You’ve been dreaming of your wedding for years. The last thing you want is a conventional ceremony without a hint of personal flair. The thought of a quiet exchange of vows on the steps of city hall or a cookie cutter reception at the same country club where you had your senior prom is seriously cramping your style. While you’re tempted to elope, you still want your closest friends and relatives to share in the excitement.
If you want to turn your big day into the ultimate adventure for everyone involved, a destination wedding may be just what you’re looking for. Rather than holding a wedding and reception at home and traveling abroad for their honeymoon, more and more couples are choosing one location for the whole shebang. For the wedding party and guests, attending a destination wedding can be a major undertaking, but also the perfect excuse for a vacation.
According to Fodors.com, some of the most popular wedding destinations include coastal resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii, as well as the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. INSIDER reports that locations such as Croatia, Costa Rica, Western Canada, and the Finger Lakes region of New York are also growing in popularity.
Couples choose destinations according to many factors. CNN’s Krisanne Fordham recommends England’s historic Leed’s Castle for a fairytale-themed wedding, Hotel Riu Montego Bay in Jamaica for a budget-friendly affair, and for same-sex couples, the Mediterranean-inspired Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs, California.
In her article for Brides.com, Yolanda Crous cautions against choosing locations that are too remote: “Keep in mind that your destination must have all of the resources you need; that charming beach town where you spent your childhood summers won’t work if it only has one hotel that can’t accommodate all your guests.” Taking advantage of local resources will also help you save money. Serve local cuisine to save on catering and look for outdoor locations with natural flora to cut down on the need for decorating.
In her article for Cosmopolitan, Brooke Shunatona advises couples to invest in a qualified photographer and videographer to capture the stunning scenery. Her wedding photos include shots taken by a drone hovering above the lava rocks of Hawaii. Make sure your custom bridal gown is compatible with the climate, too; a dress that would look flawless in Aspen may go soggy and limp in the humid air of Bali.
The logistics of planning a wedding in an exotic location can be challenging. If you are traveling out of the country, make sure that everyone has valid passports and visas; most countries require a travel visa that is valid for at least six months before your departure date, so apply early. Pay close attention to the laws regarding marriage licences, especially if blood test results are required ahead of time.
To avoid the legal red tape and other hassles, Crous suggests hiring a wedding planner on location who can speak the native language (if necessary) and coordinate with local vendors. Nina Halloway on Spruce.com explains that many destination wedding resorts offer an on-site consultant who will handle the marriage license, officiant, catering, and other details as part of their all-inclusive package.
While there are many benefits to getting married in paradise, destination weddings do require some concessions. Shunatona points out that many of your guests may be unwilling or unable to take time off work to travel or afford the cost of plane tickets. You will likely receive fewer wedding gifts due to the money your guests are already shelling out to attend.
On the flip side, if you want your wedding to be an intimate gathering of only your most devoted friends and family, sending invitations to a ceremony halfway across the globe will weed out anyone who is likely to attend solely for the free drinks. Destination weddings can often be much more affordable for the bride and groom, too, so you’ll have less trouble balancing that wedding debt with all your other responsibilities as you establish hearth and home as a new couple.
Shunatona describes how the guests who attended her destination wedding bonded over the shared adventure: “Everyone will meet at the rehearsal dinner or whatever festivities you have planned, and by the time your weekend is over, your fiancé’s 60-year-old family friend will be floating down the lazy river with your college roommate’s boyfriend, because they’re now best buds.” Halloway concurs, suggesting that couples arrange activities for guests, such as hosebackriding or scuba diving, so they get the most out of the trip.
The adventure of a destination wedding can easily turn into a misadventure due to canceled flights, unexpected weather, missing luggage, or illness. Some problems can be averted by packing wedding attire, rings, and other essentials in carry-on bags and shipping well in advance any linens and other reception supplies that can’t be purchased locally, and all couples consider wedding insurance.
To overcome any roadblocks to their destination dream wedding, couples will need to plan well but remain flexible. “Destination weddings are for bridechillas only,” says Shunatona. Things may not always go according to plan, but with a few last-minute adjustments, it can still be the happiest day of your life.
What’s your wedding destination? Let us know in the comments.