.
Must-Know Fact #Two – Sunsets are best on the French side
As you know, St. Maarten is divided by two countries. The Dutch on one side and the French on the other. If you are like most brides dreaming of a perfect island wedding, you have no doubt been fantasizing about that perfect photo of you and your new husband, looking deeply into each others eyes, while the sun descends into the beautiful deep blue water on the horizon. No problem. It can be arranged. I had one bride in particular who downloaded an app and dragged me all over a particular beach to find the perfect sunset spot for her ceremony (you know sho you are). For great sunsets on St. Maarten/St. Martin try the Southwestern part of the Dutch side and the Western part of the French side.
Must-Know Fact #Three – Beware of the Euro
Speaking of French St. Martin, it is wise to remember that this is French territory. Not only do they speak French there but the local currency on that side is the Euro. This means that that villa with the perfect sunset that you want to rent comes with a Euro pricetag attached to it. Always keep track of the current exchange rate when doing business on the French side.
Must-Know Fact #Four – Island life does not come cheap
Another very important Must Know fact about St. Maarten is that it is expensive. There is no reason to sugar coat it and there is just no other of saying it. The island is after all just an island. Not much but fish and coconuts are produced here so everything from the edible floral cake topper to the beautiful flowers in the bridal bouquet are imported. I can not tell you how many times brides got almost insulted at the prices charged. Prices for services can also be on the higher end. The cost of living here is just high. So do not expect to pay the same prices you pay back at home. Having said that, there are always ways of keeping the wedding expenses low. Negotiate a better price for a location, think of serving local cuisine rather than sushi for example and to avoid high season prices, plan your wedding in the off season. But please do not pay the price of canned tuna and expect caviar.
Must-Know Fact #Five – Decor Limitations
I have just addressed the high prices and the fact that most items are imported. That wedding decor you saw on Platinum Weddings and fell in love with is definitely possible but best achieved with some early planning and a whole lot of logistics. I am lucky to live on an island where one can get almost everything. There are stores here where you can get all the essentials for a gorgeous wedding but if you have a specific theme in mind it is best to bring the decorations with you or at least contact the event suppliers on island to make sure they can help make the visual part of your dream wedding a reality.
Must-Know Fact #Six – Bugs
A beach wedding at sunset is what most destination brides are looking for when planning a an island wedding. And who can blame them? If I hadn’t eloped (the idea of planning my own wedding was petrifying) I would have probably opted for a low key, bare feet in the sand kind of nuptials. Besides small issues like the sand getting into everything and everywhere and forgetting to rent a sound system so that your guests can hear your well rehearsed vows to one another, over the drowning sound of the waves crashing on the beach, there is another itsy bitsy and often overlooked little detail that needs your attention: Sand Flies. These super small pests come out at dusk to feast on you and your guests. They are practically invisible because of their size but produce painful bites. It is nothing to worry about and as far as I know they are not the cause of any sickness and they tend to disappear after dusk anyway. But it is advised to come prepared with bug repellent.
Must-Know Fact #Seven – The time of year is super important
The off season is more economical but there is a reason why prices of hotels and cars are at a lowest. The off season here on St. Maarten also means hurricane season. Being spared by a hurricane is something all us islanders pray for every single year. Believe me, you do not want the uncertainty that comes with the hurricane season. Should you decide to still go ahead with a summer month wedding there is another fact to consider: It can get super hot here in the summer. Almost unbearably hot. Read my blog on the sweatiest month of the year.
Must-Know Fact #Eight – Planners know best
It is a sad but oh so true fact that whenever a couple tries to keep wedding expenses at a low that the wedding planner is often the first one to get booted off the planning list. Especially if the couple thinks they are capable of doing everything themselves or in the very least can count on the assistance of friends and family. I have seen it over and over again. Family and friends are always the first ones to offer their assistance but this is usually before they arrive in paradise. Remember that for them this is more a vacation. The fact that your wedding is taking place during their vacation is a bonus. It is not fair to expect them to save up all this money just so they can spend the week or weekend running around at your every command. Also, don’t for one minute think that you have the know-how to deal with local companies or island ways or that you know where to go for the different wedding necessities, no matter how many times you have visited the island before. Take it from me and hire a wedding planner even if it is just for the day of or to guide you in the right direction. Your peace of mind and your family and friends will thank you.
And that was it. A little piece of my infinite “wisdom” on island weddings. I do not miss my wedding planning days or my corporate event planning days for that matter. It is something I used to truly enjoy but no longer find the joy in it. I can imagine that having read the above you may still have some questions. Know that I am always just a click away. I would be happy to refer you to one of the many talented wedding planners on the island.
Happy Island Wedding Planning.