Title: Here Comes the bride: To Ambergris Caye by Carla Hunt
“The largest of the more than 200 islands and islets that dot and dash the Caribbean coastline of Belize, Ambergris Caye is not only the country’s leading tourist draw but also its top pick site for destination weddings.
A lovely barefoot luxury atmosphere pervades at a solid core of stylish but low-key, tucked beneath the palms, beachfront resorts that host more and more weddings: where brides walk down a sandy aisle strewn with sea shells, palm leaves and tropical flowers; where couples opt for the ultimate in private nuptials with a sunset cruise ceremony at sea, where amour mixes easily with post-wedding activities, from swinging in a hammock to primetime scuba diving, from mainland rainforest excursions to nights out in the swinging little San Pedro Town.
During a recent stay on Ambergris Caye, I went to look at handful of hotels—and there are many more—that offer destination weddings. I have to say that if I were getting married again (not an option, I have a neat husband), I might choose the Portofino Resort for an appropriate stay in their second-floor honeymoon suite (a.ka.) Royal Orchid Suite, whose 800 sq feet of space is beautifully appointed with an ‘Emperor’ bed, Jacuzzi, double sink bathroom with jungle rain shower, DVD, flat screen TV, Internet connection, plus a huge 225 sq ft balcony embracing Caribbean and lagoon views.
Owned and managed by a European couple, Sandra and Jan van Noord, one can understand the inn’s continental flare: Euro-Caribbean cuisine featured in its Portofino Restaurant, excellent service, welcoming atmosphere. When browsing through the hotel’s weddings book, I found photos of an elegantly casual barefoot-on-the-beach ceremony, another couple stepping over the Japanese bridge leading to a dockside wedding, another nuptial held under the garden’s natural flower arch of bougainvillea and roses. According to Sandra van Noord, 35 wedding guests is the maximum the hotel will cater to, and customized catering goes from assistance with marriage certificates to arranging minister, the photographer, flowers, live music, the meals, the cocktails and champagne.
Portofino has eight beach cabanas and three tree-top suites, all with air conditioning, ceiling fans, sea-facing picture windows, a mini-bar and Caribbean views, lies north of San Pedro Town. New property is a four-bedroom mansion, perfect for visiting families. The hotel lies north of San Pedro and maintains complimentary boat service several times daily to town. Beyond its own lovely beach and dock, the hotel offers excursions to go diving (you can see the world’s second longest barrier reef from the hotel—1/2 miles off shore), fishing and expedition tours to the mainland.
A basic seven-night honeymoon package at Portofino includes accommodations in the honeymoon suite, daily breakfast in the restaurant or room service, a candlelight dinner on the first night with a bottle of wine, a one-day private beach barbecue with reef snorkeling and fishing, a full day jungle tour and visit to the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha, a massage for two, plus a tropical cocktail on arrival, a bottle of champagne in the room, fresh flowers daily, roundtrip air tickets Belize City – San Pedro, meeting at the airport and boat transfer to the hotel, free use of all water sports equipment, free use of the resort Internet computers. In the low season, the cost is $3678, in the High Season $4095.
Getting Married in Belize
Both parties must be in Belize at least three full days before applying for a marriage license. (Under construction as we speak is a pending law to reduce this time requirement to one day only.) Forms must be completed and notarized in the presence of a justice of the peace. Forms must be presented with a photo copy of the front two pages of the passport and the page showing the date of entry. If either party or both have been previously married, a certified final divorce decree(s) must be presented. If either or both parties is a widow/widower, original copies of the death certificate(s) must be presented with other papers. The marriage license fee is $100. Hotels offering wedding services will be able to assist in making arrangements complete with accommodation of the happy couple and as family and friends in the wedding party. Arrangements can also include someone licensed to perform the ceremony, catering, room service and decorations to a couple’s specifications.”.