Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Destination Wedding Locations: Turtle Island, Fiji

Winding white beaches, dense jungle foliage, a crescent-shaped cove below black lava cliffs,
coconut groves through which Chinese pheasants run wild, rainbow colored fish in incredibly clear blue water." That's an account of a fictional South Pacific island from a 1906 novel that was later adapted for the 1980 film, "Blue Lagoon," starring Brooke Shields. When Columbia Pictures searched for locations to shoot the movie, the studio considered over a thousand islands and finally decided on the one that best matched the above description: Turtle Island, Fiji.

Wedding Logistics
Quite simple. Basically, the resort takes care of all the details. You bring your birth certificate (or a copy), a passport, and a divorce decree (if divorced). Two types of ceremonies are available on Turtle Island: Roman Catholic and Methodist. For Catholic weddings, the resort recommends that you contact your parish priest in the United States and find out what his requirements are. For example, some diocese require completion of a marriage preparation program, proof of baptism, etc. All this paperwork should be sent to the Catholic priest in Fiji about four months before the wedding. Another additional requirement: Catholic couples must be in Fiji three days prior to the wedding, since the license must be in the hands of the local Fijian priest at least two days before the wedding day.

With Methodist weddings, there is no waiting period or residency requirements. (We should note, however, that the resort recommends you fly in on a weekday at least three days before your wedding day. This time is used to obtain the license, get fitted with the traditional Fiji attire, and plan the wedding feast.) Contrast this to nearby Tahiti, which requires a lengthy forty-day residency period and translations of documents into French.

Local Bridal Customs
Weddings on Turtle Island closely follow Fijian traditions. Held at sunset on the beach, the bride and groom dress in tapa cloth, traditional Fiji wedding attire. "Tapa is made from tree bark and hand-painted with traditional Fijian symbols in tan, brown, and black," the resort's wedding literature explains.

"The trumpeting of conch shells announce the. bride's arrival on the wedding raft (a bill bilx). Drums beat ceremonial rhythms as the bride disembarks and is escorted to her groom by two Fijian attendants. As they approach the archway of the outdoor altar, they are heralded by a robed Fijian choir. After the special kava ceremony (which seals the marriage), the newly-weds are carried on a throne to the wedding lovo, or feast, typically consisting of roast pig, fresh seafood, and other local delicacies."

Best Time to Go
The cheapest air fares from the States are during our summer months—June, July, and August. Since Fiji is in the southern hemisphere, seasons there are the reverse of ours. The Fiji winter (our summer) is the driest time of the year. The rainy season is December through early April, with most of the rain coming during March. Temperatures don't vary much year-round, with lows in the mid 70s and highs in the mid to upper 80s. May through October is marked by slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

Costs, Accommodations, and Getting Around
The wedding package described above runs $1000, plus 10 percent tax. Considering all you get. (minister, choir, apparel, flowers, photography, video, and reception) this is a pretty good deal.
A one-week stay on. Turtle Island runs $6270 per couple. Accommodations are beach front cottages, each of which has a separate sitting room and two bathrooms. The price includes all meals, snacks, beverages, airport transfers, and activities—fishing, scuba diving, r horseback riding, water sports, and sunlight cruises. You can reserve private beaches for private champagne picnic lunches. The only place to spend extra money is the gift shop.

There is no high or low season on Turde—the price stays the same year-round. If those prices are too high, there are several other resorts in Fiji which run $2000 to $3000 per couple per week. Of course, those prices don't include meals or airport transfers.
Airfare to Fiji from Los Angeles runs about $750 per person in low season (summer) and $1050 per person in high season (winter).

What Makes it Special
What impressed us most about the Turde Island wedding/honeymoon package is the all-inclusive package. The ceremony steeped in native traditions, the no-hassle honeymoon that includes all meals, and the spectacular setting makes Turde Island a wonderful destination.
Another plus: the five-hundred-acre resort only-has fourteen cottages and encompasses all of Turtle Island. There are no huge crowds or throngs of tourists on Turde.

Insider Travel Tips
The flight time from Los Angeles is thirteen hours, which includes a stopover in Hawaii. You may want to break up the trip back home with a brief one- or two-night stay in Hawaii.

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