Chaa Creek

Ten good reasons to tie the knot in paradise

Wedded bliss and the beauty of Belize

Last year a couple friends of mine took my advice to get married in Belize and absolutely positively loved it, as you do.

OK, I’m somewhat partial, having been married there myself, and now with other people asking, I thought I’d put down ten reasons why a Belize Wedding is my idea of nuptial nirvana.

You’re starting your marriage with something special

I mean, hey, this is a big deal, right? (If not, see my “five reasons for getting married in Las Vegas”) My friends wanted their wedding to be truly special, something that would create a very magic experience and be something to tell the grandkids about. By all accounts, Belize delivered the goods.

Destination weddings are becoming popular, and for many good reasons. Combining your wedding with a holiday that your family and friends can participate in makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider the cost and hassle of pulling off an average wedding these days.   Just a short hop from the US and Canada, English speaking and with a government and bureaucracy that you can make sense of, Belize is still the best kept secret for destination weddings.

And after 30 years of hosting romantic adventures, Chaa Creek has it all down pat.

There’s no doubt that Belize must be one of the easiest places in the world for foreigners to get married in. The application process is straightforward – the couple only needs to be in the country for three days, have a passport or birth certificate, get a justice of the peace (in residence at Chaa Creek) to witness the application, which then takes one day to process. The ceremony needs to be conducted by a senior justice of the peace, church minister, boat captain or other official (any of whom can be arranged by the Chaa Creek wedding coordinator) and there you go. Unlike Mexico and other countries there’re no blood tests or examinations, or consent forms if both parties are over 18. The license is only US$100 and the government admin fee is $5.00. The experience?  You got it – priceless…

Belize is beautiful

Call me old fashioned, but I put a high value on beauty. When I think weddings, words like lovely, beautiful, gorgeous, serene, exquisite and even stunning come to mind. To celebrate your love and life together in a pristine rainforest under clear skies  with hummingbirds, parrots, toucans and other birds competing with a riot of colourful  flowers and the most amazing butterflies you’ll ever see, well, it’s just… beautiful.  Chaa Creek enjoys a superb location on the banks of the Macal River surrounded by rolling hills leading up to the misty Maya Mountains as a backdrop. Nature lovers Mick and Lucy Fleming then sculpted their paradise around this natural beauty, slowly and organically over a period of time, and their love for the environment shows. The thatched roof buildings are exquisite, the tropical gardens emphasise nature’s, not man’s handiwork, and the entire effect is… beautiful.

A Belize wedding is unique

I was watching that Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer and it brought back memories of when an exotic wedding meant sky blue tuxedos, short bridesmaid’s dresses and a wedding cake food fight for those who really wanted to push the envelope. I didn’t want a typical church wedding, but we did want to do something romantic and wonderful. An expression of our individuality and uniqueness as a couple, something reflecting our creative, adventurous sides. We didn’t want it to be weird, just different, and that sums up Belize.

Belize is different, but not too different

After all, we wanted our family and friends to be comfortable, and didn’t want to spend our time navigating through foreign customs, languages, taboos, legal systems and the like. As an English speaking former British Colony, Belize is a relaxing combination of the familiar and the exotic.

A Belize wedding is surprisingly affordable

Let’s face it, cost is always a consideration, no matter how significant the event. Our friends found that a wedding at Chaa Creek wasn’t as nearly much as they originally thought. Since everything is done on site, accommodation, wedding hall (or alfresco garden setting) ceremony, catering, entertainment and all those details that add up, expenditure is contained and there are no hidden costs. And as Chaa Creek takes care of everything, from arranging a religious, spiritual or civil ceremony, legalities, flowers, cake, food,  you-name-it, there’s no to-and fro- travel or other parties involved. It really is cost-effective magic.

It’s easy

Like money, convenience is not something couples like to emphasise for that special day, but it is an important consideration.  You want to concentrate on the event, not the details of making it happen, and you both want to be relaxed, fresh and vivacious when you stroll down the aisle. Chaa Creek’s wedding coordinators handle every little detail in that easy-going yet efficient manner that Chaa Creek has perfected over the years, and their confidence never fails to have a relaxing effect. You’re so well looked after that all you need to look after is each other, and that makes for a happy day.

It’s romantic and adventurous I don’t know if Chaa Creek coined the term Adventure Romance, but they definitely have the concept down. My own wedding years ago combined a sail and diving trip along the Belize Barrier Reef and a stay at Chaa Creek back when transport and logistics weren’t nearly as easy, and we still love thinking and talking about it.

Our friends did one of Chaa Creek’s all-inclusive wedding vacation packages, and without breaking into a sweat managed  swimming in the Caribbean, pools and jungle river, snorkelling, explored a sacred Maya cave full of ancient artefacts, visited Maya temples and the ancient city of Caracol up on Mountain Pine Ridge, meandered along miles of rainforest trails on horseback, did a guided nature walk and learned about Maya medicinal plants, had a couple’s massage at the hilltop spa and celebrated the day after their wedding with a canoe trip with friends down the lazy Macal river to San Ignacio town for drinks and dancing.

When they returned home, their tans said adventure, and their smiles said romance, so whatever Chaa Creek does, it obviously works.

That special Maya thing…

Katie said that an unexpected boon to their Belize wedding was learning about the Maya and becoming immersed in the culture. Because it’s off the beaten track and has a low population density, Belize’s many Maya temples and archaeology sites are more laid back and intimate than the more heavily trafficked and commercialised Maya sites elsewhere in the region. The ancient Maya were one of the most advanced, colourful and fascinating civilisations the world has seen, and their legacy is to be found all over Belize. It adds to the experience in an interesting and unexpectedly delightful way.

Katie also said that, had she known what they do now, the couple may have opted for one of Chaa Creek’s Maya wedding vacation packages, which give couples that opportunity to hold their weddings in ancient Maya ceremonial centres such as Cahal Pech or Xunantunich. “Then again, everything was so absolutely perfect, I don’t think we’d change a thing,” she smiled.

A Belizean wedding takes place in Belize

One of the best things about a Belizean wedding is that it takes place in Belize. While celebrities have been making Belizean weddings and honeymoons a bit more popular lately, Belize is still off the beaten track and spared from the Tourism Inc. feel that other Caribbean destinations suffer from. I’ve aways loved Belize as a lovely offbeat little paradise with its own unique vibe.  Settled by the Maya thousands of years before the birth of Christ, Belize was the original home of the Pirates of the Caribbean, the huge Belize Barrier Reef giving shelter to Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Jean Lafitte and other notorious rogues before British colonisation and eventual independence in 1981.

Talk about a romantic history… It’s a friendly, laid back little country that manages to pack gorgeous beaches and islands, the Maya Mountains, pristine rainforests, an amazing network of caves and rivers and amazingly varied geography into an area the size of Massachusetts. English is the official language, the money is pegged two to one to the US dollar, which is gladly accepted everywhere, so getting around is easy. Our friends already booked their one year anniversary back to Chaa Creek – it’s the kind of place that grows on you.

Belize has the perfect climate for romance

There’s something about sunshine, warmth and fresh air that goes beyond mere comfort – it affects everything with a sort of intoxicating effect that lifts spirits, encourages smiles, promotes cheerfulness and creates an overall good vibe. It’s one of the reasons why Belizeans are so darn friendly and it definitely rubs off on visitors. Because the weather’s generally so lovely you get out more and do things, even if just strolling around the gardens, and tensions just seem to melt away in the sunshine. After the first day you notice the happy couple and entire wedding party begin loosening those top buttons, kicking off shoes and smiling more. You begin to amble rather than walk, and every refreshing dip in the pool leaves you looser and more limber.  And from what I’ve seen, a healthy new tan goes very well with white wedding attire. With an average yearly temperature of 80F and not a lot of fluctuation from season to season, it’s warm without being hot, and the Caribbean breezes combine with the huge swaths of rainforest keep things cool and fresh. If the Garden of Eden had climate control, it would be set to Belize.

There’re many more reasons to have your wedding in Belize, and these are just the first ones that come to mind. With all the hoopla about the end of the Maya Long count and 2012, I think a wedding in the heartland of the Maya would be a once-in-a-lifetime  incredible experience. Imagine the photos… exchanging vows in front of an exquisite Maya temple in 2012. It almost makes me want to get married again…

And that’s not such a bad idea, really. Honeymoons, second honeymoons, anniversaries, reaffirming vows – they’ll all take on an extra excitement and colour in the heartland of the May during 2012. Maybe I’ll need to start thinking more romantically while I’m planning my 2012 winter solstice trip next year…

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