The Wedding Edition’s 9 Questions with Sandals Resorts’ Director of Weddings & Romance Marsha-Ann Donaldson-Brown: Marsha-Ann Donaldson-Brown is Director of Weddings & Romance for Luxury-Included Sandals Resorts International, whose flagship brand – Sandals Resorts, built its reputation on the romantic idea that “love is all you need.” Charged with capturing the imagination of couples around the world and helping them realise moments that will become their memories of a lifetime, Donaldson-Brown’s role is pivotal to the Sandals brand, and one that she is uniquely qualified for.
A self-acclaimed lifelong romantic, Donaldson-Brown grew up humming along to Luther Vandross and is as comfortable reciting lines from When Harry Met Sally as she is Romeo and Juliet. However, while her romantic side may inform and inspire her, Donaldson-Brown’s real genius is an organised mind built for trendspotting and attention to detail.
A veteran of the hospitality and special events industry, including stints at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL, Doral Saturnia International Spa Resort and for the Hilton Corporation, Donaldson-Brown has surpassed her 20th year with Sandals Resorts International. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova South-Eastern University.
I love working in the travel industry because….
I fell in love with the concept of making couples’ dreams come true, and I love that every day in my job is different. My role puts me in charge of anything relating to ‘romance’ including proposals, weddings, anniversaries, and re-tie the knot celebrations. I am very fortunate to have an amazing team of wedding planners and organisers around me, who are real experts in their field and make the most incredible celebrations for our guests. I get a huge sense of satisfaction from seeing brides, grooms and guests who have come away with such happy memories, all thanks to the hard work of our team. Plus, I get to live and work in one of the best places in the world, the Caribbean. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Sandals is best known for…
Being leaders in the luxury travel market and specialising in romantic holidays for couples in love, which we’ve been doing for the past 40 years. We’re constantly innovating with the introduction of new resorts and new accommodations, such as the highly anticipated Sandals Royal Curaçao, due to open in June this year. People trust the Sandals brand, and this shows in our high repeat visitor rate of over 40%. Once a couple has been to one of our resorts, they often want to try more of them and tick off the different destinations in our resort portfolio.
My top three tips for any couple planning their honeymoon would be…
Think about what’s most important to you and your partner for your honeymoon experience, before ruling anything out or deciding on your destination. Our 16 Sandals resorts are located in some of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Antigua, Grenada, St Lucia and now Curaçao (opening 1st June 2022). Situated in spectacular beach-front settings, all Sandals resorts offer the same level of luxury but have different styles, sizes and personalities, so they all suit different tastes. Each resort comes with a vast selection of opulent rooms and suites, so there’s a wide range of options to choose from. At some of our resorts in Jamaica and St Lucia, you will also find stunning Over-the-Water Love Nest Butler suites which are unbelievable places to spend a week – or even a few nights. It’s advisable to book as far ahead as possible once you’ve decided on your honeymoon plans, to ensure you don’t miss out on your preferred dates or room category.
The current travel trends I’m loving are…
We’ve noticed since the pandemic that many of our wedding and honeymoon couples are now adding even more elements of luxury into their special trip. This could be upgrading on their choice of flights, opting for one of our top category signature Love Nest Butler Suites, extending their duration of stay to maximise their trip, or even surprising their partner by booking a sunset Candlelight Dinner on the beach. It’s lovely to see couples choosing to treat themselves and their partners, especially when there’s an element of surprise involved, too.
We are also seeing couples opting to book an excursion or tour that allows them to see more of the island during their stay. This means they can immerse themselves in exploring the beauty and culture of the destination, adding to an already fun, memorable and exciting trip.
My advice for couples considering eloping would be…
There is a misconception that destination weddings are all the same with a ‘cookie-cutter’ style format, but that is not the case. Our Sandals Customisable Weddings programme enables couples to choose from lots of different options and fully tailor their wedding experience. From customisable décor and a choice of ten different wedding ‘inspirations’, to personalised food and drink, couples can make their big day exactly how they want it to be.
Value for money is important to consider. All Sandals Resorts are Luxury-Included (all inclusive), so all meals, snacks, drinks including premium spirits, unlimited land and water sports, complimentary Wifi, and return airport transfers are all taken care of for guests staying on resort. Our popular ‘free wedding’ offer also applies to couples staying for three nights or more at any Sandals resort, which is a great option for those with a smaller budget. Most British wedding couples stay for at least seven nights, so they automatically qualify for other ‘Premium Perks’ such as a credit towards a room upgrade or government fees. Couples who book additional guest rooms for their celebrations can also choose from a selection of ‘Bells and Whistles’, such as a welcome celebration, a bridal shower or a rum & games night.
It’s also a good idea to consider the weather in your choice of destination, and if any shade or indoor contingency options will be available on the day just in case of any bad weather. Of course, even in the Caribbean we can’t guarantee the weather – but most of the time we do have lovely sunny days and balmy evenings, which are ideal for an al fresco celebration.
- Research ahead of time for any legal or government requirements, and any Covid-19 entry protocols which may apply to your chosen location. For couples getting married at Sandals Resorts, the main thing we need to secure in advance is the paperwork – including any government fees and birth certificates. This information varies on each Caribbean island, so we work with each couple to ensure that we have the necessary details as far in advance as possible.
- Finally, choose a destination wedding venue which will support your needs. Our team of expert wedding planners takes care of everything to the highest standard, so couples can relax and enjoy the lead up to their big day. Our extensive expertise helps us win the trust of couples, and most of them are more than happy to take onboard our suggestions and recommendations. We always want to make sure that the planning process is as seamless and as stress-free as possible, so that it’s an enjoyable experience for the couple from the start.
My favourite destination for winter sun is….
You can’t beat the Caribbean for winter sunshine – it’s the perfect place to escape when the weather in the UK is cold and grey! Caribbean islands such as Curaçao are also located beneath the hurricane belt, making it an ideal choice for travel all year round.
Three items I never travel without are…
- I love fresh ginger, so I will always track down a ginger shot or juice to drink when travelling.
- I try to read where time allows, so I’ll pack a good book
- And take my phone to stay connected to my family.
My favourite place in the world to skip the crowds is…
As I am from Jamaica originally, it would have to be there. The island is incredibly lush and green and there’s so much natural beauty everywhere. It’s the perfect combination for rest and fun – there are bustling and lively spots to be found when you want them, mixed with tranquil beaches and tropical scenery, perfect for pure escapism.
And finally, what’s next for Sandals ….
Watch this space! 2022 is going to be an incredibly exciting year for Sandals Resorts, with lots of new innovations on the horizon. We are delighted to be opening a brand-new resort on the island of Curaçao this June, which is a completely new destination for the Sandals brand. The resort will have more luxury inclusions than ever before – with complimentary Mini Coopers for guests staying in the two top-tier room categories to use during their stay, plus an amazing array of different options available for both wedding ceremonies and receptions.
Going forward, we are also going to be adding three new resorts to our Jamaica portfolio, starting with Sandals Dunn’s River. Our family-friendly sister brand, Beaches will also soon be expanding into the island of St Vincent, another new destination for the Company.
Visit Sandals Resorts to book your dream wedding here: sandals.co.uk
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