Getting Married in The Abacos
Charlene AM Fernander
(with a contribution by Bonnie Flail of Hopetown)
There's nothing like a wedding - nothing in all Creation! From the first marriage ceremony performed by the Creator Himself in the Garden of Eden between Adam Firstman and Eve Everywoman, through to the performance of Christ's first miracle at the Wedding at Cana - to today's fabulous weddings at Cathedrals such as Westminster Abbey and simple Eden-like weddings on the beaches and in the groves of the Abacos. There is absolutely nothing quite like a wedding. So when I was given the nod for this assignment, I felt as excited as if I were planning a wedding myself.
Abaco has more than her share of beautiful, romantic and unforgettable ...weddings. Couples from all over world choose to be married here. With our ideal weather and treasures of beautiful natural scenery, the reasons are obvious. Holding the wedding itself here represents big savings for newlyweds. But before they can proceed with their dream-come-true wedding arrangements, and to avoid disappointment, engaged couples first have to apply for a marriage license ($40) at the Administrator's Office in Marsh Harbour. Marriage licenses are valid for up to three (3) months from the date of issue.
Ms. Lee Wilson advises that before the license is approved, proof of couples' unwed status must be produced - divorces must have a certified copy of the Decree Absolute Dissolution in hand; widowers must have a certified copy of the late spouse's death certificate and singles over age 40 (non-Bahamian) must have an affidavit attesting to the fact that they are free to ma". Often couples wish to bring their own minister to the Bahamas to perform the ceremony, and this is quite in order. However,, the marriage must be solemnized by a marriage officer registered in the country. Non-Bahamians are also required to produce their passports (with photo identification) as proof of citizenship of their respective countries. There are certain other documents to be produced by citizens of various countries. To be absolutely sure, please call the Administrator's Office (1-242-367-234314).
I had several chances to witness weddings between local couples which have been held at the Office and performed by Mr. Everette Hart, Island Administrator, who is a Justice of the Peace as well. Such weddings are usually between couples of American nationality. I asked around about the Bahamas' regulation against performing wedding ceremonies after 6: 00 pm., which the Americans find so quaint. I was told that perhaps the custom came about because one had to be sure no substitution of the bride or groom could take place under cover of darkness.
Imagine walking down the aisle to the person you've chosen to spend the rest of your life with. Now, imagine that aisle to be a carpet of velvety soft sand and your beloved waiting at the edge of the ocean for you. Imagine walking down stone steps to a gazebo overlooking the sea. Picture yourself taking your vows in the shadow of a historic lighthouse with the picturesque Hopetown Harbour within view. Romantic wedding sites are plentiful here and if the unusual is more to your taste, well, that can be arranged as well.
Local Marriage Officer, Vernon Malone of Hopetown, a very well-known Justice of the Peace performs weddings on the average of twice a month. He has had many unusual requests to solemnize ceremonies literally from "on high" - the famous candy-striped lighthouse on Elbow Cay (but Vernon advises against it ... too steep); then, from a couple who literally wanted "to take the plunge", and jumped off the stern of a sailboat after being pronounced man and wife; and once Vernon performed a wedding for a bride who did not know it was her wedding until Vernon showed up on the dock.
Most couples marrying amidst the magic of the Abacos return to the United States (or whatever their country of origin) to have the reception. While the beach still ranks as #1 in popularity, weddings have been held at the gazebo at the Abaco Inn, Elbow Cay or at the base of this settlement's famous lighthouse. You need not fear arriving without the requisite two witnesses as Vernon has been known to produce them almost "out of thin air". Vernon feels strongly about marrying couples who are not doing it just for the sake of convenience - so all you do need is your evident commitment to each other, a waiting period of three days and the license.
The Abaco Tourist Office (1-242-367-3067) has a People-To-People Wedding package available, which is often used by visiting couples as well as locals. Misses Sherry Parker and Wynsome Ferguson (of the Marsh Harbour BTO) lend their expertise to assist with suggestions for locations (and there must be a hundred possibilities), the cake, attendants, a minister, photographer, reception venues, bridal attire and the honeymoon suite.
St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church is situated on a modest hill in Marsh Harbour. The integration of landscape and architectural design are breathtaking; the immediate surroundings appear to be hewn right out of the limestone rock and the inside of the Church is arboreal in all its architectural appointments and decorations. The Roman Catholic tradition maintains that engaged couples must undertake a marriage preparation course of at least six weeks before the presiding priest can witness to the solemnity of the wedding vows before God. They can take this course in their own diocese, acquire the license then come to see the parish priest to make final arrangements. Baptized persons must marry in a church. You may wish to contact the parish priest beforehand to be fully advised.
Gardener's Eden on Don Mackay Boulevard makes professional arrangements of lovely flowers for wedding receptions. Maureen at Buds & Blooms in the Plaza on Queen Elizabeth Drive is a source of beautiful and imaginative fresh and silk arrangements of every kind to decorate both the wedding venue and that of the reception. She will accommodate most last minute orders as long as they are not too "out-of-the-ordinary' (those require at least ten days' advance notice, please) and has been asked to assist in the decorating of unusual venues. So far, she hasn't been asked to coordinate those undersea-complete-with-scuba-mask-fins-wetsuits weddings that take place from time to time in Nassau. I always wonder if they use some universal sign language to make their vows.
Essence, Snazzie's and Hair Affair, all in Marsh Harbour (Webmaster's note: ... and Hubert's Cuts & Curls in Green Turtle - men and women) will style your hair professionally and Essence caters to the men as well. Designs by Debbie (Debbie Jones) will design and sew your dream dress; The Seventeen Shop and Mr. Mister will dress you if you're not shopping abroad. Wedding cakes are a specialty of Donna Sawyer, Debbie Russell (in the telephone book) and Gary of Hudson's Delight at Treasure Cay. Flippers, Bayview, Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour (Marsh Harbour), and The Spinnaker Restaurant (Treasure Cay) are just some of the popular places where wedding receptions are celebrated. Nipper's famous five mile beach (on Guana) is a romantic coup of Mother Nature that bridal couples simply cannot resist.
(Webmaster's note: ... many of the Abacos' resort offer wedding packages and will provide serious help in helping you to get "the knot tied" ... island style ... try Molly at Bluff House or Lynn at Green Turtle Club - both in Green Turtle Cay - or Bruce at Dolphin Beach Resort in Guana Cay - click here to go to go-abacos resort locator map.) To hire a car, call B & L Rentals (Shell Service Station) or K & S; for a honeymoon, you can't beat the Treasure Cay Resort & Marina, Treasure Cay (golf course and a heavenly beach), Oeishn's Resort, Sandy Point (a 30-minute boat ride to Disney's Castaway Cay), Different of Abaco in Casuarina Point (a nature reserve) and the breath-taking Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay.
So, if you're here, in love, engaged and enchanted with these isles, there's really not much more that you need to make it all official. It's all here and waiting - the choices to suit everyone's tastes are endless. To have and to hold an Abaco wedding is to make your dreams come true.