following information includes extensive, very detailed information on getting married in Belize and Ambergris Caye. It is written by Colette Kase and Maya Papovic of Conch Creative, a fabulous photography team here on Ambergris Caye. The photographs accompanying the text are by Conch Creative.
As wedding photographers on Ambergris Caye in Belize, we are often asked the same questions over and over again by couples planning to have their dream of a lifetime, destination wedding here. As photographers, we get the chance to see what goes on behind the scenes. Below are some of the more frequent questions and our answers.
I’ve never been to Belize. What is the best way to plan a wedding there?
Well firstly, you’ll need to choose a location. You’ll find that most resorts offer wedding packages. Those that do will be able to help you with every detail from selecting flowers, to organising your reception. Ambergris Caye is a location dedicated to service, so you’ll find that each resort will be extremely helpful to ensure that your wedding experience is fabulous. Your challenge will be in selecting exactly where you want to get married.
For a small island, Ambergris Caye has an amazing choice of locations. There is the cute but relatively busy quaint heart of San Pedro Town, which has a choice of older and characterful beautiful hotels on the beach as well as high end luxury resorts. These are great choices for couples who are very social and want to get to know the locals and spend time in town, trying lots of different local food and enjoying the colour of the culture.
South of town are a number of quite gorgeous and well established resorts. These are close enough to get to town easily, while far enough out for the beaches to be quiet, peaceful and very romantic. Many people who live and work on Ambergris Caye live in this area, so it is a great place to meet locals and explore. South of San Pedro Town is ideal for couples who want to be close enough to town to visit regularly and enjoy the nightlife but far enough out of town to be able to completely relax.
North of the ‘cut’ (the cut being a narrow channel of water which splits Ambergris Caye with a toll bridge crossing), you’ll find a wide range of fabulous resorts along a stunning tropical coastline. It is much more isolated north of the cut and getting back and forth to town can be a little bit more challenging. You can walk for miles along the coast, often without meeting people. There are some excellent bars and restaurants along the way. For couples who want a real tropical getaway experience and are not really interested in town, but just want to decompress and enjoy the view, north of the cut might be perfect.
If this is all too confusing for you, you can seek help on local message boards, where friendly (and sometimes eccentric) locals will give you their opinion and some insight, or you could consider finding a local wedding planner, who works with many properties and can help you customise your wedding to suit your unique needs. Wedding planners on Ambergris Caye are incredibly helpful and are perfect for those who want to do something unusual or, who want to be able to hand over the less exciting parts of organising a wedding to a professional. There are a number of wedding planners who work on Ambergris Caye. Contact them and find out who you warm to as you will want to have an excellent relationship with them as you are trusting them with the most important day of your lives.
Of course there are also private villas, which all have a wide variety of characters and amenities. While management companies and owners of private villas may be more than willing to assist you with your wedding plans, they may not be able to give you the sort of support and service that resorts and wedding planners can offer.
Do I have to organise everything in advance or can I arrive and find the flowers and cake that I like when I get there?
While Ambergris Caye has great shops and services, important events like weddings definitely need to have the details planned in advance. If you leave it to the last moment, you will have a very limited choice, unnecessary stress and you may be disappointed as on an island, not everything is available all the time. ‘Winging’ it is not recommended for the best wedding experience on Ambergris Caye. Work with your resort or wedding planner and they will make sure that everything is perfect for you.
So, I’m dreaming of a sunset wedding overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Is this a popular choice?
Ambergris Caye faces to the east along its Caribbean coast. So, we get gorgeous sunrises over the sea. The sun sets to the west of Ambergris Caye over the lagoon. So while it isn’t possible to have a sunset wedding on the beach on Ambergris Caye, some couples opt to marry on a catamaran, for the sunset experience, on a private sandbar on the west side of the island, or on a private island or property facing west. A wedding planner can help you with these alternative venues.
• What do I need to think about when deciding what to wear to my wedding on Ambergris Caye?
First of all remember that it is usually hot. You are getting married on a beach in tropical sunshine, so make sure you are comfortable. Layers of artificial fabrics can become very sticky, heavy and sweaty. Make sure you can walk, sit and (hopefully breathe) comfortably in your dress. For men, we also advise that comfort is important. It isn’t recommended to wear a t shirt or vest underneath the groom’s shirt as this almost always shows in photographs and just doesn’t look great.
Colour always ads a great deal to wedding photographs and generally looks fantastic. Belts, ties, hair pieces, hats and shoes can all make any wedding look spectacular if careful care is taken in their selection. While Belize is a barefoot wedding destination, many brides love to bring a pair of high heels with them for photographs and fun. So be creative with your accessories. Your wedding will be more personal and memorable if you are.
A couple of pointers from our own experiences include: Make sure you avoid sunburn. Sunburn will show in your photos, even if they are edited. Tan lines do not look great with a wedding gown and a groom with a red nose and raccoon eyes may not think he looks so cute in his wedding photos. Apply sunscreen liberally! Also, make sure your rings fit before the ceremony. Often the heat and humidity can cause mild swelling. So to avoid embarrassment during the ceremony, a little hand lotion may smooth the way.
How about hair and makeup?
Beach weddings can be a bit breezy at times. Hair can be a real challenge. If you have long hair and you are concerned about the wind (please keep in mind that photos of you with hair flying across your face may not be the sort of wedding images you were hoping for) you may wish to consider an up do. Local hair dressers and make-up artists have a great deal of experience dealing with our weather. They will be able to advise you on the best style. Try to avoid heavy make up as in the heat, it is likely to run and can be unflattering. We’ve seen many brides bring along someone to do their hair, spending hours before the ceremony curling and creating a gorgeous hairstyle, only to watch it fall after 10 minutes in the sea breeze and humidity. Hair pieces look wonderful and while some brides are moving away from using a veil as it is too traditional, sometimes they can be incredibly fun. Keep it simple ladies, you won’t regret it.
Make sure you meet your hair dresser and make-up artist before the ceremony and that you are absolutely happy with the style that has been agreed upon. Having to have your hair re done minutes before the ceremony is not the best way to enjoy a tropical wedding.
What sort of decor looks good in wedding photos?
Again, we stress the use of colour. It really does make wedding photos pop. If you have chairs with white covers, make sure to use a sash of colour on them. They look so much better that way. Flowers, petals, table arrangements and cute props always add to the images. This is a once in a lifetime experience, so we think you should make it memorable. None of this needs to be expensive. It is more about imagination. If you’re stuck for ideas, do some research on the internet and you’re bound to find some great inspiration.
Something that is also very important to consider if you are planning to have a reception after the ceremony is lighting. Because it gets dark very quickly after the sun goes down on Ambergris Caye, keep in mind that your cocktail party might be held in the dark. Good lighting can make a huge difference to both the ambience of the party as well as your photographs. Talk to your resort about lighting as some will have specialist lighting available for events and even think about bringing some of your own. Battery operated candles and lanterns can make any event truly shine and sparkle.
What is the best time and spot for weddings?
Most weddings on Ambergris Caye are held in the late afternoon for a very good reason. Remember that we said it is hot – well it is. Not only that but until about 3:30pm the sun is high in the sky and extremely unflattering for photography. Mid day weddings are not recommended. The best time for photography on the beach on Ambergris Caye is close to sunrise or sunset. Please also remember that the sun goes down very early here and once it does it gets dark quickly so do leave enough time for your own personal photography after the ceremony.
Most resorts will have favourite locations on their beach for ceremonies, so do discuss this with them. Remember though, that beaches in Belize are public and so it is possible to arrange a wedding anywhere along the beach. If you want something different, just ask. You’d be amazed at how flexible and helpful everyone will be.
When choosing your location, think about what is in the background for photographs. Make sure that the resort will rake and clean the beach for you thoroughly before the ceremony. If you can find a shady spot, that is wonderful as it is more comfortable for everyone. We recommend going to the location at the time of your planned ceremony and stand facing as you would do during the ceremony. If you feel like you will be uncomfortable or will need sunglasses, it may not be the right time or location for you. If you are thinking of a ceremony on a dock or any confined area, discuss this with your photographer as they’ll need room to manoeuvre.
Why should I find a local photographer in Belize?
Belize is an absolutely stunning country and so it attracts and inspires some amazing photographers. Because of this you’ll find that the quality of the professional photography services in Belize is truly world class. You will benefit from their intimate knowledge of location, natural lighting and scenery. This is very important with regards to the quality of your images as many photographers not familiar with the tropical sunshine find it extremely challenging to produce beautiful, flattering and consistently excellent images. Using a local photographer in Belize also means that you don’t have to apply for the special permits that are required to bring in a photographer from abroad.
How do I choose a good photographer on Ambergris Caye?
The first thing to do is to look at their portfolio. Make sure that they have extensive experience before you do anything else. You can also check them out on social media sites such as Facebook. Once you find a photographer whose style you like, contact them. There are really only two important things when choosing your wedding photographer: 1. That you love their work and their style of photography. 2. That you get on with them well and feel you’ll be able to relax with them.
You might be saying ‘but we can’t afford the photographer we really like’. Please remember that these photos are going to be a record of one of your most important life experiences. You won’t really be saving money on your wedding photography if you put those images away in a drawer instead of displaying them proudly. Your photographer should be flexible and willing to customise packages to suit your budget. Twenty fantastic images are much preferable to 100 average ones.
Not all photographers have the same policies, so decide on what you require from your photographer and make sure that their policies suit your needs. But above all, we can’t stress enough – make sure you love their work as you can’t go back and undo your photographs once they are done.
Finally, ask about flexibility on the day of your wedding. Your photographer will not be booking more than one wedding on your day if they are able to offer a flexible service. Sometimes things change, which you should know is normal for Belize. If something changes, your wedding photographer should be available. So, make sure that your special day is just as special to your wedding photographer.
What about videography?
There are excellent videography services on Ambergris Caye. Again, make sure you check them out thoroughly and see their work. Make sure you really like it. Also, decide what your priority is in terms of photography and videography and what is more important to you. Discuss this with your videographer and photographer. The last thing you want is your wedding photographs to include a video camera and tripod in every shot – or alternatively your video to mostly show the back of the photographer’s head. It is essential that the videographer and photographer work well together, communicate and cooperate.
And what about food and music? What is available locally?
The great news is that there are many wonderful restaurants, chefs and caterers on Ambergris Caye and they can cater to almost all tastes. If your resort has their own restaurant, rest assured that it is probably excellent. Of course, there is the added benefit of the amazing fresh sea food available here. When deciding on a caterer, be completely up-front about everything you expect so that there are no surprises on the day or tricky last minute changes. Ambergris Caye is an island and Belize is a young and developing country. Not everything is available on short notice here and availabilities change from time to time. Your caterer will be best placed to advise you on the freshest and most seasonal menu items to include. Don’t be afraid to ask if you want something different or unusual.
There are a number of very talented local musicians and DJs to meet a wide variety of tastes on Ambergris Caye. Whether you want jazz, Caribbean, steel drums or party music, you won’t have a hard time finding great musicians with excellent reputations for your event. Do think about where you plan to have them situated if they will be playing directly before and after the ceremony. Consider whether you want them in your images and what sort of equipment will be showing in the photos if they are included. A single guitarist or saxophonist may well add a romantic touch to your wedding photos, but a pile of amplifiers and wires may not.
Aside from the beach, what other options are there for wedding locations on Ambergris Caye?
The fantastic thing about coming to Belize for a destination wedding is the choices. Some alternatives to consider for your ceremony include a wedding upon a boat. We have some beautiful old sail boats, which can accommodate a couple or small group for an intimate event or large catamarans, which can cater for a good sized group. Some couples opt to be taken somewhere completely private, such as a secluded beach, a sandbar or a private island.
There are Maya ruins on Ambergris Caye but they do not have the impressively tall structures and temples that you find at the more established and famous sites on the mainland. Maya ruins weddings are becoming more popular and are easily accessible from Ambergris Caye. You can combine a tour of the ancient Maya ruins with your wedding ceremony and have an experience you’ll never forget, not to mention the advantage of having amazingly unique wedding photos.
Do we need to have a plan B in case of bad weather?
Of course, it seems sensible to have a back-up plan. Many resorts have nice indoor or covered areas in case of bad weather, but try not to panic. Tropical rains are normally intermittent, and we haven’t yet seen a wedding ourselves that had to be moved or cancelled due to bad weather. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen though.
Make sure to ask your resort or wedding planner how they would deal with a really bad weather event. You need to feel entirely comfortable that should you need to change the time of your event, or even the date, that you know you can be accommodated. If you are having a lavish event, with many guests, you may wish to consider wedding insurance. Of course, if you are a bit more relaxed, you might find that a wedding in a tropical rain storm is the most romantic experience ever.
And finally, on that note, Belize is definitely suited to the more relaxed and laid back traveller. Be conscious that time keeping can be somewhat chilled out and that not everyone in Belize checks their email daily. Belize helps people to unwind and if you go with the flow, you’ll have a brilliant experience. Of course, this is exactly what makes Belize such a favourite destination wedding location. ‘No shirt, no shoes, no problem’ is the motto for Ambergris Caye. Why not enjoy a wedding instead of stressing about it? Get married in Belize!
Photograph above by Kay Scott. Click here to see more of her work.