Get Hitched Down South

The ABCs of a Caribbean wedding

By Michele Peterson


Although rain on your wedding day is said to bring good luck, most couples hope for sunshine on their big day. If you’re planning to tie the knot in the summer and have your heart set on a Caribbean destination wedding, it can be difficult to choose an island if you’re worried about weather. Officially, hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30. If you don’t want to be packing rain ponchos, one of the ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire or Curaçao — would be a good bet. These southern islands, located off the coast of Venezuela and outside the hurricane belt, offer virtually no threat of tropical storms.


Known as the Dutch Caribbean, these three islands have close ties to the Netherlands and local residents speak Papiamento, a charming mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. Each island has its own unique character — from barefoot beach casual to upscale sophistication — which means there’s something for every bridal couple.


Here’s an overview of each island to help you plan your dream wedding:      


Signature Experience: With year-round cooling trade winds, Aruba’s white sandy beaches, upscale shopping and lively culture make it an especially fun wedding locale. Greet your guests with carnival beads and flower leis as they board the Kukoo Kunuku, a hand-painted parranda island bus. You’ll enjoy a welcome glass of champagne and then it’s party time with maracas and Caribbean music until you reach your destination. For the wedding, consider a traditional Aruban Kunuku House ceremony, followed by an intimate reception dinner at the acclaimed Papiamento Restaurant, located within a traditional cunucu (Aruban farmhouse). Nestled in an ultra-romantic tropical garden, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable evening dining under the stars.         


Where to Stay: A $50 million renovation has made the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, situated on beautiful Palm Beach, a sought-after choice for destination weddings. The resort comes complete with the boutique-hotel style Tradewinds floor, luxurious spa, elegant venues and a team of Marriott-certified wedding planners who can coordinate weddings of all types, including ethnic and military. The hotel accepts only one wedding per day so you’ll never feel rushed on your special day. (


Requirements: One month before the wedding date, couples must provide copies of birth certificates as well as official Canadian documents proving they are free to be married to each other. If either party has been divorced or widowed, copies of the divorce decree or death certificate are required. Copies of valid passports for the bridal couple and their witnesses are needed. An Apostille (authentication and legalization document) must be provided. Church or synagogue weddings have special documentation requirements and may need special permissions. 



Signature Experience: Bonaire is a scuba diving and snorkeling paradise, so if you’re a couple who loves outdoor adventure, then this island could be a perfect fit. Take a horse and buggy to Pasan Grahan town hall, located within a charming colonial building, and follow the ceremony with a champagne toast, Caribbean steel-drum music and a tiki torch dinner on one of the island’s pretty beaches. Underwater lovers can even include the world-famous Washington–Slagbaai National Marine Park in their wedding memories or enjoy a relaxed wedding day exploring one of Bonaire’s 86 dive sites. Couples seeking seclusion will love a Robinson Crusoe Away escape to the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. (


Where to Stay: Relax in your own well-appointed beachside villa with private terrace overlooking the palm trees and marina at the Harbour Village Beach Club. This stylish hotel is known for its expansive water sports, open water dive courses (beginner to advanced) and sumptuous spa. (


Requirements: Two months before the wedding date, the couple must provide original birth certificates showing their parents’ names as well as official Canadian documents proving they are free to be married to each other. If applicable, a divorce decree or widow decree must be included. The couple and witnesses must arrive at least four working days before the wedding to register officially at City Hall, providing two passport photos of the bride and groom as well as copies of passports that are valid for at least six months. Witnesses must also provide photocopies of valid passports. Originals of all documents with an official government seal and an Apostille must be provided. (



Signature Experience: Getting married on this island is a colourful experience thanks to its turquoise waters, white sand beaches and picturesque kaleidoscope of pastel-hued historic buildings. The lively capital city and port of Willemstad is one of six UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Caribbean. Its unique architecture includes the oldest synagogue in the Western hemisphere and the Wedding Cake House (National Archives), an ornate green building with decorative white trim. When it comes to wedding locations, leave wedding day stress behind with a secluded sunset ceremony at the Curaçao Hyatt’s Shaman beach, a private oceanfront location facing calm, clean waters. Island cuisine is also a wedding day draw with a blend of ethnic influences — African, Dutch and European — each making a unique contribution. (


Where to Stay: The five-star Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino offers a boutique village experience in the centre of Willemstad, just 20 minutes from the airport. Your wedding party will enjoy exploring this resort village, which is spread over an eight-block radius and features two swimming pools, several restaurants and bars, upscale shops, a world-class museum, a luxurious spa and expansive gardens. For an ultra-romantic experience, book the Tree House Mansion, a thatched-roof suite decorated in exotic African artifacts, located on a raised platform perched on a cliff and accessed by a spiral staircase. (


Requirements: Couples must submit a written marriage petition signed by both partners indicating two preferred wedding dates and times, birth certificates with the parents’ names as well as an international declaration of unmarried status. If applicable, a divorce decree or death certificate must be included. An Apostille completed at the Netherlands Embassy in Canada must accompany all documents, none of which can be older than six months. A Curaçao wedding planner can arrange for local witnesses, but if you plan to supply your own, they must be at least 21 years of age, have valid passports and apply for temporary residency. (


Having trouble deciding on which island suits you best? One of the most wonderful things about a wedding on any one of the ABC islands is that there are unlimited backdrops for stunning wedding photos. From the dramatic Bushiribana Gold Smelter Ruins on Aruba, to underwater coral formations on Bonaire, to the pretty pastel architecture of Curaçao, you’ll have a photo album of memories to be proud of.


When it comes to the islands, no matter which letter of the alphabet you choose, you’ll be assured of a destination wedding with a splendid — and sunny — Caribbean setting. W


Legal requirements vary from island to island and can change without notice, so be sure to check with local authorities or wedding planners as early as possible in the planning process.

Personalize your Wedding Centrepieces

Extravagant centrepieces can be nice, but aren't necessary. You may have attended a wedding where the centrepiece impaired guests from talking with each other or from seeing what is happening on stage. Or perhaps the centrepiece had so many elements that you wondered how the couple could afford them. If you're preparing for your wedding, consider creating centrepieces that reflect who you and your spouse–to–be really are, without breaking the bank.

For the eco–friendly couple: sticks and stones. Forgo the regular bouquet of flowers and arrange sticks, stones, and beeswax candles to create a calm, organic feel at the table.

For the do–gooder couple: promote your cause. In lieu of centrepieces, make a donation to a charity that you and your spouse–to–be support. Place cards at each table that explain why you support the charity and what the money will provide. Organizations like Christian Children's Fund of Canada can give you some ideas on gift items that help impoverished children around the world (

For the “lovey–dovey” couple: poetry and photos. Showcase your favourite romantic quotes and poems with framed photos from your childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. You can put different photos at every table to get your guests to move around and mingle.

For the contemplative couple: books or DVDs. Select two books, documentaries, or DVDs that you and your spouse–to–be enjoy or that convey a certain message. Wrap the two items in a ribbon and give them away as a prize to guests at each table towards the end of the night.

What Kind of Wedding Centrepiece Should you Have

The decision to marry your fiancé was the easy part. But it seems picking colours, fabrics, and décor for the wedding is near impossible. Take this quiz to ease some of the stress of picking that perfect wedding centerpiece:

1. You and your fiancé believe that the world would be a better place if people would:

a) Care more about the environment and a clean planet.

b) Be more passionate about helping others.

c) Learn to love more and hate less.

d) Be more informed about their world.

2. Your favourite dates involve:

a) Being outdoors and sharing an activity like hiking, walks, or camping.

b) Volunteering your time to help others like serving food in a soup kitchen, running errands for family members, or teaching English to new immigrants.

c) Lots of quality time, an intimate meal, and a camera to snap pictures and remember everything.

d) Movies, literature, or the arts. You and your fiancé like to expose yourselves to new ideas, topics, and trends.

3. What adjective would you use to describe your ideal wedding centrepiece?

a) Earthy

b) Purposeful

c) Romantic

d) Insightful

4. How often do the two of you go to movie theatres?

a) Not often. You prefer to watch movies at home or do something more active.

b) Whenever you can. Both of you have family and volunteer commitments outside of work that tend to keep your schedules busy.

c) Occasionally. Afterwards, you keep the movie stubs as a memento of your date.

d) Frequently. You like to watch the latest films and make note of directors, actors, and soundtracks that interest you.

5. What kinds of movies do you think people today need to see?

a) Movies about the consequences of failing to care for the planet like An Inconvenient Truth or Avatar.

b) Movies about compassion and poverty like Blood Diamond or The Blind Side.

c) Movies that show how love conquers all like Romeo and Juliet or My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding.

d) A movie that speaks about our culture like The Social Network or one that bucks the trend like Inception.

Mostly As—The eco-friendly couple “sticks and stones” centrepiece. Forgo the regular bouquet of flowers and arrange sticks, stones, and pillar candles to create a calm, organic feel at the table.

Mostly Bs – The do-gooder couple “promote your cause” centrepiece. In lieu of centrepieces, make a donation to a charity that you and your fiancé support. Design a card for each table that explains why you support the charity and what the money will provide. Christian Children's Fund of Canada can give you some ideas on gift items that help children in need around the world. (

Mostly Cs – The romantic couple “poetry and photos” centrepiece. Showcase your favourite romantic quotes and poems with framed photos from your childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. You can put different photos at every table to get your guests to move around and mingle.

Mostly Ds—The contemplative couple “books or DVD” centrepiece. Select two books, documentaries, or DVDs that you and your fiancé enjoy or that convey a certain message. Wrap the two items in a ribbon, place them in the centre at each table, and give them away as game prizes at the end of the night.

Meaningful Wedding Favours that Last

Edible bonbonnières are always a popular wedding favour at receptions. In fact, sometimes that beautifully wrapped bag of candy coated almonds or chocolates are eaten on the spot, depending on what time dinner is served.

Meanwhile, bonbonnières of the non–edible variety sometimes consist of little trinkets and heart–shaped keychains that you never use. Instead, you add it to the collection you've accumulated on a dusty shelf, along with other items you never touch.

This time, it's your turn to get hitched, and you and your spouse–to–be are wondering if wedding favours are really worth the cost.

For a meaningful gift that will show appreciation to your guests and have a lasting impact, consider making a charitable donation in their honour. Charities like Christian Children's Fund of Canada have an online gift catalogue where you can purchase fruit trees, clean water wells, insecticide–treated malaria nets, and medical supplies for a clinic in developing countries. As you and your spouse–to–be happily start your lives together, take pride in making life a little easier for others around the world who are in need.

Design the Wedding of your Dreams even on a Budget

You've dreamed about your wedding day, but not about the price tag that comes along with it. Luckily, you can have the wedding of your dreams on a realistic budget with a little creativity. Here are two inexpensive projects for a day that you – and your guests – will never forget.

The Centre of It All

When it comes to your reception décor, you want your guest tables to shine. However, lush floral centrepieces can quickly consume your budget.

Sometimes the simplest centrepiece can be the most elegant. Try a glass container filled with coloured stones, water and floating candles or flowers. Another option is a wine bottle centrepiece. Collect empty bottles (be sure to enlist some help) for each table and spray paint each in your wedding colours. Add embellishments by stenciling or adding photos, quotes or graphics that represent your relationship.

Who Doesn't Love Candy

Give your guests a fun treat with an inviting (and inexpensive) candy buffet. First, select a variety of glass jars and containers in different sizes and shapes to hold your treats. Don't stop here though. There are a variety of ways to further embellish your candy jars.

“For a wedding candy buffet, adding colours and embellishments adds depth to the glass,” says Katherine Merkle, Krylon brand manager. “This gives your table a more sophisticated look that doesn't have to come with an expensive price tag.”

Start by washing the containers and allowing them to dry thoroughly. Next, use stencils to spray the outside of your containers with anything from stripes and polka dots to glitter with a paint such as Krylon's Indoor/Outdoor spray paint or Glitter spray. You can also use a leafing pen to add additional details. Other decorating options include glitter, decoupage or stencils.

For set up, use a variety of sturdy boxes or books stacked at varied heights and then drape a tablecloth over the levels. Place your containers and fill each with your festively coloured and delicious treats.

These projects are just two simple ways you can create the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank. Additional project ideas from Krylon can be found online at

Platinum Proposal

Best places to propose in the Ottawa area

By Sherri Telenko

Even if you’ve talked about it or you know it’s in your future, making an engagement official is probably the most nerve tingling, stressful yet exhilarating part of the marriage process. After all, this is the story you’ll tell for decades, possibly generations. No pressure. You’ve seen the movies, you know what to say and you might have rehearsed. All that’s left is finding the perfect setting to pop the question. If you need some when and where inspiration, here’s Ottawa Weddings’ shortlist of ideal places in Ottawa to propose ‘til death do we part:

Portrait Perfect – Anywhere in the Fairmont Château Laurier, even the extravagant lobby, is magical but if you really want to impress, go Karsh. The Karsh suite, named after the famed portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, who lived there with his wife, Estrellita, for 18 years, has been updated slightly since the photographer left for Boston in 2000 (where he died at 93 two years later) with a whirlpool tub and adjacent boardroom/dining room, so the layout is impressive. But if the $1,800 a night price tag is a bit steep, even for that special night, head to this historic hotel’s Zoe’s Lounge, named after Wilfred Laurier’s wife. Propose over afternoon tea in the glass atrium on Sunday or a vintage cocktail while live jazz plays softly Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. (Fairmont Château Laurier, 613 241-1414)

Ride the Rails – There’s a romantic aura about train travel that some people can’t get out of their system. The scene is especially captivating if you’re clickity clacking along a historic rail that trails along the Gatineau River at 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) per hour through the Outaouais Region to the village of Wakefield, a short distance from Ottawa.  The Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train Company offers this experience and more. From May to October, the country’s oldest operating steam train (originally built in 1907) takes passengers on a 64-kilometre (40-mile) round-trip journey. Fall foliage routes run twice a day the first three weeks of October, but if old time amore is your goal, consider booking in the Club Riviera car for an evening’s three-and-a-half hour sunset excursion that includes a five-course meal of locally inspired cuisine and all the panoramic viewing you can consume. (H.C.W Steam Train Company, 800 778-7246,

Down on the Farm – Canada is the only country in the world to have a working experimental farm in the middle of its capital city. While this is a fun fact, a field of soya beans might not be the most desirable place to get down on one knee. Fortunately, near this 202-hectare (500-acre) facility (established in 1886) are both an Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens, which lend themselves better to memorable moments. The south-east side of the 35-hectare (86.5-acre) Arboretum boasts one of the best views of the Rideau Canal and Carleton University (if you happen to be an alumnus). The nearby Ornamental Gardens, among rocks, hedges, roses and perennials, have been a popular site for wedding photography since opening more than 100 years ago. If your ceremony is going to end up here, why not start here? (Central Experimental Farm, Prince of Wales Drive, 613 230-3276)

By-the-way Patios  – The ByWard Market is a draw for tourists, but not everyone new to town knows about the courtyards behind the shops. Specifically, the Clarendon Courtyard is home to the outdoor patios of five different restaurants, including the iconic 30-year-old Courtyard Restaurant. Its 60-seat patio is open May to September and complements the seating inside the 1827 historic stone building. The restaurant offers a French-inspired contemporary fine dining menu capitalizing on local foods. The cobblestone courtyard is shared by local favourites: the youthfully hip Social under the direction of executive chef Matthew Carmichael and the charming Black Tomato providing wine pairings with each menu item. Any way you go, the stone walls and tree canopies shelter you from peering pedestrians and tiresome traffic. (Courtyard Restaurant, 21 George Street; Social, 537 Sussex Drive; Black Tomato, 11 George Street)

Sleigh Bells Ring – Horse-drawn carriages are not only for the wedding day. Picture a white horse and red velvet seats clopping through city streets as a guide takes you on a one-hour tour past such city highlights as Parliament Hill, the residence of the prime minister and Rideau Hall. Or arrange your own tour, since all 50 vehicles owned and operated by Lucky Luc Carriages (including the Cinderella Carriage) can be privately rented. If the snow is lightly falling, the wind quiet and winter temperatures too low to freeze exposed skin, consider a winter sleigh ride across the countryside. Lucky Luc offers this service too. You’ll feel Christmas card perfect as the horse kicks up the snow at a light trot and bells ring, literally or figuratively. (Lucky Luc Carriages, 613 789-5710).

Season Sassy

Choosing the season’s best wedding invitations

By Lisa Parker

Wedding invitations are often the first indication of the style or theme of the event. Your friends and family should be able to get an idea about how formal the wedding will be or, in the case of a destination wedding, where the event will be held. Often overlooked, wedding invitations are a crucial part of the wedding planning process, so finding the best ones available should be a top priority.

This means more than just picking top-of-the-line cards and papers. It means choosing wedding invitations that reflect your style and the style of your wedding, and that give your guests all the information they need in order to attend your wedding.

A full wedding invitation suite includes everything from Save the Date cards to Thank You cards, preferably all in the same style. One of the things you should consider when deciding on the best invitations for your wedding is whether there are coordinating pieces of stationery for all of your wedding stationery needs.

Here’s how to pick the best wedding invitations to reflect the special style of your wedding day.

1          If you are planning a formal wedding, you might want to choose wedding invitations that follow the “rules” of etiquette for wedding invitations. That means engraved wedding invitations in white or cream with black text, but it does not mean that you are confined to invitations that look like every other wedding invitation. There is a surprising variety of styles in embossing, fonts and designs from which to choose. Whether you choose a timeless classic like Ivory Elegance or the more subtle beauty of Refined Grace, your wedding invitations will be a unique reflection of your formal, traditional wedding.

Semi-formal and casual weddings open up an entire range of wedding invitation styles from which you can choose or even design on your own. They can use colour, images and even photographs of the bride and groom. You can opt for gatefold invitations, with a photo of the bride and groom on the cover, that open to reveal the printed text of the invitation itself, or you can pick a brightly accented invitation with matching foil liners for the invitation envelope.

2          No matter what colours you have chosen for your wedding, you can find wedding invitations that reflect those colours. Standard wedding invitations come in cream or white and you can embellish these with a touch of your wedding colours in the form of ribbons or borders. Alternatively, you can pick invitations that make fuller use of your chosen colours in background papers, print or overall design.

3          Theme weddings have never been more popular than they are now. Many couples choose to be married in a beach or island setting, in a medieval castle or in a garden that pays homage to nature. If you decide to build your wedding around a theme, the best wedding invitations for you may be those that fit that theme. For a beach wedding, you might choose invitations embossed with delicate shells and fronds. For your fabulous Great Gatsby Roaring ’20s wedding, your invitations might feature art deco styling and bright colours.

4          Many designers of fabulous wedding dresses also include in their repertoire bridesmaid dresses, wedding stationery, invitations and table decor. Let your designer help you coordinate your wedding invitations with your wedding style.

5          If you are having a summer wedding, choose invitations that are light and breezy with lots of floral accents. For winter, you might choose a snowflake theme. You can find plenty of wedding invitations that are seasonal, reflecting the mood for both the time of year and traditional holidays, when you shop at online bridal shops.

Most of all, remember that the most important thing is to find wedding invitations that you love and that reflect your style as a couple. You might even find that the only way to get the look you want is to design them yourself (you’ll find lots of designs online).


Stress can Show on your Face – So Use these Steps to Look your Best

Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful, but not knowing where to turn for help can be worse. One of the main problems adding to the stress for most bridal couples is having one too many people wanting to run the show. Here are six steps for planning a stress-free wedding.

1          The bride and groom should make the final decisions on the wedding plans. Everyone will have an opinion, so stick to your guns. Your wedding is all about celebrating your marriage. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to back off by saying ‘thank you for your suggestion but we are going in a different direction with the planning’.

2          If you hire a planner, make sure the planner and the rest of the family understands that you and your other half will be making the decisions. If too many people get involved in the planning, things will get confusing, and this can cause undue stress. If you are not hiring a planner, appoint someone you can trust to run the show — you can’t be a bride and a planner.

3          If you never remember anything else, remember to always have a backup plan for everything. So many things can go wrong on the wedding day, so you want to be prepared for anything.

4          When choosing attendants for your wedding, try to keep the number to a minimum. The more people in the wedding party, the bigger the headache. Gather the people you intend on asking as attendants together and explain what is expected of them as members of the wedding party. This will save the time it’s going to take to replace the attendant and the stress it’s going to cause you finding someone else.

5          Never bite off more than you can chew. Everyone wants a lavish wedding, but don’t drive yourselves crazy and break the bank to get it. You can always have your dream wedding without the costly price tag and that fits into your budget.

6          Timing is so important; never put off what you can do today for tomorrow. Before you know it, your wedding day is weeks away and you are both left with a mountain of chores that need completing. Make sure you order all items and make arrangements for every aspect of your wedding as soon as possible, so you won’t have a mile-long to-do list.

Compiled by R. Legault with source files from Coyle Publishing.