Tie the Knot in the Turks & Caicos Islands
By Melanie Reffes
Pointed southeast of The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands are a sunny collection of seven main islands and forty smaller isles and uninhabited cays. A British Overseas Territory, TCI packs a big punch from swanky resorts, fine dining and funky beach bars to historic sites like the former cotton plantation called Cheshire Hall, superb diving and the island’s crowning glory; uninterrupted stretches of white sandy beaches that front the sea blindingly bluer than a Tiffany gift box. A popular vacation pick of couples from around the world, TCI is also a leader in destination weddings. “Our destination has top notch wedding stylists and planners, florist and photographers who take the stress of planning and organizing away to create and capture your dream wedding day,” says Ramon Andrews, director tourism, Turks & Caicos Islands.
With undiscovered isles and cays easy to get to via short flights or scenic boat rides, Providenciales, referred to as Provo, is the most populated with friendly locals called “Belongers” who are delighted to welcome visitors to their island home. “Our archipelagic layout provides the perfect opportunity for couples to island hop and create a unique experience for their guests on a sister island,” says Ramon Andrews, director tourism, Turks & Caicos Islands, “couples enjoy deserted beaches on a cay, private cottages overlooking the limestone cliffs of Mudjin Harbor, candle lit dinners on Grace Bay, well-appointed suites at a luxury resort or a stroll on the historic Front Street of Grand Turk.” http://turksandcaicostourism.com/
A quick 90 minute flight from Miami, TCI ticks all the boxes for a romantic rendezvous or a destination wedding with 360 days a year of sunshine, 83 degree temperatures, chalk-white sandy beaches and sapphire water. “The islands are easily accessible with international flights into Providenciales from several US cities like Miami, NYC, Dallas, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago and Atlanta,” adds Ramon Andrews, director tourism.
For expedited departure and lounge amenities while you wait for take-off, VIP Flyers Club is the regal way to start a vacation. Greeters meet arriving travelers for fast tracking through customs and immigration and provide departure priority assistance in the relaxing lounge with Wi-Fi, snacks and spirits. https://vipflyersclub.com/
Celebrate at The Sands
Fronting a 12-mile crescent on the baby blue Grace Bay Beach, The Sands at Grace Bay is a 114-room and suite home-away-from-home with customized wedding packages like the seaside “Let’s Say I Do” that comes with the ceremony officiant, witness ( if you forgot to bring one from home ), bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, wedding cake, four-pole beach wedding arch with a lovely white sheer cloth and a special wedding night turndown for the newlyweds. Perks can be added like wedding reception dining, rehearsal dinner, florists, entertainers, island excursions and hair and makeup for the bride, groom and wedding party. Spa Tropique offers a rejuvenating menu of rubdowns, massages and scrubs, bicycles and tennis play are gratis for guests and there are plenty of hammocks scattered around a trio of stunning pools. Call toll-free from the U.S. (877) 777-2637. www.thesandstc.com/weddings/
Sure Thing at The Shore Club
There are no shortage of champagne wishes and caviar dreams at The Shore Club where beds for heads rank among the finest in the world. Fifteen minutes from the Providenciales International Airport (PLS) on Long Bay Beach, the swanky resort is picture-perfect for weddings with venues that go beyond the beach at sunset, although that is perennially popular. The Master Ballroom hosts up to 350 guests and can be divided into two rooms for smaller celebrations. The balcony terrace is ideal for cocktails saluting the surf and can accommodate up to 120 guests while a wedding at the Pool Deck is for smaller weddings of up to 50 guests. Special menus suit all taste buds and budgets and run the culinary gamut from sumptuous brunches and lovely lunches to barbecues on the beach, wellness choices for dinner, sushi stations and open bars with top-shelf bottles like Appleton 12 Years Aged Rum and Patron Silver Tequila. “We are the newest luxury resort on the island and the only one on this magnificent beach,” said Frits Hannenberg, general manager, “we welcome couples from all over the world who come to Provo to unwind and relax.”
With floor-to-ceiling windows that open to unobstructed views, suites come with top-of-the-line appliances in open kitchens and airy balconies or patios for chilling after a day on the beach or an afternoon at the pool. For those who don’t fancy sand between their toes, there are three pools including one for families, adults-only by the beach and the centerpiece Colonnade Pool with a bar and cabanas. Relaxation comes easy in the Dune Spa with scrubs like the Long Bay Ritual that blends sugarcane, Salt Cay salt, white sand from the beach and aromatic coconut oil. Upping the relaxation ante, there’s fire pits by the pool and yoga classes on the beach. For families with kids, Jungle Jams Kids Club dishes up plenty of fun for wee ones up to twelve years old. “The resort stretches across a shallow bank of water that’s a shade of blue you’ve never seen before,” said Karen Witt, VP, sales and marketing for The Hartling Group which includes The Sands, The Palms and The Shore Club.
For couples going the distance, a wedding is magical in one of four opulent villas. “Imagine walking barefoot on powder white sand among fountain grass acting as your wedding aisle,” smiles Lorraine Kenlock, villa specialist, “a wedding is when you and your love and no more than 25 of your closest friends and relatives witness your commitment in one of the most stunning villas in the Turks and Caicos.” http://theshoreclubtc.com
Funky Fun Farm-to-Table
Off-the-beaten path and what may be Provo’s best kept culinary secret, The Frenz Deck is a labor of love for Chef Lorraine Iriedawta Kenlock who every Monday and Wednesday cooks up a storm for those lucky enough to snag one of the 14 seats available. Her exquisite 8-course dinner is artfully prepared, expertly served and includes what is fresh from the garden, farm, land and sea like juicy lobster tails drizzled with the Chef’s special haute butter.
Set in a magical garden, the cozy restaurant is a must-try for couples, wedding parties and foodie twosomes craving private time and a leisurely dinner. “The Frenz deck is more than just food,” says Chef Lorraine presiding over her spotless kitchen, “enter our twilight space where your entire being says breath and relax as you connect with yourself and your loved ones.” www.frenzdeckandiriesrest.com/
Provo Ponies, Tee Time and a Mother of Pearl Scrub
Most of the resorts and villas are on Provo’s famed Grace Bay Beach; the prime stretch of sugary white sandy framed by snorkel and scuba-ready water. Although ‘doing nothing perfectly’ is an approved sport, adventurers like deep sea fishing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, kite-boarding, windsurfing, riding one of the Provo Ponies on Long Bay Beach and teeing up at the Provo Golf Club; the only 18-hole course on the island. www.provoponies.com | www.provogolfclub.com
At the 72-suite Palms Resort, The Spa is a haven for rejuvenation with ocean views from the suites, 25,000 square feet of top-notch amenities and a tempting menu of treatments like the Mother of Pearl Scrub that blends hand-crushed Queen Conch shells and sea salts to polish the skin. www.thepalmstc.com/
For elegant dining under the stars, Parallel23 at The Palms is the pedigree of posh with tall French doors that open to stately palms and a striking fountain. An international menu of land and sea are works of art with standouts like coconut-marinated conch ceviche and 21-day aged steaks. Two forks work nicely on a slice of lemon meringue pie made pretty with raspberry sauce. Bartenders are expert pourers of lemon martinis and glasses from an extensive wine and spirit list. www.thepalmstc.com/
A culinary ode to Ernest Hemingway who fished in the sea surrounding the island, Hemingway’s at The Sands at Grace Bay is beachside dining with servers so friendly you’ll swear you’ve met them before. A table on the dune deck is where to greet the morning with a spicy Blood Mary, stack of crazy good almond pancakes or a yummy ‘Ernest’ omelette with a dab of the local hot sauce called ‘Ghost Story’. Big salads are divine for lunch and for dinner; check out buttery South Caicos lobster tails. Save room for fried ice cream deliciously shareable in a sweet tortilla basket drizzled chocolate sauce. http://hemingwaystci.com/
For the real deal, follow the locals to Bugaloos Conch Crawl in Five Cays on Provo’s south coast; one of three original settlements that today is a residential area with small shops, restaurants and lovely beaches. Snag a seat at a seaside table or at an oversized chair under a palm tree and dig into a peppery conch salad, fiery buffalo battered conch and addictive conch fritters. Ideal for a wedding brunch, a pitcher of heady rum punch and a big platter of fabulously fried conch, lobster and shrimp are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. A sandy stage hosts local performers, fishermen forage for conch in the knee-deep sea and vendors sell funky crafts on the beach. http://bugaloostci.com/
In Blue Hills, Da Conch Shack in Blue Hills is popular beachside restaurant renown for hearty platters conch fritters and buttery lobsters and bartenders shaking and stirring heady fruity cocktails made with the local Bamberra rum. Arrive early on Wednesday and Saturday when local bands take the sandy stage. www.conchshack.tc