Destination Wedding Decisions


Maybe you always wanted to get married by the sea but both you and your fiancé have lived your whole lives in Nebraska. Or maybe you’re just looking for a subtle way to trim your guest list.

Both of these reasons and more provide perfect motivation for a destination wedding. But with an entire world at your disposal, how do you pick the perfect place to go?

“The first thing I do is ask clients what they’re going for,” says Brooke Sheldon, a destination wedding planner and owner of Lilybrooke Events in Kennebunkport, Maine. “Do they want their guests to have an opportunity to be active – perhaps hiking or kayaking – or do they want them to be able to lounge on the beach? Once you get that overall feel, you can build the wedding from there.”

But do keep in mind that regardless of whether your dream wedding takes place in a European castle or involves sleeping in African tents, there are always a few standard logistics to consider.

For example, if the guest list is larger than just the two of you, it’s a good idea to pick a spot that has multiple flights going in and out, says Renee Meyer, a destination wedding travel specialist and founder of Unforgettable Honeymoons.

This can help prevent no-shows due to bad weather and may keep airfares within a reasonable level. Another way to keep things affordable for your guests is to avoid peak seasons. “Christmas to the end of March usually costs about 30 percent more than the rest of the year in places like the Caribbean,” Meyer says. 

And there are other things that might affect your decision, adds Sheldon. These include: seasonal weather; drastic temperature changes when the sun goes down; the wedding-related experience of your resort and/or coordinator; other major events that could affect flight and hotel availability or impede traffic; and possible waiting periods or blood-test requirements (such as in Mexico) for valid marriage certificates.

Taking all these considerations, and more, into account, the experts have a few top destination wedding recommendations.

Meyer has helped plan over 100 wedding in Fiji since 1994. Known for its romantic, bungalow-style hideaways, turquoise waters, white sand beaches and lush rain forests, this picture-perfect destination also makes it easy on couples – marriages performed here are legally recognized in the U.S., they have no waiting period or blood test requirement, one U.S. dollar buys approximately two Fijian dollars and the flight is 10 hours nonstop from LAX. “Many resorts even incorporate wedding services into seven-night packages with airfare, upscale lodging and all meals,” says Meyer, who herself got married at Qamea Resort & Spa on Fiji’s Qamea island in 2005. You can choose to get married on the beach, by a waterfall, on top of a hill, in the gardens or even have a traditional Fijian wedding, complete with warriors in full costume.

Another one of Meyer’s favorite wedding locales is Jamaica. There is a two-day waiting period for licenses (which cost $200), but no blood tests, it’s easy to get to from all over the U.S. and many hotels offer great bargains. Meyer recommends staying at one of the four Couples Resorts, where weddings (including a ceremony on the beach, in the garden or on a terrace, the minister, champagne, flowers and cake, as well as a couples’ massage) are free if you stay at least three nights. “I consistently get 100-percent great feedback,” says Meyer.

Also at the top of her list are the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Maui, where all the beaches are public, and St. Lucia in the West Indies, which has spectacular views and plenty of opportunity for activities like snorkeling, sailing, wind surfing and trail riding.

But as nice as tropical locales sound during colder months, do keep in mind that you don’t always have to leave the continent to find your “destination,” adds Sheldon, who specializes in New England weddings. “For example, Maine is easy to fly into or only a five hour drive from New York City,” she notes. “And it’s really such a magical place, where the climate, landscape and people are truly so unique that you still end up feeling like you traveled faraway.”

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