Valentine’s Day Treat
“We apologise for the delay, but we’re just de-icing the wings,” came the cheery announcement from the flight deck”. Flying from the North of England in winter is always a mixture of eager anticipation and fear of how the weather might sabotage our plans. Fortunately, we were soon taxiing down the runway and on our way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the most romantic way possible – saying “I do” on a Caribbean island.
John had proposed to me years ago on a desert island off the Great Barrier Reef (smuggling my engagement ring inside a pair of speedos!) and we’d always dreamt of exchanging our vows whilst standing barefoot on a warm sandy beach. We‘d chosen Tobago for our wedding destination as it allows on-the-beach ceremonies. The island is also famed for fabulous birdwatching, and the chance to also indulge our passions for boat trips, deep sea fishing and snorkelling, made it the ideal place for our honeymoon. As I enjoy photography, music and dancing, discovering that our trip coincided with Carnival week was the icing on the cake.
Our balm evening drive from the airport to the hotel was punctuated by rap and reggae music booming from every bar we passed and we felt a general air of excitement and anticipation. The Blue Waters Inn was every bit as gorgeous as it looked in the photos – intimate and secluded with a private Robinson Crusoe style palm-tree-fringed beach lapped by turquoise seas and set amidst a tropical rain forest. Our spacious beachfront room was just a short walk from the hotel restaurant, bar and infinity swimming pool. Each morning we enjoyed freshly cooked breakfasts by the sea as turnstones, who should have been dodging the waves, darted in and out of the tables picking up scraps, and cheeky bananaquits swooped in to snack.
Our fortnight stay gave us time to meet the residency requirements and visit the Ministry in Scarborough, located at the opposite end of the island, to apply for a licence. The carnival celebrations closed roads and public buildings for several days giving us limited time to make this journey. We were surprised to find that the Ministry has a strict dress code banning shorts, uncovered arms and cleavages. My large (but embarrassingly creased) ‘decency’ shirt that accompanies me on my travels came in handy.
As we had various meetings with Preacher Johnson, who was conducting our ceremony, and the hotel wedding coordinator, Jeannette, it was difficult for us to commit to any arranged excursions. Two companies, Frank T, and Randy from Top Ranking, operate boat and birdwatching tours from the hotel jetty. In his downtime, Randy took me on a bird watching tour through the hotel grounds patiently pointing out delightful birds as I peered desperately into tangled green foliage. I also joined his group visiting Little Tobago Island where Sir David Attenborough filmed an episode of the Trials of Life. A steep climb to the top of the island led to close encounters with red-billed tropic birds and blue-footed boobies.
Although we had our hearts set on a beach ceremony, we observed that the tides reduced the hotel beach to a sliver by our planned time of 4 pm. Also, the weather forecast promised unseasonal rain and high winds for our wedding day, so we clearly needed some contingency plans. Preacher Johnson was happy to move the time forward to 2 pm in case the beach was still an option. Meanwhile, I toured the hotel and grounds with Jeannette, inspecting alternative locations: the hotel jetty with its pretty roof, the posh inside dining room where we would sign the register, and an attractive white wooden archway on the hotel lawns.
Our wedding package also included a ‘boat trip with bubbles’ immediately after the wedding. I had visions of us cruising around the bay holding wands aloft and leaving a trail of soapy bubbles in our wake. An old Tobagan custom maybe? Jeannette laughed and explained it simply meant champagne and, if bad weather prevented our trip, she’d arrange an alternative. However, the weather usually picks up around carnival time so she was feeling reasonably optimistic.
With all plans in place, we were totally at the mercy of Mother Nature. Would she be kind to us on our special day?
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Silver Travel Advisor recommends Tropical Sky Weddings & Vow Renewals.