cook is­lands

My Wedding - - GUY ESSENTIALS -

While the Cook Is­lands con­sists of 15 beau­ti­ful is­lands, two play a ma­jor role in wed­dings and hon­ey­moons … Raro­tonga and Ai­tu­taki. Wed­ding venues abound on Raro­tonga. Most will opt for a beach wed­ding as it's the essence of an is­land wed­ding … white sand, turquoise blue wa­ters, de­li­ciously scented trop­i­cal blooms … and, even if you ex­pe­ri­ence a shower, it's usu­ally very short-lived and at least it's warm rain! That said, on my vis­its over the years, I've found some ex­quis­ite non-beachy lo­ca­tions where cou­ples could con­sider say­ing their vows. There are lush gar­dens and sparkling wa­ter­falls, or take one of the la­goon ves­sels over to a motu for com­plete soli­tude.

Ai­tu­taki is usu­ally con­sid­ered as a hon­ey­moon lo­ca­tion – it's se­cluded, peace­ful, ex­tremely beau­ti­ful and only a short do­mes­tic flight away from Raro­tonga. One Foot Is­land is very pop­u­lar for those who do ven­ture over for their wed­ding cer­e­monies but, in re­al­ity, pic­ture-per­fect spots abound in the wa­ters sur­round­ing this lit­tle is­land.

A pop­u­lar time of day for wed­dings in the Cook Is­lands is late af­ter­noon. Firstly be­cause it's cool­ing off at that time of day, but also be­cause you are usu­ally rewarded with spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets which make for ro­man­tic pho­tos. Pic­ture your­self and your guests be­neath a white mar­quee, the soft white sand or lush green grass un­der­foot, twin­kling stars over­head, frangi­pani fra­grance drift­ing on a South Sea breeze, waves gen­tly lapping at the shore­line … a heaven for all your senses!

Have you con­sid­ered a Poly­ne­sian ex­pe­ri­ence for your big day, in­clud­ing lo­cal dishes and en­ter­tain­ment such as fire danc­ing or a ukulele or two gen­tly strum­ming in the back­ground? Cater­ing can be as Western or Poly­ne­sian as you like at the re­sorts, restau­rants, bars and func­tion rooms.

There are some great pho­tog­ra­phers and videog­ra­phers on the is­land, al­though many cou­ples opt for a NZ-based pro­fes­sional as some are will­ing to travel. Flow­ers are usu­ally fairly sim­ple on the Is­lands, but the florists will al­ways at­tempt to whip up any spe­cific re­quests given enough no­tice. I don't ad­vise try­ing to travel with your cake, al­though I have heard of some who have! The ho­tel chefs are fairly adept at cre­at­ing fab­u­lous wed­ding cakes and, to be hon­est, you may be bet­ter off with some­thing fairly sim­ple in the heat.

The larger ho­tels and re­sorts have in-house salons or will at least be able to point you in the di­rec­tion of a rec­om­mended hair and makeup artist. Here again, many brides like to do trial runs and will opt to have their hair and makeup artist travel from NZ with them.

Many of the wed­ding pack­ages on of­fer will in­clude, or at least of­fer the choice of, a cel­e­brant, neck or head eis, arches, a wed­ding cake, petals, cor­sage, bub­bly, etc., and you will al­ways get an op­tion to add in more – like dancers, string mu­si­cians, is­land drum­mers and fire dancers, a DJ, hair and makeup artists and pho­tog­ra­pher. (See the Info Box for two sam­ple pack­ages from Crown Beach Re­sort.) The larger re­sorts and those who con­duct wed­dings reg­u­larly, usu­ally have an in-house wed­ding plan­ner or co­or­di­na­tor. If not, there are two op­tions – hire a NZ plan­ner who is au fait with the Is­lands, or chat to some­one like Wed­ded Bliss.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion is as var­ied as the wed­ding pack­age op­tions. Choose from a beach­front villa or a gar­den room. Many cou­ples choose to stay with their bri­dal party and close fam­ily at one re­sort, with guests (and their chil­dren) at an­other. Be aware that many re­sorts cater for hon­ey­moon­ers and there­fore have a limited age pol­icy in re­gard to chil­dren – some cap it at 15 years, oth­ers at 18 – check be­fore you book!

If you're plan­ning to stay in the Cooks for your hon­ey­moon, se­ri­ously con­sider Ai­tu­taki for a few nights. That way, your guests can re­main on Raro­tonga en­joy­ing a fab­u­lous hol­i­day, and you can es­cape for a lit­tle “us time” to cel­e­brate your nup­tials in style. I'd rec­om­mend ei­ther Ai­tu­taki Vil­las or The Pa­cific Re­sort for a ro­man­tic few days.

Which­ever is­land you choose, your wed­ding can be as in­ti­mate or as lav­ish as you like – the Cook Is­landers are geared up to pam­per you and your guests from the mo­ment you ar­rive. Warm smiles, friendly greet­ings, sway­ing palms … it's yours for the tak­ing.

The Legals – Cook Is­lands

Vis­i­tors are granted a 31-day Vis­i­tor on Ar­rival visa free at the air­port. Cou­ples need to reg­is­ter 3 work­ing days prior to the wed­ding to get their mar­riage li­cense – cost $15. You can ap­ply for a li­cense waiver, but it does cost around $50-100. Apos­tille Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion may be nec­es­sary – you need to check! Cost - $55; re­quires three days to process. You'll need to present your orig­i­nal birth cer­tifi­cates and pass­ports. If pre­vi­ously mar­ried, you'll also need to present your di­vorce pa­pers or death cer­tifi­cate. Th­ese doc­u­ments must be in English or trans­lated to English and ver­i­fied. Wed­dings in the Cook Is­lands are legally bind­ing and in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised, al­though some coun­tries do re­quire ad­di­tional pa­per­work for their cit­i­zens. Wed­dings are not con­ducted on Sun­days as the Cooks is a very re­li­gious na­tion.

Pa­cific Re­sort - Ai­tu­taki

Muri Beach, Raro­tonga

Muri Beach, Raro­tonga

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