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Destination Wedding: Puerto Rico

> Written by Bob Curley

Diversidad is what makes Puerto Rico stand out among Caribbean islands when it comes to planning a destination wedding: couples can choose between big-city culture in San Juan, rain forest adventures in El Yunque, the off-the-beaten-path exclusivity of Vieques Island, or simply plan a trip that encompasses each facet of la Isla del Encanto—the Island of Enchantment.

History and culture define San Juan, founded in 1521 and not just the capital of Puerto Rico but also the hub of the entire Caribbean. Located in the heart of Old San Juan, the Hotel El Convento is a 350-year-old former sanctuary for Carmelite nuns where you can wed amid the glory of Spanish colonial architecture and lush gardens. Couples can exchange vows in the interior courtyard under the shade of a centuries-old níspero tree, then move to the Salon Campeche for a reception under a 50-foot vaulted ceiling and dancing on marble floors bathed in light filtered through dramatic stained-glass windows. Later, newlyweds can retire to the luxe Gloria Vanderbilt Suite with its trompe l’oeil walls and private balcony overlooking Old San Juan’s Plaza de las Monjas.

One of the true charms of San Juan is that you can enjoy a true Caribbean beach wedding while still taking full advantage of the city’s vibrant nightlife, museums and acclaimed restaurants. The Caribe Hilton is set on a private 17-acre peninsula, with 916 rooms overlooking the ocean and the resort’s tropical gardens, so you’ll have plenty of accommodations regardless of the length of your guest list.

The beach or the Grand Ballroom are equally fine choices for a destination wedding at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, augmented by menus that may include an exploration of Puerto Rico’s rich culinary heritage, performances by local “Pleneros” dancers, and a tasting of the island’s favorite spirit arranged by the hotel’s in-house Rummier.

Just a few minutes west of San Juan is Dorado Beach, home of the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve in the Americas. Weddings here at the oceanfront Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve frequently take place at Su Casa, where brides can sweep down curved staircases and couples can wed on a grand terrace facing the sea.

The El Yunque National Forest is Puerto Rico’s national treasure, 28,000 acres of tropical rain forest full of rare plant species, native animals and birds, and ancient Taíno Indian petroglyphs. The lush surroundings of the Rio Grande region are the perfect setting for The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, an ideal location for a beachfront affair or an elegant ceremony at the resort’s Astor Ballroom. For group activities before or after the wedding, the nearby Trump International Golf Club features thirty-six holes of championship-quality play on a course designed by Tom Kite.

Located just off the east coast of Puerto Rico, and still largely untouched by tourism, Vieques Island is home to the W Retreat & Spa, where wedding parties are treated royally from the minute they touch down in the local airport and are whisked to the W’s private lounge. After spending a day exploring the bridal menu at the AWAY Spa, creative couples may be borne to their ceremony by elegant Paso Fino horses and exchange vows at the palm-fringed Paradise Edge overlooking the sparkling sea.



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GRACE ORMONDE WEDDING STYLE