Elegant Wedding: The Great Escape

Take off to a lesser-known Bahamian island for a post-nuptial getaway with warm-water breezes and the coolest tropical drinks

What does every wedding celebration have in common? Yes, flowers, cake and a band, we know. But that one element you’ll be ready to leave behind when you jet away with the man who just went from being your honey to your husband? People. They want all the best for you and you love them, of course, but after what could have been a year or more of wedding planning, you’ve been surrounded by people at all times. Parents

What does every wedding celebration have in common? Yes, flowers, cake and a band, we know. But that one element you’ll be ready to leave behind when you jet away with the man who just went from being your honey to your husband? People. They want all the best for you and you love them, of course, but after what could have been a year or more of wedding planning, you’ve been surrounded by people at all times. Parents, parents-in-law, vendors, cousins, friends and friends-of-friends, and by the time you’ve said your I-dos and partied the night away, well, you might find you’re ready to bid them adieu, if just for a little while.

No doubt the Bahamian islands have always been on your radar as far as fabulous tropical getaways are concerned — if not a top potential honeymoon destination — but we’re willing to bet Great Exuma hasn’t been one of them. About a 40-minute flight south of the more frequently visited Nassau (and even further below Grand Bahama Island), Great Exuma is the largest in a 120-mile archipelago of 365 mostly unin-habited cays and islands. It’s wonderfully secluded, yet offers such a peaceful and warm sense of community that you might start wondering if anyone would really miss you if you decided to never come home.

Grand Isle Resort and Spa

Imagine a little tropical utopia tucked away on a pristine stretch of beach so serene that everyone who enters it is given their own personal golf cart in which to dart around the grounds (the only things you’ll have to dodge are the tiny green lizards) for as long as their stay lasts. This is the case as soon as you arrive at the Grand Isle Resort and Spa on Great Exuma, a small community of 78 private villas nestled right on the
twinkling, crescent-shaped Emerald Bay.

Want to lounge on the beach under the shining sun or in the shade of a cabana built for two? Easy. Want to navigate the softly rolling turquoise waves in a complimentary kayak? It’s there. Want to not move a muscle all day, except to pad up the stairs from the beach to the Pallappa Poolside Bar and Grill and munch on crisp lobster salad, cool slices of mango and a drink that tastes the way the warm island breeze smells? Why, no one would ask any more of you. Time will never be so much your own as it will here, where everything seems to stop as soon as the shell-white sand is between your toes.

Perhaps the nicest part of this resort is what you get to go home to — not a hotel room or even a luxurious suite, but just that — a private home-away-from-home, with every comfort you could ever want. Bedrooms are painted the most refreshing soft, summery shades; ceilings are 9 feet high; floors and expansive baths are all marble; beds are the kind that swallow you up in their 400-thread-count Frette linens; and the views, well, they’re the kind that stop you in your tracks the second they’ve reached the corner of your eye. The kitchen has all-natural stone flooring, solid granite countertops and top-of-the-line appliances — picture a six-burner electric stovetop and Fisher & Paykel energy-saving dish drawer. And, if you’re the type who likes to toast your own bagel in the morning before facing the day, that can be arranged — when you make your honeymoon reservations, you’ll be asked to fill out a grocery list. Everything you check off will be waiting in solid wood cabinets and behind Sub-Zero refrigerator doors before your plane even touches down on Exuma soil.

If you’re feeling active beyond a dip in the ocean or the 3,600-square-foot free-form pool, you and your hubby can hop in your golf cart and take a tour of the 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course stemming from the nearby Four Seasons resort (more on that later) that wraps around the villas and decide if you’re up for a round. Or, take a walk around Georgetown, the Exumas’ capital, and explore the pastel bungalows, rows of fig trees, charming churches, and open-air markets with Bahamian women selling their handmade baskets, jewelry and straw hats.

When you get hungry later and still don’t feel like lifting a finger, don’t. Stop by the front office on your way back to your villa and fill out a quick form, crossing off conch chowder, Bahamian lobster tail and coconut saffron rice, then go back and relax on your outdoor terrace with a cool glass of wine until your personal chef shows up and does the cooking (and cleaning!) for you. Every quiet moment you ever missed with your new spouse over the last several months will come back to you now, and you’ll soon forget the feeling of wishing you could ditch out on appointments and obligations; stress here will only come in the form of trying to decide between an icy piña colada or a mango daiquiri.

Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay

This Bahamian outpost of the luxurious Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is literally a four-minute walk down the beach from the Grand Isle Resort and Spa. Meaning, if you are staying in the villas and want to change your dining options up a bit, visit a full-service spa or hop on a boating day-trip to an outlaying island, you’re more than welcome to pop in and out of the Four Seasons (zipping between the two properties in your golf cart also takes about four minutes). Or, if you’d like to, say, spend a week unwinding, refueling and lounging around your private villa, and then spend a week in the slightly more bustling Four Seasons, well, you can’t really go wrong no matter how you swing it.

If you’re the type of newlyweds who’d like to determine the type of honeymoon you’ll have by making prearrangements, the Four Seasons has plenty of packages to choose from. There’s the Golf and Spa package, the Bed and Breakfast package — or, mais oui, the Romance in Paradise package, which includes chilled champagne, strawberries and a bouquet of fresh-cut tropical flowers awaiting your arrival, two 50-minute spa treatments, and a choice of either a round of golf for two people at the aforementioned and ever-so-green Greg Norman golf course or a 50-minute couple’s massage in the spa. You’ll also get unlimited use of the on-site tennis courts and nonmotorized water sports, plus a romantic keepsake gift and round-trip transportation to and from the airport.

But, package or not, some things are guaranteed: swimming, floating, fishing, yachting and lounging on the beach along Emerald Bay; papaya chicken and melon margaritas at Ting’m, the beachside bar; a spa chock-full of heavenly treatments with an island flair (try the Sweet Mango Sugar Body Polish, during which your body is gloriously exfoliated and moisturized with oils from native mangos and sugar, or the Island Avocado Body Wrap, where locally grown avocados are turned into a wrap that will leave you glowing); and a variety of day-trip options — think snorkeling, sailing, nature trails, snacking on cracked conch and napping on uninhabited beaches — that leave right from the hotel.

Night brings dinner, and dinner will lead you to Il Cielo, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant. Low lighting, airy screens and glass panels showing views of the moonlit ocean create an enchanting ambiance that’ll remind you you’re on your honeymoon (just in case you’ve forgotten). And, delicious dishes from the seasonal menu such as swordfish crudo with oven-baked cherry tomatoes, lemon, olives and capers in a citrus dressing as a prelude to grilled spiny lobster tail with orange-braised baby fennel and bok choy will remind you that for as long as you’re there, nothing short of bliss will do.

To kick it up a bit before getting all romantic and honeymoon-y, head over to The Casino at Emerald Bay, just outside the Four Seasons’ front lobby. Here, good music and good drinks will get you in the gambling spirit (don’t worry, they’ll turn your American dollars into Bahamian ones with pleasure), and there are over 65 slot machines, blackjack and a slew of other games for you to try (we recommend placing a few of those wedding-gift dollars down on both your birthdays — or, your wedding date).

Before heading back to your beachfront suite — that is, if you can wait — spend some of your winnings at Il Cielo Lounge. Sit on the outdoor patio with a nightcap, smelling the sweet salt air and listening to the island lizards chirping in the trees. If you try, you’ll be able to wash away all the past months and see nothing but just what you should: the life ahead of you.