Tropical beaches. Private villas overlooking the ocean. Intimate wedding venues underneath palm trees.
For your destination wedding in St. Thomas, which of these top 10 venues and beaches will you pick?
Written and photographed by Kathryn Cooper Weddings: USVI wedding photographer + destination wedding photographer
Dream of it: A St. Thomas wedding.
The warm turquoise ocean. Palm trees swaying overhead. You on an empty beach, saying your wedding vows. Sound too good to be true? If you’re having a U.S. Virgin Islands wedding, this can absolutely be your reality.
I’m a U.S. Virgin Islands wedding photographer, and have been photographing elopements and destination weddings on St. John and St. Thomas since 2014. It’s an amazing place to tie the knot, and I’ve photographed dozens and dozens of weddings on these beautiful, tropical islands. Up-to-date COVID testing information is available by clicking here. Plus, you don’t even need a passport to travel to the US Virgin Islands!
St. Thomas Wedding Venues…or a St. Thomas Beach?
I’ll be honest: Most of my favorite places to get married on St. Thomas are right on the beach. The key is all in choosing the right time of day. There are, however, a few amazing wedding venues in St. Thomas that just make the views that much more incredible—and some of them are directly on the beach anyhow! Also, almost no matter where you are on this 13-mile-long island paradise, you’re likely to have epic water views.
Here’s a map of the main St. Thomas beaches. This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a helpful one—thanks to Virgin Islands This Week.
As a semi-local (I no longer live on St. Thomas, but I know the nooks and crannies since I photograph destination weddings and elopements here ever year), I know about so many more special locations that I’ve posted photos of below, but would rather show you in person in order to keep them clean and unique.
The best times of day to get married on each beach/venue really depend on which St. Thomas beaches you choose, and your St. Thomas wedding photographer (moi, of course!) and wedding planner (more on that below) can help you plan.
Generally, early morning (8 a.m. or 9 a.m.) is best for the amazing turquoise, aqua, greens, and blues of the waters. Some of my favorite beaches for early morning are Sapphire (#9) and Lindquist (#6). Mid-day is just as beautiful for your Caribbean ceremony, but the sun is hotter and harsher, resulting in more shadows and sweat in your wedding photos—and no one wants that! Sunsets are hit and miss in the Caribbean, but my favorite ones can be seen at Secret Harbor (#10) or Brewer’s Beach (#2).
My Top 10 St. Thomas Wedding Venues & St. Thomas Beaches:
(In no particular order)
- Sand Dollar Estate
- Brewer’s Bay Beach
- Villa Norbu
- Pretty Klip Point
- Villa Botanica
- Magen’s Bay
- Sapphire Beach
- Secret Harbour
- Alternative spots: Helicopter elopements, boat weddings, and secret locations
- Sand Dollar Estate is a gorgeous private beachfront St. Thomas wedding venue with the ability to host 65 people and sleep 24. Stellar views and sunsets, a gorgeous beach, tiered porches and decks…you won’t want to leave here. It’s one of my favorite places to photograph weddings in all of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is perfect for rehearsal dinners and receptions, too! Click here to see a real wedding I photographed at Sand Dollar Estate.
- Brewer’s Bay Beach offers a very relaxed atmosphere, and is THE local beach of St. Thomas. Though it doesn’t look like the best beach, it’s just minutes from the airport (you can watch the plains land), and has unbeatable sunsets and turtle snorkeling. There are some good ruins and little trails nearby for photos as well.
- Lindquist is, hands-down, my favorite of the St. Thomas beaches. It’s smaller, but the water color in the morning is simply unbeatable. It used to have my second-favorite snorkeling, too, until Hurricane Irma destroyed most of the reef. Still, the place looks amazing, and this is THE place dreams are made of when you think of a wedding with palm trees over blue Caribbean waters. I even had a ray leap out of the water during wedding photos a few years back!
- Villa Norbu is a super private, exclusive St. Thomas wedding venue. It’s best for intimate weddings and couples who value pristine views and a private experience. No one will be able to see you except for a catering staff, your photographer/videographer, and your planners. Surrounded by lush tropical flora and with a stone vows deck overlooking the ocean, multiple pools, an Asian-inspired home, and different decks and looking pools, it’s a wedding paradise with incredible views towards the north.
- Pretty Klip Point is the perfect place for 2-50 people. Part of Sapphire Beach, this palm tree-lined St. Thomas wedding point stretches into the ocean with rocks jutting out in all directions (awesome for photos). It’s separate enough from the rest of the beach to feel like another world, and for that reason, it’s an amazing place to host your elopement or intimate wedding in the US Virgin Islands.
- Villa Botanica is the lush tropical escape you’ve always imagined. Instead of being on the beach, this U.S. Virgin Islands wedding venue showcases tons of tropical trails and walks, spaces for large gatherings, in-house catering run by the family, a koi pond, awesome views, parrots…you get the picture. If you want to have a large destination St. Thomas wedding in a tropical setting (vs. a hotel), then the Villa Botanica wedding venue is a perfect fit, accommodating up to 200 guests.
- Magen’s Bay is probably the most famous of the St. Thomas beaches. Weddings on Magen’s Bay are quite common, and though it’s usually a bit too crowded for my taste, it offers a lot of great things. Pelicans, rock outcroppings, a little-known greenery walk nearby, and ease of parking (not common in the USVI!).
- Sapphire Beach is an almost impossible shade of blue. As soon as you turn down the [pretty ugly] drive into Sapphire, you’ll see the milky blue lines of the ocean on the horizon. Ignore the Irma damage and potholed road, park in the dirt lot, and relax on the beach. It’s quite large, though most people don’t walk far from the main are. The best snorkeling on island here was wrecked in Hurricane Irma, but the water is still beautiful and there are lots of fish and occasionally turtles. But you didn’t come for that, did you? Sapphire beach is also awesome for U.S. Virgin Islands elopements and weddings, because the colors are great almost all times of day, and you can easily rent a hotel room or townhouse and literally walk down the stairs out to your ceremony.
- Secret Harbour is a popular St. Thomas wedding venue for the reception and afterparty more often than the ceremony. But I love getting underwater portraits here and photos on the dock, in addition to sunset shots. It’s easy to rent out the restaurant—or a room in the restaurant—for your after-wedding festivities. From a small dinner and cake to dancing, DJs, and toasts, this restaurant-on-the-water’s-edge is perfect for celebrating your intimate wedding.
- Alternative spots: Though St. Thomas is small, there are SO many wonderful, secret, and semi-secret spots to have your wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Island Bliss Weddings will hook you up with a private helicopter ride to your ceremony, I’ll take you to some amazing spots for your adventure session or creative portraits, or you can have me help pick the spot where you elope. There are so many nooks and crannies that even locals haven’t seen them all. Want epic views? Up for a hike? Looking for photos in abandoned ruins? Want to have a massive beach 100% to yourself? I can show it all to you, and the wedding planners below can arrange private rentals at locations not available to the public. If you have a unique vision and want to have a catamaran take you to a private beach, we can make it happen—and I’ll photograph it all!
Where else can I have my destination wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
Answer: There are SO many places to get married here. Most folks stay in one spot, have their ceremony in another, and have their reception in a third. As far as St. Thomas wedding venues go, there’s Limetree beach, great for sunset ceremonies for medium-sized groups; the Ritz-Carleton for high-end luxury weddings; Trunk Bay over on St. John (plus 20 more places…more on that in another post), and several St. Thomas resorts and all-inclusive wedding packages.
Then there’s Marriott Frenchman’s Cove, Frenchman’s Reef & Morningstar Marriott Beach Resort, the Westin St. John, Margaritaville, Bolongo Bay, Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, Coki Point, Hull Bay, and SO many others. I’ve only brushed the surface in terms of private villas that you can rent out for your wedding! Another reason to get a wedding planner, right? Right.
Not sure if you want your elopement or celebration on the amazing St. Thomas beaches or if you prefer to have an actual St. Thomas wedding venue? Think about your beach elopement or destination wedding size. If you have more than 15 or 20 guests and want a place to get ready with a bridal party, have your reception, and even sleep, a wedding venue on St. Thomas is a good match. If you’re just doing an intimate elopement with a few people, contact a wedding planner and just do a beach wedding with a restaurant afterwards! Unsure? Get a townhouse room at Sapphire Beach, and you’ll be conveniently located on the sand, near Pretty Klip, and in driving distance of a great many beaches and wedding venues.
*PRO TIP: All St. John and St. Thomas beaches close at 5pm to vehicles (walk-ins fine). The sun sets early in the Caribbean, so it gets dark by 6pm anyhow. Your wedding ceremony will likely be in the early morning or early evening around 4:30-5:15, with sunset photos afterwards. Your wedding planner or photographer will help you factor this into your timeline.
If you’re planning a St. John or St. Thomas wedding, I HIGHLY recommend a wedding planner. Things work differently on St. Thomas and St. John (we even drive on the other side of the road here), and having a planner/coordinator who knows the roads, knows the officials, know the vendors, and knows the right people can mean the difference between an amazing wedding and one fraught with worry. Trust me on this. Hire a St. Thomas wedding planner.
My top recommendations for a St. Thomas wedding planner / St. Thomas wedding packages:
- Island Bliss Weddings (best for elopements all the way up to intimate weddings and even larger destination weddings). I work with Island Bliss Weddings on 95% of the St. Thomas and St. John weddings I photograph. Owner Janelle Scott will help you customize your wedding on a boat, on a different island beach, at a private villa for a whole week of partying and snorkeling with friends, or even on a helicopter
- USVI Services: This is for smaller elopements (starting under $500 for an all-inclusive beach elopement package!) with 0-10 guests, most of the time. There are lots of add-ons you can get including arches, flowers, decorations, chairs, etc.
- Jenn Events is a St. John and St. Thomas luxury wedding planner. Jenn is a no-holds-barred bespoke wedding planner who can do high-end destination weddings at the Ritz-Carleton, huge weekend bashes at private estates, and custom designs for the most extravagant celebrations
Before you celebrate or after (might as well have a St. Thomas wedding and honeymoon together!), there is so much to do on St. Thomas. Go snorkeling or diving. Do a historical walk in the capital. Hike and camp in the national park on St. John. Swim with eagles and rays. Rent a jeep on St. John and go beach hopping. Kayak in the mangroves on the east side of St. Thomas. The list goes on and on. Of course, you can also elope or get married on nearby St. John!
I’ll write another post on where to get married on St. John at some point, but in the meantime, you can check out this 2020 St. John elopement I did on a boat.
So, there you have it: St. Thomas wedding venue tips for how to plan a destination wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As someone who has lived here AND in Hawaii, take it from me when I say there are no better beaches or warmer water in the USA than St. Thomas and St. John.
If you had to cancel your out-of-country destination wedding and you’re curious about a wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands, or if you’ve always wanted to have a Caribbean wedding—or maybe you just want to have your honeymoon here—whatever the case, it’s an awesome, stunning place. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, or to start planning your own destination wedding or elopement. I’m happy to share ideas and locations with you! As a destination wedding photographer, photographing weddings near my old home on St. Thomas is always darn incredible.