A guide to weddings and getting married on Tobago by Rachel Harries, editor of Wedding Ideas
Want to escape the stress of a big, white wedding? Like the idea of getting married on a near-deserted beach as the sun sets over the Caribbean Sea? Happy to have a relaxed but really romantic and wonderfully meaningful ceremony which will give you beautiful memories, for life? Hate the thought of a conveyor-belt wedding, the likes of which you've heard about?
- If you answered yes to any (or indeed all) of the above, Tobago's the island for you. The benefits of choosing this charming island for your nuptials would fill a guest book...
- Your choice of wedding location
- Your choice of ceremony time
- 100s of stunning photographic opportunities
- An excellent team of wedding professionals at your disposal
- Friendly suppliers more interested in giving you a good wedding than ripping you off
- Diverse enough to give you a hen/stag experience, wedding and honeymoon in one
- Something for every age, religion, marital history, group size, and most importantly, budget
It is possible to get married on Tobago on a tight budget. The beauty of the island is that commercialism hasn't yet ruined the quaint way of life, the local charm or the menu – people generally don't come to Tobago for burgers and fries, poolside service and cocktails. Sure, you can get that at some of the larger hotels, but you'll have to pay for it.
10 things you need to know about getting married in Tobago
- You should carry your dress as special hand luggage. If you're lucky you'll be upgraded and it can be hung in the 'wardrobe' but even if you aren't upgraded, you should ask the flight attendants who should be happy to help
- Hang your dress up as soon as you arrive at your accommodation. Most creases will drop out of your dress in the climate and with a gentle, warm iron on the morning of your wedding
- Don't forget sun protection cream on your wedding day. It's so important not to get frazzled for the sake of ten minutes before you step outside
- …nor should you forget insect repellent. All over – to the tops of your legs, all around your tummy and concentrating on your ankles and feet
- You can expect a certain amount of local interest in your wedding, just like everywhere else in the world, Tobagonians love a wedding, and so will your fellow hotel guests. Everyone will be wishing you well, so there's no problem. Relax!
- While you might not be especially religious yourself, you should respect the fact that Tobago is a fairly religious island. If you choose to marry somewhere, you will have to accept their way of doing things
- You can get most wedding paraphernalia in Tobago, but it's worth thinking about taking flowers with you if you want something traditionally British. If you're a large group, you could also consider asking each guest to take a bottle of champagne with them. There does seem to be a better choice, at a better price, in British supermarkets. Wedding clothes and good quality jewellery are difficult to find, too. Decent photographers and videographers do exist but beware of cowboys - best take the advice of www.tobagoweddings.com on that one (email now). Our thanks to Tobago Weddings for the photos used to illustrate this page.
- Bear in mind that the pace of life is significantly more relaxed (read: slow) in Tobago. There's no point in being Bridezilla and expecting things to happen at the snap of your fingers. People might be a little bit late, things won't kick off at the exact minute you expect them to and you won't always get an instant response to your queries. Chill!
- Think about the heat when you shop for your wedding outfits. The men should wear cotton (even cotton vests under their shirts) and your dress should be suitable – not too heavy, and sleeveless or strapless is best
- The best time to get married is late afternoon. It will be getting cooler, you'll have the beautiful sun set to witness (what could be more romantic?) and you can go straight into your wedding breakfast – there will be none of the time taken for all the photos as there is at British weddings
The best places to get married: Tobago's hotspots
- Coco Reef: Probably the most popular hotel for weddings. Can cater for large numbers and accommodate most requests. Also one of the only luxury hotels on the island, so it's not cheap. Entertainment is easy to organise and nothing's a problem – there's even a hair salon on site
- Castara: The beach is a real favourite with tourists and the village is very traditionally Tobagonian. Some of the best sunsets can be seen at Castara, or from the roads that wind down into it, along the Caribbean coast
- Englishman's Bay: Often deserted, a picture-perfect location – long sandy beach, framed by trees and lapped by the warm Caribbean waters
- Pigeon Point: With its white-sand beach, Pigeon Point is naturally a popular choice for weddings, but given its popularity with bathers, don't expect total privacy. For raw, natural beauty look elsewhere
- Le Grand Courlan: One of the top hotels with all its attendant facilities. No children allowed
- Magdalena Grand Beach Resort: The largest hotel on the island. Good conference facilities. Good for indoor weddings. Beach not so pretty – it's on the Atlantic side of the island
- The Seahorse Inn/Stonehaven Bay: Great food, a good wine list and a very romantic location, set right on the beach. Has a courtyard which is perfect for your ceremony
- The Speyside Inn: If you want rural, this is it. The real Caribbean, far from the madding crowd
- Private villa locations: Check out your accommodation options for a suitable spot
Where to stay on Tobago
This will depend on your budget and your group size. For accommodation options, see our accommodation listings.
Most of the hotels will organise your wedding for you. However, to ensure that your arrangements are given the personal attention they surely deserve, we particularly recommend the service of Tobago's most established (and only truly professional wedding planner), Christine Brent of www.tobagoweddings.com (email now).
If you are staying in Castara and fancy a really local experience, you could consider the services of a well-known local character, Porridge (email now). A good run-down on his services can be seen at www.castararetreats.com/weddings.htm.
Things you need to consider when deciding where to stay: Children (perhaps better off in a villa on the Caribbean side of the island?), activities (golf, diving, nightlife). Villas vs hotels – which is best for you…
Brilliant ideas for honeymoons and romantic must-dos
- Cocomotion. A super-swish speedboat that will take to you secluded coves and the best snorkelling spots. www.cocomotion.net
- Chartered yacht from Island Girl. See the sailing section for more information
- Rainforest tour: See some of the world's most beautiful and fascinating wildlife close up, with an expert to guide you
- Sunset on the Caribbean Coast
- Arnos Vale Hotel – great for afternoon tea, and bird watching/feeding
- Snorkelling together – Speyside, off Store Bay, Arnos Vale, at Castara or Englishman's Bay
- Turtle watching. Contact Yes Tourism for more information
- Lunch at the Blue Waters Inn. If you take a trip out in a boat from this area, you may spot turtles, manta rays and even dolphins. Nothing could be more romantic!
- Book a spa treatment or massage at the Red Door salon off Pigeon Point Road, Coco Reef, Le Grand Courlan or the Kariwak
The Legal Stuff
To avoid disappointment it is important to observe and note the following documentary and legal requirements:
Residency: Both parties must be resident in Tobago (and/or Trinidad) for a minimum of 3 days before the wedding ceremony. It is important to note that the day of your arrival does not count in the three-day period. The Special Marriage Licence can be applied for from the fourth day and is valid for six months. Some countries require that their intention to marry is registered in their home country and others require an apostille to the marriage certificates.
Identification: Both parties must produce proof of ID in the form of passports and proof of entry. Visitors with e-tickets should ensure they have a printed copy of their ticket.
Divorced/Widowed: Divorcees must produce the Decree Absolute with court stamp. Widows and widowers must produce the Death Certificate of the former spouse.
Age Restrictions: Anyone under 18 years of age must produce a Statutory Declaration, signed and stamped by a solicitor, proving parental consent.
Ceremonies: Wedding ceremonies can be conducted almost anywhere, subject to agreement with the priest or minister. Ceremonies can only take place after 6am and before 6pm. It should be noted that civil weddings can only be conducted at the Registrar's Office in Scarborough.
Marriage Licence: Available from the following offices on production of all necessary documentation. The Special Licence is TT$300, from the Warden's Office and the Marriage Certificates (two) are TT$37.50 from the Registrar General's Office. Please note that it can take around a week from application to get them. When applying for a wedding licence, you will be required to make an affidavit or statutory declaration declaring that you are single and free to marry.
Registrar General's Office
Wedding Photography on Tobago:
Anyone planning a wedding on Tobago will undoubtedly want photographs and/or a video of the happy event. Your hotel should arrange this for you.
Useful Links for Tobago Weddings
- www.bystorm.co.uk – for a great range of tropical wedding dresses
- www.weddingsabroad.com – for part or complete wedding package organisation
- www.tobagoweddings.com – for the only true wedding co-ordinator on the island (email now)
- www.yes-tourism.com – for help with car hire, accommodation and excursions (email now)
- www.thesilvernutmeg.com – for bridal flip flops and other fab bits
- www.diamon-t.com – for Just Married bikinis and other accessories
- www.accessorize.co.uk – for sarongs, jewellery and groovy sun hats
- www.confetti.co.uk – for advice, including discussion boards and online wedding shopping
- www.weddingservices4u.co.uk – bits and bobs galore and lots of wedding links
- www.ukpa.gov.uk – the passport agency for all your name change queries
- www.fco.gov.uk – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for all the official stuff
- www.weddingideasmagazine.co.uk – the editor got married in Tobago!