Puerto Rico is the Caribbean’s hottest spot for five-star weddings

By Peter Martin 13265 0

Memorable moments go hand in hand with unforgettable locations and if that special occasion is a wedding, then it is no surprise that so many love birds choose Puerto Rico to celebrate their union.

What could be more romantic than to wed the love of your life on a sexy tropical beach as the sun is setting and the sky is ablaze with color or to say “I do” on a breathtaking marble terrace overlooking the blue hues of the ocean while the waves rhythmically lap the sand and scores of small votive candles flicker in the twilight.

The appeal of such magical weddings boosts the island’s popularity as the most perfect wedding destination. Besides, Puerto Rico is sunny and easily accessible by air from the mainland, making it ideal for a long weekend celebration. Plus, there are plenty of things to do — from sightseeing and sports to luxuriating on the beach — so your honeymoon can be as active or as languorous as you like.

There are all kinds of weddings but if you are dreaming of a luxurious event, then a very special setting is in order. Puerto Rico doesn’t disappoint when it comes to world-class venues that can deliver a stunning backdrop for a chic, five-star wedding, followed by a resplendent reception and dinner. 

Among the more lavish locations, standouts include the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel, the Condado Vanderbilt, Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve; and the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort; each offer what it takes for a truly unforgettable luxurious wedding and a totally romantic honeymoon.

But what exactly is a luxurious wedding?

“The word ‘luxury’ can be defined in many ways, but many believe luxury is a ‘feeling’ that couples feel, and not a tangible object that can be defined. It is the way they feel when they set foot on property, the reaction from their guests, the services they receive, and the dramatic scenic backdrops of their ceremony. 

Poised flawlessly between city and shore, the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel has the quality of a movie set so a luxe wedding here will definitely make you and hubby feel like the stars of your very own love story. With its grand entrance, dramatic lobby showcasing one of the largest chandeliers in the world, and a verdant tropical garden canopied by a towering Banyan tree, this 388-guest room resort lives up to its fabled reputation as an iconic landmark. And having undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation taking on the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts brand, it has the updated and refreshed look of a chic socialite.

The Fairmont El San Juan hosts between 60 and 70 weddings yearly and about 40 percent of those weddings involve couples from outside Puerto Rico. Favorite spots for the wedding ceremony are the Banyan Tree, Aquarelle Restaurant, the Gold Ballroom and the International Ballroom. In most cases, the ceremony is followed by a reception and dinner in one of various indoor and outdoor venues, depending on the needs of the client.

The Fairmont El San Juan, with its long history and luxurious style, is definitely a good choice for a luxe celebration and, after the nuptials is over, for a very cozy honeymoon. This resort, after all, has it all so newlyweds don’t need to come out of their cocoon. There is the beach, the pool, a tri-level Well & Being fitness center that offers Pilates, vertical wall yoga, TRX, Cross Fit and group cycle. There is the legendary Chandelier bar, restaurants, a nightclub and several stores selling clothing, souvenirs, sweets and shoes. No getting bored here. 

Couples who want a wedding in the city look to the Condado Vanderbilt, one of San Juan’s most famous icons, as the perfect venue for a classy event.

Opened in 1919, the Vanderbilt was designed by the same architectural firm that designed New York city’s Grand Central Terminal. It was Puerto Rico’s first luxury hotel and the first to have a casino when gaming was legalized in 1940.

Although it has experienced changes through the years, this historic hotel never lost that grand style one sees reflected in its imposing facade and the majestic double staircase in the lobby that leads to the first-floor ballroom. The hotel is commodious, with elegantly appointed public rooms and spectacular ocean views.

Weddings at the Vanderbilt are a year-round affair but the busiest months are April, May, November and December. The hotel can accommodate groups of between 25 and 500 people.

Luxurious weddings at the Vanderbilt are characterized by impeccable service. As examples of excellence are the synchronized dinners that Michelin starred Executive Chef Juan Jose Cuevas creates for wedding parties and the support given to couples by professionals who guide them every step of the way. The historic setting also contributes to the sense of luxury.

Off island couples usually arrive at the Vanderbilt two days before the wedding and stay two extra nights. On their wedding night, newlyweds receive a champagne bottle and chocolate covered-strawberries, compliments of the hotel. The honeymoon is a time to unwind and enjoy deluxe pampering. Like personalized facials and massages using plant oils and organic botanicals at the hotel’s exclusive The Spa. You can be totally at ease: Thanks to the hotel’s concierge service, a butler will take care of all those little details, like making reservations for restaurants and for entertainment activities. 

Over in Dorado, it is easy to feel in the lap of luxury at the Dorado Beach or the St. Regis, two resorts that seem a world away from San Juan although they are but 30 minutes away from the capital city. Both combine the comfort of high end living with the soul -enriching experience of being in a natural setting of incomparable beauty.

Dorado Beach is based on a property once owned by famed aviator Clara Livingston and later developed as a resort by Laurence Rockefeller. Everywhere you turn, you are in the midst of a wildly lush world of green palms and plants (there are more than 300,000 varieties planted) with the sea as your north.

All 114 rooms, completely refurbished recently as part of an extensive hotel restoration, are beachfront so the ocean is forever in your sight. Water is the prevailing, sensual theme: all the rooms have soaking tubs and outdoor showers shaded by the surrounding foliage; some have spacious balconies while others have private plunge pools. 

May and June are the busiest months for weddings at the Dorado Beach. Most couples prefer a ceremony on the Surf Lawn, overlooking the ocean, and a sunset cocktail hour outdoors. Wedding parties average 100 people. 

The “I dos” and partying over, it’s time for the couple to savor their private time together. A honeymoon at Dorado Beach is nothing but idyllic. Wedding couples usually stay three to seven nights, precious time they can spend luxuriating in the sun and indulging the senses at the Spa Botanico, a truly special place built around a 90-year-old tree. Here you can get a tree house massage, facials and body scrubs with poultices from indigenous ingredients. For the romantics at heart, there are couple’s pavilions where they can steam and bathe in cloistered gardens.

And there’s plenty more to do like water sports, tennis, 11 miles of nature trails, all of which will build an appetite that couples can assuage at four different restaurant experiences, including a Culinary Center that hosts wine dinners and cooking classes showcasing seasonal ingredients and international cuisines. 

St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is described as a standard bearer for luxury in Puerto Rico and now the resort is more splendid than ever thanks to a recent $60 million renovation that has given its 139 rooms and public spaces a refined, new aesthetic. 

Nestled along a curved, tranquil bay, the elegant St. Regis is beautifully integrated within its lush, tropical environment showcasing more than 110,000 native and naturalized plants.

The heart of the resort is the magnificent Casa Grande (Plantation House), check-in area and the setting for Paros, the fine-dining restaurant, and the St. Regis Bar. For more casual eating there is a poolside restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.

A luxurious wedding at the St. Regis is all about the attention to detail, the anticipation of guests’ needs, and the personalization of every detail on the venue and offerings.

The resort welcomes intimate or large weddings of up to 250 guests; the months of April, May, June and July are busiest. 

A honeymoon at St. Regis is to experience living in your own private paradise, one with all the comforts and amenities that luxury can provide. For couples, it is a time to relax, sunbathe, do water sports and enjoy the splendor of one of the most beautiful spots in Puerto Rico.