If you’re anything like me, a wedding on a sandbar has been a dream of yours since the day you decided you wanted to get married. Nothing can beat standing on a beach in the middle of bright blue, beautiful waters. I have always dreamed of getting married on a sandbar since I was a little girl. I didn’t care about my dress or having my first dance, I dreamed only about marrying the person I loved in the most beautiful place on earth, and to me, I found that place in 2017, in Staniel Cay, Exuma.
I was on a vacation with my brother and his girlfriend when we spotted the most beautiful sandbar I had ever seen in my life. The sand was bright white, the water was 20 different shades of blue, I was surrounded by uninhabited islands, and I felt the feeling instantly. I was going to get married there, no matter what.
When you see something like Pipe Cay, you realize that you are looking at nature’s most beautiful creations, you feel like nothing else in the world matters. Pair that with getting married to the love of your life and you literally are in a real-life version of heaven.
I was inspired to write this post because although it may sound logistically difficult and far out to get married on a sandbar, with the right info, it’s completely doable and definitely doable on a budget. If this is your dream, I would love to help you make it come to life.
How to get to Staniel Cay, Exuma
Staniel Cay is a beautiful little island, with approximately 1 restaurant, 1 liquor store, a few convenience stores, and the best vibes you will ever experience. The views of the water will absolutely knock you off your feet, your mode of transportation will be on foot, by bike or golf cart. You will spend your days exploring all the amazing destinations on the water in your private boat. Check out my Guide to Staniel Cay for more in-depth info on Staniel Cay, Exuma.
Staniel Cay is one of the 365 Islands & Cays of the Exuma Chain. Staniel Cay specifically, is located about halfway down the chain (77 miles from Nassau). There are a couple of options to get here.
-Fort Lauderdale to Staniel Cay via Makers Air ($630 PP & 1-hour flight)
-Nassau to Staniel Cay via Flamingo Air ($250 PP & 35-minute flight)
-Nassau to Staniel Cay via Titan Air ($230 PP & 35-minute flight)
-Nassau to Staniel Cay via Private Plane or Seaplane (starting at $3,000 & 35-minute flight)
Where to Stay in Staniel Cay, Exuma
There are two hotels to stay in Staniel Cay and they are more like cottages than a typical hotel. The rest of your accommodations can be found on AIRBNB or VRBO, there you find beautiful villas around the island, and some small cottages available too. The price range starts from $250 and goes up to thousands for a nightly stay. Most rentals have a 3-night minimum and in high season, that minimum goes up to 5-7 nights.
The famously known and go-to hotel for most travelers is the Staniel Cay Yacht Club or SCYC. The yacht club sits right on the water, with all cottages having a view of the most beautiful turquoise waters you’ve ever seen. Most of the life in Staniel Cay revolves around the yacht club so you’ll be situated right in the mix of it all.
The yacht club is usually booked a year in advance and rarely has openings, so I highly suggest reserving if this is your place of choice. The nightly rate will start at about $450 with a 3-night minimum.
Another hotel option is Embrace Resort. The cottages at Embrace are newly renovated and simple, starting at around $250 per night. They aren’t located on the water, but they are affordable, convenient, and clean, all you really need if you are traveling on a budget!
Below are the best available rentals on the island.
1 bedroom & Studios
This is the most affordable unit and is run by the best people. Theo & Anita are amazing, the house is spick and span, there is a full kitchen with everything you could need, the AC runs smooth as can be, the bed is super comfortable, and it has an ocean view from the balcony! It’s my go-to spot when my husband and I travel to Staniel Cay. I highly recommend this for groups of 2 looking for simplicity.
This is a brand new rental, perfect for those who want to wake up and see the beach every day. You can’t beat this view!
2 Bedroom Villas
If you are looking for a high-end experience with an attentive host then this is the place for you. Lazy Bay is perfectly situated on a beautiful bay and equipped with boats, jet skis, paddleboards, a pool, and a grill all for your use. But the best part about Lazy Bay is their staff. The house is cleaned every morning, and breakfast is served by their amazing crew. Whatever you need you can get with a smile and the service is honestly impeccable.
Serenity Cottage is the only pet-friendly accommodation in Staniel Cay, so if you are traveling with a furry friend, then this is your option! Marty is an amazingly friendly host, and the villa has literally the best view in Staniel Cay. When you stay here you are paying for the view of crystal blue waters that will mesmerize you every time you lookout.
4+ Bedroom Villas
Runaway & Copasetic are the luxury option of choice when traveling to Staniel Cay, Exuma! If you are looking for luxurious accommodations with beautiful views & pools, these will be your best bet. With an option to add full staff and chef, you are sure to be happy with this choice!
Jane runs a great operation and is quick to respond to whatever you may need during your stay. Their villas are new, thoughtfully decorated, and equipped with everything you would need on your trip to Staniel Cay.
You are also able to rent a slip if you are traveling to Staniel Cay by boat. I can honestly say that boating through the Exuma’s is one of the most amazing experiences you can ever do, so if this is an option for you, take advantage and make that happen!
Logistics of a Sandbar Wedding
There are some important things to consider when planning your wedding on a sandbar. Just like any wedding outdoors, the weather is a factor, and whereas you can’t control the weather, you can monitor the tide and coordinate with weather apps to make sure your special day goes as smooth as possible.
Tide/Timing: You must be flexible with the time of your wedding because if you are getting married on a sandbar, you have to do the ceremony when nature chooses. Luckily there are many apps that can tell you when the tide will be low, which is the ideal time to have a sandbar wedding. You basically have a 3-hour window of when the tide will be low enough to have your wedding!
Set-Up: I would suggest hiring a wedding planner just for the day of logistics, as you will have to have someone take a boat to the sandbar and set up the arch + anything else you may like, but more on that later. I suggest just doing an arch, forgetting about the chairs, and just keeping it simple. The more simple your wedding setup is, the more authentic it will be. It will be less headache on you and you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the nature around you.
Boat: You will have to hire a boat for a few runs, and Pipe Cay is about a 10-15 min ride from Staniel Cay. The captain will have to take the set-up crew then come back and get the groom, plus another trip to come grab you (if you choose to be separated). I suggest calling Sanchez, he did my wedding, he is professional and has a great boat for this type of thing. The typical price for the boat is $1500 for the day.
We chose to do something a little special and fun (but not budget-friendly). The groom and his crew went first on Jetski’s, my girls and I arrived after them on the boat. We then swapped and my new husband and I rode off on the jetskis with the girls and the boys left on the boat. This makes the day really fun, and your crew will enjoy it as well! (each jet-ski is about $400 for a half-day rental)
Wedding Officiant: The process of getting married in The Bahamas is relatively simple. You need a Justice of the Peace or a Licensed Marriage officer to be at your ceremony. Prior to this, you need to make an appointment within 3 months of the wedding by emailing email@example.com. Once you have your appointment, they will give you a certificate to get married in The Bahamas. I believe your wedding planner or officiant can also help with this process. (The cost for a wedding officiant is $350 & marriage license is $100). Once the wedding is done you will be required to take the paperwork to the registrar’s office to make everything official, in which at that point you will be given your official marriage license.
Music: We weren’t too concerned about music, however, we had to have a song to walk down the aisle to, we simply cued it up on the boat and the captain played it for us on his cues. It was simple and perfect.
Drinks: I highly recommend bringing a cooler or filling the cooler on the boat with some water, maybe some champagne for after and for the boat ride home. Everyone will be thirsty, and celebratory drinks are always fun!
Photographer: You must have a drone photographer on this day. The water and scenery are so beautiful it would be a shame to miss it from a bird’s eye view! We used Laurent Gloor (@lcgloor on Instagram) and we couldn’t have been happier. He captured our day perfectly. He lives locally in Nassau and knows how to bring out all the beauty in your and the Bahamas. You will not be disappointed with his work!
Chef: You obviously won’t be cooking on your wedding day, and you’ll need to hire a chef. There are many options in Nassau as well as Florida, you will want to do your own research based on the type of food you’d like. Keep in mind you will have to pay for their flights to and from Staniel Cay as well as their accommodations for 1-2 nights and transportation on the island (I would budget around $800 just for these things). If you want to add a bartender that will be an extra cost to consider as well, however you can most likely find one in Staniel Cay for about $200.
Tips to create a memorable experience for your guests:
Your guests will be traveling a long way to come to your wedding, and although Staniel Cay is beautiful, you’ll want to create some activities for everyone to do over the weekend. I wanted to make sure my guests had the trip of a lifetime, and I can say we were successful in that. Here are some suggestions on things to do.
-Set up a scavenger hunt
-Book an excursion (contact me and I can do this for you)
-Bonfire on the beach
-Bring water toys like footballs, beer pong stuff, etc.
Food for the weekend: There is only one restaurant in Staniel Cay (for now) so I suggest provisioning your own food/drinks and bringing in some items from wherever you are coming from. It’s best to make a big breakfast every morning and then have a snack and one larger meal in the evening. That way you don’t have to plan your day around your meals.
I recommend hiring a wedding planner, we hired ours for the day of to ensure the day was smooth. She was also in charge of setting up flowers and arch set up on the sandbar, which you definitely should not do yourself (too much stress). We used Marva with Chic Bahamas Weddings and she was honestly very helpful in making sure everything was smooth and I could have a relaxing day. (Her fee starts at $3,000). I am also available to assist in consultation for the wedding day, feel free to contact me.
Points of Contact (Whatsapp or Call)
Sanchez (Boat Rental)- 1 (242) 428-7222
Carl (Jetskis + Bartender) – 1 (242) 467-2364
Birdy- (Jetski) – 1 (242) 448-8411
Bernadette (Flower Arrangements + Desserts) 1 (242) 357-0986
Laurent (Photographer)- 1 (242) 431-6772
Marva (Wedding Planner) – 1 (242) 727-0147
Nikki (Wedding Officiant) – 1 (242) 524-0951