The Cook Islands’ remote location, friendly people and burgeoning culinary scene aren’t the only things that separate this South Pacific paradise from other warm-weather destinations. Where else in the world can you take a sunset stroll along a deserted white sand cay surrounded by nothing but the waters of a perfectly still vibrant turquoise lagoon? Or enjoy a five-star meal like a sultan atop a mountain of pillows on the beach? Read on to learn about some of the Cook Islands most original honeymoon experiences.
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Located in the balmy South Pacific between Fiji and French Polynesia, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exotic destination wedding location than the Cook Islands. This set of 15 tiny islands and atolls are about as relaxed as tropical islands come. There are no chain restaurants, no stoplights and no buildings taller than a palm tree in the entire country. Interestingly, Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens — a result of the country’s free association with its neighbour to the south — so everyone speaks English, making remote wedding planning quite simple.
Here we’ll give you all the facts you need to know about destination weddings in the Cook Islands, from the laws and customs to the best time to plan a wedding and the costs involved with doing so.
The best time to go: The Cook Islands are blessed with lovely weather year-round but high season occurs during the North American summer months when winter hits Australia and New Zealand so, conveniently, the best time to plan a destination wedding in the Cook Islands is in March when there are less travellers from the southern hemisphere and hotel rates are considerably lower.
The flight: Air New Zealand currently offers one direct flight per week from Los Angeles to the capital city of Rarotonga (roughly a ten-hour journey), which departs each Sunday evening. Return flights on Air New Zealand from Rarotonga to Los Angeles depart each Saturday evening.
The legal paperwork: Plan to arrive in the Cook Islands at least three days before your wedding ceremony to obtain a marriage license from the Ministry of Justice. You will both need to present your passports and birth certificates and fill out a form declaring your intention to marry. You’ll be required to pay a fee of $45 and have your officiant sign your form then wait up to three business days for the Ministry of Justice to issue your marriage license. If one of you is divorced, legal proof of that divorce will be required. If one of you is a widow or widower, a death certificate for the previous spouse needs to be produced. If time is tight ask your wedding coordinator to apply on your behalf before you arrive.
The local customs: For a religious ceremony choose one of the Cook Islands’ famous coral and limestone churches or marry on the beach surrounded by tropical blooms. If taffeta and lace aren’t your style opt for a handmade wedding dress from Tav’s, a traditional Cook Islands clothing store in Rarotonga where beach-ready apparel is designed, hand-dyed and hand-painted onsite. After your wedding ceremony in the Cook Islands you’ll be offered the opportunity to plant a baby coconut palm, or uto, to seal your vows. The coconut palm is considered the “tree of life” in the South Pacific and it is used for everything from food to building materials. Many couples choose to return to the Cooks on their wedding anniversaries to reflect on their love and check up on their commemorative palms.
The budget and venue: Your wedding in the Cooks can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. For roughly $1,700 CDN you can celebrate your nuptials at the intimate Little Polynesian Resort, Weddingbells top pick for a luxurious stay in Rarotonga. This price includes your officiant, transport and assistance with your marriage license application, a ceremony spot on the beach decorated with tropical flowers, a personal wedding planner, champagne, a decorative archway and photography. Additional fees apply for a catered reception. If ultra remote “I dos” are more your speed consider a wedding package with Bishop’s Cruises off Rarotonga’s sister island, Aitutaki. This family-run cruise company will transport you and your betrothed to picture-perfect One Foot Island where you can say your vows on the sand in seclusion. For roughly $3,500 CDN you’ll get boat transfers to the island, an officiant, your marriage license, flowers, a local string band, champagne, local flower girls, a tropical archway, photography and a personal wedding planner to make sure your celebration is just as you had envisioned.
Given its remote location, the quality of food in The Cook Islands might surprise you. The area is actually known for its wonderful cuisine, which emphasizes fresh seafood and coconuts in every conceivable incarnation. The island chain’s close proximity to Australia and New Zealand has afforded its chefs access to some of the southern hemisphere’s best culinary schools and visitors need only spend a few hours at Rarotonga’s weekly Punanga Nui Market to understand the bounty of fresh produce available on that tiny island alone. Gourmet travellers will also appreciate the commitment throughout the islands to using fresh seasonal ingredients. Read on for some of the top culinary experiences for foodie travellers.
The varied landscapes of the Cook Islands makes them the perfect playground for adventure seekers. From the lush green jungles of Rarotonga to the tiny deserted sandy islets and expansive reefs surrounding Aitutaki, there’s plenty to explore.
Getting out on the water is a must during any trip to the Cook Islands — peer into the South Pacific Ocean’s crystalline depths and you’ll be rewarded with schools of rainbow-coloured fish and giant clams the size of watermelons.
For a deeper understanding of the islands, their history and culture, a guided hike through the Rarotongan jungle with local legend and traditional healer Pa Teuraa is a must.
Read on to discover more essential Cook Islands experiences for outdoor enthusiasts.
Unless you’re particularly interested in geography or have flown over the Pacific multiple times, you may have never heard of the Cook Islands, never mind considered where exactly they are. This group of 15 tiny islands — veritable specs scattered across a 2.2-million-kilometre stretch of sapphire South Pacific water — were settled by explorers from French Polynesia roughly 1400 years ago. Captain James Cook, the islands’ namesake, arrived in the late 1700s and a few decades later British missionaries showed up and converted the majority of the Cook Islanders to Christianity. The Cook Islands became a British protectorate in 1888 and in 1901 the New Zealand government decided to annex the country. The Cook Islands remained a New Zealand protectorate until 1965, when the New Zealand Government decided to offer self-governing status to its colony. To this day Cook Islanders hold New Zealand passports and speak English as well as Maori. The island group, which includes six atolls (unique ring-shaped coral islands surrounding a lagoon) has long been a popular destination for vacationing Australians and New Zealanders but is beginning to gain popularity in the North American market as well with direct flights from Los Angeles via Air New Zealand.
Where are the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands are located in the centre of what’s called “The Polynesian Triangle” with Hawaii at its apex and New Zealand and Easter Island on either side. The island group’s closest neighbours are French Polynesia and American Samoa. Los Angeles is roughly 10 hours by plane north-east of the capital of Rarotonga while Auckland, New Zealand is a four-hour flight to the south-west.
How do you get there?
The quickest and easiest way to get from Canada to the Cook Islands is via Los Angeles. Air New Zealand currently operates one outbound flight per week from LAX to Rarotonga, which departs each Sunday night. Return flights from Rarotonga to LAX depart each Saturday night.
Why honeymoon in the Cook Islands?
So why choose to spend what is arguably the most important and romantic trip of your life in the Cook Islands over a warm weather destination closer to home? For starters, the Canadian winter months are actually low season in the Cook Islands so rates tend to be lower in February and March. Travellers from the southern hemisphere have their sights set on the Cooks during the Canadian summer months when temperatures plunge in Australia and New Zealand.
The island chain’s remote location also makes it an ideal honeymoon spot. While crowds descend on other destinations closer to North America you’ll be enjoying your very own stretch of flawless sand in the South Pacific.
Getting around the Cook Islands is also incredibly easy. The main island of Rarotonga has only one road which runs around the its circumference and everyone speaks English, which makes bookings a breeze.
What can you expect when you arrive?
Deplane in Rarotonga and you’ll be greeted at the baggage carousel by Jake Numunga strumming away on his ukulele to instantly ease you into island time. “Papa Jake”, as he’s called, has been greeting tourists at Rarotonga International Airport for more than 30 years and the music man offers an appropriate introduction to the nature of Cook Islanders, who are renown for their warmth and hospitality.
What can you do in a week?
A week is more than enough time to explore at least two of the Cook Islands. Divide your time between the volcanic island of Rarotonga and its sister island Aitutaki, a coral atoll. Rarotonga’s lush green interior is a great place for quad tours and nature hikes. It’s also the country’s culinary hot bed with a number of outstanding restaurants and a weekend market that’s not to be missed. After a few days in Rarotonga board a 45-minute flight, via Air Rarotonga, to Aitutaki, the country’s second most visited island. Aitutaki is home to breathtaking stretches of sand and crystal blue waters that are perfect for exploring via lagoon cruise. You’ll also want to make sure to take in an “island night” while in Aitutaki, an event that features a scrumptious traditional buffet and impressive fire dancing and hula show.
Lace, above all else, inspired the Legends By Romona Keveza Spring 2014 collection. A fluted gown made of Guipure lace with a scalloped strapless neckline and a chapel-length skirt cascaded down the runway followed by an off-the-shoulder gown made of point d’esprit lace, featuring a mermaid skirt made of English tulle over Chantilly lace. With a renowned flawless fit, Keveza’s sculpted silhouettes give lace a fresh and updated look that is perfect for the traditional yet elegant young bride.
Photography courtesy of Romona Keveza Collection
Celebrity red carpet couturier of choice, Romona Keveza presented a Spring 2014 collection that paid tribute to timeless style. Aptly titled, ‘A Passage Through Time’, Keveza’s latest offering fused great fashion moments of the past with a modern sensibility. Each gown within the collection represented a particular era. A blush-toned off-the-shoulder silk organza ball gown paid homage to Princess Anne’s trend-setting gown of the same hue while a quietly decadent slim fluted gown in beaded Chantilly lace called to mind the Great Gatsby‘s roaring 20′s. Camelot is a swirling ribbon structured gown within the collection inspired by Jackie Kennedy, the eternal beacon of sophisticated American style while The Decade of Decadence, a bell-shaped ball gown, channels the ‘more was more’ ethos of the 1980′s and late great couture embroiderer, Francois Lesage, with its beading, embroidery and charming scallops.
Photography courtesy of Romona Keveza Collection
Winnipeg couple Nicola and Kris spent the first part of their honeymoon in French Polynesia and decided to make a stop in California for one of their favourite annual music events, Coachella, on their way back home to Manitoba. While in California herself for the festival, Winnipeg photographer Coralee Penner from Red Photo Co. caught up with the couple for a honeymoon shoot at one of the state’s most beautiful stretches of desert — Joshua Tree National Park. Situated roughly an hour by car from both the Coachella festival grounds in Indio, California and the Palm Springs airport, this stunning park tops many traveller’s bucket lists and is a great hot spot for rock-climbing, camping and hiking. With its twisted, spiked namesake trees and otherworldly rock formations the park also proved the perfect location for this love-filled shoot.
Click through the slides below to see all of the gorgeous from this Joshua Tree honeymoon shoot.
For her Rivini Spring 2014 collection Rita Vinieries was inspired by the beaches of the Riviera Maya. Sequins and shimmering appliques, which mimicked the dazzing iridescent of seashells, featured prominently within the collection. Lace, controlled volume and beautiful back detailing were also recurring trends on dresses in seashore-inspired shades of coral, sand and mother of pearl.
Photography courtesy of Fairchild Photo Service
With sweet names like marzipan, madeleine, suzette and souffle, it’s obvious that Junko Yoshioka’s Spring 2014 collection was inspired by the flavours of France. Utilizing fabrics with texture and dimension like Bellagio silk, beaded and gilded French lace and shimmery taffeta, Junko has created a feminine collection of layered, yet light, wedding gowns. Within the collection Yoshioka plays with silver lace trimming and exaggerated key-hole back details. One-shoulder necklines accompany a sweetheart neckline and a deep front and back v-neck is coupled together with scalloped details. While incorporating unexpected elements this season, Junko remained loyal to her classic aesthetic. Draped bodices and bustled skirts on fit-to-flare silhouettes along with traditional delicately embellished mermaid style gowns held their own next to the flutter sleeves, crystal encrusted belts and illusion panels. The Junko Yoshioka Spring 2014 collection is truly the perfect marriage of classic tradition and modern style.
Photography courtesy of Junko Yoshioka
Carolina Herrera’s sleek and feminine Spring 2014 collection is all about exploring the beauty and whimsy of lace. From the exquisite Chantilly lace appliques to the hand-painted lace motifs on silk organza, Herrera has truly pushed the limits of this traditional bridal fabric. Intricate detailing was another hallmark of Carolina Herrera’s Spring 2014 wedding collection: Veils woven with silk ribbons trailed down the runway behind gowns with adorned with shimmering vintage-inspired bead work and metallic platinum, gold and silver adornments. Herrera presented a range of styles from strapless ballgowns with controlled volume to short frocks with sleeves, each graced with that signature air of elegant sophistication the designer is so revered for.
Photography courtesy of Fairchild Photo Service.
Weddingbells’ Annual Reader Survey reveals the most recent wedding trends and facts from Canadian brides getting ready to walk down the aisle.
From January 2013 to March 2013 more than 2,200 brides and brides-to-be dished about their impending nuptials on everything from engagements and relationships to style, traditions and the final bill.
Highlights from this year’s survey include:
- There will be an estimated 165,297 weddings in Canada during 2013.
- December remains the most popular time to get engaged with 23% of men popping the question that month.
- 49% of weddings will occur between July and September. The most popular month to marry in is August. September has edged out July for second most popular month for the second consecutive year.
- The expected cost of a wedding is up 5% versus 2012.
- The average number of wedding guests is 124.
- While traditional weddings are the most popular type of wedding, “less formal” weddings are quickly gaining in popularity.
- In 2012, only 25 percent of those recently married undertook a DIY project such as making their own centrepieces, reception décor or guest favours. In 2013, this number doubled to more than half.
- 12% of Canadian brides are planning on having a destination wedding.
Click through the slides below to see more specifics on rings, planning, registries and honeymoons. Well also fill you in on how Canadian brides are using the web and show you the average Canadian wedding budget breakdown.
A national sample of 2,220 engaged readers participated in the survey. Confidence interval: +/-2.1%, 19 times out of 20.
View our reader survey results from 2012 and see how wedding trends in Canada are changing over the years.
travel » Honeymoons » travel
Wondering where in the world to go for your destination wedding or honeymoon? We’ve scouted out six diverse locations to please every type of couple. Whether you and your hubby-to-be are adventure-seekers, beach bums or culture junkies, you’re sure to find the perfect romantic escape within our list of editor’s picks.
Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast is home to secluded beaches, a host of luxurious yet laidback accommodations as well as the country’s most famous tropical rainforest, Manuel Antonio, which Forbes listed among the most beautiful national parks in the world, so it’s no wonder the area is becoming increasingly popular as a honeymoon destination. Located just two hours from the capital city of San Jose, this beautiful stretch of coastline where the jungle meets the ocean offers ample opportunities to hike, surf, swim, fish, experience local culture and interact with an abundance of wildlife.
Beyond the stunning natural surroundings there are also a number of experiences that are totally unique to this area. Only in Central Pacific Costa Rica can you spend your mornings face to face with a colony of capuchin monkeys and your evenings toasting your recent nuptials in a bar housed within the fuselage of a 1954 Fairchild C-123 cargo plane. Read on to discover five essential items to add to your Costa Rican honeymoon itinerary.