Select a Destination for Your Destination Wedding

The location of your destination wedding determines the mood, travel, time and expense for your big day.

Destination, Property & Site

Before you start the decision-making process, understand that your destination decision includes

  • The Destination – where on the map – which country, state or city – are you going to tie the knot?
  • The Property – this is the actual place or address -the park, hotel, resort, villa, banquet facility, historic plantation – where you host the wedding and
  • The Site or the spot- the physical place, within the property, where you’ll say “I do”; where your ceremony takes place .

Take a moment to dream about the atmosphere you envision for your wedding: warm weather and swaying palm trees, or crisp atop a mountain?

Once you decide on the setting, you can create a shortlist of destinations that fit that vision.

Consider These Destination Questions…

As you brainstorm destinations for your wedding, get answers to the following questions.

  • What’s your ideal outdoor temperature?  Of course, you want good weather for your wedding day.
  • Is English (or your native language if it isn’t English) spoken at the destination?
  • How long does it take to get there? How often do flights leave, and how many airlines fly to the destination?
  • Can you and your guests afford to pay for travel to that destination?
  • How easy is it to legally marry there?
  •  What type of atmosphere do you want? Party central or laid-back and relaxed?

Avoid Dodgy Destinations

If any of the following situations apply to a country or region you’re considering for your destination wedding, you may want to look for an alternative place to tie the knot…

  • War or civil unrest
  • High crime rate
  • Undrinkable water
  • Lingering effects of a natural disaster

The U.S. State Department keeps an active list of countries that may be unsafe to travel to.  Click here to learn more.

Destination Wedding Hotels

Most destination wedding couples choose a hotel or resort with facilities and staff to host a wedding. This makes everything related to planning your wedding much, much easier. But this is not the only option nor is it  the solution for everyone…

All-Inclusive Resorts/Hotels

All-inclusive resorts are prevalent throughout the Caribbean and Mexico but not so much in the US (Hawaii or Puerto Rico or USVI) or in Europe.

All-inclusive resorts run the gamut from basic to extravagant. Some are better than others (and there are a handful that shouldn’t even make it on your shortlist for your destination wedding!)

On the plus side, having your destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort :

  • Is less stressful when you’re managing details from miles away
  • Is the most cost-effective option for people in your destination wedding group since food, drink, lodging, sports and entertainment are one price.
  • Means all guest activity happens in the confines of a protected property. It’s almost impossible for anyone to walk in from the outside!
  • May qualify you for a free weddings – albeit a basic ceremony – if a minimum number of room nights are met.

But, on the flip side…

  •  Options for food, entertainment, and even your wedding package may be limited at an all-inclusive resort.
  • Your wedding guests are paying their way for your wedding! (Are you okay with that?)

Traditional Hotels 

There are several smaller or boutique hotels to choose from, too.  Additionally, several of the major US hotel chains operate in the Caribbean and Mexico.  Most can pull your destination wedding together with ease (wedding package)

What is a Wedding Package?

Most resorts and hotels in the Caribbean and in Mexico simplify the destination wedding planning process by offering wedding packages – a bundle or list of services for a set price. A basic wedding package is likely to include:

  • Help from an onsite wedding team
  • Help with marriage document preparation
  • A wedding officiant
  • Venue options for the ceremony
  • A small bouquet and/or boutonniere
  • A wedding cake – usually one (1) tier
  • A simple cake – one (1) tier
  • Pre-recorded ceremony music
  • A photographer (actual prints not included)
  • Sparkling wine or beverage

Off-Site Destination Wedding Locations

Hotels and resorts are not your only option for a Caribbean destination wedding. It’s possible to marry offsite at a location that doesn’t offer accommodation!

A beach wedding (not at resort); or a public/state park or garden; private buildings such as historic estates, restaurants, villas are wonderful examples of offsite wedding sites.

If you prefer a completely bespoke wedding, one that’s created from scratch, enlisting the help of a professional wedding planner is a good start.  S/he will help you to locate a venue and professional wedding vendors to provide each of the services you need.

Destination Wedding Laws & Requirements

Your marriage outside the US will be recognized in the US as long as the marriage adheres to the laws of the country where the marriage is performed.

Unfortunately, most Caribbean nations, along with parts of Mexico, do not recognize same-sex marriages (although laws are changing as I write!).

The key is knowing what those laws and requirements are.  If you want your destination wedding to be a legal marriage, here’s what you need to do:

  • 1Meet the area requirements to get a marriage license – as you might imagine, this varies depending on exactly which destination you choose.
  • 2Show up together, in person, to acquire the license – Be prepared to provide original proof of ID – passport, birth certificate + drivers license; a divorce decree or death certificate if you’ve been married before and the required filing and paperwork fee (you may need to provide this in cash)
  • 3Participate in a  wedding ceremony led by an officiant with credentials to officiate weddings in that country.

If your wedding ceremony takes place at a hotel or resort, your onsite wedding team will likely help you to process all the necessary paperwork for your marriage license.

Get Hitched at Home!

To avoid the red tape of overseas marriage laws, consider marrying legally, in a civil ceremony, in the US before your destination wedding trip. Keep it secret if you choose to. This means your ceremony would be symbolic rather than legal.

Ask for Help!

  • Talk to family and friends who have married away or have vacationed there.
  • Tourism boards are great for getting details about marriage licenses and hotels resorts and attractions, too. (Some simply pay to be there)
  • Wedding planners (ahem), travel agents, and destination specialists (ahem, again).

Debbie at HitchedAway

Debbie is a destination wedding travel advisor and the face (and voice) of HitchedAway. With a focus on breathtaking destinations and venues in the Caribbean, her goal is to demystify the process of planning your special occasion from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

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