In modern bridal culture, Jamaican destinations can conjure images of pre-packaged weddings, standard beaches, and amenities found at any tropical resort. But during my recent visit to several spots on this beautiful island, I found the experience to be more authentic, more customizable, and more in touch with the culture of Jamaica than I could have anticipated. Each property mentioned here shows true colors of the best the island has to offer. If you’re considering a destination wedding in this gorgeous locale, I encourage you to take advantage of what’s already there.
Don’t plan on Jamaica for a pre-packaged “I do.” Plan on something both authentically you and Jamaica.
Half Moon, A RockResort
At the secluded Half Moon, the 1,000-person capacity feels like 50. Sprawled across 400 acres of lush tropics, with romantic coves of pristine oceanfront all along the way, Half Moon offers so many hidden spots, it’s as if you’re on an island of your own. And if you choose to stay in the neighborhood of Royal Villas along Sunset Beach with your personal cook, butler, and pool, you might as well be.
Whether you select a suite in one of the original West Cottages or opt for villa seclusion, everywhere you turn there’s a connection to the roots of the island. At Fern Tree spa, the signature massage opens with a Jamaican Cerasee foot soak (also known as a miracle hangover cure), and closes with a refreshing splash of island rum and allspice. The furnishings in your room—every single one—are handcrafted of Jamaican Mahogany in Half Moon’s woodshop. When you take your morning, oceanfront stroll over to Seagrape Terrace for the luscious breakfast buffet, the herbs in your made-to-order omelet are most likely grown in the hotel’s private garden, just as your traditional ackee and salted cod combines the best of local land and sea.
For a taste of history coupled with the ultimate romantic dining experience, reserve the best seat in the house at Sugar Mill Restaurant, where you can dine privately by candlelight alongside the functioning water wheel. Upon arrival, you’ll most likely be greeted by maître d’ Solomon Gardener, who’s been with the restaurant since 1954. Be sure to ask him to share a story or two—the resort is no stranger to celebrities, Prince Harry among them—before you get back to making incredible memories of your own.Half Moon
Half Moon P.O. Rose Hall, Montego Bay, St. James, Jamaica
Weddings at Half Moon
The options are endless at Half Moon, and with wedding sales director Tashane Castillo at the helm, your mind will be 100 percent at ease planning your big day stateside. The most popular of the 31 possible wedding spots are the Royal Pavilion, a majestic, weather-friendly venue that keeps the open air flowing through its rich architecture, and Oleander Terrace, a fabulous beachfront space. No matter where you choose, consider a rehearsal or welcome dinner at the beach barbecue accommodations on Sunrise Beach.
If your guest list includes families—or grown-ups who may want to turn their Jamaican excursion into the family vacation—Half Moon offers the one-of-a-kind Children’s Village with its own golf and baking lessons, petting zoo, and beach excursions, all supervised by Penn. State University-certified nannies. And no matter the age group, there are plenty of activities to keep everyone busy, like Half Moon’s private, guest-only Dolphin Cove, or horseback riding in the ocean.
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Round Hill Hotel & Villas
The minute you and your new husband check into Round Hill, you won’t be surprised to learn that owner Ralph Lauren had a hand in the interior design when the property underwent recent, major renovations. With a clean, white aesthetic accented with mahogany bamboo beds and subtle splashes of tropical hues, Round Hill epitomizes an upscale beachy vibe, and even the most basic rooms are ocean view and breathtaking.
To get the lay of the land of the aptly named hillside resort, take a stroll to The Spa at Round Hill, whether immediately enjoying a specialty hydrotherapy treatment or not. The pathway between the main entrance and the spa feels Amazonian with its luscious growth, and a wooden swing sits just off the trail, perfect for stealing a kiss along the way.
Though the private beachfront coves are tempting for lounging (and make fabulous ceremony spots if you have yet to exchange vows), it might be hard to tear yourself away from the double infinity edge pool, an architectural treasure created with local stone from a historic sugar mill. And with 22 villa pools and two resort pools on property, this hot spot is never too crowded to grab a cabana and take in the sunset with a Jamaican rum cocktail or two.
Cuisine at Seaside Terrace blends Jamaican produce, primarily from their private organic garden, with international flavors for a creative menu with several standouts. Plan a dinner for two at the Grill at Round Hill, where the fresh catch of the day is smoked to perfection over indigenous pimento wood, and don’t miss the farm-to-table dinner each Thursday and Sunday evening. After all the indulgence, be sure to grab a freshly juiced ginger-beet concoction for the trip home—it’s a last refreshing taste of paradise. Round Hill Hotel & Villas
John Pringle Drive, P.O. Box 64, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Weddings at Round Hill
Whether planning a ceremony of 2 or 150, Round Hill offers breathtaking venues and luxurious accommodations for your guests. The Hanover Terrace, with a capacity of 100, and the Spa Lawn, with capacity of 150, are stunning options for your events, and if you plan on a guest list of about that size, consider a buyout of the property. Imagine an oasis of rooms, villas, alfresco dining, and tropical pathways, enjoyed privately by only your guests—Round Hill lends itself to a weekend celebration that no one will forget!
Villa with a View
With multi-level mansions, breathtaking infinity pools, and sprawling plantation-style terraces for lounging, the rentals available through “Villas by Linda Smith” are the ultimate in romantic luxury. And the worry-free setup for guests only adds to the decadent nature of these properties—every single villa includes the service of a private cook and butler, with drivers available upon request.
Awake to a fresh pot of Jamaican coffee on your veranda so you can start your day with leisure—fitting for both the Jamaican lifestyle and your newlywed pace. Soak in the sun by your own pool, or venture out to a nearby sister property; villa guests enjoy club membership at Half Moon, Round Hill, or Tryall Club, so that no spa services, ocean excursions, or resort amenities are out of reach.
And while there are available villas perfectly sized for the honeymooning pair, the houses are particularly luxurious for a wedding party, large or small. With oceanfront properties available to rent side-by-side, you can claim your own stretch of sand for the big day—and keep it as long as you like. Villas by Linda Smith
Rock Stars & Royalty
A stay at Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios is anything but ordinary. Be sure to have high tea at this boutique property of just 75 rooms for the best scones this side of the Atlantic and the royal attention honeymooners deserve. Old world service (every room includes a butler) and new amenities, like Jamaica’s only champagne and caviar bar, will keep you coming back for visits—never too soon to plan an anniversary trip—again and again. www.sandals.com/main/plantation/rp-homeTensing Pen, in its exclusive cove on the West End of Negril, may be your best bet if your number one goal is privacy after the wedding. Had enough loud celebrating? Get some peace and quiet in your own cottage, and enjoy the chance to unplug—no televisions or telephones in sight. www.tensingpen.comVacation like a rock star at Rockhouse in Negril, a boutique hotel that’s more about incredible sunsets and cliffside luxury than lounging in the sand. Rockhouse Spa is a standout, as are dining spots Rockhouse Restaurant and Puschcart Restaurant & Rum Bar. www.rockhousehotel.comNo matter where you decide to stay, consider arranging Club MoBay first-class lounge membership with your travel plans, the biggest advantage being fast-track escort through customs. Dramatically cutting the time between waiting-on-plane and toes-in-sand is a major bonus in our book. www.clubmobay.com
There are plenty of activities to choose from on a Jamaican vacation, whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or not, so start with something you’re sure to enjoy: a dusk swim in Glistening Waters, one of only a handful of lagoons in the world in which a special microorganism on the surface causes the water to glow, truly glow, when disturbed. Swim in your very own pool of light with your new spouse for one of the most romantic experiences on the island.
For the more adventurous of spirit, try cliff jumping at famous Rick’s Café, take advantage of the fabulous scuba diving and snorkeling to be had off-boat with a catamaran outing, or climb up 950 feet of waterfalls at Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios.
And if none of those appeals to your romantic agenda, enjoy a leisurely bamboo raft ride for two down the Martha Brae River. The vivid vegetation along the way and gentle rush of water will ease away any last shred of worry or stress, so you can focus on each other and the new path you’ll forge together.
The Other Side of the Island
Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios are all prime destinations for the vibrant Caribbean experience. For those seeking something just a little quieter, consider a stay on the Island’s eastern coast. Portland has quickly become a posh spot for those with an eco-sensitive radar. Home to the island’s famous Blue Mountain Coffee and several of the top boutique ecotourism destinations in the world, the service on that side of the island is all about invisibility, leaving the very smallest footprint possible. Consider Kanopi House to fulfill those childhood treehouse dreams, but with the contemporary luxuries to make it far beyond comfortable. Want to bunk up in a cabana close to Beyonce’s? Head for the ports. www.kanopihouse.com