Editor’s Note: Some of the information below may be out-of-date. The Florida Keys were heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma. Please visit fla-keys.com or the specific hotel’s website for updates.
With its miles (almost seven, to be exact) of coral-sand beach, Grand Cayman enticed Empire co-stars Grace Gealey (who was raised on the island) and Trai Byers to marry there in April. Befitting Hollywood is Seven South, the new penthouse suite at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, which at 19,000 square feet (with its own elevator, assistant and cabana) may just be the largest and most luxe hotel suite in the Caribbean. For something more boutique-y, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa opened in November, with 266 design-centric guest rooms along a 500-foot stretch of Seven Mile Beach. Its ballroom serves up to 500 island-goers, but the best idea may be a ceviche bar right on the sand. Need some local inspiration? Cayman wedding planner JoAnne Brown of Celebrations showcases the best of the Cayman Islands in her book, Caribbean Wedding Style, from Pedro St. James Castle to Seven Mile Beach. Pop down for a go-see: Travel is easier than ever thanks to recent renovations at both international airports.
Locally made chocolate and rum plus grand views of the Pitons equal all you really need for wedding success. Jumping on the spa-wedding trend, Capella Marigot Bay introduced serene ceremonies in its celestial little garden sanctuary of Auriga Spa. To add to its sweet white sand, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, has a new beach at the southern end of the property prime for a vow exchange, plus seven new luxury villas to kick off the honeymoon. To offer days of dining options to wedding guests, Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort recently opened three new restaurants, from Asian to Caribbean. On the Northwest coast, the couples-only, all-inclusive Rendezvous, fresh off a $12.5-million renovation and in July, introduced “Stolen Time” to ease the transition off the grid.
Tahiti synonymous with romance itself, but 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the invention of the overwater bungalow, invented in this South Pacific haven. The first new luxury resort on the island in nearly 10 years, Conrad Bora Bora Nui debuts in March 2017 and ups the overwater bungalow ante with the only two-story designs in the destination. To ease wedding preparations, Tahiti In Style villa and property rental now offers a concierge service to help organize a ceremony in private locations like Motu island or Villa Miki Miki on Moorea. If you’re more the private yacht type, Island Escape Cruises is returning to Tahiti in 2017 with all-inclusive experiences to exchange vows on board.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
A-listers like Heidi Klum, Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo poured down to Playa del Carmen last March for the wedding of country singer Jason Aldean and former American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr at Mahekal Beach Resort, whose $16-million update included the new beachfront Celebre wedding space and open canopied garden chapel. Nearby, groups that want to feel of a buyout will dig Thompson Playa Del Carmen‘s new bohemian-inspired, oceanfront Beach House with 27 guest rooms and suites, its own pool, private cabanas and an oceanfront restaurant. To continue the VIP vibes, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya partnered with celebrity wedding designer Colin Cowie for three customized wedding experiences — Cowie himself handpicks the details. Stay tuned for the adults-only, all-inclusive UNICO Hotel Riviera Maya, scheduled to open early this year.
Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer were among the first guests at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, a 642-acre that opened in May 2016 on the island’s west coast 17 miles from Honolulu. Couples looking to make a grand wedding entrance can take advantage of the hotel’s baller fleet including a helicopter, yacht and luxury cars. Closer to the action of Waikiki, the Surfjack Hotel opened in May with a dose vintage 1960s Hawaii, down to its painted murals and birds of paradise wallpaper by local artists that are just begging for an Instagrammable wedding photo session. On Maui, do as The Bachelorette‘s Desiree Hartsock Siegfried and husband Chris Siegfried did for their one-year wedding anniversary in February, and celebrate with an intimate canopy dinner on the beachfront lawn at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.
Turks and Caicos
It’s where stars go to celebrate: Last summer both Kylie Jenner (who rented a $50 million villa on Airbnb) and Emily Ratajkowski (who stayed at the luxe Amanyara Resort) held their birthday festivities on the islands. The next glitterati hotspot may be The Shore Club, the only development on Providenciales’ Long Bay Beach with 106 ocean view suites and six luxury villas on a nine-acre stretch. On popular, pristine Grace Bay Beach, Grace Bay Club‘s tropical-chic redesign led by interior designer Thom Filicia includes redesigned lobby and guest rooms, the new Infiniti Restaurant and Raw Bar and The Residences, a trio of freestanding, beachfront villas.
It’s been said that there are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for each day of the year (we wonder which stretch of sand Oprah, who has a house on the island, tends to frequent). Antigua remains slightly under the radar, even though it’s one of the closer Caribbean islands — and major upgrades to the airport in 2015 now ease any travel hassles (though it’s worth it for a bite of sweet Antigua Black pineapples). Here, builders are abuzz: This spring will see the opening of Royalton Luxury Resort, a 500-room all-inclusive resort on the famed white sands of Deep Bay. The private island resort Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, continually upgrades itself, now with the Together package filled with romantic excursions perfect for a post-wedding minimoon.
Hemingway mystique meets laid-back Jimmy Buffet — such is life on the string of islands dangling off the southern tip of the U.S. And private jet is the best new way for VIP wedding guests to travel: Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, now offers direct seaplane air service with Key West Seaplanes from Florida airports to the property’s private beach pier. Farther north on Key Largo, Playa Largo Resort & Spa debuted in the summer with signature Sunshine State coral reefs and sea glass, plus 144 rooms and suites, 10 secluded bungalows and a standalone luxury guest house — saunter down its tree-lined path to a private beach to say I do.
Firewalkers, diving with sharks, jungle hikes — Fiji is for couples in search of drama. The country is coming back strong after 2016’s Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most severe on record, and is returning to its roots as a romance mecca. The quintessential Fijian Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort on Savusavu Bay reopened in September with 25 newly thatched houses known as bures. For total seclusion, guests are ferried via seaplane to the remote Kokomo Island, a new collection of 21 bures and five villas on uninhabited Yaukuve Island.
Could the Big Easy be the next hipster hotspot? The opening of the trendy Ace Hotel, a nine-floor boutique property in an Art Deco former furniture store in the up-and-coming Warehouse District, seems to suggest it — though the style of its Barnett private dining room remains classic, charming old New Orleans. Also a mix of modern and Southern elegance, The Henry Howard Hotel opened with the signature crown molding and floor-to-ceiling windows that make a picturesque Garden District wedding background. In the historic French Quarter, completed renovations at Chateau LeMoyne (named for the city’s founder Jean Baptiste LeMoyne) offer added romance to a suite with a balcony overlooking the action. For those who’d rather sail than dance through the streets, the Carnival Triumph is the latest addition to The Port of New Orleans, with 4- and 5-day cruises to wed at sea (or sail off right after I do).