Photo: Jeff Lewis 619 Photography
You don't have to leave the country to have a Caribbean wedding. As the popularity of destination weddings grows, the availability of different wedding options in the U.S. Virgin Islands has increased dramatically, too. Where once there were only a few venue options, and one wedding planner per island, now brides and grooms have huge lists of vendors to choose from, and every hotel and resort — in literally every price point — offers wedding packages and group discounts for guests.
First and foremost, these little tropical gems located just east of Puerto Rico, are part of the United States. Therefore, your guests do not need passports to travel to them. While guests may be required to show a birth certificate to Customs as proof of citizenship, along with a driver's license, this can be an advantage if few of your friends are seasoned travelers and would need to get passports for the sole purpose of attending your wedding.
You can get direct flights from many major cities to St. Croix and St. Thomas, and St. John is just a ferry ride away from St. Thomas. Once you arrive, there's no sales tax, making shopping a major activity for your guests. And since the islands are part of the United States, dollars are the currency of choice.
St. Thomas has literally hundreds of shops geared toward the preferences of tourists, and they cater to hundreds of thousands of cruise ship guests a year, in addition to visitors staying on the island. There are major boutique chains represented, as well as local shops featuring island goods. More than one bride and groom have waited to buy pricey wedding bands the week they arrive on the island for their wedding, and saved a lot of money.
St. Croix is the comeback kid, having reinvented itself over the last 15 years, and once again, becoming a popular cruise ship port. While there's not a whole lot for tourists to do or see on the west end in Frederiksted, there's shopping, restaurants, a marina, and a boardwalk in Christiansted which offer plenty of entertainment. While many of the same chain stores in St. Thomas have a location on St. Croix, it's the fantastic local shops that are really worth a visit. One couple gifted all of their wedding party with the famous Cruzan hook bracelets, from the alleged original creator of them, Sonya Ltd.
St. John feels far more remote, and is much less commercialized, than St. Thomas and St. Croix, but it takes a little more effort to get there, and weddings tend to be more expensive than on the other islands. Also, there are fewer vendor options, meaning that if you want a photographer or music that isn't locally available, you'll have to pay travel and accommodations on top of their regular fees.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.