Moon--WeddingMoon, That Is--Over the Bahamas
"Would you prefer a lavender scented oil for relaxation or a peppermint oil for energization?" asked the masseuse in a voice as soothing as the Bahamian waves lapping just beyond the spa's doorstep. We were about to have a couples massage, our two tables just far enough apart to allow the pair of masseuses to work their magic. It was time to choose relaxation, no doubt about it. After months of hectic schedules, we, like other couples, were in the Bahamas to relax and unwind, to forget about everyday cares, and, for a few precious days, to spend as much time as possible with each other in a setting where romance blooms as brightly as the hibiscus and bougainvillea found throughout the islands. We were at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort and Spa, one of the most pampering properties in a chain with resorts also located in Antigua, Jamaica, and St. Lucia. We later learned that the spa at Sandals Royal Bahamian is one of the most lauded in the Caribbean, but, at that moment, all that mattered was the warm oil that was being lovingly applied to our bodies, the firm hands that kneaded out our tensions, and the gentle music that played in the back of the softly lit room. The relaxation we enjoyed at the spa echoed throughout our visit. As guests at an all-inclusive resort, we were free to pick and choose our activities without worrying about our pocketbooks. Although spa treatments are a la carte, just about everything else at Sandals Royal Bahamian is included in the one-price-pays-all package. And for many Sandals guests, that package also includes a tropical wedding or, in Sandals terms, a WeddingMoon. During our stay, we witnessed many couples exchanging vows in this tropical paradise. The WeddingMoon is now part of the all-inclusive offerings, complimentary for couples who stay five nights or longer (at least until further notice). Just as the all-inclusive package had made our choices easy--snorkel or glass bottomed boat? piņa colada or rum punch?--we learned that the WeddingMoon package made choices easier for brides and grooms as well. "The couple doesn't have to worry about anything," explained Cassandra McKenzie, one of three wedding coordinators at the seaside resort. "I arrange for everything! All couples do is show up, choose a location for the wedding, pick out flowers and cake and that's it. The options are helpful to personalize their wedding." The WeddingMoon package includes many of the details: preparation of documents, legal fees, minister or other officiating party, witnesses, wedding announcement cards, champagne reception, bouquet and boutonniere, Caribbean wedding cake, video of your ceremony, 5x7 photo, candlelight dinner for two, "just married" T-shirts, and professional NTSC/PAL video of the ceremony. Looking for more? Additional services can be purchased -- everything from hairstyling to a calypso band to a champagne cruise. We found that couples with something special in mind need only speak up before arrival. "Sandals can provide just about anything for the wedding, however, guests should keep in mind that we are on an island and that a lot of items are very difficult to obtain on short notice," points out Jennifer Knowles, sales manager. "If a bride and groom have something special and unique they require for their day, then it is best to contact the resort prior to arriving on property so that we can make the necessary arrangements." One detail that Sandals can't work around, however, are local regulations. "Bahamian law requires that couples must be married prior to sundown -- so unfortunately, we cannot do weddings at dusk or once the sun has set, typically around 6 pm." Some couples opt for a private wedding without guests, while other couples choose to bring a wedding party. "I feel another special thing about choosing to be married here at Sandals is that guests can still share their day with their nearest and dearest, if they so wish," points out Knowles. "These guests can either stay here at Sandals or at another resort on the island and still visit on a day pass." After the wedding, couples start their honeymoon just steps from where they exchanged their vows: sunning on the powdery beach, swimming beside the tall columns that give the pool a Roman feel, and taking a snorkeling excursion to check out the Technicolor marine life that lies just below the waves. For all its watersports options, however, we found plenty of diversions on land as well. After our fun in the sun, we headed for the shade of the billiards room to challenge each other to a game and to consider the evening's choices. Sandals Royal Bahamian has eight gourmet restaurants and, although the Caribbean restaurant and the Mediterranean show kitchen each sounded tempting that night, we opted for the classical French eatery. Soon we were seated at the intimate restaurant that overlooked the pool, which was aglow with the moon's first beams. "Would you like to see our wine list?" asked our white-suited waiter. We looked at each other for a moment and habitual budget concerns came to mind. Then, remembering where we were, we quickly smiled across the table. "Yes, please, we would," answered John. The all-inclusive package made our Sandals trip easy, just as the WeddingMoon has made thousands of couples' weddings both easy and memorable. From our couples massage to our days on the beach to the chance to order from menus devoid of prices, the resort helped us relax. Similarly the WeddingMoon helps couples to take the tension out of a wedding day. "Have fun, take lots of pictures, don't stress," said wedding coordinator McKenzie. "We're stressing for you. Be prepared to have fun and a wonderful honeymoon." Copyright Paris Permenter and John Bigley Photos courtesy Sandals Resorts Husband and wife team Paris Permenter and John Bigley have authored over 20 guidebooks and also edit the FREE Lovetripper.com , a romantic travel magazine featuring worldwide destinations.
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