Although I focus on planning all sorts of weddings one thing I love is a challenge. I guess that's one of the reasons the challenge of planning Jewish weddings in communities with little or no Jewish community gives me a bit of a thrill.
The destination wedding industry is growing by leaps and bounds. At this point almost everyone has either been invited to a destination wedding, or known someone who has had one. What do you do if you want to have one and the unique religious or cultural traditions you want to incorporate into your wedding aren't common in the location you want to hold it? I'm focusing this blog installment on the Caribbean because that is a very popular location for destination weddings these days; but the challenges that face a Jewish couple planning their Caribbean wedding are very similar to the challenges faced in any community with few Jews living there.
The good news is that many places in the Caribbean actually do have synagogues. You can find synagogues in Aruba, Cuba, Bahamas, Curacao, Jamaica, Bermuda, Barbados and the list goes on and on. The bad news; well the bad news is that just because a place has a synagogue that doesn't mean they have a Rabbi to perform the ceremony.
In many cases the Chuppah, the Rabbi and everything else you need to properly put together a kosher wedding ceremony will have to be brought in from somewhere else. In many cases the easiest place to purchase or rent these items is Miami. There are vendors there who have experience shipping to the Caribbean so they won't mind helping you out. I will tell you a little secret about the Chuppah. if you would like to save some money and don't relish the idea of flying one in; you can build you own. All you need is four poles or long sticks and the grooms Tallit. In some cases if you choose to purchase a pre-packaged wedding from a resort they will have the items on hand that you need. You will have to pay extra for it and you might still have to bring in your own Rabbi. I'm not even going to discuss the concept of koshering catering. That's another hassle on it's own.
Now I realize that not everyone is weird like I am and enjoys the challenge of finding a Rabbi who will travel and the vendor who will ship overseas. So if your dream wedding involves sand and sea I will simply give you my list of the top two spots in the Caribbean where it is easiest to plan your Jewish destination wedding.
1. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. They have a Rabbi that lives there. They also have a Cantor who can perform weddings. (if you didn't know this; Jewish law dictates that a Cantor can also perform marriage ceremonies) They have an active synagogue. The Jewish community is certainly not as big as New York; but you can find enough of what you need locally to make this one of my top two spots to hold a Caribbean Jewish wedding.
2. Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands also have a Rabbi; but unlike St. Thomas he only lives there seven months out of the year. Unless you have always dreamed of holding your beach side wedding during hurricane season I think the odds are good that you can plan your wedding for a time the Rabbi is in town. For me personally one of the things that make this an easy area to plan a Jewish wedding is the fact that it is also the home of one of my all time favourite wedding vendors. This vendor has a one-stop shop that can arrange all the floral, decor, and yes she has a Chuppah. It makes things so much easier for both myself and the couple.
Those are the first two spots I suggest to any Jewish bride and groom looking to have a wedding in the Caribbean. There are a couple of others that are just as convenient; but for me those two are my favourite. One thing to remember though is that there are absolutely no limits to where you can hold your dream wedding. Just because a location doesn't have a Rabbi or Cantor living there does not mean you can't have someone brought in. Of course you will have to follow the laws of country you are in. So in some cases the Rabbi will only be allowed to religiously marry you and you might have to do a quick civil service at home or earlier in the day; but that's something you will discover in your research.
I know that some Jews get scared off by the idea of having a destination wedding anywhere other then Israel because they can't imagine how they will pull it off; but know that not only can it be done; but it's been done before. I hope a little bit of the trepidation has subsided. I only focused on the Caribbean; but It's your big day. If you want your wedding in Israel, Barbados, or Rome; it can be done. It's your dream to turn into a reality. I really hope this blog posting has helped and maybe even got you thinking a bit.
Another option is Jamaica. I am a fully ordained Reform rabbi who lives on the island of Jamaica full time. My website is JamaicaRabbi.com. There are many resorts in Jamaica that can organize Jewish destination weddings. All have beautiful beaches with warm blue water and delicious food.ReplyDelete
I work with couples to custom design their ceremony and I am willing to provide extensive counselling and other rabbinic services as desired. We want to create together a meaningful ceremony that will be remembered forever.
This blog post was written about four years ago. A lot has changed in that time. It's now easier then ever to plan a Jewish destination wedding in more destinations than the ones mentioned here. I'm really going to have to write an update.
Another thing that has changed is that within the last 2 years Mindless Sophistication Events has slowly transitioned into a place where I am comfortable saying 100% of the wedding we plan are Jewish Destination Weddings. To a Jewwy Jew like me that's thrilling.
Please feel free to connect with me at info@mindlessSophistication.com We're definitely always looking for new on-island resources.
Owner & Lead Planner