BY ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER
When my son told us he and his fiancé were planning a destination wedding in St. Barths, we were a little taken aback. On one hand, St. Barths (Saint Barthelemy), the posh, trend-setting French West Indies Caribbean Island, sounded like a dream. On the other hand, COVID, although lessening, was still around. But we would not miss our son’s wedding, taking place in March 2022, so we forged ahead to make all the necessary reservations.
Living in New York City, we had to fly from JFK into St. Martin, then take either a ferry or a small plane into St. Barths. The entry rules were very stringent– no one is allowed on the plane to St. Martin unless they are fully vaccinated and had a negative covid test within 24 hours. Visitors had to register online with the Ministry of Public Health in St. Martin beforehand, and we found that all very reassuring.
We arrived in St. Martin on a sunny, warm day and had three hours before embarking to St. Barths. We took a cab to the Divi Little Bay Resort for lunch. It’s a lovely, comprehensive oceanfront resort that offers day passes for travelers to use many of their facilities. While we only had time to grab a bite to eat at their restaurant by the beach, many tourists spend a few days there before taking a cruise or flying off to another island. It is located very close to the cruise ships and ferries. For guest reservations click here
To get to St. Barths, we opted for the Great Bay Express, a 45-minute ferry ride. The vessel was large—seats some 150 passengers. It was a rocky voyage that day, however, we managed fine. Upon arrival at St. Barths, we went through customs, which was a quick process, and for the first time in two years, we felt free from COVID anxiety. Click here for more information and bookings.
The bride and groom, Sasha and Eric, chose to have their wedding at the Christopher Hotel, and that’s where the wedding guests stayed. This elegant, intimate boutique hotel has a pool, award winning spa, top notch restaurant and unobstructed views of the ocean and mountains. The staff was extremely helpful and always available. The downside for seniors, is there are steps everywhere and they are not brightly lit up at night. Although they have two handicap rooms located on the ground floor, the hotel is not handicap accessible if needed—no elevator and no ramps. Learn more here.
The actual outdoor wedding ceremony began as the sun was setting. With the help of a party planner recommended by the hotel, the wedding was beautifully done. The spectacular ambiance, sensational views, delicious food, open outdoor space for live music and dancing, and decorations created just for the occasion, made the event near perfection.
St. Barths was more beautiful and magnificent than we imagined.
This French speaking island resembles the South of France and the Amalfi Coast, with the narrow winding mountain roads, magnificent landscape, white sandy beaches, turquoise water and upscale shops. Renting a car—most popular is a Mini Cooper—is the best way to get around. Taxi cabs are scarce and there are no Ubers on the island.
Here’s some St. Barths suggestions:
Where to Stay: The Eden Rock
St. Barths is known as a getaway for the rich and famous, and the iconic Eden Rock is the place to see and be seen. Situated on a sandy beach, the superb accommodations include beautifully appointed luxury villas and spacious rooms. It has a fully equipped gym, pool, spa, a Jean-Georges restaurant, and is walking distance to exclusive shopping and a stone’s throw away from Nikki Beach, which is a famous hip beach club. The hotel offers activities for children of all ages. While this bustling, chic hotel is not cheap, many who stay there say it’s well worth the splurge. For information and reservations click here.
Where to Eat:
Le Select, an indoor-outdoor saloon, is located in the heart of Gustavia. Locals claim that Jimmy Buffett, who apparently owned a home on the island for years, wrote his song Cheeseburger In Paradise there.
Le Tamarin, an outdoor restaurant, resembles a tropical oasis. The French cuisine and fresh fish menu selections are notable on the isle. Learn more here
Le Ti is a fun lively spot with French cuisine, where the rehearsal dinner was held. Not only do they have an outside terrace and bar, but each night there is a live cabaret show. Learn more here
Where to Shop
Since we were busy with wedding activities, we didn’t have nearly enough time to shop. Fortunately, one afternoon we were able to explore Gustavia, the island’s capital. Filled with restaurants, cafes, upscale boutiques and designer shops, it’s a fun place to wander around. Fashionable wide rim straw hats, designer gowns, tropical swimwear, and lavish St. Barths logoed home goods, abound.
The Ukrainian Connection
The wedding was magnificent and the ambiance was perfect, the occasion was unfortunately, bittersweet. Sasha, the bride, is Ukrainian and several family members living in Ukraine were unable to leave the war-torn country to attend. They had reservations and were all set to travel, then the invasion began, all flights cancelled, and everyone’s lives upended.
While Sasha and her Ukrainian mom, maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all reside in Brooklyn, her dad, Yury, works in Ukraine half the year. He owns ski resorts there. Typically, he lives in Ukraine in the winter months, returning to the USA in the spring. Luckily, he was able to make it out through Poland, to attend his daughter’s wedding, just weeks before the war broke out. His brother and his family, who originally had plane tickets to fly from Kyiv to Miami then on to St. Martin/St. Barths, managed to escape to the mountains. Yury’s 92-year-old mother is still living in an apartment in Kyiv. While they have friends bringing her groceries, because of the bombing, she cannot leave her dwelling.
The Ukrainian Brooklyn contingency were all able to make it to the wedding, but what was happening back in their homeland, was clearly on everyone’s minds.
“It is hard to watch the events unfold in Ukraine,” says Sasha. “I called Kyiv my permanent home from 2006-2008, when I went to high school there. I spent countless summers in Kyiv, and it’s the city where my parents met, fell in love, and got married. I wake up in the middle of the night with images of war. My dad’s business in Kharkiv has been destroyed. My grandma is alone in Kyiv, and the rest of my relatives relocated to a safer place in the country and opened their doors to as many people as they could fit. I feel a sense of hopelessness as I watch what’s going on—as do all my Ukrainian relatives—the ones who came to the wedding, and the ones who could not get out.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER
Alice Burdick Schweiger is a New York City-based travel, entertainment and medical writer who has written for numerous national magazines including Good Housekeeping, Family Circle and Woman’s Day. She is a co-author, with Laura and Jennifer Berman, of Secrets of the Sexually Satisfied Woman