Host your wedding in an island paradise with all the advantages of getting married in the U.S.
By Willie Ildefonso
Puerto Rico — “the enchanted island,” as the locals know it — is a remarkable place to visit and ideal place to plan a destination wedding. It’s got all the allure of an exotic paradise but is conveniently located in our own backyard. The fact that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. also comes with a variety of other benefits: transactions are made in U.S. currency; the roads and infrastructure are excellent, and you can communicate in English even as you enjoy the island’s Spanish charm. Plus, there are no passports required!
The city of San Juan welcomes wedding parties with great shopping, bustling nightlife and spectacular restaurants. Old San Juan preserves 500 years of Spanish heritage in its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets and celebrates culture with its museums and vibrant arts scene. The island also offers some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere, and you’ll find magnificent wedding venues at every price point where you will spend a fraction of what you would to celebrate in NYC or LA.
Opened in 1919 by Frederick William Vanderbilt and designed by the same firm as New York’s iconic Grand Central Station, the Condado Vanderbilt is undoubtedly one of the most upscale properties in the Caribbean. Old and New Worlds meet at this five-star grand hotel, anchoring the Condado, a strip of beach where many of San Juan’s hotels are located. The first true luxury hotel to open in Puerto Rico, its celebrity guests have included President Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Errol Flynn and Bob Hope. The hotel, which concluded a $200 million renovation in 2014, now boasts 319 rooms, a 10,000 square-foot spa and hammam, and the fabulous 4 star restaurant 1919, which serves New American cuisine using local island ingredients. Couples may choose from venues accomodating guest lists of up to 130 in spaces ranging from the intimate Salon Azul to the grand Patio del Fauno ballroom. condadovanderbilt.com
Unmistakable with its unique seashell shaped restaurant, Perla (pictured), La Concha is a contemporary sleek resort. Opened in 1958, the hotel was renovated eight years ago and added an atrium-style tower in 2010. La Concha’s rooms glow with white furniture and bright scenes of Puerto Rico. Of its tower’s more than 200 suites, the most desirable is the Presidential Suite at the top, where celebs like J-Lo and Marc Anthony have enjoyed the open terrace and rooftop jacuzzi. La Concha has a variety of wedding venues, such as the Solera Upper Deck with beautiful granite floors and a customizable LED lights; the Atrium’s 10-story enclosed greenhouse has a canopied terrace that can hold up to 500, and they can even build a dance floor over the Sereno Pool for plenty of room to sway along with the palm trees. laconcharesort.com
Set on cliffs above the Atlantic on Puerto Rico’s Northwest coast is the exclusive Royal Isabela. Brothers Stanley and Charlie Pasarell put in a world-class golf course and twenty free standing casitas (Spanish for “little houses” ), creating a truly picturesque propety. Royal Isabela prides itself on environmental friendliness, allowing guests to feel one with nature while enjoying seclusion and top tier amenities. The Restaurant at La Casa uses vegetables produced on the property, and its fish and meat are caught or raised locally. There’s plenty to do in the area, including scrambling down the cliffs to check out secluded beaches and visiting the Fisherman’s Village with food and music on Sunday afternoons. Couples can choose from locations around the grounds for ceremonies: cliffside overlooking the ocean, a beachfront cave, along a mystic trail lined with mangrove trees, or beside your own private plunge pool. royalisabela.com
Located just across from the San Juan Bautista Cathedral (the second-oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere), the structure that became El Convento was established in 1651. It did not become a hotel until 1962 and remains one of the most spectacularly preserved buildings on the island, making visitors feel like they’ve been transported to Spain. Renovated in the 1990s, it is now a five-story, 4-star boutique hotel with 58 rooms, each decorated uniquely, with the standout being the Gloria Vanderbilt Suite. Meanwhile, restaurant Patio del Nispero offers stunning elegant outdoor dining under a 100-year-old nispero fruit tree. The property has four beautiful ceremony venues, ranging from cozy (720 sqare feet) to capacious (2,900 square feet) — all decorated with elegance befitting the property’s storied history. elconvento.com
About an hour from the San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, you’ll find El Conquistador Resort and Las Casitas Village, located in Fajardo on the Northeastern end of the island. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, which converges with the Atlantic Ocean to the North, it’s Puerto Rico’s largest all-inclusive resort, first opened in 1962. Outdoors, there’s snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, horseback riding, tennis, golf and fishing. Indoors, there’s the 26,000 square-foot Waldorf Astoria Spa, offering treatments using indigenous products sourced from the nearby rainforest. The property is also located near the ferry to the islands of Vieques and Culebra, and is just minutes away from El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. (where we recommend adventuring away from the main tourist areas — as long as you’re careful not to get lost).
Las Casitas Village is El Conquistador’s most elite accommodation, inviting guests to stay in secluded villas, where you can even have a chef come create a private dining experience for you. Other personal touches include butler service and your own personal golf cart to explore the property. El Conquistador’s wedding venues range from its Casitas Garden, where you can welcome 40 guests for an intimate ceremony to its, where you can host up to 1,400. elconresort.com (—With additional reporting by Madison Gulbin)
Last modified: July 27, 2017