Vieques Island has become a very hot Caribbean wedding destination over the past 10 years. Before then, the only people who recognized the island's name were the politically savvy folks who remember it was the site of a great battle between the government of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Navy at the turn of the century.
Puerto Rico prevailed, and in 2003 the Navy vacated the island and turned over miles and miles of pristine beaches to the Department of the Interior, who turned it into the Vieques Wildlife Refuge. All of a sudden, the tiny island known as the "Jewel of the Spanish Virgin Islands" became very attractive to destination brides and grooms seeking somewhere "different" to get married.
But why is Vieques so popular for destination weddings? I can answer that, but to be fair, I must disclose that I got married in Vieques back in 2004, and I've been planning weddings for other couples there for the past 10 years. I plan destination weddings all over the United States and the Caribbean, but the one place that gets requested the most is Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Vieques has become a hot destination-wedding choice for the following reasons:
It's in the United States, so no passports are required for your guests. Puerto Rico uses U.S. currency, and the vast majority of residents speak English. Everybody drives on the right side of the road.
The tiny 20-by-5-mile island is located seven miles off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, giving it a seriously remote feel, although you're still in the United States. It can be reached via ferry for $2 or via puddle-jumper airplane in just a few minutes.
Unlike the main island of Puerto Rico, or St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques has that castaway feel so many brides and grooms are seeking. There are no stoplights. There are no four-way stops. There are thousands of wild horses that roam the island and cause the biggest traffic hazards.
There is only one big chain hotel on the island, so it doesn't feel as commercialized as its neighbors. Most visitors stay in guest houses, boutique hotels, and private villas. There are lots of beautiful private villas along the water and up in the hills, all with mind-blowing views. The restaurants and bars in town and along the Malecon (the boardwalk) have more of a Jimmy Buffet feel than what's found on the bigger islands.
Vieques has the brightest biobay in the world, and it's a crazy-romantic and magical thing to visit the night before your wedding. It really doesn't get more amazing than kayaking through the calm Caribbean water, watching fish light up electric green as they swim by you. The stars above are pretty incredible too.
The island also features lighthouses, boating, snorkeling, horseback riding, art galleries, and all the other fun activities you'd imagine would keep your guests entertained on their vacation. The biggest advantage of getting married in Vieques is your ability to make your wedding feel like it's happening far, far away in paradise when you're still in the United States.
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.