Weddings in tropical destinations have exploded in popularity in recent years and many couples are choosing Belize as the perfect destination in which to say "I do". Ambergris Caye (pronounced "key"), a remote island off the coast of Belize, is especially popular with visitors and brides-to-be, with its laid-back island vibe, sandy streets, and limited car traffic.
The 25-mile long spit of land just south of the Costa Maya in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula has a lot going for it. English is the spoken language, since Belize was formerly British Honduras, and is just a short flight from the US. Islanders are super friendly and welcoming to visitors. The island also sits along the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, making it a prime spot for fishing, diving, and snorkeling.
A relatively undiscovered outpost until the millennium, it was the reality TV show "Temptation Island" that really put Belize - and Ambergris Caye - on the map in 2001. Places like Captain Morgan's Retreat (where the single men stayed) and Matachica (where the single women stayed) were discovered and have become hugely popular for posh island-style weddings.
One night in 2004, as we walked the beach from our hotel at Belizean Shores to our dinner destination, we passed a sunset wedding happening on the beach at Captain Morgan's Retreat. Naturally, we and every other passerby stopped to watch, but it soon became apparent that something was amiss. The bride and some of her guests were huddled together talking with the Officiant, while the groom who was slumped down in a green plastic lawn chair was being carried away by two of his groomsmen. It wasn't clear whether the wedding had taken place or not, but we overheard guests saying the bride was clearly upset. Well, I could understand why. I would be quite pissed off if my groom arrived drunk to our destination wedding. "Oh that's not why she's upset" said one of the guests. "She didn't want the green plastic lawn chair in the pictures!"
Clearly neither the Groom nor his Groomsmen had taken much seriously - they were absolutely smashed! But it was well past our dinner reservation time, so we moved on up the beach to dinner.
Early the next morning, we caught our flight from Ambergris to the mainland a little late and were the last passengers in line at the tiny airport. There was no assigned seating on the puddle-jumper flight and just two seats remained open. My husband took the one next to the pilot, leaving me with the only one left in the very back seat of the plane - between two of the groomsmen from the night before. I recognized them immediately, and within minutes learned the sordid details of the wedding that did NOT officially occur.
They asked where I was heading (New Jersey), I asked where they were heading (Dallas), and for the next 15 minutes or so I listened to fraternity tales of the drunken wedding that didn't occur. They seemed to relish in their mischief with little regard for the bride, though if 'the plastic chair in the pictures' story was true, perhaps she wasn't much better. Boy, these guys were annoying and arrogant! Was I crazy or were they still drunk?
At the airport in Belize City, we finally boarded our plane for Newark, making our way down the gangway and into the plane. Once again we were the last to board, and the flight attendants immediately closed the door behind us and prepared for departure. And who do I see as soon as I board the plane, settling in to his comfy blanket and pillow, but the arrogant groomsman from the wedding that didn't occur.
With a look of surprise, he looked up at me. "I thought you said you were going to New Jersey", he said smugly, as if I'd clearly made a wrong turn and gotten on the wrong flight.
I looked at him with a knowing smile, realizing he had no idea it was HE who'd settled in to the wrong plane, and said "I am!"