Getting Married on St. John

Introduction

This topic is near and dear to my heart, as Robert and I had our own magical St. John wedding in 2013. We, along with 75 family and friends, set sail on Kekoa and exchanged our vows just as the sun was dropping into the blue Caribbean Sea. Over the years that we’ve lived on St. John and hosted guests at our Island Abodes properties, we’ve had the privilege of being involved in one way or another with dozens of other couples who were either getting married on St. John, or here for a weddingmoon, honeymoon, babymoon, or vow renewal. All have been wonderful and special, but I’d have to say that other than my own St. John wedding, my favorite was when my brother and sister-in-law got married at Trunk Bay in 2016. All of the things that make St. John special as a tropical island getaway make it the perfect place to tie the knot. Here’s what you need to know.

St. John Wedding Planners

St. John has some wonderful wedding planners who can coordinate all the details for you, freeing you up to enjoy the special time with your betrothed and any friends and family. Most St. John wedding planners offer a reasonable flat fee for helping with your Virgin Islands marriage application, any required permits, an officiant, a photographer, and getting your marriage license. And they can help arrange a venue and caterer if you have a larger wedding party. We personally know and have worked with all of these St. John wedding planners and highly recommend each of them (listed in alphabetical order by last name):

Mary Bartolucci with Island Style Weddings

Michelle Fage Cawthron with Paradise Planning

Anne Marie Porter with St. John Weddings

Planning Your Own St. John Wedding

Our advice is to hire a wedding planner, but it’s certainly possible to coordinate things on your own. If you decide to go that route, you’ll need to take care of all the details, and especially the application, license and permits. Here’s some information you’ll need to know…

Getting a Virgin Islands Marriage License

You’ll need to apply for a marriage license at the Family Division of the VI Superior Court. Their website has all the information about applying for and obtaining a VI marriage license. Here’s the link.

Permits to Get Married on a Virgin Islands National Park Beach

St. John’s amazing North Shore beaches are the biggest draw for travelers, and the same holds true for couples getting married. But if you want to have a ceremony on Hawksnest, Cinnamon, Maho, Francis, or the most popular one, Trunk Bay, you’ll need a permit from the National Park Service. Here’s a link to their website with all the info you’ll need.

Virgin Islands Wedding Officiants

Aside from outsourcing all the details, working with either Mary Bartolucci or Anne Marie Porter means they can officiate at your ceremony. If you decide to go it alone, a great choice for officiant is Island Mike, a former trial attorney who has truly found his calling in a much happier business.

Hair and Make-Up

Cruz Salon

Grapevine Salon

St. John Photographers

We have used the services of all five of these awesome photographers (listed alphabetically by last name):

Anne Bequette, STJ Creative Photography

Sage Hammond, Crown Images

Savanah Loftus, Savanah Loftus Photography

Yelena Rogers, Yelena Rogers Photography

Lindsay Vann, Lindsay Vann Photography

St. John Caterers

To cater a reception or a private dinner or brunch, we highly recommend these wonderful folks:

St. John Catering / Mathayom Private Chefs

Oasis Private Chefs

Best St. John Restaurants for Large Groups

Lime Inn 

Morgan’s Mango

Ocean 362

1864 Restaurant 

High Tide 

Best St. John Restaurants for Intimate, Romantic Dinners

Extra Virgin

La Tapa

The Terrace

Annual Trunk Bay Vow Renewal

For many years on Valentine’s Day, Anne Marie Porter has conducted a free vow renewal ceremony on Trunk Bay. It’s a very special event where sometimes more than 100 couples renew their vows. If you’ve been thinking of renewing your vows, this is a wonderful time to be on St. John. For more information, visit here.

St. John Wedding Accommodations

One of the most important details about getting married on St. John is finding the right accommodations for the happy couple and wedding guests. At Island Abodes we specialize in hosting special occasions. Our Sunset Serenade Suites in the hills above Cruz Bay consists of four enchanting 1-bedroom vacation homes. It’s perfect for wedding groups, and we’ve hosted so many happy couples in the Penthouse, Honeymoon Suite, Hibiscus Suite, and Papaya Suite. Down Yonder Pool Villa consists of 2 King master suites and a 30 foot saltwater pool. It can be rented separately, or together with the Garden Suite to add another private 1BR/1BA home. All units come with our famous Island Abodes hospitality, of course! We allow events when you do a buy out of either Sunset Sereande Suites or Chocolate Hole Renals. Many wedding welcome parties have taken place at Sunset Serenade Suites as it is one of the best places to watch the sunset on island!

St. John Named a Top U.S. Family Vacation Destination

Most of us look forward all year to our family beach vacation. Spending real, relaxed time with kids, and maybe extended family too, is one of the great joys of life. Throw in perfect weather, amazing beaches with crystal clear water, pristine natural beauty of a national park, and it’s downright heavenly. The Travel Channel recently named St. John as one of the best vacation destinations for families. Here’s what makes it so special.

St. John is Accessible, But Not Too Accessible

St. John doesn’t have an airport, so visitors fly into Thomas from any one of numerous US cities before reaching their final destination by ferry. In a world consumed with convenience, not every traveler is willing to go that extra mile (actually 3 miles). But for those in the know, the payoff is so worth it. Far from being an inconvenience, most St. John aficionados crave the ferry ride for the spectacular views and the anticipation of what awaits. Learn more here. 

St. John is U.S.

In a complicated world, many families find comfort in staying in the U.S. As a U.S. territory, St. John is American soil, protected by Uncle Sam. The language is English, the power is 110v, and the Dollar is the currency, so no exchange-rate hassles or costs. For all that’s familiar on St. John, there’s also a wonderful dose of the exotic. While it’s U.S., it’s the Caribbean first and foremost, with a slower pace of life, where the simple pleasures come into focus.

St. John is Safe

With only 4,000 residents, St. John is like a small town where people know each other and look after one another. That makes it a refuge where crime is exceedingly rare. While it’s still prudent to not invite a problem – for example by leaving valuables in plain view on the seat of your unlocked rental Jeep – the safety rating means that St. John is a place where families can truly relax.

 St. John Activities

Families vacationing on St. John prefer the term “experiences” over “activities.” You won’t find movie theaters or water parks or bowling alleys. Instead, think snorkeling with sea turtles, learning to paddleboard in Maho Bay, hiking to Honeymoon Beach (and taking a golf cart ride back), taking a boat trip to the BVIs, or just playing with the little ones in the gentle surf of an exquisite white sand beach.

St. John Offers Wonderful Private Accommodations, Not Big Impersonal Resort Hotels

Private villas, apartments, and suites dominate the St. John accommodations market. There are some great small Cruz Bay hotels, but most families opt to rent a home with more room to spread out, a stocked kitchen to prepare meals, and amenities like a washer/dryer to keep things civilized and make packing a breeze. Aside from being more enjoyable in every way, renting a St. John vacation home affords more opportunity to be a part of the community as you live like a local during your trip. It really adds to the entire experience of being a traveler rather than just a tourist.

St. John’s Beaches are World Class

There are lots of reasons St. John is an ideal family destination, but for most people it’s all about the beaches. The sand is perfect and the water in this part of the Caribbean is as clear and calm as it gets. That means you can get up close and personal with coral reefs and all kinds of marine life, including friendly sea turtles, colorful reef fish, stingrays, and more. From Honeymoon, Hawksnest, and Trunk, to Cinnamon, Francis, and Salt Pond, each St. John beach is both unique and spectacular. For families, it’s hard to beat Maho Bay, which is the most protected bay on the North Shore. It’s almost always calm, with perfect sand that slopes gently into the clear water, and sea turtles galore.

St. John Transportation

Getting from the airport to the ferry is easy, (as explained here) you can take the public taxi vans or safari trucks available outside baggage claim. No car seats are required or available for these public transport vehicles. The best way to travel once on St. John is by renting your own private jeep. You can also rent a car seat from Island Baby to be placed in your jeep when you pick it up at the car rental place. Using public transportation while on St. John to explore the island is not recommend as it can be unreliable.

Where To Rent Snorkel Gear On St. John

A question we get asked frequently by Island Abodes guests is about where they can rent snorkel gear on St. John for their vacation. St. John’s beaches are some of the best in the world, and the beauty extends into the crystal clear water as well. To get up close and personal with coral reefs, fish, turtles, rays and other wildlife, snorkeling is the way to go, and you really want high quality snorkel gear. We think the best to rent snorkel gear in St. John is with our friends at Beach Bum.

St. John Beach Bum has a huge selection of masks, snorkels, and fins, including prescription masks for those of us who wear glasses. They’ll make sure you get a perfect fit, and their top notch equipment is sanitized between rentals. When you book with Island Abodes, we will send you a 10% off coupon code to use when renting your gear.

St. John Beach Bum is also the place to go for any other beach gear you might need during your St. John vacation, including SUP rentals, kayak rentals, beach tents and toys, and even GoPro cameras. They also carry awesome rash guards, hats, t-shirts, insulated cups, sunglasses and more.

St. John Beach Bum’s location couldn’t be more convenient. They are right there, upstairs, at the entrance to the Cruz Bay passenger ferry dock, across the street from the park and Cruz Bay Landing (one of our favorite St. John bars and restaurants).

If you haven’t been to St. John Beach Bum, be sure to stop in on your next St. John vacation.

Peter Bay Beach, St. John USVI

 

Located just past Trunk, beyond the Northshore Road switchbacks, is the entrance to the exclusive Peter Bay subdivision. While all the beaches in the USVI are public, there’s no easy way to get to Peter Bay Beach unless you’re a resident or guest. If your heart is set on checking out the sand, which is very nice, one option is to swim or snorkel or paddleboard from Little Cinnamon next door.

St. John Beach Guide

For its size, no island in the world has more world-class beaches than St. John. There are a few exquisite stretches of sand on the South Shore and East End, but most are found on St. John’s famed North shore, where each scalloped bay is more picturesque than the next.

Here — exclusively for guests and friends of Island Abodes — is our short guide to St. John beaches. This is just our personal take, but it’s based on many, many (did we say many?) hours at each and every one of these spectacular beaches. We’re sure you have your own favorites and insights. Send us your thoughts and we’ll include in the next update.

palm tree on st john beach
Maho Bay beach, St. John

NORTH SHORE

Salomon Bay

This is the closest beach to town, accessible via an easy 15 minute hike starting right behind the Virgin Island National Park offices. Learn more here.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon can be reached by trail from Salomon or down the same trail adjacent to the VINP sign on Northshore Road. Learn more here. 

Caneel Bay Beach 

Although Caneel Bay is home to several amazing beaches, they are pretty much inaccessible after the 2017 hurricanes destroyed the resort. Learn more here.

Hawksnest Beach

Hawksnest is a dreamy beach and  is the first one from town with parking right along the shore. Learn more here.

Gibney or Oppenheimer Beach

A couple hundred yards up Northshore Road from Hawksnest, at the end of the white picket fence, are metal gates that spell “Oppenheimer” across the top and lead down to the beach. Learn more here.

Denis Bay

Just past the Oppenheimer gates you’ll pass Easter Rock on your left and then reach the parking area for Peace Hill. Park there, walk about 20 yards and then veer right down a smaller unmarked trail. Learn more here.

Jumbie Beach

Jumbie often gets overlooked on the way to iconic Trunk Bay. Learn more here.

Trunk Bay

Unless you stopped at Jumbie, your first glimpse of Trunk Bay will be from the overlook. Stopping for photos is not optional. There’s a $5 per person admission fee. Learn more here. 

Peter Bay

Located just past Trunk, beyond the Northshore Road switchbacks, is the entrance to the exclusive Peter Bay subdivision. Learn more here. 

Cinnamon Bay (and Little Cinnamon)

Cinnamon Bay used to be known for its campground and cottages that led out to the longest stretch of sand on St. John. Learn more here. 

Maho Bay

For many residents and visitors, Maho is a beach lover’s heaven. This is the most protected bay on the North shore, with the calmest waters that gently lap at the shore. Learn more here.

Francis Bay

Northshore Road jogs inland at the far end of Maho Bay. Keep bearing left for a couple of miles and you’ll reach Francis Bay. It’s a little harder to get to than some others, which means fewer people. Learn more here.

Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay

Head toward the Annaberg Ruins, park where you can, and start hiking along the shoreline. You can stop anywhere to swim or snorkel or chill, but keep going for 20-30 minutes and you’ll find some nice sand and an easy swim out to Waterlemon Cay. Learn more here.

EAST END

Haulover South

Take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, then veer left at the ball field, pass Skinny Legs, and keep on driving for 3 more miles. Easy parking on the road. Learn more here.

Haulover North

Look for the narrow trail across the road from the beach. After maybe 300 feet it opens up to an incredible view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel across to Tortola. Learn more here.

Hansen Bay

Less than a mile down the road from Haulover you’ll find this delightful spot with soft white sand. Learn more here. 

SOUTH SHORE

Salt Pond

This very special spot is the most popular beach on the South shore. To get here, take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, go right at the ball field, than drive 4 miles to just past the entrance to Concordia (now closed). Where the road turns sharply right is the parking area. It’s a 10-15 minute easy/moderate walk down to the beach. Learn more here.

Lameshur Bay

This off-the-beaten-path gem is located 1.5 miles past the Salt Pond parking area. The last stretch is unpaved so the short distance will take 15 minutes. There are actually 2 bays. You reach Great Lameshur first — a long, rocky, crescent beach where access isn’t super easy. Next door is the real charmer, Little Lameshur, with some of the best snorkeling on St. John. The beach offers soft, white sand and the bay is very protected and usually very calm (except when weather is coming out of the South). There are great trails around and cool ruins to explore.

Reef Bay

This is really 2 distinct places. There’s one Reef Bay beach at the end of the Reef Bay Trail, accessed mid-island from Centerline Road. The trail is awesome, moderate to strenuous heading down, and quite strenuous going back up. At the bottom there are ruins and an isolated coastline with ever changing sand and rocks. Learn more here.

Hart Bay

This is an awesome pebble beach with sand here and there, located down an easy trail right in the Chocolate Hole neighborhood. There’s pretty good snorkeling in spots, with rock formations, coral, and sea life. Learn more here. 

Chocolate Hole Bay

This is the other walkable beach from Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite. Same directions like you’re going to Hart Bay, except don’t turn left on Tamarind Road, keep straight on Chocolate East until you reach the Pond Bay development. There are two public parking areas, the first one is paved and the second one isn’t. Learn more here.