A Sandy, Laid-Back Wedding in Harbour Island, Bahamas

Real Weddings
harbor-island-bahamas-wedding-portrait.jpg Photo: KT Merry

Anne and John have an annual ritual: Every December, they take a two-week vacation on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. The tradition began in December 2008, when the couple, who'd met that year at a mutual friend's party, jetted in for an island getaway. "We live near Bald Head Island in North Carolina, and we love how similar Harbour Island is to home—there are no cars, and you have to take a ferry," says Anne. "It's just so quiet." The next winter, they invited friends and family to come. "And we've all gone back every year since."

In 2010 John, a real estate executive, proposed to Anne, a wedding photographer, after surprising her with a private junkanoo—a boisterous parade of dancers and musicians. The couple decided to return to the island the following year to marry near the "lone tree," an oft-photographed driftwood tree they'd discovered on one of their many beach walks. Mother Nature, however, had other ideas. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene barreled through the Bahamas, burying the tree under tons of sand. It stayed that way until, a few days before the wedding, a local councilwoman (and friend) stepped in: "She rounded up people and excavated the tree," says Anne. "It was an answered prayer!"

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Photos: KT Merry

Twenty-five barefoot guests gathered near the newly raised landmark to witness John, 39, and Anne, 36, exchange vows on December 10, 2011. He wore a linen suit; she donned a custom ivory Margaret Spaeth gown with layers of silk organza dyed the same pale pink color as the beach's sand. "I loved the layers," says Anne. "And I wanted a bouquet that wouldn't compete with the surroundings—pink peonies were perfect." As Anne's brother and nephew walked her down the conch-lined aisle, a full rainbow appeared behind the groom and the iconic tree. "Now whenever I see a rainbow, I think of our wedding," Anne says.

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Photos: KT Merry

The bride's 20-month-old niece served as the flower girl. The groom's sister, Kelly, was the sole bridesmaid and wore a silk taffeta dress by J.Crew.

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Photos: KT Merry

After the ceremony, golf carts carried everyone to the beachfront Coral Sands Hotel, where the newlyweds led yet another junkanoo into the cocktail hour. After the traditional parade, guests sipped Kalik beers and goombay smashes, a Bahamas cocktail made with rum, oranges, and pineapple.

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Photos: KT Merry

Anne and John posed in front of license plates tourists have left behind. "We couldn't imagine getting married anywhere but Harbour Island," says Anne.

The reception table was decorated with peonies, hydrangeas, and candles in coral-wrapped vases. For dinner, guests sat on an ocean-view deck, where they feasted on a buffet of stone-crab claws, sashimi, and prime rib.

Instead of cake, the couple served homemade chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. "We always rent the same house when we come to the island," says Anne. "My nephew and niece and my friend Heather came over that morning to help us bake."

Afterward, local band the Brilanders played everything from island tunes to Cee Lo Green. "Everyone was dancing in a conga line, even hotel staff!" she says. At one point, the couple and their guests gathered on the deck to check out the full moon. "The moon, the rainbow, the tree," says Anne. "Everything came together. It was as if nature was telling us to get married!"

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Photos: KT Merry

Venue and caterer: Coral Sands Hotel || Florist: The Nassau Florist; 242-393-2223 || Golf carts: Johnson's Rentals; 242-333-2376 || Ceremony music: Rocky and Ersly; 242-554-6537 || Reception music: The Brilanders; 242-554-6537 || Cupcake flags: Becca Bond || Bride's dress: Margaret Spaeth || Bridesmaid's dress: J.Crew || Hair & makeup: Karen Catalyn, The Island Spa || Groom's suit: Calvin Klein

Visit our Real Weddings page to find more seaside style inspiration.

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