Whether the wedding of your dreams is a lavish affair with a long guest list and an extensive itinerary, or a no-fuss intimate affair in a picturesque setting, the Dominican Republic has what it takes to be the perfect destination.
With hundreds of hotels at price points ranging from affordable to seven-star luxury, and many new properties opening each year, there’s fierce competition to woo visitors. For a couple planning a wedding or honeymoon, the biggest challenge is choosing the ideal venue. “The services for destination weddings are exceptional across the Dominican Republic,” says Abdalah Castillo, Toronto-based Chair of the Dominican Republic Tourism Board. “Whether you want a high-end hotel or a more modest wedding, there’s something for everybody.”
The tropical flavour, the beat of merengue and bachata music (both of which originated in the DR) and the hospitable national spirit can be found everywhere on the Caribbean island. But with a wide array of historic sites, beautiful beaches, ecotourism adventures and culinary experiences available in several key hubs, you can match your needs with the perfect spot
To start, PUNTA CANA, the Caribbean’s most popular tourism destination, works well for larger weddings. It’s known for being family friendly (keeping the nieces, nephews and grandparents happy) and has all sizes of properties including sprawling resorts with enough activities to keep everyone busy.
PUERTO PLATA, the cultural capital of the country’s north, is known for its affordability, its lively town, where it’s easy to meet the locals and the many nature-focused excursions that are available (including hiking to 28 waterfalls).
SAMANÁ, with its many high-end adult-only boutique hotels, has become a desired spot for more secluded, more private weddings close to nature. Not far from the gorgeous Haitises National Park, Samaná is known for its lush green beauty and as an incomparable eco-retreat. Beaches here range from private – the size of your living room – to broad expanses of Caribbean sand.
ROMANA is a higher-end destination where villa rentals are popular. Villas can provide wedding parties with a private, central hub for preparations and socializing, while the golfing in the Romana area is among the best in the world.
Across the country, strict limits on building heights – no higher than a palm tree in the coastal regions – and on the density of development ensure that the scenic beauty you want in your wedding photos is well preserved.
Most hotels in the DR have wedding planners or wedding coordinators who can work with the couple or their Canadian wedding planner to perfectly execute every step, from arrival to ceremony to honeymoon and departure. As well, many properties offer spa services that are perfect for bonding moments among the bridal party or getting relaxed for the big day.
Because of high demand in Punta Cana, the government has provided additional judges so visiting couples, as well as locals, can more easily find someone to officiate their special day. “Marriages in the Dominican Republic are recognized in Canada, even if they take place by a waterfall or on a mountain side,” says Castillo.
Large investments in the country’s infrastructure, including eight international airports across the island, have focused on improving the visitor experience, so visitors spend more time enjoying the sun and the hospitality and less time in transit. In Puerto Plata, the whole town has been recently renovated, and now has an amphitheatre where visitors can take in a performance and maybe hear some merengue and bachata.
What used to be a four-hour drive from the capital Santo Domingo to Punta Cana now takes one and a half hours, and driving distances from other destinations are also dropping. Historic Santo Domingo, with a population of almost a million people, is definitely worth the trip. “If you get tired of the sun, you can always do a day tour to the city,” says Castillo.
Founded in 1496, just four years after Columbus’s journey across the Atlantic, the UNESCO World Heritage site is considered the First City of America with the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university on the continent. But with its impressive culinary and nightlife scene, it’s not just for history buffs. “It’s a vibrant city, especially the old town, with museums, colonial buildings, art galleries, bars and restaurants,” says Castillo. “The shopping is also very good.” That’s always good news for someone who forgot an essential item back in Canada.
Santo Domingo is also a great place to try traditional Dominican dishes, which often mix Middle Eastern, Spanish and African influences, as well as contemporary international gastronomy from top chefs. Castillo says he’s noticed a trend toward smaller, more engaged weddings, where the bridal party and the guests partake in more group activities, rather than gathering solely for official events. Whether it’s going to a concert at a venue like Altos de Chavón (a replica 16th century Mediterranean village), going on a hiking to El Limón waterfall near Samaná or golfing together on some of the world’s best courses, the range of possibilities for a wedding party is unparalleled.
For couples who dream of unique and fairy tale weddings and honeymoons, the Dominican Republic is a slice of paradise that blends a tropical ambiance with old-world charm and romance. Find your inspiration and visit www.godominicanrepublic.com or call your preferred travel agent.