If sun, warm weather and gorgeous scenery are on your list of destination-wedding musts, you need look no further than the United States Virgin Islands. The group’s three islands, St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, are ringed by some of the world’s loveliest beaches. White sand as powdery and fine as confectioners’ sugar, waters that range from sapphire blue to turquoise, and lush green hills and mountainsides are all at your fingertips. A stay at any of these island jewels offers Caribbean hospitality and ambience with the ease of home. The currency is the good ol’ greenback, the language is English, you can use your mobile phone and passports are not required. For a beachside ceremony, you couldn’t get a better location.
The beach gazebo at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas
The most cosmopolitan of the isles, St. Thomas boasts great restaurants and shopping in Charlotte Amalie, the capital city, and a host of resorts that offer beautiful beaches, picturesque harbors and views of colorful rooftops on the neighboring islands. The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas has the most breathtaking grounds of all. Set on 30 beachfront acres overlooking Great Bay, the 180-room property is the epitome of refinement and sophistication. It also gives visitors an unparalleled pampering experience at the Caribbean’s only Prada Spa. Wedding ceremonies are customized to best suit couples’ sensibilities. Is your event small and intimate? Have a barefoot beach wedding under the graceful branches of seagrape trees. Or say your vows at sunset aboard the resort’s 53-foot luxury catamaran, Lady Lynsey. The boat accommodates up to 49 guests. If you host a large wedding party at the scenic Beach Gazebo, your guests will be entertained by a musical duo during the ceremony (wedding packages start at $4,600 and include an officiant, bouquet and boutonniere and wedding-site decoration; ritzcarlton.com).
Turtle Bay Point at Caneel Bay, St. John
At only 28 square miles, St. John is the smallest of the group, a crown jewel that’s also a nature lover’s paradise. Since nearly two-thirds of the island is designated as a national park, the beaches are blissfully free of the overdevelopment, privatization and crowds that plague other Caribbean destinations. The ultraluxurious but low-key Caneel Bay, a Rosewood Resort is one of the island’s few resorts. Built in 1956, the 166-room, low-slung property is set on a peninsula in the middle of the Virgin Islands National Park. This unique location means brides can choose from among seven pristine, white-sand beaches for the ceremony. (Insiders insist the best “I do” spot for wedding couples is under a canopy of birch trees on Turtle Bay Point, a dramatic green bluff on the north side of the property.) Receptions can be held on one of the terraces overlooking the crystalline sea, in a restaurant perched atop the resort’s 18th-century sugar-mill ruins or in the fabulous Turtle Bay Estate House, an 18th-century plantation house that offers an incredible fine dining menu and fantastic panoramic vistas of the lush property and ocean beyond (wedding packages start at $3,500
and include an officiant, a bottle of champagne and a wedding cake, and a bouquet and boutonniere; 888-767-3966; caneelbay.com).
A view of The Buccaneer, St. Croix
St. Croix is the homiest spot in the U.S.V.I. and its accommodations reflect that vibe. The Buccaneer, once the residence of Alexander Hamilton, is the Caribbean’s oldest continuously operating hotel. Featuring 138 rooms and located near the Danish-built port of Christiansted, the hotel sits on 340 acres and encompasses three gorgeous beaches. Wedding options at the resort include The Sugar Mill Wedding Package, a romantic sunset wedding on the palm tree-lined Mermaid Beach, followed by an elegant candlelit dinner reception under the stars in an old sugar mill; and The Hibiscus Wedding Package, a reception at one of the resort’s restaurants and a next day couple’s massage. If you prefer a just-the-two-of-us affair, opt for the stress-free Elope to Paradise Package that includes an intimate ceremony on the beach or at the historic sugar mill. The Buccaneer also offers a traditional “jump the broom” ceremony, which is popular with African-American and Caribbean couples (wedding packages start at $850, plus a three-night minimum stay, and include a bouquet, champagne and a wedding cake; thebuccaneer.com). —Sharon Boone
No blood test is required. According to island regulations, couples must file marriage documents (your hotel can provide them) and pay a $50 license fee at least eight business days prior to your arrival. Then you both must appear in person at the Territorial Court on St. Thomas to pick up your marriage license. Proof of citizenship and a 24-hour stay are also required. Those who have been married before need to provide an original divorce or death certificate. Go to usvi.net for more information.
Photography: (top) U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; (middle) courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas; (bottom) Courtesy of Caneel Bay.