Wedding of the Century

The tiny, beautiful island of Salt Cay was the venue for this couple’s nuptials.
By Ian Dunn ~ Photos By George Quinn, GL Quinn Photography (GLQuinnPhotography.com)

Wedding in Salt Cay

Marriage on Salt Cay's North Beach

On Saturday, May 28, 2011, on Salt Cay’s North Beach Jonathan Dunn and Irene Schwarz of Charlotte, North Carolina were united in holy matrimony. Though the location suggests that this was a destination wedding, with guests attending from the Islands, Europe and the United States, and with the requisite amount of merriment throughout the weekend, it was much more. The Turks & Caicos Islands have special significance to both Jonathan and Irene as well as to their families.

Salt Cay — beautiful, charming, isolated and remote — is reached from Grand Turk by a scheduled ferry three days a week (if the sea isn’t too rough) and by plane via Caicos Express three days a week from Providenciales. It has no hotels and only a few guest houses and villas, a couple of small stores and restaurants and several trucks and buggies for transportation. But it does have one of the most lovely beaches in the world, a small welcoming community of wonderful people where everyone is accepted, and Haidee and Porter Williams — proprietors of Porter’s Island Thyme — with the incredible talents to plan and orchestrate a wedding “in the middle of nowhere”!
Irene and Jonathan first met on Grand Turk. After graduating from college in the United States, Jon worked as a divemaster for Blue Water Divers before returning to the U.S. to attend graduate school. Irene was a frequent visitor to Grand Turk and it was there that Cupid’s arrow hit its mark. Irene’s mother, Lisa Wandres, is an artist who creates beautiful mosaics and spends part of each year on Grand Turk. She bought and restored an historic house on Duke Street in the late 1990s. When Irene and Jonathan were deciding on a location for their wedding, the Turks Islands were a leading candidate.

White House

Salt Cay's venerable White House, fronted by the salinas

In addition to Grand Turk, however, there was an even stronger connection to Salt Cay. Before moving to Grand Turk, Jonathan had worked with his brother, Tim, running Mt. Pleasant Guest House on Salt Cay and living in the White House — which was built by their great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Harriott in the 1830s. Their grandmother, Natalie Harriott Dunn, was born on Salt Cay during the September hurricane of 1908. Generations of Harriotts were born, married and died on Salt Cay and the Harriott Salt Company was far and away the most important enterprise in the Turks & Caicos Islands in the 19th century.
The White House itself is among the most significant historic buildings in the Islands, and its preservation and restoration became a life-work for Natalie Harriott Dunn in the 1960s. The legacy has been continued by her sons, Michael and Ian, and is now carried on by her grandchildren, Timothy in particular. Lisa and Irene have also embraced this legacy and actively lent their labour to ongoing projects, especially during the difficult period following Hurricane Ike in 2008. So as Jonathan and Irene made plans for the big day, Salt Cay was chosen to be the location for the ceremony, with guests invited to begin and conclude the festivities on Grand Turk.

The wedding
On Salt Cay’s North Beach at 4:30 in the afternoon, in bright sunshine but with rain clouds visible to the north, the couple exchanged vows and rings, and were pronounced husband and wife. The ceremony was led by the Rev. John Loving, an Episcopal priest from the U.S. who is a family friend of the Dunns and Jonathan’s godfather. The bride was escorted by her mother and her twin brother, Dennis, down an aisle marked by sea grass to a canopy made of driftwood and adorned with flowers. At the bride’s request, the groom played a traditional hymn on his violin accompanied by Gary Stedman on the guitar. Family, friends and Salt Cay residents witnessed the ceremony and joined in a champagne toast afterwards.

The reception

Newlyweds arrive

A cocktail reception was held at Island Thyme on Salt Cay.

Following the ceremony, the couple arrived in a festively decorated golf cart at Porter’s Island Thyme for a cocktail reception with hot and cold appetizers reflecting Caribbean fusion cuisine. This was followed by a sit-down dinner which featured filet mignon and local deep-water red snapper. Everyone enjoyed the Salt Cay wedding cake, baked and decorated by Mrs. Netty Talbot in her kitchen next door. Toasts and good wishes concluded the dinner, soon followed by music and dancing. At 10 PM a local rake-and-scrape band began to play and the party, which continued into the wee hours of the morning, was opened to the entire island.

Grand Turk festivities
On the Wednesday before the wedding, those family and guests who had arrived joined with friends from Grand Turk for a special treat: dinner at the Salt Raker Inn’s Secret Garden restaurant and a reunion of Jonathan with Mitch Rolling and his High Tide Band. Jonathan, or “Jonny” as he’s known on the island, is a fiddler par excellence. The music and dancing set the stage for the celebrations that were to follow.
Similarly, on the Sunday following the ceremony, the wedding party returned from Salt Cay to Grand Turk and dined at the Osprey Beach Hotel. Mitch, Lindsey Butterfield and the groom played as enthusiastically as they had done regularly on many a Sunday night before.

The Salt Cay ferry
Irene and Lisa carefully planned the logistics and timing to see that guests from abroad were guided through the vagaries of inter-island transportation. Though some suffered delays in air travel from the U.S., most arrived on schedule. Transportation to and from Salt Cay came courtesy of the Salt Cay Ferry, captained by Alan “Shine” Dickenson and his son Enrique, who ran special trips to bring everyone to Salt Cay on Friday afternoon and back to Grand Turk on Sunday. Guests participated in one of the quintessential experiences of Salt Cay life: seven miles of open sea in a crowded boat with dolphins and flying fish for entertainment!

Dinner at the White House
Upon arrival on Salt Cay on Friday afternoon, the wedding party and guests made their way to their various accommodations on the island. Before sunset, all came to the White House, where Ian and Louise Dunn, parents of the groom, hosted a welcoming party. The wedding guests and people of Salt Cay were invited to join the family at the ancestral home to share barbecue, peas ’n’ rice and other Salt Cay delicacies prepared by Salt Cay residents Ella Hamilton, Nettie Talbot, Pat Simmons and Eloisa Dickenson.
Some of the local guests had not been inside the White House for many years. Some were last there in the early 1950s when Franklyn Harriott (Natalie Harriott Dunn’s brother) was the last of his generation of Harriotts to call the White House “home.” Timothy Dunn, brother of the groom and resident of Salt Cay and Grand Turk, welcomed the visitors and friends from Salt Cay. He thanked the many people who were responsible for the repair and restoration of the White House and whose work allowed the house to be the site for a party of this magnitude for the first time in 60 years. Tim noted in particular the hard work and great concern of Lionel Talbot, caretaker for many years, and his predecessor, Felix Lightbourne, without whom the building would not have survived the ravages of time. Tim also thanked the people of Salt Cay, whose help and support are of enormous importance to the family’s efforts and interest in Salt Cay.
Three generations of Harriott descendants (Ian Dunn, Jonathan and his brothers, four nieces and nephews) were proud to share the White House with everyone. Throughout the celebrations on Salt Cay, the family felt the spiritual presence of Natalie, who died in 1993, and recognized that this was a fulfillment of her life-long dream.
The evening ended with a bonfire, which blazed at the end of the dock beyond the ruins of the old boat house, which was lost in Hurricane Ike.

Sunday Eucharist and Champagne brunch
On Sunday morning, family and friends joined the newly married couple for the morning service at St. John’s Anglican Church. Father Kendall from Grand Turk was unable to attend, but with his permission the Rev. John Loving celebrated the Eucharist, assisted by Catechist Holton Dickenson, Patricia Simmons, Morris Simmons and Rosie Glinton, the organist. Holton, in his welcoming remarks, recalled his personal memories of the Harriotts who had worshipped there and who had been instrumental in building the church and supporting it over the years. For the first time at St. John’s, the bread and wine for Communion were brought forward by individuals representing three generations of Harriotts (Ian, Tim and Colin Dunn). This practice of presenting the elements during the offertory is a “recent” innovation in the Anglican liturgy — especially when seen in the 150+ year history of St. John’s.
The concluding event for the festivities on Salt Cay was a delicious Champagne brunch at Island Thyme. Porter and Haidee Williams with their incredibly capable staff, including Apol and Lolly, prepared a feast of great variety. All who attended marveled at the quality and scope of the cuisine and entertainment that they had enjoyed on this tiny island.

Said and done
Many of the family and guests stayed for several days following the wedding and a few returned to Salt Cay. Irene and Jonathan left for a brief honeymoon on Providenciales before returning to Charlotte, North Carolina, and the continuation of their life together. All the attendees were impressed by Grand Turk and, especially, by Salt Cay. Those of us who have been coming to these islands for years are amazed at the way in which everything was accomplished. The parties were great! The local music was wonderful! Food and fellowship were extraordinary! The opportunity to share the history of these islands in the celebration of a special occasion for two beloved people was appreciated by all.
Perhaps this wedding on Salt Cay will be the start of a trend . . . but until that happens, Irene and Jonathan can stake their claim to the “Salt Cay Wedding of the Century.”

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