After a romantic proposal while vacationing on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Sara and Charles Vernon decided that the exquisite Caribbean island was exactly where they wanted to be married too. “Instead of rushing to see all the people you love at your reception, you get to hang out with them for several days,” Charles says. “I feel like COVID made it okay to break the mold.”
Sara discovered a resort called The Hills, set on a high bluff overlooking Cruz Bay. It offered large villas where friends and family members could stay as well as a location for the ceremony — they did not want to marry on the beach — and reception. Fourteen months after Charles asked Sara to marry him, the couple said their vows on a sun-splashed terrace overlooking the cobalt-blue Caribbean Sea, surrounded by 75 friends and family members. The couple had planned so carefully that even Sara’s 94-year-old grandmother was able to make the trip.
Though the setting was far from South Carolina, the couple included many traditional touches, including displaying Sara’s formal wedding portrait on an easel outside the reception and special memorials for Charles’ father, mother, and sister, Jennifer, all printed in the program. Sara also used fabric from Charles’s mother’s wedding gown to make handkerchiefs for Charles and his sister Elizabeth as well as for the pocket square that decorated Charles’s wedding suit. A final piece, embroidered in pale blue with the couple’s wedding date, was sewn into Sara’s wedding gown. “I wanted Charles to feel like he had a piece of his mom with us,” she says.
Though Sara walked down the aisle to a traditional wedding march, a steel pan drum stood in for an organ. Instead of a wedding book, friends signed a map of St. John with their good wishes; table numbers were replaced by names of St. John’s beaches. After a sit-down dinner that featured local fish, conch fritters, and shrimp, Sara and Charles cut into a beautifully decorated multilayer cake infused with nutmeg, mango, and other island flavors. Later, a DJ had guests moving on the dance floor.
“I never thought I’d bend on having a big wedding cake or a band at my reception, but I quickly learned that on a small island like St. John, not everything is available,” says Sara. “At first it felt like making do, but, in the end, I wouldn’t change a thing.”