When golfer Tiger Woods wanted to marry girlfriend Elin Nordegren beyond the prying eyes of paparazzi in 2004, the couple set sail on a luxury yacht bound for Barbados' impeccable Sandy Lane resort. The celebrity couple pulled out the stops for a sunset beachfront ceremony and a reception that featured spectacular fireworks and a performance by Hootie and the Blowfish on the resort's Green Monkey golf course.
For Woods and other couples, Barbados provides an alluring mix of cosmopolitan culture and low-key intimacy. The island has some of the eastern Caribbean's poshest hotels and most acclaimed restaurants, yet remains far enough off the beaten track to afford true privacy to honeymooners, notably in isolated getaway spots like the expansive, coconut-palm fringed Bottom Bay on Barbados' west coast.
Melba Wood, owner of Weddings in Barbados, recently planned a clifftop wedding ceremony overlooking Bottom Bay, followed by a champagne toast on the beach. "The color of the ocean is just incredible," says the native "Bajan." "I've had quite a few couples get married there … or you can just spend a day at the beach."
The Bajan people have a reputation for friendliness tinged with British sophistication (the former colony is nicknamed "Little England"), and both are reflected in the service at resorts like Sandy Lane, The Colony Club, the Crystal Cove, and The House, all of which provide a special welcome to honeymooners.
For example, Sandy Lane staff can fill your room with your favorite flowers; custom dinners can be arranged on the terrace of your suite or on the beach, and the hotel also offers island tours by Bentley automobile or helicopter.
Couples staying at the lush Colony Club, located in St. James parish on Barbados' west coast, favor the luxury poolside rooms, with French doors that open onto the resort's famous pool area and freshwater swimming lagoons.
With just 33 chic and sleek beachfront suites, The House is an intimate west coast hideaway that specializes in barefoot elegance; private beach dinners can be combined with a seaside horseback ride, and feature fabulous cuisine prepared by Daphne's restaurant. Sister property The Tamarind Cove Hotel is cherished for its tropical gardens, while the Crystal Cove has Barbados' most unique hangout: the swim-in, waterfall-draped Cave Bar.
Sea turtles and flying fish will be your only companions (besides the captain) on a private catamaran cruise, gliding across crystal-clear waters to a snorkeling excursion or a private beach for tanning and tropical drinks. Jeep tours offer an adventurous look at Barbados' rugged forests, while historic plantation homes like Sunsbury House provide a more sedate diversion (as well as a great backdrop for wedding or honeymoon photos).
At day's end, couples fortunate enough to secure a reservation at The Cliff restaurant dine by the light of flaming torches and flickering candles, savoring gourmet cuisine complemented by a remarkable wine list. The Cliff also hosts weddings, receptions, and private dinners; other culinary favorites include the Carambola Restaurant in St. James and Bridgetown's The Tides.
Tiger and Elin bought out the 112-room Sandy Lane for their destination wedding, but Chicago couple Fera and Andrew Smith took a different approach to their May 2005 nuptials on Barbados, renting out the private Cove Spring House for their ceremony, reception, and honeymoon.
About 50 guests stayed at the villa – one of many luxury homes available on Barbados – and enjoyed an arranged snorkeling charter, a rehearsal dinner featuring a fish fry and outdoor karaoke at The Tides, and a week of pampering by the villa's attentive staff.
"It was impeccable service, but very laid-back," says Fera, who explains: "When you go to a resort, you end up getting married in a very public space. We wanted a place where we could stay and party afterwards." In Barbados, the party is always there when you want it, but newlyweds seeking their first quiet hours together will find many islands of solitude on this Caribbean gem.