Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Reasons why you should select the Dutch Caribbean as your romantic getaway destination
*Disclaimer: We don’t receive any endorsements from anybody we interview. Free Walking Tours Curaçao prides itself on giving an honest view from a local’s or expert's perspective, and we always try to imagine putting ourselves in your shoes.
This Month Free Walking Tours Curaçao talks to Shandra Cornelia, a local who developed a successful career as a wedding planner in Florida. We listen to her story growing up and how she got into the business. As well as hear the reasons why Curaçao is a great place for a romantic getaway and get her tips & tricks for the newly engaged, the honeymooners, and vowel renewers alike.
Photo credit: Micheal van Drunen
Tell us about yourself and your profession
My name is Shandra, a Certified Destination Wedding & Event planner, I was born and raised in dushi Curaçao.
I started a Wedding & Event planning business in Curaçao, but started specializing in Destination Weddings and moved to South Florida soon after.
My aim is to help international couples plan their Weddings so they can save time, enjoy their engagement stress-free. The intention is to have someone by their side who understands the local culture and has the local connections to turn their dream wedding into reality. With Destination weddings, you are adding the complexity of Travel to regular wedding planning so there are some additional things we help couples with like tours and activities, Hotel room block for their guests, and curating local gifts they can give their guests, etc.
A little history, how did you get into the business you are in now and why did you settle on your current location?
During my studies Hospitality and Tourism Management, I did an internship in the Bahamas at Sandals Royal Bahamian where I worked in the resort’s Wedding department which was my first real hands-on experience with weddings. I then did an internship at Walt Disney World at one of their resorts in Orlando working guest relations. At Disney I didn’t work in events, but I learned lots of valuable lessons about guest experiences which I still apply and connect to the world of creating events and weddings.
One of my first jobs in Curacao was working for a Destination Management company where we did corporate events and managed groups coming from abroad for conferences and incentive travel trips. From there I moved into catering sales and eventually worked as the Catering sales manager for Hilton Curaçao. In this period my desire started growing to have my own wedding & event planning company, so I decided to get Certified as a Wedding & Event planner.
I settled on my current location because of my personal life. My now husband lives in Florida and we decided that we were going to settle there. The move felt great because it’s still close to the Caribbean. More so South Florida is a great location with the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airport being major hubs for international flights, not to mention South Florida being a popular wedding destination.
Traditional Church on Curaçao Photocredit:Michelle Maria at Pixabay
Was it always your dream growing up?
No, I have to admit not necessarily. Although many who know me would not be surprised of what I do today. Growing up throughout my life I have always been an active team member or leader in various organizations. For example in high school I was part of the student council, newspaper committee and helped organized our yearly events. I also decided with a couple of friends that we needed a yearbook and prom, so we set up a yearbook and prom committee. After high school I continued being someone who loved being part of organizing events etc.
"Before Starbucks came to the island, I dreamed of opening a Coffee Shop, but was told it was a bad idea...Never let a person discourage you" - Shandra Cornelia
During my studies in Hospitality management, one of my dreams was to own a cute cozy coffee shop in Curaçao. One of my lecturers told me that it’s a bad idea because quote “Curacao does not have a coffee-drinking culture like Europe or the States”. Mind you, this was right before Starbucks came to the island. Also, before many of the cute, cozy coffee and pastries shops we now have on the island who are now successful! So, moral of that story; never let a person discourage you! I don’t regret not following that dream though. Because my stronger pull was that I also dreamed about planning events and weddings, and eventually I followed that dream instead.
"Windsurf Wedding" courtesy of our friends Alex & Maria at https://www.bailamar.com/
Should people get married or have a honeymoon on Curacao?
Absolutely!! 100 percent!! Curaçao truly is a hidden gem in the Caribbean. Curaçao has ton of culture and charm, it is also less crowded than many other islands, so I think it is the perfect getaway for a unique, romantic, relaxed wedding or honeymoon! The island has diverse activities for all interests and tastes.
What makes Curacao a great destination Wedding or Honeymoon destination?
Next to the obvious facts like beautiful beaches, beautiful views, etc the fact that Curacao is outside the hurricane belt is one thing because you don’t have to worry about the weather or hurricane season while planning. Another perk is the lovely intimate tucked-away beaches.
Curacao is a unique destination. It's not the cookie-cutter Caribbean island you go to, to only spend time in a closed-off resort. It is best when explored freely. So while other destinations may feel too touristy or busy Curacao can be a unique and relaxing getaway for you and your guests.
So, tell me about the type of person that would enjoy getting married or spending a honeymoon here.
To me, Curacao is the perfect spot for those who love adventure, love exploring, enjoy culture and authenticity.
It’s a great spot for Foodies because there is next to the vibrant local cuisine a plethora of other yummy different cuisines to try. If you enjoy being in a multicultural environment where you can enjoy different types of music throughout different nights of the week it is the perfect spot for you.
Curacao is the destination for the person who wants to go somewhere that is different in the Caribbean, has charm, and has a rich history and culture.
Example of a plantation house "Landhuis" Habaai (source: unknown)
Best spots to get married or spend a romantic weekend
Too many to choose from haha, it honestly really depends on what you want because Curaçao not only has great beaches to get married on but also historical buildings like our Plantation Houses known as ‘Landhuizen’, Tropical gardens, and even Forts. The best spot is the one you can see yourself at.
Whether you like being barefoot in the sand, or being at a trendy beach club restaurant, or being at a historical Landhuis there is something for you to choose from.
As for spending a romantic weekend, there are many charming boutique hotels where you will find privacy and romance. If I mention one now I may forget another great one so if you would like personalized recommendations feel free to reach out to us!
What do recommend a romantic couple do or see?
I recommend beach hopping in the West what we call ‘Banda Bou’ and it’s many small intimate beaches like Playa Lagun,Playa Jeremy, Playa Kenepa Chiki, and many more! Visiting a romantic oceanfront spa like ‘ 8 the Experience’ at Coral Estate. Enjoying local Food at places like Purunchi at Koredor, or Plaze in the city or a romantic exquisite dinner with a view at Fort Nassau.
You can also go snorkeling, have drinks and bites in the picturesque neighborhood of Pietermaai. If you like being active visiting Christoffel park together. Really Curaçao offers such a variety of activities!
Last but not least of course a romantic stroll through by booking a tour with Free Walking Tours Curaçao!!!
Finally, what Tips & Tricks or Dos & Don’ts would you give a couple planning a wedding on the island
Do: Get a planner who has the local knowledge who can help you navigate and choose the best options for you.
Do: Choose the right time: Although the weather is great all year long perhaps if you don’t like the heat you may choose “cooler months” like March and April instead of say August.
Tip: The process to get legally married in Curaçao is easier than say Mexico where you need a blood test to get legally married as an international couple, so you can totally have a legal wedding in Curacao instead of just symbolic but I do recommend starting early with the process of gathering the necessary documents for your application and again having a planner to help make this easier for you!
Don’t: Try to bring too much from abroad in your luggage like favors for guests etc: instead use local business and have local gifts for your guests.
Don’t: Buy a dress or attire that isn’t fit for the Caribbean, Style is important but so is comfort!
Lastly, be mindful of the fact that not all flowers are available or can be used in the Caribbean in similar ways to what you see done abroad or on Pinterest.
Looking for more tips or planning a wedding? Reach out to Shandra below