More and more couples are looking "outside the box" (or state, or even country) when planning their big day. Destination-wedding ideas are almost limitless. You will need to whittle down your options and arrive at the perfect location for both of you.
The Guest List
Destination weddings tend to be smaller than local ones, simply because of time and expense. Generally, your guests will be expected to pay for their own travel and hotel accommodations (see Destination Wedding Etiquette). Therefore, the first order of the day is to decide who you would like to take along. Most couples invite their parents, siblings, and a best friend or two. Depending on the expense and the distance, you may want to invite only a couple of guests, or you may even elect to go it alone and hold an informal celebratory reception once you get back home.
Country Mouse or City Girl?
Next, decide what appeals to both of you. Do you desire a warm climate? Varied plants and wildlife? Metropolitan glitz? Castles and rolling hills? Narrow down the options.
You will also want to think about whether you're willing to leave the country. If not, alternatives are usually available. For example, you dream of a breezy wedding in the tropics. If the Caribbean is beyond your reach, consider one of the beautiful resorts on the southern Florida coast. If you'd love a fairytale wedding in a castle setting but Bavaria is a bridge too far, there are wooded hills in the southern U.S. (for example, Virginia) with Robin Hood-like appeal. Do you love the colors of fall? New England is famous for its regal displays beginning in early October.
The U.S. and Beyond
If you prefer a U.S. destination, use the following list to begin your search:
- New England: Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod are popular picks.
- Northeastern U.S: Niagara Falls (NY), Cape May (NJ), and New York City offer charm and excitement.
- Southeastern U.S: With a longer warm season, the Southeast (such as Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Florida) allows you greater freedom in choosing the time of year you want to get married.
- Midwestern U.S: Big cities such as Chicago offer both history and cosmopolitan flair. Meyer's Castle, close to Chicago, lends a fairytale aspect to your big day.
- West Coast: California is as varied from north to south as a state can get. Wed under the gorgeous redwoods to the north; dance the night away in Los Angeles; or check out beautiful San Francisco.
- Alaska: It may be part of the U.S., but Alaska is a wild and beautiful world of its own. Check out the many cruise-line packages Alaska has available.
- Blood test and two- or three-day waiting period
- Birth certificate
- Visa (required in addition to the passport for entry into certain countries)
- "Temporary residency" status (usually involving up to a week's stay at the destination prior to your wedding)
- Pre-marriage documents (some countries require applications up to a month in advance)
- Legalization or witnessing (by notary public or consulate) of any paperwork prior to getting married
If you're considering Europe, think about whether warm Mediterranean countries (such as Italy, Greece, or Spain) appeal to you. If you're in love with the idea of castles and romance, Bavaria and Denmark are options to explore. For Celtic charm that recalls legend and myth, Scotland or Ireland may be a good choice. The possibilities can be overwhelming; get some help from your wedding coordinator or travel agent to find a destination that's perfect for you and your spouse-to-be.
Traveling to your Wedding Destination
Whether you'll be going from state-to-state or outside the country, you'll need to know all the area's legal marriage requirements. Check to see which of the following you will need:
Balancing Your Budget
Your budget will be a deciding factor in what kind of wedding you will have and how far you will be able to travel. Look into destination-wedding packages for ideas. Don't forget to include the cost of the marriage license (this can range from $20 to $280 or more), the purchase of a passport if necessary, and any other pertinent expenses.
Let your creativity be your guide. Get more destination-wedding ideas from friends who have had destination weddings, from your travel agent, and from the Internet. Then start planning. Make your day special with memories that you and your spouse will cherish forever.