Hi everyone! I thought I would give you a summary of our wonderful wedding and honeymoon in the Cook Islands. If you’re planning a wedding or just going there for a holiday, read on-it is a bit of a saga but I hope it might inspire :D
We arrived in Rarotonga in late October and stayed for a week, and then went to Aitutaki for five nights. We then went to NZ for two weeks, and the whole time we were there, we were wishing we were back in the Cook Islands.
The weather in Raro was brilliant-not as steamy as I thought it would be-in fact we didn’t even need our air con. The islands had such an effect on us, that we feel a little piece of our hearts have been left over there. Rarotonga and Aitutaki are both absolutely amazing places-but people are quite right when they say they are totally different!
Rarotonga is absolutely stunning. We were in awe of the beaches, the beautiful mountains, the white sand, the friendly people (and friendlier dogs), the cute little houses dotted everywhere: everything about this place is just gorgeous. There are a seemingly endless array of bars and restaurants, quite a few shops and plenty of little grocery stores/bottle shops/petrol stations around. Although this place is small, there is plenty happening, while still being a truly laidback and relaxing place to visit.
We checked out many bars and restaurants in Raro, with our favourite restaurant being Vaimas (tables on the sand, overlooking the beach and a stunning sunset-try the pork belly….yummm!) and our favourite bar being the Shipwreck hut (a funky little bar that is part of the Aro’a Beach Inn-they make great cocktails and serve them in old glass jars). We also returned to Trader Jacks quite a few times, the food there is reliably good and the drinks quite cheap, and there’s a good mix of locals, expats, and other holiday makers there.
We stayed at Sea Change Villas, which was fantastic-they’re number 1 on Trip Advisor for a reason! The managers there helped us out with restaurant and tour recommendations, booked everything for us and generally treated us like VIP’s and close friends as well. The villas were absolutely gorgeous…and have spoilt us because nothing will ever measure up to Sea Change from now on!
Aitutaki is, quite simply, astonishing. The lagoon is definitely worth the extra plane ride for (the plane trip was terrifying for me, I’m not a good flyer and the plane was TINY!! But it was still worth it). Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have the best weather while we were over there, but it was great for the locals as it hadn’t rained in three months so they were desperate for water. However, even with the rain and cloud cover, the lagoon was still beautiful. We were lucky enough for the sun to come out on our last day, and the spectrum of colours was just mind-boggling. You will never tire of the view!
The other astonishing thing about Aitutaki, is the absolute remoteness and the simplicity with which the locals live. They call Rarotonga ‘the Big Smoke’ which should give you an indication of how quiet it is over there! We did a couple of lagoon cruises while we were there-one through Teking Tours and one through Te Vaka. Both of them were fantastic for different reasons-Teking took us to the best snorkeling spots, and it was a more intimate experience as the boat was quite small. Te Vaka is quite a large boat and is great for cruising around the gorgeous lagoon and various islands.
We frequented the Boat Shed and Samades equally-both have great food and a great atmosphere-plenty of locals and holiday makers alike. We went to Tapunas one night which was also lovely. Samades has a great island night which is very affordable, and you can also hire kayaks there during the day (we did this once and kayaked to Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, had some cocktails, then kayaked to a little motu on the other side which was very private). We hired a scooter from the office next to the boat shed which was a lot of fun!
We stayed at Etu Moana. Unfortunately we were unable to stay right on the beach as those villas were already booked out, but it didn’t matter-we had a nice view of the lagoon and the deck was quite private-we spent quite a lot of time reading and snoozing on the comfy day bed. The new managers there are really helpful and friendly, and all the staff have great big smiles on their faces….well, I would too if I worked there!
In my opinion, Rarotonga is definitely the best place to have your wedding (as opposed to Aitutaki). The reason for this, is that there are plenty of good suppliers and locations and restaurants, photographers, beauty therapists, wedding planners etc over in Raro. Aitutaki, whilst being absolutely gorgeous, would have been much more difficult to plan unless you have the money to fly photographers, hairdressers etc over there.
Melanie Cooper did the wedding planning and photography for our big day. From start to finish, she was friendly, professional, helpful, answered all my silly little questions without a hint of exasperation, and was quite fun to be around. She’s a very talented and creative photographer. She helped us chill out and even managed to get us to relax in front of the camera (well, as relaxed as we could possibly be, we are both quite camera shy)! Our wedding day was absolutely AMAZING and it just would not have been the same without her there. We also did a ‘trash the dress’ shoot with her the next morning, and she had arranged one of the guys from Captain Tama’s cruises to take us out on a boat to look for the best location for the shoot. I think Mel is a true perfectionist so she will spend the extra time with you to make sure she’s got ‘The Shot’. She’s currently editing our album and I can’t wait to see it!!
Justine and Andy from Tiare Films organised our videography. These guys are awesome. You’ll see them if you go to the markets, they’re the ones with the cute photo booth. They are very creative and soooo talented. They make you feel like a friend as soon as you meet them-expect big hugs and kisses all round! I simply cannot wait to see our wedding video, as I know they will have captured the day perfectly…we went through a lot of their footage before we booked them and they truly make you feel as if you were at each wedding that they film. They are also extremely affordable, especially for the amount of work they put in to your film.
John Kenning was our celebrant. He was also very helpful, friendly and down to earth, and a very funny guy! We were stoked to have him marry us. We partially wrote our own vows to each other, but the words he gave us suited us down to a tee. He was also ON TIME which was great, many of the other people I spoke to who got married on the island had trouble with their celebrants arriving late!
Sheree Ratahi did my hair and make up. I have to say, I was a little apprehensive about using her before I met her, as I couldn’t find any information on the internet so I couldn’t ask to see her work. I am extremely fussy about my hair and makeup and she was just brilliant. She is a NZ trained hairdresser and she actually was a hairdressing teacher for a while before she came to Raro. She is very up-to-date on the latest styles, so don’t worry, you will not look like a 90’s bride-unless you want to ;) I had long flowing waves in my hair which actually stayed in, even though my hair is quite fine and prone to being frizzy! An amazing feat for the tropics! My makeup was quite natural but very well done. Sigh, I wish I could look like that every day…
We were married on the beach outside Sea Change Villas (one word: PERFECTION). The beach is definitely one of the prettiest on the island, stunning white sands, turquoise waters and a beautiful green backdrop of palm trees and the mountains. I think the beach is called Turoa beach and it is on Titikaveka lagoon. It was quite private and I truly could not fault the location. We were married at high tide at 5pm, and the light at the time was just great. The managers at Sea Change ensured the beach was combed prior to the wedding and had arrange some coconuts into a heart shape on the sand-with Melanies flower petals spread over the sand it looked very romantic and simple-we didn’t really bother with floral arches etc, as we wanted the location to do the talking.
For our wedding dinner, we didn’t book anything until we got to the island. Originally I wanted to book the gazebo on the sand at Crown Beach Resort, where the Windjammer restaurant is. Unfortunately, they don’t give you a bad weather option and I was told by some locals that another couple booked their private wedding dinner there, but it rained and so they ended up in the main part of the restaurant which was not very private or romantic! So we decided to book a table on the sand at the Little Polynesian resort (on recommendation from quite a few people). We were supposed to have a private table on the beach surrounded by tiki torches and candles, but unfortunately the wind picked up later in the night. However, we still had a private gazebo which the staff decorated beautifully with tulle, candles, torches etc. The food was wonderful and the service absolutely impeccable. It truly was a perfect day and night. I wish we could have stayed there longer, but by the time our mains arrived, we were so exhausted, so we were out of there by 10pm!
I’m sure there are HEAPS of details that I’ve forgotten about, so please feel free to fire any questions at me and I’ll do my best to help! I will also be doing individual reviews on all our accommodation, tours and restaurants that we went to over the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading! From the new MRS James :)