Is there a more romantic fantasy than saying, I do on a white-sand beach beside a tranquil blue lagoon in Bora Bora? Dream no more as Tahiti has legalized destination-wedding ceremonies for U.S. and Canadian couples (in fact, for any overseas visitors over the age of 18 who are not French citizens with the exception of same-sex couples). Heres the scoop:
Requirements: If you want to wed legally in Tahiti you will need to start the process at least six months in advance (you can also marry stateside and enjoy ceremonial-only vows in Tahiti with far less paperwork). There are about six detailed documents that need to be translated and filed, including a Marriage of Foreign Citizens in French Polynesia document; a letter signed and dated by both spouses and addressed to the mayor of the commune where the wedding will take place; proof of identities (copies of both spouses passports); a certified copy of both spouses birth certificates issued less than six months prior to the wedding date, authenticated with an Apostile, translated into French by an approved translator and legalized by the French Consulate; a Certificate of Non-Marital Status signed by a lawyer, translated into French and legalized by the French Consulate; and proof of residency for both spouses (such as utility bills). For complete details, visit Tahiti Tourismes dedicated weddings page (www.Tahiti-Tourisme.com/Weddings).Options: Without exception, the actual legal marriage will take place at the City Hall on the island where the couple will wed. This can be immediately followed by a beach, chapel, or hilltop ceremony featuring any combination of traditional Tahitian vows (presided over by a priest in plumed headdress and ceremonial garb with both couples dressed in white pareus and adorned with crowns and garlands of flowers and then wrapped together in the vibrant Tifaifai or wedding quilt) or Western ceremony (presided over by a justice or minister with the couple in a wedding gown and suit). Depending on the locale, brides or grooms can arrive via dugout canoe, electric cart, or on foot to backdrops as varied as a glass-floored overwater chapel, a private motu (small island), or a catamaran sailing Bora Boras lagoon as the sun dips behind Mt. Otemanu.
Locations: Almost every major resort on Tahitis three main islands Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora has wedding packages in place. During a recent visit, I witnessed a variety of ceremony options and here are four of my favorites:
Moorea Pearl Resort (www.spmhotels.com/resort/moorea) This Tahitian-owned property offers colorful, flower-infused weddings in two wonderful locations: a convenient beachfront at the resort with the brides arrival by canoe to her awaiting groom (shown at left, about $800-$2,000 depending on extras such as musicians, dancers, and dinner), and a day-long celebration on a more private motu, reachable via a 20-minute boat ride (starting at about $2,000). All ceremony packages include musicians, floral leis and crowns, and traditional pareus for the bride and groom, plus a beautiful bed of flowers and Champagne in the couples bungalow. Rates from $271/night for a room and $430/night for a bungalow.
InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa (www.moorea.intercontinental.com) The jagged green peaks of Moorea create a stunning, altar-like backdrop (shown at right) as couples in white pareus and a coconut-shell top (for her) stand barefoot in soft white sand next to the brilliant pale blue lagoon and exchange vows at sunset in a vibrant and enjoyable music and dance-filled Polynesian ceremony. Here, the groom arrives by outrigger canoe and the resort offers the option of a Mini Ceremony (accompanied by 8-10 musicians and dancers for about $1,300) or a longer Grand Ceremony (15-20 musicians and dancers for about $2,000). The couple returns to their flower-decorated bungalow for canapés and Champagne, followed by a private or group dinner at extra cost. Rates from $287/night for a room and $427/night for a bungalow.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa Lapped by Bora Boras legendary lagoon, with iconic Mt. Otemanu in direct view, this five-year-old luxury resort mixing distinctly contemporary décor with traditional Tahitian ambience is a truly memorable spot to exchange I Dos. In fact, there are several locations for weddings, ranging from an air-conditioned, glass-floored overwater chapel (from $2,050 and shown at left, courtesy of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts) to a sun-dappled beach (from $1,900) both with mesmerizing Mt. Otemanu views. The resorts concierge/wedding planning team aims to personalize each marriage with the couples preferred mix of Polynesian and Western elements and post-ceremony cocktails and dining (tip: the fire dancers are a must!). Rates from $900/night (most accommodations are overwater bungalows, with a few two-bedroom family suites from $800/night).
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora (www.fourseasons.com/borabora) Couples can choose from seven wedding venues at this two-year-old five-star property including a brand new catamaran, the Four Seasons Navigator, during a scenic two-hour sunset sail. After welcome Champagne and canapés, the couple and a maximum of 12-16 guests head up to the Navigators top deck for an intimate and breathtaking traditional Polynesian ceremony presided over by a Tahitian priest and accompanied by two musicians (from $2,150). As the lagoon shimmers and the passing scenery captivates, everyone revels in this very private and enchanting setting (shown at right). Other venues include the resorts beach, its tiny offshore Sunset Motu or its open-air wedding chapel. Afterward, dining and entertainment options range from a beach barbecue (again, reserve the fire dancer!) to a fine-dining gala for up to 100. Rates from $900/night.
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