The happy couple, Shakiera and Marcel Dillard, pictured with Joy. Credit Maggie Jackson
From last minute wedding nerves, to grooms that strip off post ceremony for a skinny dip, you could say that Joy Basdeo, one of Cayman’s most popular wedding registrars, has seen it all.
Now Joy has celebrated a milestone in her career. On Saturday, May 6, Joy conducted her 2,000th wedding ceremony at the Kimpton Sea Fire Resort + Spa.
Shakiera Ebanks Lawson and Frank Dillard from Phoenix, Arizona, became Mr and Mrs when they tied the knot at the prestigious resort in a ceremony that the veteran registrar called “lovely and beautiful”.
Indeed, Joy said she was delighted to share the spotlight for the milestone event with the lovely couple and their large extended family and friends.
“Shakiera has strong Caymanian roots from the Ebanks family and her father still lives here,” Joy said. “She is a flight attendant with American Airlines and they have been able to visit often. Frank tells me his two favourite things about Cayman are the turquoise water and the spicy food. The couple hopes to live in Cayman in the near future with their little daughter, Brooklyn.”
Joy is a familiar face with many residents in Cayman, having married thousands of local residents during her illustrious career. A family business, Joy’s mother, Francine Jackson, was Cayman’s first civil registrar of marriages.
“As a child, my siblings and I were entertained by hearing about our parents’ wedding in 1951, quite a different experience from the weddings of today,” Joy said. “My own wedding in 1972 was an elaborate and glamorous affair since my parents were well known and loved in Cayman society. We had an extensive guest list followed by a reception and dancing at La Fontaine hotel – now Royal Palms. I suppose it was inevitable that after retiring from the civil service in 2005 I would be attracted to the family’s wedding business.”
The family affair started in 1985 when Joy’s father, Vernon Jackson, retired from the civil service and was asked by the governor at the time to become a marriage officer.
“Visitor weddings had begun to catch on, and his services were in great demand,” Joy explained. “A few years later he was joined by my mother and they established the island’s first wedding services company called Cayman Weddings, and did wedding planning as well as officiating. When my father, who passed away in late 2016, retired in March 2015 he had officiated more than 4,500 weddings. My mother still officiates weddings in her wedding gazebo in West Bay.”
Joy fell into the family business, when in 1995 her mother made her her deputy, meaning she could do weddings whenever her mother was away or otherwise unable to officiate. It was a role she filled for some 13 years. Basdeo retired from the civil service 12 years ago and after a couple of years of enjoying her retirement, started helping her mother out, then in her 70s, in her office in West Bay. Joy said it was then that she realised that there was a gap in the market.
“In May 2008 I opened my Simply Weddings office at 305 North Church Street as a sister company to Cayman Weddings and catering to cruise weddings. However, before long the company was doing just as many local weddings as overseas weddings,” Joy said.
To keep up with demand, Joy moved her office to its present location along the George Town waterfront, where the business has continued to go from strength-to-strength. Continuing the family tradition, Joy’s husband Sam joined Simply Weddings six years ago.
“I have built on the business model my parents used successfully for 30 years, which is to provide a service which is simple, elegant and personalised,” Joy said.
These days Joy conducts more than 300 wedding ceremonies every year.
“I try to only officiate one ceremony a day, but that doesn’t always work out,” Joy explained. “Residents tend to prefer to be married on a Saturday and it is not unusual for me to have four or five weddings.”
Looking back over her illustrious career, Joy has a few tales to tell. She said one of her most memorable weddings was in 2011, when only the bride turned up after the groom refused to get off the cruise ship.
“She was very distressed,” Joy recalled. “So we spent a few hours trying to calm her down. About 11 a.m. we got a call saying the groom was ready to come ashore. We sent a car to get him, but even when he got to the office he spent the next half hour outside on the phone. Finally he came inside, apologised, changed his clothes and we proceeded with the wedding.”
She added: “It was only after the wedding that he told me he was in the armed services and only that morning he had learned that as soon as he got Stateside he was being sent to Afghanistan. It made him question whether it was right to go ahead with the wedding. The phone call he was on was to his father who talked him through his feelings until he felt he could go ahead with the plans for the day.”
Joy added that no matter how many marriage ceremonies she conducts, she always aims to make everyone feel like family.
“Because mine is a legacy company inherited from my parents, it is very important to me that our services are held in high regard,” she explained. “We plan to pass the business on to our children in a couple of years and I want to always be proud of Simply Weddings and what my husband and I have built.”
Indeed, in the congratulatory messages which fill the Simply Weddings Facebook page, one stands out – “Sam and Joy made us feel like family.”
“My mother always told me that was the key, that on such a special day in a couple’s life, to surround them with love, with caring, and really, often to be stand in parents,” Joy said.
It’s a principle that no doubt will see Joy reach another milestone figure in the not too distant future – matching her father’s 4,500 ceremonies.