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!"