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Nobody Will Crash Your Wedding Reception: The Magdalene Grand Hotel in Tobago

Writer : Caribbean E-Magazine on Friday, February 1, 2013 | 10:16 AM

“You have to be kidding,” exclaimed my Canadian friend Sharon, “all that for only $1,499? I’m going to tell my kids to get married there!” We were on Skype and checking out my upcoming stay at the Magdalena Grand in Tobago. The resort offers wedding packages that include everything from the license and celebrant to a Champagne breakfast in bed the next morning. Basically, all you have to do is rock up and say “I do” and everything else is done for you.

Frankly, I’ve never figured out why anyone in central Canada – from hence Sharon and I come – bothered to have a wedding. Winter – blizzards, icy roads and freezing temperatures – lasts almost forever. Summer? Right, that is one weekend in July – complete with black flies, mosquitoes and other love songs – isn’t particularly appealing either. So the fact that an increasing number of couples from North America and northern Europe are opting for the easy–someone-else-does- all-the-planning option somewhere in the sun makes perfect sense.

Once at the Magdalena Grand I decided to check out what their wedding packages and find out what they were all about. To declare my position up front, I forgot to get married – and generally managed to be overseas when my friends were doing it – so my knowledge of the process is best described as “overwhelming ignorance.” I wanted a vicarious insider’s perspective, so I arranged to meet the Magdalene Grand’s wedding planner.

As I waited for her in the lobby I spied a young couple perched on the sofa. As they sipped their welcome fruit cocktails, I sauntered up in the hopes they may have come here to get married. Alas, no Ash and Midori – a recently married couple from the UK – were on their honeymoon. And they needed it as it had taken 18 stressful months to plan their wedding. “The hardest part,” confided Ash, “ was figuring out who to invite. Everyone had an opinion on who should be included.” If they had it all to do over again would they do a destination wedding at the Magdalena? Yes.

Vandra Alleyne – the effervescent wedding planner with a personality like Champagne bubbles – arrived and walked me through the world of weddings.  “Really, I only have three questions when someone books a wedding package: What is the colour of the dress; what are the theme colours; and what is your favourite thing about the Caribbean? Once we have that information we try to personalise the package and tweak details as much as possible. For example, if the bride is wearing a beige dress and the theme colour is blue we would arrange for the bouquet stem to be covered with blue fabric. And then we design the cake to match. If they like sand or shells we will weave that into the theme and make it part of the remembrance gift from the resort.”

Okay, so those are the details. But the control freak in me wants to know you can get people to trust you – a total stranger – to get it right?  After all it is their wedding. Vandra nods, “You are right – people have to have faith in you. Some people just don’t want to think about any of the details, they just want it to happen. Others want to become more involved. As soon as they arrive at the resort I spend a lot of time with them and get to know them as people. And as part of my role as a wedding planner I get to do everything from hold the bride’s hand to track down grooms who go missing in action if they get cold feet.”

“Further “Get me to the church on time” takes on a new perspective when the bride and groom are separated for the day of the wedding and arrive on golf carts. The vows can be traditional, non-denominational or write-your-own. And the celebrant can be male, female or whoever is available. So the package offers a lot of choices.”

But what about the costs? Think about it. What does is cost to invite, say, 100 people to a wedding? The simple answer is “a fortune.” According to Cost of the average cost of getting hitched comes in with a price tag of about $25,631, with the range being roughly $19,223 to $32,039. And the cost of the stress of organizing it all we won’t bother factoring in.

For a destination wedding, however, you can invite everyone and his/her/it’s dog. Why you can almost turn it into the Ukrainian weddings of my youth: They lasted three days, everyone in the phone book was on the list and anyone who was single could just showed up, no invitation needed.

So let’s crunch a few numbers:

Flight from:

USA: New York to Port of Spain: $470. Book in advance and it might be lower. 20-minute commuter flight from Port of Spain to Tobago - $24 each way – Total - $518.

Canada: from Toronto to Port of Spain, about $570, again depending on how far in advance you book. 20-minute commuter flight from Port of Spain to Tobago - $24 each way. Total - $618.

UK: From London to Port of Spain varies from $1,000 to $1,200. 20-minute commuter flight from Port of Spain to Tobago - $24 each way. Total $1,100 plus 48 equals $1148 dollars, or 729 pounds.

 Okay, so that takes care of getting there and back. The wedding packages vary from $1,129 to $1, 499. But since you are going to paradise you may as well opt for the best.

The honeymoon suite – one-bedroom with a jacuzzi and rose petals -- for a week, complete with breakfast and dinner:

·         $516 per night and includes all taxes and breakfast buffet.

·         The modified American Plan (MAP) is $65.00 per person per night for dinner.

·         The full American plan (FAP) is $100 per person per night and includes lunch and dinner.

Plans do not include beverages. The wine is reasonable at about $6.00 to $8.00 a glass. Less by the bottle.

 Room - $516 times 6 = $3,096
Meals - $200 times 6 =  $1,200
Total                             $4,296.

Add 10 percent –the figure event planners build into their budgets for unexpected expenses, such as renting a car, playing a round of golf or going on a scuba dive -- and we have a grand total of –

USA:  $6,944.

Canada: $7,054.    
UK: $7,637, or £4871.

After looking at the figures – and comparing them with the Cost of estimations – my question becomes “How can you afford not to get married here?” And, as Vandra says, “Nobody will crash your wedding reception.”

Yes, the idea of a package at the Magdalena Grand throws a new spin on the idea of getting married. On our last evening at the Magdalena, my companion Anthony and I sat out on the deck at the Robinson Crusoe bar, listening to the waves rolling in and watching the sunset. It was so – well – romantic. I looked across at him and sighed, “It is so wonderful here that I’m almost tempted to propose. But I’m scared that – in a moment of being swept away by the idyllic ambience – you might accept, so I won’t ask.” He laughed and patted my hand.


 By: Jody Hanson, Ph.D

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Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 6:00:00 AM EST

This place is so beautiful and romantic. An amazing honeymoon will be happening here as well.

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