Scrolling through wedding photos from destination weddings always inspires jealousy in me, despite being nowhere near marriage myself. Something about getting married on the beach seems so glamorous — so otherworldly — and even though I can imagine all the guests wilting in the direct summer sunlight and dusting sand off themselves for days afterward, there’s still some primal urge within me that wants me to pick up and leave my life behind for a destination wedding. If you feel the same way, read on for tips I've inadvertently accumulated through not-really-but-sort-of-researching my own possible destination wedding.
Why have a destination wedding?
On the surface, a destination wedding sounds like a wonderful idea — it’s a celebration of love AND a vacation, all rolled into one. However, before signing onto having a destination wedding, you should consider some possible issues that might arise. If your elderly grandfather can’t walk, his wheelchair will likely struggle across the sands of Hawaii; if your friends aren’t making a lot of money, forcing them to buy tickets to your wedding in Mexico might breed resentment. It all depends on your guest list, really: a wedding with a large guest list would be unwieldy in a desirable location, so you should likely keep your large wedding local. If, on the other hand, you’re set on an intimate wedding with only loved ones in attendance, a destination wedding might be right for you.
10 best wedding locations.
1. Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast stretches along the Gulf of Salerno in the South of Italy. It’s rocky land, featuring many cliffs with fantastic, breathtaking views. Because the coast has become a popular site for tourists, there are many hotels in the area that double as spectacular wedding venues. It’s an expensive choice, so don’t bother going to scout it out unless you want to be tempted — you’ll be drawn in by the balconies, and your mind will be made up by the beaches. There’s no doubt that the Amalfi Coast is a lovers’ paradise, and if you want to invite the whole wedding party on the honeymoon, it might also be the perfect place for your wedding. The best month to get married on the Amalfi Coast is May, when all the flowers are blooming and tourism is low — but truthfully, you can’t go wrong with any summer date.
2. Martha’s Vineyard, MA
If it’s good enough for the Obamas, it’s probably good enough for you. Martha’s Vineyard is a popular destination spot for East Coasters and ex-presidential families alike. It’s a little island right off of Massachusetts, famous for its beaches, seafood and cute towns. It’s a great destination wedding location on the merits of the sunsets alone—and your guests will appreciate not having to travel very far. The one downside to this pretty little island is that getting there can be a drag because it’s only accessible by ferry or plane. The Vineyard essentially shuts down over the bitter Massachusetts winter, so a summer wedding on one of the gleaming beaches or in one of the many sweet little white churches is definitely what you should aim for here.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is an oft-overlooked European city by tourists. The food in Lisbon is cheap and phenomenal, the city is easy and fun to navigate on foot or by eléctrico (tram) and the nightlife is popping — you’ll be able to go dancing every night if that’s your thing. Of course, you probably won’t be able to fit in much dancing, what with the wedding and all. The venue options are varied and beautiful — you can have your pick of beaches, villas and palaces. Lisbon summers are pretty hot, so choose a date in September, October, March or May for breezy temperatures and fewer tourists.
4. Kauai, HI
Everyone dreams of a wedding on the white sands of a Hawaiian beach — and the dream is not as unachievable as you might think. There are countless resorts in Hawaii that offer wedding packages, in order to facilitate making everyone’s dreams come true while keeping a budget in mind. Kauai is less popular than Oahu and Maui as a wedding destination because it’s smaller, but the resources offered there for weddings are just as good, and the smaller island offers the ceremony a tad bit more intimacy. This location is great for weddings year-round, because Hawaiian summers and winters aren’t all that different, aside from the increased rainfall during winter.
5. Santorini, Greece
Santorini is an extremely popular (and oftentimes expensive) option for a destination wedding for a good reason: the city is spectacular. Greek food is great, and your lifestyle will be cheap once you’ve arrived in the city, but the real draw is the architecture (and the beaches) — the way the land meets the sea in this coastal city is gorgeous. The buildings are domed, and the whole city shines a brilliant white. If you want to miss the rainy season, find a date between April and November. Also, make sure to start looking for a venue ASAP if Santorini is your goal because these venues can be booked solid up to two full years in advance!
6. Santa Barbara, CA
The first word that comes to mind when describing Santa Barbara is balmy. This ritzy city in Southern California is pleasant in essence—the streets are wide, the sky is (usually) clear, the temperature is perpetually 70℉, and the palm trees are swaying. When looking for a venue, you’ll be able to take your pick of historical sites, vineyards, museums, and hotels. Santa Barbara is constantly host to destination weddings, so you’ll have no trouble securing a venue or a caterer, and there are actually a surprising amount of wedding package options that won’t force you to take out another mortgage on the house.
7. Cancun, Mexico
Look to Cancun for a perfect tropical atmosphere. The flora is insane, and the beaches are noisy with partygoers at all hours. Many are drawn to Cancun because of the ocean — in this area of Mexico, the sand on the beaches is incredibly fine, and the ocean is impossibly blue. For your venue, you’ll probably end up booking a resort, since the beach area is controlled mostly by large hotels and resorts. If you bore easily sunbathing at the resort, there’s always the option to leave the resort via the front door in order to experience Cancun like a local. The best season weather-wise in Cancun lasts from January to April, when the extreme heat drops down to a pleasant temperature, so be sure to book then if you don’t want sweat dripping down your back as you tie the knot.
8. Santa Fe, NM
For a destination a bit closer to home in the U.S., head to Santa Fe. In Santa Fe, the local culture places extreme emphasis on the importance of the arts, so while you’re there, make sure to check out numerous open-air art markets and galleries around town. The city is also host to strong Hispanic and Native American populations, which is reflected in the area's art as well as its architecture. The hotels fill up quickly with summer bookings, so plan ahead if you want to get married in the summer. A date in September or October is also worth considering — Fall festivals happen around that time, and hotel rates will be cheaper.
9. Andalucía, Spain
There are countless reasons to have your wedding in Andalucía. It’s warm, so you can feel good about booking a venue any time of year (though the winter season is rainier). It’s cheaper than a lot of the rest of Europe. Spanish cuisine is so, so delicious (all the guests will be clamoring to keep the tapas coming). The venues available are positively heavenly: options include castles and palaces that date back several hundred years and farmhouses and estates with beautiful grounds. All in all, there’s no reason to avoid holding your nuptials in this Spanish dream of a city.
10. Aspen, CO
For those salivating about a winter wedding far removed from sandy beaches, Aspen, Colorado is perfect. The city may be known for its skiing — which you should certainly take advantage of while in the area — but it also offers great eats and great art, along with colorful local culture. With snow-capped mountains in the background, your wedding photos will turn out just as beautiful as if you were straddling waves—and your guests will all be more comfortable in appropriately-heated indoor locations. So get married during winter, and feel calm breathing in that crisp, cool air as you say “I do.”
Deciding on where to hold your wedding is tough. You have to weigh so many factors — will your grandparents be able to make it? Can you afford it? How many people can you invite? — but at the end of the day, where you get married doesn’t matter that much. What makes your wedding special is the love between you and your partner. So you should pick a place that will make you and your partner happy, first and foremost — and if that place happens to be across the ocean, so be it.