Tropical Destination Wedding in the Bahamas

Jeanne and Jay

Photographed by: Kevin WilliamsLocation: Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas

When Jeanne Roberts and Jay Johnson imagined their perfect wedding, they envisioned an island celebration that would wow their guests. "We wanted a few days of festivities and relaxation," says Jeanne of the couple's inspiration to have a destination wedding. Since the bride had beautiful memories of vacationing at her family's Nassau beach house, the Bahamas seemed like the perfect location. "And scheduling the event over Labor Day weekend made it easier for guests to make the trip," Jeanne adds.

The bride and her mother confidently took the planning reins, and Jay happily went along with everything. "Always agree," he laughingly advises other grooms. The decision to hold the ceremony at The Cloisters on Paradise Island was an easy one ("It's magical!" exclaims the bride), and the imported 14th-century French monastery was indeed a stunning backdrop for the couple's nuptials.

As attendees arrived at the hilltop landmark overlooking Nassau harbor, they were promptly offered ice-cold lemonade and chilled towels to keep the heat at bay; even the programs were cleverly shaped as fans to help keep everyone comfortable. Brilliant white tents shaded loved ones from the balmy sun, and a tall pergola situated at the top of a staircase kept the couple cool. Pillars were wrapped in arrangements of lush greens, cymbidium orchids, and feathery hydrangea blossoms that fit in flawlessly with the tents' billowing white fabric. A string quartet played traditional music as bridesmaids made their way down the petal-strewn aisle dressed alternately in gowns of soft pink and sea green. Then, Jeanne emerged to the sounds of Wagner's "Bridal Chorus," wearing a stunning mermaid-style gown and carrying a bountiful bouquet of cascading lilies, roses, and cymbidium orchids. "Even though there were over 300 guests staring at me, they all disappeared as I looked up at Jay," she recalls. When the vow exchange led by Jeanne's uncle was complete, a 10-member Baptist choir sang robust versions of "Oh Happy Day" and "Together Forever."

The energetic vocals served as the perfect segue into the rousing reception at the island's famed Atlantis resort. Bouncing beams of light in shades of pink and green brightened the venue's opulent ballroom, while arrangements of cymbidium orchids, stargazer lilies, roses, and hydrangea dotted every table with the same punchy hues. Each large centerpiece was surrounded by three mini arrangements of fluffy hydrangea blossoms with tall ivory candles. For added appeal, orchids were tucked into silky pink napkins at every place setting.

Buffet stations offered guests a meal fit for a king. Selections of grilled chicken, lamb chops, petit beef filet, lobster, shrimp, crab claws, tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi, sushi, sashimi, and an assortment of fresh salads and bite-sized delicacies were all included in the sumptuous menu. Next, dozens of desserts were set out, including Bacardi-rum baba (a sweet bread soaked in liquor), Madeline sponge cake flavored with roasted banana, tropical-fruit horns, bittersweet chocolate fondue with fruit skewers, and coconut-raisin flan. The ivory-frosted wedding cake was adorned with a sash of cymbidium orchids, and guests selected slices from their choice of carrot, strawberry, and chocolate layers.

Just as guests were enjoying their treats, a Junkanoo parade began filing into the room as a surprise from Jeanne's parents. The energetic group of entertainers dressed in brightly colored costumes danced to a rhythmic accompaniment of drums, trumpets, and trombones in a style reminiscent of New Orleans' Mardi Gras. "No one -- including my 82-year-old grandmother -- could resist the infectious beat of the drums," reveals the bride, "and everybody started dancing."

The dance floor was filled until the clock struck midnight, when everyone headed to the resort's exclusive nightclub for an after party. Half of the club's trendy room was dedicated to Jeanne and Jay, with couches and lounge chairs situated to create their own VIP area. Guests later departed for their luxurious Atlantis suites to rest up for the beach party planned for the next day. "Jeanne and I both have outgoing personalities and like to share our life with our friends," says the groom, "so we enjoyed spending an extra day with [our loved ones]." A 10-day honeymoon in Negril, Jamaica extended the couple's island romance, and was a fitting conclusion to their exciting celebration in paradise.

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