One thing about my work that I love so much is that we get to travel to amazing places that I’ve never been to before. At these places, we create unforgettable memories for our clients and their guests. For me, that is even better than being on a vacation, is that weird??
Early last week, I returned from Harbour Island – one of the outer islands in the Bahamas. I was there to produce a favorite client’s wedding (they are from Dallas and just the lovliest). It was a four day event and their guests had traveled from all over. A misconception about Harbour Island is that it is difficult to get to. Yes, there is not one direct flight to take (well, unless you live in Miami), but once you get to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, it is easy. When you land in North Eleuthera, you are guided to hop into a cab for a 3 minute ride, and then on a 5 to 8 minute speed boat ride to the island. This is hardly an inconvenience, as what you get in return are the most amazing turquoise waters and a petite colonial town off in the distance. As you inch closer, you begin to see the vibrant pastel homes on the island. I think this brought out the inner “south Florida” girl in me.
Anyhow, upon arrival to the island, you almost find yourself in sensory overload. Locals on the dock are heading out on their boats, packs of the native breed of dogs (potcakes – a little bit of this and that) are running down the dock and in the water. Not to mention golf carts, the preferred method of transportation on the island (loved these guys at Johnson’s). There is a special energy the minute you step on that dock, I’m not quite sure how to explain it. Perhaps it is the friendly locals who seem genuinely happy to see you, or maybe it is the lack of rules and authority, utter freedom. I smiled from ear to ear each and every time I saw a another guest arrive for their very first time.
The hotels on Harbour Island are small – 10 to 25 rooms each. So our guests stayed at three of the hotels: The Landing (designed by India Hicks and run by a wonderful group of people), Coral Sands (located on Pink Sand Beach where the sand is, yes, pink, from the pulverized coral) and Pink Sands (where the wedding reception was held – beautiful cottages with unreal ocean views). Now, if your idea of the perfect getaway is a butler waiting on your every need at a Four Seasons or Mandalay Oriental – this is not going to be your cup of tea. The hotels do not have spas (there is a spa on the Island, Island Spa, and masseuses will also come to your hotel), and some of the hotels do not have televisions or room service. But what they do have that truly captured my heart, is an unbelievable amount of soul and character.
Our events started off with a welcome reception on Thursday evening at the newly renovated Dunmore Beach Club. We played with their color palette of coral and turquoise (very much works with the island) and enjoyed yummy fresh Margaritas and their specialty drink, the Dunmore Breeze (similar to a Mojito, but better), by the pool. The next morning our client was treated to a sweet bridal breakfast at the Oceanview Club , another hotel on the beach whose owner also owns the trendiest store in town, Miss Mae’s. The ladies went around the vintage wooden table reliving fond memories.
For us, Friday was all about set up for the evening’s beach barbeque on Pink Sand Beach. This was a bit of a gamble, as the winds on the island are unpredictable (no weather forecast is accurate), but working together with Ben Simmons of Little Island Design, our production was set up flawlessly – including the wind screens to protect the guests. Guests were greeted with passed beverages including a Pink Goombay Smash (a twist on the famous local drink), Sky Juice (made with fresh coconut milk), Kiwi Cooler, Passion Fruit Coolers & of course Kalik and Sands (Bahamian Beer). A local Bahamian freshly made a variety of conch salads (right out of the shells and right in front of the guests). Guests then sat down at long wooden tables and enjoyed a hearty meal catered by Little Island Design, including Grilled Mahi Mahi and Bahamian Burgers. Local and yummy! Guests stayed warm by the bonfire & danced to island music while servers passed warm apple crisps and mini-buckets of sorbet. . The evening wrapped up at local water holes, including, Valentine’s, Gusty’s and the bar at the Rock House.
So, the thing about the wedding day is it made me really emotional. I don’t get emotional all that often, especially while working. Just like any destination event on any island – coordinating the details is no easy task. This proved to be a bit harder than most. If the wind blew the wrong way, the island’s internet or phone service would go out. We used all vendors from the island for everything, (well except our genius photographer Jonas Peterson) and it wasn’t exactly easy getting in touch with them from Los Angeles. In fact, sometimes we would be told that certain vendors were unreachable, unless I went and found them on the street during business hours…. Huh?? I’m not going to pretend this didn’t cause any frustration back at the ranch (aka the YOA office).
Well, what I am trying to say is, the ceremony was unbelievably perfect. The musicians, the Reverend (Reverend Russell of St. John’s Anglican Church) – everyone – put their heart and soul into this day. Our soloist, organist, the youth choir and guitarist… I was amazed. They learned the songs I asked them to learn…perfectly. There was so much emotion in that little church, I had to hold back tears. The pinnacle was the Junkanoo Band (a street parade with music, which occurs in many towns across the Bahamas every Boxing Day and can be hired for other events) that greeted us right after the ceremony. The costumes, the dancers and the colors were breathtaking as they led the guests to the reception at Pink Sands Resort. There was so much emotion from the locals and our guests – locals came out of their homes to watch – and I still felt those tears creeping up as I hopped from golf cart to golf cart trying to make my way to the cocktail reception first.
The guests were elated as they were greeted at Pink Sands for more Junkanoo along with an island calypso duo during the cocktail reception. The dinner was a custom menu of butter poached lobster, rib eye or local grouper. After dinner, the guests were led into the reception area where local DJ, Daddy D, played into the night. Guests feasted (again) on a chocolate station (the groom’s favorite) and passed mini-peppermint ice cream sandwiches (pink of course!). At the night’s end, everyone slept soundly and peacefully with the help of the ear plugs provided at their first night’s turn down…to block out the famous Harbour Island roosters who begin their calls at 2am. Yikes.
The perfect weekend wrapped up with a brunch at The Landing (best breakfast in town).
When it was time for me to take off in that boat back to North Eleuthera, I found myself fighting the tears once again. As I bid farewell to Ben from LID (joined by his lovely Irish girlfriend Charlotte), I knew I would be back. Ben and Charlotte gave me a little gift to remember the island by … a Harbour Island Potcake mug – the perfect gift for me. I look forward to whatever takes me back to HI, whether it is an event or perhaps even a little R&R. Sooner rather than later.
p.s. we don’t have the photos back from the wedding yet, but will post a few as soon as we do. Stay tuned.