When the Beach Boys wrote the lyrics: “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda-”
They should've stopped there… and then removed Aruba and Jamaica. I have no idea where Kokomo is and I do not care. Why? Because about two weeks ago I spent time at Coral Beach & Tennis Club in Bermuda to learn more about this new destination wedding location.
Now, when I say “new” I don’t mean just built with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Coral Beach is a members only AKA private club that has been around longer than I have been alive. What that basically means is: no membership, no wedding.
But that has finally changed as Coral Beach will be available for up to 15-16 destination weddings each year. Only this time, part of the package, is a membership to this upscale club. Why would you want a membership? Glad you asked.
Maybe you didn’t grow up belonging to a country club. Or maybe you did, and like me, you were bored out of your mind attending countless dinners and seeing the same (boring) people and eating the same (tasteless) beef, chicken or fish. If you’ve got a vision of Gossip Girl episodes in your head when I say “country club”, then dismiss those immediately because that is not what this is.
On my trip, I saw first hand what life would be like as a member of this club. It meant coming with your family to the beach for a BBQ on a Tuesday night in May. It meant running around in the sand with the multiple families you’ve become friends with over the years. It meant what many of us fantasize about, for ourselves and for our children as well.
When you get married, you are opening the door to a new chapter in your life. For the first time, Coral Beach is giving you the key. The odds that you’ll go back for dinner at your reception hall are not in your favor and may not even be possible. But at Coral Beach, you start that new chapter and the pages will fill themselves up because you can return.... as newlyweds….new parents…..grandparents…. See how this works? In a time with so much uncertainty in the world, where stability is a luxury and marriages are constantly challenged, there seems to be a chance at serenity here. A chance to lay a solid foundation before building a home.
What about the wedding part though? How does this one place stack up against the rest?
As a wedding planner I always want to know about the newest whatever that no one knows about yet, and that goes double for venues. My clients, not unlike most couples, are always looking to make their wedding day unique, even though they hate using that word. If you’re planning a wedding, there's a good chance that you’re also attending 900 of them as well. You’ve seen it, you’ve done it. All of it. 50 times.
Often times, couples feel that there just isn’t a banquet hall or barn that they haven’t been to and there’s isn’t a version of Caprese salad they haven’t had. It’s all the same and it’s all on Pinterest, and the ability to make a wedding as individual as the couple, can be an Olympic feat. The easy answer is to have a destination wedding.
The hard question is: Where? I don’t believe you can learn enough to decide your opinion on a venue by just reading some details on a website and looking at a few pictures. This is why I hopped on a plane to visit Coral Beach!
Let’s start with the flight. I can basically see Bermuda from my office in New Jersey. It’s like, right there. I’m a classic east coast girl that went to an east coast college and have been on vacation and spring breaks in the typical areas. It never occurred to me, someone who really hates to fly, to go to an island that I could get to in less than 2 hours. Once I landed in Bermuda, I was shocked at how quickly we arrived. You don’t really understand a less than 2 hour flight time to a gorgeous island until you actually do it. Two hours to fly to some business meeting in that Central Time Zone can make you feel like you slipped into the seventh circle of hell. Two hours to Bermuda?
Take my money. So if you haven’t gotten the point by now, let me drive it home: your guests, your wedding party (not just you two) when given the choice between connecting at The North Pole and potentially losing their luggage on the way to your “guacamole goes on everything” Cancun wedding or taking a direct flight on a legit airline to a wedding that will blow their mind in Bermuda…well, I think you know what wins here.
Ok, now let’s talk about actual Bermuda. Bermuda is this super small island divided into sections. Each section is a “Parish” and each Parish offers a wide selection of food, activities and style. The island appeals to the rustic bride just as much as it appeals to the elegant chic bride. There are countless churches to host your ceremony including a gorgeous building, pictured below, The Unfinished Church.
Often times, destination wedding clients never become destination wedding clients because they know it’s a hassle to have a religious ceremony. But in Bermuda, not only are countless religious houses available on the island, many of them rival the ones you’d find back home in terms of physical appearance alone.
In addition to that, it’s my experience that not every beach destination couple wants to get married on…wait for it…the beach. Believe it or not, many couples feel their wedding will become a cliche if they live in a state with a beach, and then ask their friends and family to get on a plane and watch them get married on a different beach. Bermuda, in general, is lush and vibrant. There are gardens and arboretums and a lot more grass takes up the island than you would probably guess.
Being a small (wicked small) island, space is a major commodity. Guess which place has plenty of it? If you’re that couple yearning for that destination wedding on an island sans sand, the grounds of Coral Beach have you covered. Besides being secluded, the grounds themselves are reminiscent of Wonderland and include a wedding lawn surrounded by sky-sweeping palm trees. The lawn is available for any or every part of your wedding celebration and can be tented as well. Bonus? There’s electricity. Try finding that at other resorts or even at your local beach.
It can be exhausting looking for an off the beaten path venue to host your wedding that won’t require 15 permits and your first born. So when I met with the general manager of Coral Beach and heard nothing but “sure, we can do that”, followed by examples of having done it already, I did a little happy dance in my mind. Fireworks, drones, lighting up the ocean. NBD.
Past the amazing wedding lawn, there are both beach and terrace options overlooking the water like you have never seen before. The reason you’ve never seen it like this before, is because you’re at the top of a cliff. Depending on the time of year, the sunrise and the moonrise will be something you will never forget.
In regard to the beach, no matter what you use it for: first look photos, wedding reception, rehearsal dinner…whatever…it’s an extensive beach. You know what you don’t have to do? Search for an area where you won’t be photobombed. It’s a private beach and your photographer will rest easy not having to hold people back or needing to retouch them out of every last beach photo.
One of the most important factors of a destination wedding is creating the experience for your guests. Let’s be honest right now and talk about how you’re not leaving most of the resorts you’ve stayed at before. Because safety. If you aren’t leaving, then neither are your guests. But a destination wedding is more than one day.
With a Saturday wedding, the couple would arrive on Monday/Tuesday, with wedding party and immediate family coming in between Tuesday-Wednesday. Guests come in Wednesday-Thursday and remain until Sunday…Monday….That’s a week’s worth of events, not just a wedding, for about 120 people. Now what?
Take Coral Beach. All of it. They will literally hand you the resort and every last room for your wedding.
Guys. Let that sink in. I can wait.
When immediate family and wedding party members arrive, there are countless activities and things to do around the island. It’s also ridiculously easy to get around the island and the residents of Bermuda are about the most gracious I’ve ever experienced. No matter what your style is, there are things to do for everyone. A calm sail around the island, or a jet ski race…and anything in between. Hiking in the woods to hidden caves and caverns?
And there are no ticks on Bermuda.
How does this place even exist?!
Unlike other locations popular for destination weddings, a couple in Bermuda can create an experience for their guests that reflects who they are. In addition to the fun you can put together for your immediate family members and wedding party, you can design the “wedding weekend” to be just as amazing. As destination weddings go, guests arrive in advance of the wedding and you can create an “itinerary” to enclose with the invitations.
On the first day, it’s a great idea to keep things casual, give people a chance to get to their room, and then join in on the fun. With the entire resort reserved for your wedding guests, you can arrange for everyone to be picked up at the airport and brought to the little slice of paradise that is Coral Beach. You can set up to meet everyone for afternoon tea, or Dark and Stormy’s on the beach terrace before going on a welcome cruise around the island.
The day before the wedding is a great chance to let your guests take a minute to realize they are in this unforgettable place. I can tell you, first hand, that room service breakfast on your own private patio is insane and unreal. French toast just tastes better when you're watching longtails fly over the ocean. It does.
You should never make your itinerary “mandatory” and it’s good etiquette to let your guests know about any activities they can enjoy on their own. Tennis and squash lovers will feel right at home at Coral Beach, and other guests can enjoy the private beach, a game of croquet, a garden tour or some beach volleyball.
For a group activity, getting back to those hikes and caves…the water in Bermuda is all connected and there’s something romantic and spiritual about that. A destination wedding is all about connections. The connection between the couple and their connection to everyone attending the wedding. Whether you choose to bring everyone on a hike that ends at a lake in a cave, or at any of Bermuda’s famous beaches for some cliff jumping, it’s obvious to include the gorgeous water as part of the wedding weekend.
Of course, at the end of the day before the wedding, a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner is a must. Normally, I would never tell my couples to have their rehearsal dinner at the same location as their wedding. Who wants to see the wedding venue, two days in a row?
But, just like you can use multiple areas for the different parts of your wedding at Coral Beach, the same thing can be done for the rehearsal dinner. Formal, sit down wedding dinner with specific wine pairings, means fish and chips picnic with plenty of rum for the rehearsal dinner. Oh, and did I mention they can customize any menu for your events and their sommelier’s name is Vincenzo?
I meant what I said earlier that Bermuda is a really unique place. The one word I hear the most from brides when describing their ideal wedding is “unique”…and that's not easy to do. Destination weddings are the hardest weddings to make unique because you’re dealing with the unknown and plenty of restrictions.
At the core of every wedding I plan, is the story of the couple I am planning with. Those stories are unique and a wedding should show that. Frankly, in a world of cookie-cutter, done to death, Pinterest popular weddings, it’s refreshing and rare to put together something different. It’s an Olympic sport to make that happen for a destination wedding.
Bermuda and Coral Beach take the gold.