The Central American nation of Belize boasts sun-drenched beaches, offshore atolls, the longest barrier reef in the Western hemisphere and a prime minister who's leaving all that to get married in Savannah.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow plans to wed his longtime girlfriend, Kim Simplis, on Feb. 7 at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul the Apostle.
The couple opted for Savannah nuptials for two reasons, Simplis said. First, her mom lives here. Second, nearly everybody else they know doesn't.
"We really wanted a private wedding away from all the fuss," she said. "We selected Savannah."
The bride will wear a Monique Lhuillier floor-length wedding gown. The groom's attire was undecided as of Tuesday.
"I think he's looking more at Armani or something like that," Simplis said.
The Anglican bishop of Belize, the Right Rev. Philip Wright, will officiate. The couple's 3-year-old daughter, Salima, will be one of the flower girls.
It won't be the little girl's first trip to the Hostess City. Salima was born in Savannah, Simplis said, because of complications during the pregnancy.
"Dean wanted us to name her Savannah," Simplis said.
After the service, about 110 guests are invited to a reception at the Marshall House.
The marriage is Simplis' first, but the groom has a more complicated family history. He has three grown children from a previous marriage to Lois Young.
Another grown child, a rapper known as Shyne, is the former protege of rap impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs and is serving a prison sentence for a 1999 shooting that occurred while he was with Combs and entertainer Jennifer Lopez at a Manhattan nightclub.
Belize, often called a Caribbean paradise bordering on Mexico and Guatemela, is about the size of Massachusetts, with a population of 300,000 - similar to that of the Savannah metropolitan area. English is the official language, although spoken Spanish is more common.
Barrow, 56, was elected prime minister in February, the first black to hold the position in the ethnically diverse British Commonwealth nation.
He's an attorney with a master's degree in international relations from the University of Miami. Simplis, 36, a former executive director for the Belize tourism industry, is the founder and CEO of the Lifeline Foundation, a children's charity. She is already regarded as Belize's first lady.
Simplis' mother, Juva Fernandez, came to Savannah with the family of film producer and ice cream shop owner Stratton Leopold, working as a caretaker for his elderly mother. After Leopold's mother died, Fernandez remained in Savannah, where three of her seven children have also relocated.
Fernandez said the family was originally planning for a small wedding, with about 50 guests.
"We just wanted something simple, that's why they decided to come to Savannah," she said. "Now it's blowing up. I just want for everybody to have fun and enjoy themselves and have God's blessing for everyone."http://savannahnow.com/node/653603
Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 12:30 am