KINGSTON, Jamaica – Nine tourist couples slathered on ample amounts of sunblock on Tuesday and said "I do" in the nude on a sun-baked Jamaican beach.
Getting married in the buff on Valentine's Day meant living out a fantasy for Milly Salas, a stay-at-home mom from Bergen County, New Jersey, who had never visited a nudist resort before.
"It was beautiful. It was like a fairy tale," the 39-year-old Salas said shortly after the nude nuptials at Hedonism II, a resort for the pleasure-seeking crowd in Negril, a western tourist town in this largely conservative, tourism-dependent island.
The promise of a Valentine's Day wedding and complimentary four-night stay attracted over 100 engaged couples from the U.S. and Canada, but only 10 were chosen as part of a nude wedding contest, according to Zein Issa-Nakash, a marketing vice president of Superclubs, which owns Hedonism. One couple dropped out before the big day, which was filmed by a documentary TV crew.
Kevin Young, of Land O' Lakes, Florida, said walking around au naturale is what he's used to since he lives in a nudist community. Getting married without clothes was a no-brainer for Young and his new wife, Shannon Witherspoon. Even body paint was too much for him, he said.
"It was easy for us cause we're used to it. But some of these other people had never been naked before outside their bedroom. I got to give them kudos, cause they really stepped up and did the full monte thing and got naked," Young said during a phone call from Negril.
The Tuesday ceremony was the first nude wedding event at the Jamaican resort since 2003, according to Issa-Nakash. She said there were no angry protests of the event by pastors and others as there were about a decade ago when the resort first hosted group weddings in the buff.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's government was quiet about the resumption of nude weddings at Hedonism this Valentine's Day. During the controversy over nude weddings in 2001, Simpson Miller, then Jamaica's tourism minister, said getting married without clothes was at odds with how Jamaica should be marketed.
During the past few decades, as tourism has boomed, Jamaicans have quietly endured visitors' stereotypes of their country as a place to frolic on the beach and leave "civilization" behind. But there has always been a certain degree of tension between the island's traditional West Indian society and a tourism industry marketed mainly on pleasure.