During the last couple of years, the number of wedding invitations my husband and I have received for destination weddings has increased significantly. The themes of the weddings have varied from a traditional Southern wedding in Charleston, to a winery in Napa Valley, and it has been an exciting adventure to witness the nuptials of many of our friends’ children in exotic locations. Many of us are planning our vacations around the destinations the wedding couples choose to say their “I do’s.”
Getting married on your honeymoon is an increasingly popular concept. For some couples, the idea of conserving time and money, while playing host at their dream wedding, is very appealing.
But before you get started on planning a destination wedding, listed below are just a few key factors to consider:
Location: Choose a destination that is accessible to your guests. Take into consideration the length of time it takes to travel there and the cost involved in travel arrangements. It is much more attractive to find a place that has one price covering everything from the venue of the wedding ceremony to accommodations for you and all your guests. Normally, you will receive a discount on the venue, if you reserve ahead of time.
Requirements: If you plan to get married abroad, you must spend a certain amount of time in some countries before you can wed. For example, in Jamaica, you do need to apply for a license ahead of time through the Ministry of Justice, but with the proper identification and a marriage license, you can be married 24 hours after arriving in the country; or if you get married in Cabo, there's no residency requirement, but you'll need to bring your passport and take blood tests in Mexico two business days prior to the wedding. You'll also need four witnesses, though most of the resorts are happy to provide these. On the other hand, Bermuda has no residency requirements and minimal paperwork. Simply complete the Notice of Intended Marriage for a wedding license, which is good for up to three months.
The requirements for getting married in the United States are less stringent. For instance, if you decide to marry in Florida, you can apply for a Florida marriage license in person with proper identification and a social security card. While there is a waiting period for local residents, non-Florida residents have no waiting period before they can marry in the state. You will need to check state laws in whichever state you choose.
Guest List: Try to limit your guests to those who are the most important to you. It may be just the two of you and your immediate families, or you may want to include a small wedding party and the people who are dearest to you. Keep in mind the affordability before you invite your guests. Also, take into account where your guests live and choose an accessible destination with affordable, easy flights.
Budget: If you have limited funds, consider the free wedding options offered by many all-inclusive resorts. Resorts and cruise lines often include planning services in their wedding packages and offer attractive pricing midweek or in low season. If you are planning a wedding on a larger scale, you may want to consider a takeover. Many places allow you to rent out the whole property. Not only will you have privacy and the entire staff at your disposal, but also the bulk rate is usually less than what you would pay if you booked each room separately.
Many couples want the chance to enjoy the romance of a big city and the elegance of fine dining and unique settings. At Jody and Will Geary’s recent wedding in Charlotte, the backdrop of an elegant art gallery served as the location for their lively wedding reception. The venue allowed us to explore Charlotte’s vibrant downtown. Another Jackson native, Jamie Mallinson wed his beautiful bride, Kristen, in Philadelphia, Pa., and the many guests from Jackson were able to enjoy the historic city before traveling 12 miles to Cairnwood, a 19th-century home, which was the picturesque setting for this lovely ceremony.
One of the more interesting weddings I have planned was for an elderly couple who found each other later in life and wanted their dream wedding in Las Vegas. Believe it or not, there are more options than an Elvis wedding chapel. The Bellagio has two wedding chapels on-site with refined touches like hand-blown Italian glass chandeliers and amethyst glass windows with stained glass. You might choose to be married outdoors overlooking the Lago di Como. To be sure, there is a huge wow-factor to begin married life in close proximity to the amazing Fountains of Bellagio, which shoot into the air up to the height of a 24-story building.
While most couples choose a wedding venue close to home, conserving both time and money, others see a wedding as a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. For those, it's the time for a fantasy journey to destinations whose very names mean romance.
I have planned weddings and honeymoons in dreamy places such as the Sofitel Moorea in Tahiti, Hermitage Bay in Antigua and Capella Peregal in Cabo San Lucas. Additionally, I have planned small intimate ceremonies in Paris with just the bride and groom and their immediate families, and the couple continued on a romantic honeymoon to Florence and Rome.
Other destinations like Portugal, Italy and Ireland are gaining popularity for wedding destinations. On a recent trip to Ireland, I witnessed the most beautiful ceremony in the rose gardens of Dromoland Castle in County Clare. Not surprisingly, the American couple was of Irish descent.
A FEW OF MY OTHER FAVORITE WEDDING DESTINATIONS
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff is an incredible resort located approximately 30 minutes from Savannah, Ga. My family and I visited there, and we encountered the most magical location for a wedding. In fact, it would be difficult to hope for a more beautiful setting for southern wedding, South Carolina Lowcountry-style. The Waterside Chapel, from which you will have stunning views of the May River and the surrounding practically-primordial oak trees. While we were there, a lively reception was held on the verandas of the River House, where the guests enjoyed an authentic Lowcountry experience.
This destination sits on a former hunting club and timber farm of 22,000 acres nestled along the May River, just inland from the coast. Not only can you have an unforgettable wedding ceremony, there is boating, tennis, golf, fishing, hiking, bike riding, restaurants, stables, as well as a spa for your guests to enjoy.
Esperanza Resort is the perfect backdrop for an oceanfront wedding. Start your day at the spa with some pampering before exchanging vows by the sea. If you're hoping for an intimate affair with just your sweetheart, enjoy a customized dinner for two on the beach and splurge on a mariachi band or even fireworks to mark the occasion. For a larger affair with family and friends, plan a sunset ceremony followed by a Mexican beachside BBQ and bonfire.
Beaver Creek, Colorado’s slogan is “not exactly roughing it,” and they are exactly right. You can have the rustic feel and the natural beauty of the West while being catered to in every way conceivable. The Chapel at Beaver Creek is a quaint chapel located in the Village of Beaver Creek. This spot is near and dear to my heart as two of my very close family members were married here, and my daughters, Claire and Maeve, were attendants in both weddings. The natural beauty that surrounds the chapel, combined with the simple elegance of the chapel building, makes it a popular venue for marriage ceremonies. You can either plan a summer or winter ceremony as both seasons serve an incredible backdrop of awe-inspiring beauty. There is a myriad of venues to choose for receptions, from the rustic Allie’s Cabin located on the mountain to Spruce Saddle, a charming mountaintop lodge.
There are so many other incredible destinations to have a wedding that I just couldn’t begin to list. More and more couples are opting for an exclusive location to hold their wedding, and a destination celebration is the ultimate adventure to begin marital bliss.