One of the most kept secrets when it comes to destination wedding ideas is Portugal. From the 16th century beauty of the university city of Faro, to spectacular beaches along the beaches of Lisbon or the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, Portugal is brimming with possibilities for destination wedding locations:
Lisbon is a gorgeous city, with many hills with panoramic views, labyrinthine streets, and plenty of trendy bars and restaurants. There are many places that you can go to hear Fado, the traditional Portuguese folk music. As far as destination wedding ideas, the city’s modern waterfront presents many options for beach reception ideas, filled with great seafood, music, and inexpensive vino verde.
The Ria Formosa Nature Reserve is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, with expansive empty beaches, charming seafood restaurants, lagoons, desolate islands, and a wealth of mud flats and marshes. For anyone who loves nature and adventure, you can enjoy hiking, cycling, or birdwatching. There is also an education center that will tell you all about the area’s indigenous life and vegetation.
The university town of Faro has a quaint Old Town with its 16th century architecture still in tact, such as the Chapel of the Igreja do Carmo church, filled with the bones of 1,200 monks. At night, the Rua do Prior is full of great nightspots, cafes and bars. The town is also full of great shopping and cultural insitutions.
There are countless tropical wedding locations all over the world worth exploring, but Bali offers something special. If you’ve ever been to Bali, you know first hand how magical this island is, and if you haven’t, then you must go soon! There are a few areas of Bali, that stand out more than others, any of which would be an ideal pick for destination wedding locations.
Ubud, which is considered to be the mystical heartland of the island of the Gods, is one of the most beautiful regions of Bali. Known as the center as well as haven for the arts with the added bonus of lush rice fields, which are breathtaking to say the least.
Seminyak is another gorgeous region of Bali that is saturated with trendy boutiques, restaurants, as well as nightlife. If you and your wedding party want to enjoy shopping and dining during the day, and dancing and celebrating at night, then this is the ideal region of Bali for your destination wedding. Here you have your pick of swanky hotels, resorts, and of course private Villas that would be a dream come true for anyone to experience.
Nusa Dua is known as being the quietest region of Bali, as well as the most luxurious. This area is filled to the brim with five star international hotels and resorts. Ideal for the couple that wants to experience the finest service that Bali has to offer.
When couples research exotic wedding locations, they often explore island wedding destinations, which are beautiful, yet cliché. Use these following unique wedding destinations as a launching off point for thinking outside the box for your big day.
- Sphinx Observation Wedding Hall: Why not get married in the high-Alpine wonderland of eternal ice and snow in Switzerland! This location offers jaw-dropping views that reach the summits of the Vosges Mountains in France to the Black Forest in Germany. After you and your groom say your “I do’s,” take a walk to the Mönchsjochnchsjoch Hut, which reaches such a high altitude that it’s known as the “roof” of Europe.
- Inca Wedding Chapel: This location takes tropical destination weddings to a whole new level. There aren’t many other places like the Inca Wedding Chapel, located in Ecuador, that offer such a unique and beauteous setting. The Chapel is equipped with 17th century ceilings and carved Incan volcanic stonewalls.
- Mussenden Wedding Temple: This Northern Ireland Temple is located on a cliff top, which offers North Coast and Donegal panoramic views and is in proximity to lush gardens at the Bishops Gate.
If you are tired of reading about the same destination wedding packages to the Caribbean, and especially if you are not necessarily enamored with the idea of a tropical wedding, consider France—one of the most romantic and geographically interesting countries in the world. France has 22 provinces, and many could make wonderful destination wedding locations. Here are a few French traditions you could incorporate into your wedding:
- In provincial areas, the groom will call on his bride on the morning of her wedding day and escort her to the wedding chapel.
- The groom usually escorts the mother down the aisle before the wedding precession begins.
- When the couple leaves the wedding venue, guests sprinkle laurel leaves in their path, which the bride and groom walk over.
- At the reception, after the toasts have been made, the newlyweds drink wine from an engraved, double handled goblet (which has typically been passed down through the generations).
As far as destination wedding locations are concerned, France is a gorgeous country, full of culture, museums, art, vineyards, incredible food, gorgeous beaches, amazing countryside, ski areas (if you get married during the winter), mountains, and charming little villages. Your guests will love exploring the different regions in France or spending some time in the City of Light!
Spain is the type of country that many Americans would love to visit, but don’t always make it to. Yet Spain is a top contender for destination wedding locations, and for good reason. People love the culture, the language, the mystical appeal, and of course, the amazing food and wine.
- For those who like to go to bed late and begin their day later in the morning, Spain is on the perfect schedule. People don’t eat until 11 p.m. in some parts, and even Starbucks is not open at 6 a.m. as it is in most U.S. cities.
- The landscape of Spain is diverse. For those who love mountains, there is the Pyrenees, and for those who love the ocean, there are many spectacular beaches. (San Sebastian, in the north Basque country, is a resort town and great for destination wedding locations). There are also volcanic islands, lush vegetation, and desert; each region also has a slightly different culture.
- Madrid is an amazing city, full of medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, art museums, and great nightlife. If you are interested in university towns, go to Salamanca in the region of Castille, full of cathedrals and gothic architecture, an idyllic site for unique destination weddings.
- Spain is considered “the new France” when it comes to gastronomy. Some of the best restaurants in the world (pioneers of “avant-garde” cuisine) are in Spain.
Kauai, Hawaii, is one of the most mystical, magical places on the planet. As far as destination wedding locations are concerned, Kauai is unrivaled as a backdrop of natural beauty. It is filled with waterfalls, stunning beaches, an incredible canyon, and the breathtaking Napali coastline.
- There are some amazing lookout points and drives that your guests will enjoy (particularly, the road to Kalalau Point).
- You can have excellent seafood (try the famous hole-in-the-wall Shrimp Station, where they prepare shrimp almost every way you can imagine!)
- One of the best things about Kauai (as compared to other Hawaiin islands) is that it is much less touristy, and a lot less busy (It was a big deal when a Costco and Borders bookstore opened several years ago). As far as destination wedding locations go, this is definitely a true escape.
- For those who love hiking, Kauai has some of the most spectacular scenic hikes in the world. Do be cautious if the island has just gotten more rain than usual, because the clay tends to get very slippery and can be dangerous for hikers.
- If you want a tropical wedding, Kauai is known to be the rainiest spot on the planet. The dramatic North Shore (near Princetown) is almost always getting rain, but if you drive just a few miles toward Poipu Beach, it is often clear (and is perhaps a better spot for outdoor beach wedding locations).
For a wedding full of vibrancy, liveliness, culture, drama and music, destination wedding planners should take a closer look at Colombia. Colombia already ranks high among popular honeymoon destinations, so why not consider having your actual celebration and ceremony there, too? Here are a few traditions to consider:
- Add gold to your wedding dress.
- The wedding cake, placed in the middle of the dance floor, is usually the first thing to be eaten at a wedding reception.
- Have your wedding at a hacienda and decorate it with local flowers that are in bloom.
- Serve the traditional wedding drink, Aguardienete, which is similar to a black licorice liquor such as Sambuca. Enjoy with Chorizo!
Highlights: Guests can explore national parks, jungles, forests, and rivers, or they can experience the culture in cities such as San Augustin and Tierradentro, filled with tombs, monuments and statues. Bogota (the capital) has many arts and entertainment venues, museums, interesting architecture, churches, outdoor markets, and a great nightlife scene.
For the beauty of South America and a bit of European flair, look no further than Argentina. Here are a few traditions you can incorporate into your Argentinian wedding:
- Wear a white dress, with “something blue” underneath.
- You do not need to have bridesmaids or a best man; instead, the bride and groom stand at the altar, typically with their parents.
- Learn how to tango, and perform a dance at your reception. The tango is lively and tastefully seductive. (Plus, it will get you into shape for your wedding, an added bonus).
- The reception lasts for hours… no escaping in a getaway car halfway through the festivities! Celebrate, eat, drink and dance with your family and friends late into the night!
- Serve traditional Argentinian fare, which is mostly beef-based. For dessert, have the helado, a delectable ice cream dish.
- Buenos Aires is a very European, cosmopolitan city, with an excellent opera house and theater, many great restaurants, sophisticated boutiques for shopping, and prestigious museums. Other cities such as Cordoba, La Plata, Rosario and Santa Fe also have some impressive architecture, museums and churches.
- For those looking for nature, the area of Pampas is known for its agriculture, with lakes, hills and extensive green space. Or, go to the Mar del Plata, with its long of stretch of gorgeous beaches. If you want to see waterfalls, the Iguazu Falls are spectacular.
Brazil is among the most amazing destination wedding locations. To incorporate Brazilian traditions into your wedding, destination wedding planners should do the following:
- Do not see each other before you get married! It is bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the wedding.
- The bride should be sure to have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue on her wedding day.
- Both rings of the bride and groom should be engraved with each other’s names.
- The wedding reception is extremely lively, and Brazilian music should be the theme of the night.
- There should be plenty of food and the traditional drink, the Caipirinha (sugar, sugar cane liquor, and fresh lime juice), should flow freely.
- Rio de Janeiro is an amazing city to visit, especially with the backdrop of the mountains and the ocean. The city is also famous for its fantastic carnivals. Copacabana Beach is also nearby.
- Sau Paulo is the largest city in South America, with tons of nightlife, an art museum, and theaters.
- The Amazon covers a large part of the country. The city of Manaus is a great reference point for exploring the country’s awe-inspiring natural beauty.
If you are planning a destination wedding and want to get married somewhere that is full of culture, look no further than South America. Many countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Venezuela are quickly becoming favorites among destination wedding planners. Be on the lookout for all inclusive wedding packages that save you and your guests money and allow you to completely relax and celebrate!
- Brazil is a gorgeous country with spectacular landscapes and invigorating cities! Rio de Janeiro is known for its carnival season. It is also close to Copacobana Beach and a huge national park filled with stunning tropical vegetation and waterfalls. The Amazon covers a large portion of the country, and is wonderful for day trips and excursions.
- Chile. Destination wedding planners love Chile for its amazing selection of wine, whether it is red, white, or sparkling. Another great wedding drink is the pisco sour, a brandy made from grapes that is mixed with lemon juice, powdered sugar and egg whites. Chile also has a breathtaking coastline and a wealth of national parks.
- Argentina. History and art lovers will love this country, where the city of Cordoba has a famous historical museum and many streets are lined with colonial buildings. In Buenos Aires, guests can attend many ballets, operas, and classical music performances at the Teatro Colón. Weddings in Argentina also naturally lend themselves to vibrant colors and romantic dances like the tango.
Perhaps you have always dreamed of a tropical wedding, but you are not keen on traveling outside the United States. Or, maybe you are not interested in typical destination wedding locations such the Caribbean or Mexico. If so, start researching a wedding in Florida. Here are a few reasons the state offers an excellent alternative to other beach wedding locations:
- Beaches. Florida has a wealth of stunning beaches to choose from, whether you go to Central Florida (Anna Maria, Clearwater, Sarasota, Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, St. Pete), Southwest Florida (Captiva Island, Ft. Myers, Marco Island, Naples, Sanibel Island), or Southeast Florida (Miami or Ft. Lauderdale). All of these beaches are spectacular destination wedding locations. Do a little research on each of them, and figure out which suits you and your guests the best. Also, ask people who are familiar with the area what they would recommend.
- Easy Travel. When you travel within the country, you do not have to deal with foreign travel, such as language barriers or passport issues (not just your own, but coordinating with all of the guests at your wedding to ensure they also have the right travel documents).
- Inexpensive Dining. Because Florida is not an island, the food is typically not as expensive. When you go to a place like Bora Bora or Hawaii, everything is imported which makes the prices jump significantly. In Florida, you can have amazing meals for prices that won’t leave you feeling uneasy.
There are many people who claim to be destination wedding planners, as well as numerous websites boasting their destination wedding locations and planning services. How do you sort through who is legitimate and who is not? After you do that, how do you narrow down your choices?
The most important thing you do when planning your destination wedding is to choose your planner/ coordinator. It will involve some research, but it is absolutely essential to know who you are working with. Destination wedding disasters can be worse than local wedding disasters because travel arrangements, airports and hotels, foreign countries, language barriers and other factors are often involved (and likely, not all of your guests will be seasoned travelers). Remember that you will not have as good of a time if you know your guests are unhappy or uncomfortable with their accommodations. Your guests are an important part of this equation—otherwise, you would just elope. Here are a few tips for finding the right destination wedding planner:
- Ask to see whether they are accredited by the local Better Business Bureau. (If not, choosing them is probably too risky).
- Find out if they are officially certified as a wedding planner. Also, find out if they have been recognized by the wedding industry. See what other clients have said about them. If possible, get the names and contact information of people who have used their services. Talking with people who have worked directly with them is extremely helpful when narrowing down your choice, and it often gives you clues as to their strengths (as well as things they could improve on).
- Figure out how much experience they have had. Ask specific questions with direct answers, such as “How many weddings do you do each year?” “What is the average size of the wedding?” “Can you show me pictures of weddings you have done?” Experience is ultimately what separates someone who is good from someone who is excellent. You want a planner who knows exactly what they are doing, who has done this a million times, who has excellent contacts, who can negotiate well on your behalf, and who is extremely detail-oriented.
- Use only reputable online services. There are a lot of scams on the web, with many websites promising things that they will not deliver. You need to be absolutely certain that the service you are choosing is not only reputable, but also has a near perfect track record. If at all possible, speak directly with a prospective planner on the phone. If you are not able to have a face-to-face meeting, remember to ask the right questions.
- Final Note: Decide before working with your coordinator whether your wedding location will be the same place as your honeymoon. The choice of honeymoon destinations can be difficult, and remember that you can save a lot of money, effort, and time if you join the wedding and honeymoon (If you are worried about privacy, you can always take a less expensive and more local romantic weekend getaway when you get back home). If have already paid the airfare and taken the time to make the arrangements, take advantage of it. Certain destinations are geared towards weddings and honeymoons, and destination wedding planners should be able to leverage this in negotiating prices.