San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vows with a View: A Hot Wedding Destination

A tropical honeymoon in Costa Rica has been a romantic highlight for many newlyweds. But now, more and more couples are having the wedding here, too. There’s no more romantic place to tie the knot than in Manuel Antonio, with its mesmerizing ocean views, white-sand beaches and lush tropical flora and fauna. There’s also no shortage of hotels here, from exclusive luxury resorts to beach bungalows that have geared up to meet the demand for tropical weddings.“Destination weddings have really taken off in the last five years,” says Kimberly Barron, wedding and special events planner for Makanda by the Sea, a luxury resort that specializes in designing intimate tropical weddings.“Weddings in the United States and Canada have become so expensive, and there is so much pressure on brides to do it up big. But here you have more freedom to do it your own way,” says Barron, who last year organized almost 50 small weddings at Makanda.PROFESSIONAL wedding consultant Aimée Monihan is busy, too, with two full-time assistants helping her organize more than 60 weddings, large and small, in Costa Rica last year, 30 of them in Manuel Antonio.What advantages does Manuel Antonio have over other Costa Rican locations? “The beach,” Monihan says. “It’s one of the most scenic stretches of white sand, backed by views of Cathedral Point in Manuel Antonio National Park. The area is also easily accessible and it’s a great tourist destination, with lots of activities for your guests.”With 10 years of experience in hotel management and special events planning, Monihan has also earned professional certification from the U.S. Association of Bridal Consultants. She works with a wide range of hotels in Manuel Antonio, helping couples choose just the right ambiance and designing the kind of wedding they want.IF a couple is dreaming of a beach wedding, for example, there’s Tulemar Bungalows and Villas, a secluded resort right on the beach.“The beach is on a gorgeous cove backed by jungle,” Monihan says. “It’s the perfect place for a luau-style reception. We bring in white linen tablecloths, silver and crystal, and we light tiki torches and bonfires on the beach.”Karyn Moss and Noah Veneklasen, who live in the San Francisco Bay area in California, chose Tulemar for their February 2005 wedding.“We chose it for its secluded beach,” Moss says. “We were hoping we’d be the only ones on the beach at sunset for the wedding, and we pretty much were.”The bride’s favorite memory of her wedding is “drinking champagne on the beach with friends and family after the ceremony as the sun was setting, and everyone I love was silhouetted against the glowing and gorgeous sunset.”IF you don’t like sand in your dyed-satin shoes, but love looking out on the ocean, lots of hotels offer fabulous sea views in Manuel Antonio. One of the best views is from the Costa Verde Hotel, set in a monkey-filled jungle on a hill overlooking Cathedral Point and the tiny islands off Manuel Antonio National Park.“I persuaded owner Alan Templeton to build a new special events center with a roof,” Monihan says. “It’s first-class and can hold 400-500 people. It’s just gorgeous, with teak chandeliers and a view of Punta Catedral.”Melissa and Bill Bertolino, from Phoenix, Arizona, chose Costa Verde for their April 2005 wedding.“We stayed there on our vacation,” Melissa says, “and were so impressed by the staff, the facility and the prices. The sunset view from the pool was exactly what we wanted. And lucky for us, they had completed their event center just in time for our wedding.”No monkeys dropped in on that wedding, but Monihan says raucous howler monkeys whooped it up during the toasts at one rehearsal dinner at the Costa Verde.APART from the romance of a tropical wedding, one of the advantages of choosing an exotic location far from your hometown is that you’ll save money, despite the added costs of travel and lodging.“A wedding here will cost you about 25% less than a North American wedding,” Monihan says. But the main savings come from the fact that the guest list will probably be a lot smaller.“You can issue lots of invitations, knowing that not many people will accept,” Monihan says. “But the people who do come are the people you really want to be there.”Another way to save money is to schedule your wedding for the shoulder season, when rates are lower and hotels are friendlier to wedding groups. The most popular months for weddings in Manuel Antonio, Monihan says, are November and May.AT Makanda by the Sea, Barron says the most popular package is the elopement- style wedding, which usually involves just the couple and a few close friends and family, enveloped in a romantic ambiance greatly enhanced by the hotel’s policy of “no kids under 16.”“When you’re relaxing poolside, you won’t have a kid cannon balling into the pool,” Barron notes.Recently, Barron says, a couple fell so completely in love at the hotel that they got engaged and married within a week.“I arranged the wedding on a moment’s notice, for just the couple,” she says. As a popular and, for the most part, friendly destination for gays, Manuel Antonio is also the scene for many same sex commitment ceremonies. Monihan says she has arranged several.“But for way more women than men,” she says. “Men just have more trouble committing.”

Comments are closed.