Words by Lisa Collins-Haynes
Love and excitement was in the air when 16 couples from all over the US, boarded flights heading to Nassau, Bahamas. When they arrived, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (BMOT) was waiting and was full of surprises.
These lucky couples were all winners in the year long promotion, spearheaded by the BMOT in an effort to showcase that The Bahamas is more than just Nassau and Freeport. The 16 islands featured in the contest each represent a different personality and unique Bahamian style. The social media campaign urged applicants to enter the contest and tell their love story. Family and friends voted and pushed the couples to the top of the list. Then a panel selected the best stories and 16 couples were announced as winners.
Once all the couples arrived and checked into the host hotel, British Colonial Hilton Nassau, they were shuttled off to a special welcome dinner at Sapodilla. On the menu was a delicious assortment of the restaurant’s finest gourmet cuisine. The brides and grooms-to-be were served Roasted Pumpkin Bisque, Salad Malay with cranberry topping, and a palette cleanser of mango sorbet that featured a sculptured block of ice as a serving vessel. The main course was grilled seasonal Grouper with Bok Choy and carrots and topped off with pieces of guava and marble cheesecakes. The Minister of Tourism, Honorable Obediah Wilchcombe delivered the welcome address and wished all the couples well wishes and save travels to their destination islands.
After retrieving their marriage licenses from a government office, John Bull, a luxury retail store hosted the winners to a small reception with free flowing mimosas and catered hors d’oeuvres. They were presented with his and her gift bags in pink and blue. Visit The Bahamas was also present with a huge Instagram cut-out and the couples posed for photo ops and some where interviewed by the local news.
The Reef Atlantis was the next host for a chic cocktail party for the couples and their guests. After a brief celebratory message from Ellison “Tommy” Thompson, Deputy Director General of Tourism, everyone was invited to eat, drink and be merry. The highlight of the night was when the two-year-old daughter of one of the winning couples—took over the dance floor and stole the show.
Flights to the Family Islands began buzzing out around 6:00 o’clock the following morning. Arranging travel and event planning for 16 couples, their family and various others in the entourages is no small feat, but Ministry of Tourism Communications Manger Ernestine Moxyz was at the top of her game. She was able to mobilize all parties to their assigned island and into the hands of the local BTOM representatives who were waiting to greet them on the other side.
Once they arrived to their Family Island, the resort and hotel wedding coordinators took over, scheduled hair and make-up rehearsals, as well as wedding day rehearsals. The bride and groom also received special treatments courtesy of the resort management and had the opportunity to tour their island during excursions.
As everyone positioned themselves in place on January 16, 2016 at 16:00 hours (4pm) the 16 couples, on 16 different islands all said “I Do”. The brides had the liberty to select from a variety of themes and many incorporated the Bahamian culture in their ceremonies. Steel drums played at some, while others dressed in the traditional Junkanoo headdress. Some couples had a very intimate guest list with two or three of their very special loved ones and others had a guest list of nearly 100 people.
According to the BTOM, luxurious accommodations were provided by the Stella Maris Resort Club, Hope Town Harbour Lodge, Kamalame Cay Hotel, Acklins Island Lodge, Carriearl Boutique Hotel, Resort World Bimini, Pigeon Cay Club, Tranquility On The Bay, Pineapple Fields, Valentine’s Resort, Sandals Resorts, Inagua Ocean Villas, Riding Rock, Grand Lucayan Resort, British Colonial Hilton Hotel and Atlantis Resort. Participating islands included Acklins, Abaco, Andros, Crooked Island, The Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Harbour Island, Grand Bahama, Inagua, Long Island, Nassau, Paradise Island and San Salvador. And prizes won by the couple are round trip airline transportation from the U.S. to The Bahamas, cash rewards from Mastercard®, hotel accommodations with meals for four, wedding rings from Steven Singers Jewelers, a Mon Cheri bridal dress designed by David Tutera or Sophia Tolli, tuxedo from 1888-mytuxes and a gift basket from John Bull.