Oceanfront Ceremony in MauiThe Couple: Aisha and Kirven Bridges
The Location: Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii
A destination wedding means that everything doesn't have to be by the book. Aisha says, "no one brought children to my wedding, so I used my 84-year-old grandmother as my flower girl, she even wore a hula skirt."
Relax: "Don't be upset if everyone can't make it. Just hire a good photographer and videographer and have a huge reception for all your friends when you return."
Hire a local wedding planner: "Trust in your professionals and your big day will go a lot smoother. My wedding planner on Maui was awesome. She provided me with everything I needed: from white doves, to a pineapple aisle. I also wanted to include the African-American tradition of jumping the broom and she even read up on it and made it perfect!"
Have fun: "Smile all day and your pictures will come out naturally beautiful!"
Outdoors Nuptials in NevadaThe Couple: Mollie Tobin and Eric Harstad
The Location: Nevada City, Calif.
"My husband and I were 33 when we married and we'd been to too many weddings that were 'perfect,' but not memorable. So, we did things that mattered to us, even though they weren't standard. We had our older siblings perform the ceremony, I had a Man of Honor, and my Dad played Stand by Your Man for our father-daughter dance. It was truly 'us,' and everybody knew it."
Keep your destination wedding self-contained: "I chose my location because the property had 34 acres of cabins, chalets, motel rooms, two cafes, a waterfall and a narrow-gauge railroad. Everything was within walking distance for our guests, including the town. Guests could choose accommodations based on their personal needs. After our marriage ceremony at the waterfall, we went for a train ride and then onto one of the cafes for the reception."
Include your guests: "Because our guests were all on-property for the wedding, we invited everyone to the rehearsal dinner. We hired a shuttle to take everyone from the site to my parents' house for a bbq and everyone had a great time. Plus, thanks to everyone wearing nametags, the guests all knew each other by the time the ceremony came around."
Make it personal: Mollie recommends adding your own personal touches to your wedding wherever possible, "My mother is a quilter and she had our wedding guests sign individual quilt blocks, which she planned to turn into a Wedding Quilt. Also, in addition to centerpieces, we placed a different cake on each table and allowed our guest to seat themselves according to their preferred cake flavor."
Disneyland Fairy TaleThe Couple: Heather Hilliard and Nicholas Transue
The Location: The Disneyland Hotel at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.
"My husband and I both worked for Disney previously so we were familiar with the resort already. The wedding planning department is really helpful. And you truly can plan a wedding on any budget; they will work to meet your needs and your budget. I think there’s sometimes a myth about the cost of a Disney wedding but it doesn’t have to be too expensive."
Work with the hotel's or resort's wedding pros: "You have lots of options when planning your destination wedding and no one knows what's possible better than a local wedding planner. I would start by checking with the venue itself because many resorts and hotels have a wedding department. They will help you get the most out of your special day."
Relax and let the pros handle the details: "First, we met with one of the Disney wedding planners, we toured the venues and chose where we wanted the ceremony and reception and the date. We gave them our guest list and they took it from there. They sent out 'save the date' announcements on Disney paper along with hotel information (very cute). We weren't responsible for sending the invitations or anything, they took care of everything. A few weeks later, we had a planning meeting where we went over every detail of the wedding. The planners had tons of great decoration tips and really creative suggestions. Then they put together a budget for us and we went from there narrowing it down. All in all, they were at my fingertips through the whole process. I emailed questions all the time and they always responded quickly. My Mom kept asking if I needed help with anything but I truly didn’t. They thought of everything and the food was incredible too. We had a fabulous time and let the pros handle the details!"
Matrimony Parisian StyleThe Couple: Anoushka and Jeffrey Marty
The Location: The American Church in Paris, France
"Jeffrey is from Madison, Wisconsin and I am from Montreal, Canada. We could not agree on a city for our ceremony and either way our families were going to be unhappy, so we focused on what we wanted. We had traveled to Paris twice before and were completely in LOVE with the city, so when my husband suggested, 'Lets just go to Paris' I immediately replied okay! Within one week we had the restaurant, church and date all picked out. Our photographers (three!) were with us for over 12 hours that day. We had a very small wedding; with 16 of our most cherish friends and family members. This was truly the most magical day of my life."
First things first: "Legally, you must be married in the USA. Church weddings in France are not seen as a legal union, even for the French. A church wedding is always preceded by a visit to the courthouse to take care of the legalities. When preparing for your flight, don't pack the dress in your luggage, take it on the plane with you in a garment bag and upon our arrival have it pressed."
Do your research: "Finding a photographer, even in another country, is very easy with the internet. Paris has a large quantity of very affordable photographers. I wanted a more journalistic-style photographer. We found one that agreed to be with us for the entire day and evening. I wanted someone to just hang out and capture the day: the casual stroll in Paris and cocktails at a little café. You can find small, privately-owned hotels that will rent the entire hotel for the wedding party. There are so many 8-10 room hotels in Paris and most will do discounts for a group and include breakfast as well. Again here the internet is your best friend!"
Buy flowers at your destination: "Paris has flower shops at every corner. You can drop in with a couple days notice and have the must wonderful arrangements created at an incredible price. We had roses for everyone and spent about $100. Upon my arrival, I went to the shop nearest the hotel and made arrangements; it seriously was that easy."
Parisian-style reception: "Paris has many supper clubs where you can eat, drink and dance the entire night. For our reception, we made a reservation for our party of 16. They sat us in a private section of the dining room and we had such AMAZING food. One thing to keep in mind is that for a large group they will not allow several different meals. It will be a five-course dinner, but everyone must have the same dish. I understand this is the case at most restaurants in Paris. Our meal ran about $100 per guest, including aperitif, wine and most importantly the cake! In our case we wanted a chocolate truffle cake. One piece of advice — bring your own champagne. The restaurants will charge a corking fee per bottle, but in France you can buy Magnums, which are very large bottles, and the corking fee is the same."
Treat your destination wedding as a vacation: "Our wedding celebration was a week long. For the entire week, our family and friends toured Paris. We had arranged for cars only the actual wedding day. The rest of the week we all took the subway."
Romance in the RedwoodsThe Couple: Joshua and Audrey Dunlop
The Location: Nestldown in Los Gatos, Calif.
"Our vision was to have a wedding with an outdoor rustic feel, but with a touch of classic elegance. Josh is a mountain man and I like things with a touch of glamour, so we needed our location to be the perfect combination of our tastes. We chose Nestldown because the moment I walked on the grounds, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach and tears nearly rolled down my cheeks as we toured the ceremony site. I fell in love with the location. The surrounding Redwoods made the expansive grounds feel like an intimate space, perfect for our celebration. The green grass was exactly what we imagined for our 'dining room' floor and the exquisite and beautiful landscaping left little to be done in the realm of decoration —because this was a destination wedding, this was VERY important."
Keep it Simple: "Everything doesn't have to be fancy and expensive to show that you have great taste. It’s amazing how simple, everyday things can make a big statement. Our centerpieces were two hurricane vases with lemons and limes for that punch of color placed on top of mix-and-match navy hand-stamped linens. At each table setting, we placed a small tin canister of lemondrops as a memorable and sweet detail along with our menu card which was adorned with a single strand of bear grass. Simple, yet elegant."
Make it yours: "If Josh and his best men would have worn suits or tuxes, our guests would have thought they were at the wrong wedding. You have to incorporate who you are into every aspect of the wedding so people can see and feel the love your wedding is celebrating. Guests at our ceremony have told me time and time again that our wedding was so great because 'it was so you and Josh'. We customized everything to reflect our personalities and the things we care about. From the guest list, to the personalized vows, to the truffle at the end of the meal, to the last dance — we claimed our wedding, as every couple should."
Exotic Locale at a Bargain PriceThe Couple: Heidi Day and Thomas Jessup
The Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
If the cost of a traditional wedding here in the states seems beyond your means, Heidi recommends that you "Consider a destination wedding. The average wedding costs around $20 thousand dollars, we did ours for about $2,000! For that cost, we were able to spend seven days in paradise with everyone who came to share our special day instead of just a quick greeting in a reception line."
- "Opt for spa services if they have them available at your location."
- "If you want a sunset wedding be sure that the sun sets at the location you desire."
- "Make a list of all the poses that you want beforehand and discuss those with your photographer. The day of the wedding is so hectic, that you may forget."
- "Make considerations for the wind, if your ceremony will be oceanfront. It can really have an effect on your photos and the sound quality of videos."