“What’s your once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list, dream vacation destination? LET’S GET MARRIED THERE!”
That’s how it started with me and my fiancé Dan. I’m going to tell you how it went and what YOU need to do if you want to get legally married and have a wedding in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, as we did!
After getting engaged in October of 2021, my fiancé and I started researching when and where we’d get married. These days, even the smallest of ceremonies carries off-the-charts stress and exorbitant costs. It’s a slippery slope of expenses, from the wedding venue and party rentals to the food and bar costs. Not to mention the wardrobe, flowers, music, and photography.
The cost of our small, intimate, local ceremony was quickly topping $20,000. Not being the first time around for either one of us, a wedding ceremony and reception was not something we had our hearts set on because BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!
So the idea of eloping jumped to the forefront for both of us and taking the opportunity to cross of a bucket-list destination in the process seemed like a fabulous idea. Bora Bora, here we come!
At this point, many people turn to the aid of an experienced travel agent. This is a great idea, and there are lots of great ones to choose from who specialize in trips to the South Pacific and French Polynesia. After some online research and talking to friends, we decided to go at it alone and use Costco Travel to book our trip.
Picking a resort might be the hardest part of this whole process because there are several great ones to choose from. Your timing, itinerary, and budget will help narrow it down. Many people who travel this far for a vacation want to make the most of the long trip and visit several islands and resorts. Most of the time staying a few days at each before moving on to the next. Because we were getting married there, we opted to pick one resort and spend the entire time in one location, in one of the island’s famous overwater bungalows.
Joining travel pages on social media and following online sites like Bora Bora Insider were incredibly helpful. We learned about each resort’s accommodations and amenities from people who had been there recently.
Bora Bora Wedding Venue
We chose to stay and have a wedding at Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts. We read about their recent renovations and warm, welcoming staff on beautiful grounds with crystal blue waters and overwater bungalows with breathtaking views of Mt. Otemanu. There were cost savings too, based on our comparison of this resort with others, including the Four Seasons Bora Bora, St. Regis, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, and the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa.
Once we booked our trip, we let the staff at The Pearl know we were planning to get married there, and they helped set the plan in motion. Many couples who plan destination weddings to faraway lands do the legal ceremony in the States and then a celebratory ceremony on the island.
We wanted to get legally married in French Polynesia, which meant there were some additional hoops we needed to jump through first. The hotel staff connected us with a company on Bora Bora mainland in the city of Viatape who helped walk us through the process, step by step.
In addition to the legal ceremony at the courthouse on Bora Bora, we wanted to do the ceremonial beach wedding at the resort as well. Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts has a plethora of options to choose from, including beach weddings and even a ceremony at sea!
The resort wedding planner was incredibly accommodating in helping us choose the package that was most appealing to us. Additionally, there are options for professional photographers and hair and make-up artists if those are things you want to add to your package. All the little details can be carefully planned and executed to your specifications.
Paperwork Needed For Getting Married In Bora Bora
The process takes a few months to complete, so it’s a good idea to get connected with the right people and start early. Whether or not you’ve been married before, you have to complete a packet of paperwork and you must submit proof of US Citizenship and identity. These documents need to be translated into French before you send them.
Now, you can’t have your brother’s girlfriend who majored in French do this for you. It has to be a legally sanctioned, accredited translation company. They charge by the page and it isn’t cheap. You can upload and submit your documents for translation online, and the Mayor’s office liaison will put you in touch with a reputable and acceptable translation company.
The French laws in place on the islands dictate that a couple’s plans to marry must be published in the local press at least 45 days prior to the event taking place.
Because we had both been married before, we had to have not only our birth certificates translated but also our divorce decrees. If you’ve never been married, they’ll need to sign and notarize a document called a certificate of celibacy. The wedding coordinator at your resort of choice will be able to hook you up with all the right documents and a time frame for getting them completed and returned.
Once you have all of the necessary documents translated, you will need to Fed Ex them to the Mayor’s office in Bora Bora. Timing is key for this step, too, as there really isn’t an expedited option and no such thing as overnight delivery to a small island in the middle of the South Pacific.
It’s fun to track the package across the globe. For us it went from Georgia to California, then New Zealand and Tahiti, before finally arriving on Bora Bora.
Wedding Ceremony & Events
On the day of the wedding, our planner provided us with a detailed itinerary of events the morning of. Resort officials were aware that we were going to the mainland for the legal ceremony, and the beach event at the resort was scheduled for the same afternoon.
Our planner showed up at our room and accompanied us to the water taxi on the property that would take us to the mainland. When we arrived on shore in Viatape, there was a taxi waiting to take us to the Mayor’s Office. The resort took care of all the transportation details and we just had to show up!
The Mayor’s Office is right in the heart of Viatape. It has a beautiful chapel filled with warm wood paneling and floors and large wooden chairs, and the room is complete with a big picture window that showcased a beautiful view of Mt. Otemanu. The ceremony itself was conducted in French, with an English translator so that we could understand what was being said. It was quaint, a little quirky, quick, and undeniably and incredibly memorable.
Once we said our vows and were pronounced husband and wife, we stepped outside to ring the ceremonial bell announcing our union. Then we hopped back in the taxi and headed back to the water taxi that would take us back to the resort. We enjoyed a shot of Fireball on the boat ride back to celebrate the occasion!
Back at The Pearl, we were greeted by our wedding planner once again, and she let us know the schedule for the afternoon beach ceremony. We had some time to relax, have some lunch, and change before the photographer arrived to capture the afternoon beach ceremony wedding events at the Le Bora Bora.
It started at the overwater bungalow with a photo shoot that captured the gorgeous room and surroundings. You could already hear the steel drums playing in the distance when the canoe paddled up to take me to the shore for the beach ceremony.
We coasted past the other overwater bungalows (and fellow resort-goers who were wishing me well) to the beach area, where I hopped off the canoe to the steel drums and hula dancers (oh yes, and my fiancé Dan!) who were beckoning me to the beach for the ceremonial Polynesian vows.
The ceremony was lively, lovely, and so much fun! They donned our heads with gorgeous flower crowns. We said some Polynesian vows, and the officiant wrapped us in palm fronds and a Polynesian sarong before declaring us husband and wife in the native Tahitian tongue.
Then we were treated to our very own private Polynesian dance performance, with hula dancers and a steel drum band. When it was over, we were left to enjoy the moment and each other on the breathtakingly beautiful Bora Bora beach.
If you’re looking for the ultimate destination wedding – whether it’s to elope with just the two of you (like we did) or to invite friends and family along, I highly recommend Bora Bora in French Polynesia.
More information on exactly what the resorts have to offer can be found on their websites. For more information on the place where we chose to stay, Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts, click here for their wedding page.
Give yourself plenty of time to plan, get the details settled, and then get ready for the trip of a lifetime. It’s a decision you won’t regret!