By Lincoln DePradine
Jamaica, like other countries, has had to shut down almost all commercial activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.
Now, Jamaica is getting ready to reopen its tourism-dependent economy and to welcome visitors to the country, some who had arranged weddings for Jamaica before the pandemic outbreak.
“We are now relentlessly planning on reopening our tourism industry,’’ Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, said on Sunday, while addressing a ceremony from the beachside of Laughing Waters in Ocho Rios.
The event, a partnership between the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and DestinationWeddings.com, was a “virtual wedding’’ ceremony for 126 couples who had to cancel or postpone their weddings because of COVID-19, which has killed 326,000 people worldwide. Of that number, about 6,000 has been in Canada and nine in Jamaica.
The “virtual wedding’’ ceremony was streamed live, with couples and their guests joining the celebration from their homes using Zoom.
The ceremony included live music and the exchange of wedding vows and rings.
The host of the event said that although ceremony was not “legally binding’’, the “symbolic act of marriage should not be entered into lightly but with a sense of great thought and understanding for all that it represents.
” One of the most important things in life is when you find that special someone who makes you feel complete; that person who makes your world so magical, so fulfilling; that person with whom you share a bond so special that it transcends a normal relationship and morphs into something so pure, so wonderful, that you cannot live a day without thinking of them’’.
As part of the wedding vow, couples said: “I take you today as my partner, my confidante, my other half; and I will love you for the rest of my life.’’
Bartlett raised a toast to the “wonderful’’ couples, wishing them “a life of togetherness, sharing and abundant love’’.
“This is undoubtedly the first time that we’re having a virtual wedding here in Jamaica; and, it’s probably the first time anywhere in the world. So, that makes it truly historic,’’ the Jamaican tourism minister said.
“We thank you for sharing this special day in your lives with us,’’ he added. “This virtual wedding signifies hope. Hope, at a time, when millions across the globe might be feeling hopeless in the throes of a devastating pandemic virus. But, we are a resilient people who are at our best when our mettle is tested.’’
The couples, in return for participating in last Sunday’s ceremony, are to benefit from an arrangement involving DestinationWeddings.com and 18 Jamaica resort partners.
Each couple is receiving a complimentary wedding package, which includes three free nights in a room that will be upgraded from what they had originally purchased for their wedding that subsequently was cancelled because of COVID-19.
They also are entitled to complimentary arrival and departure services, if they book their ceremony through DestinationWeddings.com.
Bartlett said he looks forward, when travel and airport services to Jamaica resume after being closed down because of the Coronavirus, to welcoming the newlywed couples.
“We here, in Jamaica, are leading the way in saying to the world, rise up in love, peace and unity, so that hearts can rejoice once more,’’ he stated.