Friday, February 29, 2008

Give your Cayman Wedding Finery the dogs! And other "novel" ideas.

This is Rani, my grand-puppy eating her first Easter Egg in 2007. Rani wandered into our yard when she was about 3 months old, tired, beaten and traumatised. Now she is a wonderful, playful dog adored by her "parents" daughter and son-in-law, her "uncles", our grand-children and of course her "Gramma" and "Papa".

We have always had dogs from our local Humane Society, sometimes as many as three at a time, and at other times we have "visitors" to our "hotel" who check in long enough to be fed, taken to the vet and sometimes even have their puppies. One of these "visitors" Rocket, stayed for 15 years and has recently gone to doggie heaven leaving a big hole in our hearts, and a broken-hearted friend, Ubu.

In recent years there are many less abandoned pets, thanks to our wonderful and efficient Humane Society and the dozens of resident volunteers who help raise money for their care and feeding, walk them, bathe them and foster them on weekends.

Many of today's brides are very environmentally conscious, and as a wedding celebrant and planner I am too. Since I am on our beaches every day I am very appreciative of the government's beach-cleanup programme, and I make sure all debris from the celebration is properly disposed of. This is one reason I like to use bubbles instead of confetti, for example.

Since many of my couples are visitors, I like to encourage them to give something back to the islands. You can donate anything you don't want to carry back home, to different island charities. My favourite charity is the Cayman Islands Humane Society which does a fantastic job caring for the islands' abandoned dogs and cats. They do this through fund-raising events, but the backbone of this charity is their Thrift Shop, and used book-store the "Book-Loft" both located on North Sound Way, in George Town. The money raised goes to feed the animals and to operate a spay and neuter programme. You can also donate money, but the easiest way is to donate clothes, shoes etc to the Thrift Shop. There is a bin out front which you can use to drop off your donations.

Finished with your vacation reading? Don't leave those novels on the plane, or in the taxi or your hotel room...drop them off in the Book Loft's bin on your way to the airport! If you have some time, come and see us at the Book Loft, you are sure to get lots of reading for your trip home...or your stay in Cayman. There is an excellent section of children's books, board games and puzzles to keep the little ones occupied.

If you come in on Tuesdays you will find me there, probably having rushed back from a wedding. Of all the things I do in my busy life, this is one of the things I enjoy most, so be sure to say hi. You will recognise me from my colourful hats!

Favourite wedding spots (1) - My Secret Cove

Tucked away from the hurly-burly of the capital city George Town is a secret cove, which has everything needed for an intimate wedding. This quiet little spot, which was actually shown to me by my cousin Patrick Groleau, was the choice of Melissa and Allen from Geary, New Brunswick, Canada for their wedding last week.

Here is Melissa being escorted by her father, Cyril.

The wedding group, Cyril, Sandy, Melissa's mum,(holding adorable ring-bearer Nolan) the happy couple, and Alda (mother of the groom).

A good time was had by all, with lots of beer and champagne, and then the group headed off to West Bay and a wedding dinner at Fisherman's Wharf. Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Allen McLaughlin and best wishes for a life-time of happiness!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Francine and Vernon Jackson - the couple behind Cayman Weddings

I have other good photos of my parents, but this one was taken at Pappagallo Restaurant six months ago. My husband and I were celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary, and we were there with our 4 children, 2 grandchildren and my parents, Vernon and Francine. A good time was had by all...

Vernon and Francine are celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary in two weeks time. As I write this they are both in London, visiting my sister, her daughter and her grand-daughter. My parents have three great-grandaughters and one great-grandson. They have three children, and eight grand-children...we have a lot of family get-togethers!

Vernon has not been well, and everybody is looking forward to them coming home. He doesn't do a lot of wedding ceremonies anymore, but he has been known to do special requests. Many years ago, Fodor's described him as "a gentle, warm-hearted man". We agree with them. He wrote all our wedding ceremonies, and we are still using them...they bring tears of joy to many brides when they hear those beautiful, heart-felt words of love and commitment.

All our ceremonies begin with the words " We are gathered here, where the sun meets the sky, the sky meets the water, and the water meets the land to mark the outward symbol of an inward union of hearts...a union created by love, commitment, respect and trust..." You might want to change the words around, but in Vernon's book these words are the foundation for a happy marriage and he and Francine have the experience to prove it.

This year marks 25 years of business for Cayman Weddings, what began as a retirement hobby for Francine and Vernon has become a Cayman Islands institution. They created the very first wedding planning and marriage officer business, and Cayman Weddings is still the company of choice for residents and visitors. It is still completely a family owned and run Caymanian business with a reputation for integrity and professionalism.

From all of us, Gampie and Gamie, especially your eight grand-children who all worked at Cayman Weddings through high-school and college, and who can all put "assistant manager" on their resumes, happy, happy anniversary...we love you very much!

Real People - Real Weddings...what they said

"Sylvester and I were students living in West Bay when we decided to get married. We literally gave Francine a one week notice and she was able to work with us! (We were headed back to the states for good and wanted a beach wedding). We probably would have done it sooner, but our names had to be posted in public for 7 days. She married us on the public beach past the 4 way stop in WB on 12-7-05. All of our friends call it the most romantic wedding they have been to. The reception was at Papagallos complete with traditional Cayman wedding cake. "

Here are a few pictures from Hayley and Sylvester's wedding. This is my mom, Francine, the doyenne of Cayman Islands' weddings. In 25 years she has performed over 2500 wedding ceremonies. Francine is the "heart" behind Cayman Weddings, everybody in Cayman knows and loves her. I have heard brides say over and over that having Francine perform their ceremony is the next best thing to having their own mother present!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Destination Cruise Weddings - Do's and Don'ts

DO pick a cruise stop where you can get married that same day while the ship is in port.

DO research what the legal requirements are for your chosen destination

DO work with a local planner or wedding celebrant who is experienced, and who can get the paperwork done quickly

DO tell your planner/celebrant if you are travelling with a group, or whether its just the two of you (and you need witnesses)

DO ask your planner/celebrant what back-up plans are in place for bad weather

DO make sure you can get a refund of your deposit if for any reason the wedding has to be cancelled

DO expect confirmation that your deposit has been received and your wedding booked

DO put someone else in charge of getting guests to and from the wedding site, you don’t need this hassle

DO ask about those special touches you REALLY want, like professional photos

DO make sure you travel with the documents you will need, passports, divorce decrees, spousal death certificates (if you forget one of these on board ship, your wedding celebrant should know what to do in an emergency like this)

DO pay attention to your ship’s departure time, the ship and the destination are not always on the same time.

DO tell all and sundry that it’s your wedding day, and expect to be treated specially both on and off the ship

DO know in advance how and when you’re getting back to the harbour.

DO stipulate what kind of ceremony you want e.g. non-denominational, contemporary, religious etc

DO make sure your Registered Marriage Certificate is part of your package, this is the legal document you will need when you get back home, proof that you are legally married.

DO arrange for chilled water, fruit juice or something to drink, especially if you’re going to be on the beach

DO give a tip or gratuity for exceptional service


DON’T believe you can walk-in and get married on the spur-of-the-moment

DON’T believe you can handle the paper-work yourself, you don’t have the time

DON’T try and do excursions, sightseeing etc. before your ceremony

DON’T try and have your hair done on board ship the day of your ceremony

DON’T allow your mother or mother-in-law to take over your wedding

DON’T get stressed out, the whole point of a destination cruise wedding is to relax and enjoy it

Want to find out all about vacationing in the Cayman Islands? - A Cayman Islands Business Directory

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This Beach Has Everything for a Cruise Wedding

White sand, a dock, shade trees, coconut palms, cabanas, a rest-room, and its always in pristine condition thanks to the government's beach cleaning programme.
Just a short taxi or bus ride to the district of West Bay, this quiet beach is a favourite for small cruise weddings. It is spectacular at sunset, as you can see from the photo above. Far from beaches that can get crowded, especially on cruise-ship days, this beach is a quiet oasis on the north-west tip of Seven Mile Beach, and right across the street from our office, which makes it a favourite of mine. It is one of our public beaches, which means there is no charge to use it. Most cruise weddings I do take place between 10am -11am, which means I get you back to George Town with lots of time to explore our capital city, and get some retail therapy!

West Bay is also home to Hell, and Boatswains Beach aka The Turtle Farm. Many people have dinner at one of the popular West Bay restaurants such as Pappagallo, or Calypso Grill. Or if you're on a cruise and want a quick lunch after your wedding, Alfresco Restaurant's patio overlooks this part of Seven Mile Beach.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Governor's Beach, Grand Cayman

Set between the Governor's Mansion and the Pinnacle Condominiums, Governor's Beach is a popular beach for weddings, and it's use is free! This is spectacular for a sunset wedding, and during the week it is not crowded at all. I don't like to use it for Saturday and Sunday weddings because it gets crowded with families having picnics, umbrellas and such...but then, some people don't mind an audience.

This beach has shade, from the casaurina and grape trees, making it a good choice for the summer months. The beach is very wide, and very clean and the location makes it an easy walk from many of the hotels and condos in the vicinity, so you can just walk down the beach to your wedding ceremony.

A few weeks ago I did a Saturday wedding here for a large group, although most of my weddings here are for smaller groups. Because they were having chairs etc set up, when I got there I realised that the sun-bathers were taking up their positions to get a good view. A couple of them called out to me and said "Hey Joy, where's your hat?" That's because I usually wear one of my 40 hats when I'm on the beach, but that particular day I had been to the hairdresser for an up-do and I wasn't wearing a hat. I went over to them to say hi, and found out I had done their wedding last year over at Rum Point!

By law in Cayman your wedding can't be behind closed doors, which is no big thing since the vast percentage of weddings I do are at outdoor locations. Sometimes couples ask for a private beach, which can be problematic since all beaches in Cayman are public below the high water mark. My solution to this is to suggest a "quiet" beach which is usually away from the touristy bits of Seven Mile Beach, on the northern end.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Valentine's Day in the Cayman Islands

The biggest day of the year for Marriage Officers is just one week away. February 14 is Valentine's Day, and it's a busy day for me with one Commitment Ceremony (25 years together), one wedding renewal ceremony, one Destination Wedding beach ceremony for a visiting couple, one cond0-beach wedding for a resident couple, and one wedding gazebo ceremony for a local couple.

The day as planned reflects our services very well, the thing they all have in common is that they have been booked weeks, if not months, in advance. This is not the day to try and have a spur-of the moment wedding!

Valentine's Day is very big in the Cayman Islands, and the florists will have hundreds of orders to fill. If you go into the offices in George Town you will see bouquets of red roses all over, as the ladies show off their tokens of love and affection. I hear that the in-thing for this Valentine's is a helicopter ride over the island, supposed to be breath-taking and affordable.

So, the champagne will be flowing...its a great day to be a marriage officer, and one thing for sure, your spouse will always be able to remember your anniversary!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Seven Mile Beach-Grand Cayman

Sometimes I wish I could capture just how spectacular Seven Mile Beach is for a wedding. Here is my Dad, Vernon Jackson OBE, JP in action.

Simplicity is the key... just you, your wedding celebrant, and the powdery white sand, and azure sea...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Why not a Cruise Wedding?

Grand Cayman is a favourite port-of-call for many cruise ships, and while visiting for the day many tourists plan a wedding or a vow renewal. Fortunately, our Marriage Law does not require a residency period. Once you land, you can be married that same day, all you need is a Special Marriage License and a marriage officer.

Your marriage officer will take care of all the details once you have supplied your passports, proof you are free to marry (divorce decrees, or spousal death certificate from a previous marriage) and your ship's landing card.

Most cruise weddings I do take place in the morning, and I have you back at the harbour by noon, giving you a few hours to enjoy George Town before you need to re-board your ship.

Many people take cruises with family and friends, who come along to witness the ceremony. This is a perfect excuse for your own private beach party, and it can be a lot of fun. When I first started doing beach weddings I noticed a lot of brides would come decked out in full bridal regalia, but these days it is more usual for cruise brides to be more casually attired.

Having a cruise wedding doesn't mean you can't have all the extras you have set your heart on, photography, bridal flowers, cake and champagne...the works. If you are being budget-conscious, I would say, if you don't have anything else, have a professional photographer. I know that most people have good digital cameras these days, but for your special day you don't want to have to worry about batteries going dead, cards being full and the disappointment that comes from not having the wedding photos you really want.

If there will only be the two of you, let us know. We will provide the two witnesses required by our Marriage Law. At the ceremony I give you a signed certified copy of your marriage certificate (suitable for framing) and later on when I have filed your wedding I send you the Registered Marriage Certificate, the legal document you need when you get back home. This is usually on it's way to you by post within 3 working days of your ceremony.

The two most frequently asked questions I get are i) will our marriage be recognised back home ii) do you have a back-up plan when it rains. The answer to both questions is YES. The Registered Marriage Certificate provided by the Cayman Islands Government is valid all over the world, and we have back-up plans for those very few days when we have inclement weather.

We use a quiet beach on the northern end of Seven Mile Beach, where you don't have to be in the middle of a hundred other cruisers. We do only one cruise wedding per day, and there is nothing of an assembly line about get my FULL attention.