Destination Wedding and Honeymoon to Sandals Grande Antigua All-Inclusive Resort
If you’ve dreamed of having a photo perfect destination wedding and honeymoon, but thought it would be too expensive or too hard to plan, think again! It can be one of the most stress free and easy ways to plan a wedding. And I know … I did it!
When my husband and I were planning our wedding, it quickly became a stress inducing situation. We’re from two different states, so one side of the family would have to travel to our wedding. After pricing numerous venues, hotels, caterers, restaurants, bakeries, florists, etc., we came to the realization that none of the options would be stress free or affordable. And that was before we had even looked at planning a honeymoon.
At that time, I was working full time as a marketing director and only part time with my mom’s travel agency, so I was still new to the destination resort wedding industry. Being a Sandals Specialist, my mom suggested we look at Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts as an option and guided us through finding the perfect resort. Just like many of you, I saw $$$$ flash before my eyes at the thought. But, after she guided us through various options, I was totally surprised with everything that was included in the price for a Sandals Resort wedding and honeymoon! I am proud to also be a Sandals Specialist today and love helping people find the perfect resort for them and take the stress out of their planning.
After researching Sandals resort locations, we decided Sandals Grande Antigua looked like the place for us. Sandals Grande Antigua has been voted the “World’s Most Romantic Resort.”
There are 15 award-winning all-inclusive Sandals resorts on 8 different Caribbean islands. Sandals has been voted the “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” for 23 Years. They are the world’s Only 5-Star Luxury Included Resorts.
We looked at the whole family going with us for the wedding and it was way more affordable than we ever imagined! Sadly, it didn’t work out for our families to go though, due to us planning our wedding quickly around work schedules. But, we decided to go ahead and have our wedding and honeymoon at Sandals Grand Antigua anyway.
We planned a Caribbean themed party when we came home and showed the video and incredible photos of our wedding to all of our family and friends. Yes, it would have been great to have guests at Sandals with us, but our families loved the fact that they could talk, comment, laugh and cry while viewing the video and photos in such a relaxed environment. I think we answered a thousand questions about the resort for everyone as we went through the photos.
As far as the wedding and honeymoon planning, it was a breeze! We were connected with a dedicated wedding planner immediately who guided us through the process. We submitted the documents needed to get married in a foreign country, chose our resort, room type, flights … and that was it! We made choices about the actual wedding prior to our arrival with no pressure. Questions were answered before we could even ask them.
Since we were staying longer than 3 nights, we qualified for a Free Wedding. The Sandal’s Free Wedding package included:
- ceremony location of our choice on the resort
- ceremony and pastor
- floral bouquet and boutonniere
- table setting with white linens, silverware and crystal
- 2-tier white fondant cake (many flavors and filling options)
- 1-hour reception with sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres
- honeymoon dinner (we upgraded to the candlelight dinner on the beach)
- bride and groom signature cocktail
- special turndown service that included flower petals on our bed on the first night of our honeymoon
- mimosa breakfast in bed with fresh flowers
- photo shoot and free 5 x 7
- 15% discount on services at Red Lane Spa for bride and groom
Sandals has included another special option that wasn’t available during our trip. You now receive a complimentary Luxury Destination Wedding Garment Bag to keep your wedding attire in pristine condition while you travel!
Our flight to Antigua was easy. The airport is small, so of course it’s different than landing in Atlanta or Los Angeles. But, they moved the crowd through and got us on our way to the resort. There are currently Non-Stop Flights to Antigua from Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Newark, New York City and Toronto!
~ Make sure you have any extra documents required for customs (based on requirements for your country) completed before you get off the plane. Complete forms for each person (even if flight attendants say otherwise) and fill in every blank on both sides.
~ Make sure you get into the correct line in the airport. It can be confusing. People can be rude (other tourists) and try to break in line. If so, alert the airport employees.
~ The airport has locals who offer to carry your bags for you and they can get a little pushy by grabbing your bag off the ground for you before you can pick it up. Just politely, but firmly, tell them their services aren’t needed or wanted and they will back off. It’s just a short walk out to your transportation waiting on you from Sandals.
We were picked up in a limo at the airport and taken directly to the resort. The nice thing about Sandals Grand Antigua is that it’s a short 15 minute ride from the airport!
Note: your driver’s tip is not included in your vacation package. Remember to carry some cash with you! Most drivers do not accept credit cards.
When we arrived, we were welcomed in the grand lobby with drinks and someone immediately sat down with us and went over how everything worked. We even made dining reservations for several of the most popular restaurants to fit with our schedule.
We chose a suite that included a butler and he was the absolute best! He took care of everything we needed, wanted, or didn’t know we even wanted yet. We started to think he was invisible. If we messed up our room or drank anything from the stocked refrigerator or bar, it was magically replaced. (premium liquors, beers and Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks wines are all included and unlimited at Sandals Resorts) Our butler was polite, attentive and became like family. We were sad to say goodbye to him.
Sandals Grande Antigua has two different village areas. There is a cottage-style Caribbean beach village and a Mediterranean-style village. We chose to stay in the All-Suite European style Mediterranean Oceanview Village towers. Our room featured a large mahogany bed, luxurious bathroom, sitting area and large balcony. All of the balconies in the Mediterranean towers overlook the property with great views of the ocean and the magically colorful sunsets.
The Food. Oh, The Food! At first, it felt odd to sit down in a gourmet restaurant and order as many items as we wanted and then just get up and walk away. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and anytime snacks are all included, as well as all taxes, tips and gratuities. So, you just eat and go! It didn’t take long before we were eating appetizers in one place, entrees in another, and dessert in multiple locations. The food was incredible!
Sandals is known for their 5-star Global Gourmet™ Culinary Experiences. Each restaurant is run by a world-class chef. Sandals Grande Antigua has 11 dining options and 7 bars (including swim up bars).
Sandals all-inclusive resort concept is that “you can dine wherever and whenever you wish – all day, every day, because it’s always included and always unlimited”
Don’t worry about eating too much. There is a top notch fitness center and the property consists of 28 acres with a gorgeous 2 mile beach. All of the land and water sports are also included. So, you have plenty of ways to burn off those extra calories! We visited the fitness center every day and really enjoyed the two-person kayaks. Walking along the beach at sunrise and sunset is a must! To relax, the Red Lane Spa is the place to go! You get a 15% discount on spa services with your wedding package as well.
Note: You must reside on the island for 48 hours prior to being married. So, if you plan on taking advantage of the free wedding option, by staying 3 nights or longer, your wedding will have to be on the 3rd day. You really need to plan on staying at least 4 nights or longer. We stayed 7 nights and loved every minute. Sandals offers great promotions which make longer stays affordable. If you stay 7 nights or longer you also get up to $1,500 in extra perks with your wedding and honeymoon package!
Prior to our wedding day, we were transported (along with other couples) to visit the Ministry of Justice located in downtown St. John’s to finalize wedding documents and the marriage license. It took a little time, but we saw a different part of the island and got to know the other couples riding along with us. It turned out to be a pretty fun ride.
The day of our wedding was so relaxing. I was in the pool just a few hours before the wedding. I went to the spa to have my hair done and my dress was steamed and ready for me. Since we didn’t have family with us, part of our wedding event team stood as our witnesses. (I just wished the one standing by me wouldn’t have looked like a tall Swedish model).
The pastor talked to us ahead of time and found out different things about us. He automatically knew what to say and how to say it. The ceremony he performed was so personal and touching. I believe this was one of the biggest surprises to me. I was thinking a “resort pastor” would ensure a boring and bland ceremony. It was completely the opposite. I often reflect back on his words.
The Caribbean steel drum band played the wedding song we chose and other songs while we danced in the gazebo. We even got to play the drums with them. Our beautiful white fondant cake, sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres were waiting for us nearby on an eloquently decorated table with white linens. There are many cake flavors and fillings to choose from, but we chose a traditional Caribbean rum cake. It was soooo delicious!
At this point, we were whisked away by our sweet and funny photographer. She had already taken numerous incredible photos, which we didn’t even notice were happening. She took us to various locations across the property to get just the right shots when she knew the sun would be perfect. If you spend extra money on anything, plan for it to be on the photos!! The photographers are masters at capturing perfect moments in the best lighting and locations. Trust me, you will want every photo they take!
Tip: It’s hot in the Caribbean, and you will sweat during your wedding. If we could go back and change anything, it would be to choose much lighter fabrics for our wedding attire. The lining under my dress was stuck to my legs for the duration of the event. My husband selected a blue shirt to wear under his suit, thinking it would look good in photos when he took his jacket off. But, by the time the ceremony was over, his shirt was completely wet, so he had to keep his jacket on during all of the photos. His suit wasn’t really heavy, but still too much for the heat. Skip the suit/tuxedo and heavy dress … pick all light and airy fabrics!
I changed out of my wedding dress into a thin white dress I brought (which I’m sooo glad I did) before our candlelight dinner on the beach. The view was gorgeous, the table was decorated beautifully and the food was amazing. But, on this long beach, the waiter had to make a journey back and forth to bring out our food and we were seated at the table that was farthest away. So, we did a lot of sitting and waiting between courses. However, those with tables closer to the restaurant area may have had an entirely different experience. For some people, sitting for a lengthy time may be fine, but we were bored after a while and anxious to go hear music and experience the nightlife that was going on. You may be completely opposite than us. (important note: there were no over-the-water options or other currently-offered unique dining experiences back when). So, our beach dinner doesn’t really compare to some of the options available today.
The entire evening after our wedding, every single resort employee we encountered and many guests offered congratulations and made us feel so special. We felt like royalty walking around. Once you’re on the resort for a few days, you get to know the staff and many of the guests. It felt like we were among a big family. It seemed like we were handed a bottle of sparkling wine, desserts, etc. everywhere we turned. When we got back to our room, there was a big heart on our bed made from rose petals, which was so sweet.
The next morning, we were delivered a delicious mimosa breakfast in bed with fragrant flowers. It’s easy to get used to this type of luxury quickly! We enjoyed just sitting on the balcony in our white robes and enjoying the golden sunrise.
Enjoying the morning on our
balcony at Sandals Grande Antigua
On each day and night of our trip there was music and entertainment, people to congregate with and plenty of activities and sports. But, we also got away and spent quiet time on the beach, in the fitness center, at the spa, and in beautiful little nooks of luscious gardens throughout the resort. You can be as social or private as you want. The entertainment is always sophisticated and tastefully done, so it’s easy to find something that interests you.
As far as age groups go, there were people of all ages at the resort and we all had a blast together. There was a large Italian family group from the east coast and most of them were retirees. My husband, being part Sicilian, blended right in with them. We met young couples, middle-aged couples, those celebrating anniversaries, those on honeymoons or getting married, groups on friend getaways, etc. Sandals resorts aren’t just places for the young … they are for everyone! Each Sandals resort is unique and has a different atmosphere, dining and activities. Some have a more active vibe and some are more intimate and low key. Every resort has its own distinct personality, so there is a resort to fit every taste.
Note: When you stay at one Sandals in Saint Lucian, Jamaica or Barbados, you can play at all Sandals on the island!
Sandals exclusive “Stay at One, Play at All” exchange program means you can stay at one Sandals resort and enjoy the amenities and services at all other nearby Sandals resorts for the duration of your vacation. Roundtrip transfers are even included between resorts located within the same town.
Note: If you are planning a destination wedding and will have children with you or guests with children, you will want to look at planning your wedding at a Beaches Resort. The quality and beauty is them same. The difference is that Sandals resorts are for adults-only and Beaches resorts are for all ages. Beaches Resorts cater to families and are perfect for those with children in their wedding party.
On the day we left for home, we were transported by limo again to the airport and everything was pretty easy getting through and onto the plane. Then, the unimaginable happened! A herd of cows got loose from somewhere and decided the runway was their new home. They refused to move no matter what the airport crew did. It was comical at first, but then it got serious. We sat on the plane for an extremely long time while airport officials made several failed attempts at making the cows move.
Finally, a plan was made to bring in a firetruck and spray strong blasts of water near the feet of the cows. It worked! The water scared the cows, so the whole herd ran together while crews were lined up to guide them in a direction away from the planes. Some people on our plane missed their connecting flights in Atlanta due to the delay, which was an inconvenience. But, who could ever predict a cow incident like that? We were lucky that our layover was longer. We literally ran through the airport and made it onto our connecting flight just in time.
The whole experience of having a destination wedding and honeymoon at Sandals Grande Antigua was so easy, unique and wonderful. We created special memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.
What’s New at Sandals and Beaches Resorts
Since our wedding and honeymoon, Sandals has added even more incredible options for accommodations, dining, and weddings! There is an entire Over-the-Water Collection now at various Sandals resorts. You can stay in an Over-The-Water Bungalow or Villa at Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals South Coast and Sandals Grande St. Lucian. And even more of the resorts offer Over-The-Water dining locations, bars and lounges.
Over-The-Water Serenity Wedding Chapels are currently available at Sandals South Coast, Sandals Grande Lucian, Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Ochi. The white chapels surrounded by mesmerizing blue water and sky are breathtaking. They are open-air and reveal the sea below through glass floor aisles.
Sandals and Beaches Resorts recently announced their Virtual Wedding Design Experience. You can plan a customized wedding from the comfort of your own home. You will video chat face-to-face with your wedding planner and explore a catalog of décor options during the session. Details such as event location and times, photo and video plans, dining menus, special add-on services, and more will be discussed. This interactive planning experience is an industry first allowing you to actually “meet” your wedding planner and explore endless decor options in order to bring your vision to life before your eyes prior to arriving at the resort. Sandals and Beaches Resorts strive to make the wedding planning process as seamless as possible.