In its most basic form, a destination wedding simply involves getting married away from home. In most cases, the setting is quite intimate with the guest list comprised of just the two of you or possibly a small group of close friends and family. If desired, of course, it's also possible to hold a much larger event. Some of our popular destination wedding spots include the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Fiji, Bali and New Zealand.
At MoonRings, our primary focus is on planning smaller, overseas weddings at the 5-star level. Utilizing our structured planning process, and working with a select group of hotels in each of our destinations helps to ensure seamless wedding management. We invite you to browse through this section of our website to learn more about destination weddings, as well as to determine if we might be a good fit for your event.
Our wedding in Kauai was exactly what we imagined. Soft sand underfoot, gorgeous scenery and a beautiful sunset. All the details were in perfect order so all we needed to do was show up!
-- Justin and Stacy, Potomac, MD
A moment during your
Having just finished a divine cup of cappuccino and yummy bomboloni, you struggle to pull yourself away from the incredible view over Positano and the Mediterranean below. Really, why would anyone willingly leave their private balcony at the luxurious Le Sirenuse? Well, today isn't just another day, it's your wedding day, and the moment you've been dreaming of for months is finally here. Out you go to your waiting car, which will wind its way up to the town hall. From what appears be the highest point in the village, you stand together on a lovely patio, with the deep blue sea as your backdrop, and the ceremony begins…
Right for You?
Many couples love the idea of being married on a gorgeous beach at sunset, or in a wonderfully historic and romantic setting far away from the humdrum of every day life.
A destination wedding can fulfill numerous dreams and fantasies, but in reality, it's not for everyone. Many more couples explore the possibility of having a destination wedding than actually go through with one.
With this in mind, how does one determine if a destination wedding is indeed appropriate? To help figure this out, consider the following list of issues and questions at the beginning of the planning process.
A destination wedding may be right for you if...
You intend to invite a small group of people
It's much easier to have a wedding away when you expect to invite a small group of people you care about and know will join you. A smaller group simplifies the logistical planning, and will make it easy for everyone to get to the beach on time!
Your invitees live out of town and/or are dispersed around the country
Are they going to have to travel to your wedding no matter where you have it, whether in Peoria or Puerto Rico? If so, it may not be that difficult for them to take another day to join you in a slightly more exotic destination.
You are interested in a nontraditional wedding experience
You have already been to your fair share of "traditional" weddings, and you know this is not how you wish to spend your wedding day. Alternative ideas such as a castle, a seascape or a foreign land sound particularly appealing to you.
The idea of combining your wedding and honeymoon is appealing
If you like the idea of being on your honeymoon immediately following your wedding without a lot of additional travel, a destination wedding could be the ticket. No travel, no hassle.
If you identify with the above points, consider these as well…
Will your family and friends join you?
When considering having your wedding away from home, it is important to look at who you want to have with you on your wedding day - parents, grandparents, siblings, friends?
When planning a wedding that requires significant travel, some people are not as likely to attend, even when invited. If your college roommate can't join you, how will you feel? More importantly, what about your close family? If your grandmother is not willing or able to travel the distance, are you comfortable not having her there? These are questions that every couple needs to consider. The answers are, of course, very specific to your personal situation.
So, a little bit of polling within the family and friends you care about should be done up front. If you can't convince them, and their presence on your wedding day is important, a destination wedding may not make a lot of sense.
Conversely, some couples choose to elope or have a destination wedding precisely because it will shorten the guest list, or potentially diffuse a difficult family situation. In this instance, it may be the perfect solution for your wedding plans!
One of the most appealing aspects of a destination wedding is that it will often cost much less than a traditional wedding at home. In general, this is due to the fact that fewer people attend, and the local vendor options are simpler and less expensive.
There are two sides to the cost question - the actual wedding arrangements are likely to be less for you and your families, but guests often bear a larger financial burden because of additional travel-related costs. In line with point #1 above, this can potentially reduce the size of your guest list, including some people you most want to join you. In this scenario, are you willing to subsidize certain people so they can attend? Definitely a factor to consider as you think about having your wedding away from home.
Are you a control freak?
When planning a wedding in a far-off locale, it is important to remember that you will not have as many vendor choices as you would at home, nor will you have as much control of the actual outcome since most planning is taking place from a distance. For people that can "go with the flow" and tend not to sweat the details, this is great because decisions are usually less time consuming and stressful.
For those who can't quite let go, consider these real-life scenarios:
- There may be no way to visit the actual wedding location, taste the food, or get to know the minister or officiant who will marry you before you arrive. Is this acceptable to you?
- Flower choices on distant islands can be minimal, and some varieties may have to be flown in just for your wedding. If your favorite flower somehow doesn't make the flight, how will you feel?
- Time moves at a different pace in many alternative wedding locations - emails may go unanswered, questions may be partially addressed, telephone calls will sometimes not be returned. Can you handle some ambiguity, perhaps even weeks of not having a signed catering contract to secure your event?
- If you want a beach wedding, there may be no way to keep non-guests from wandering by during the ceremony as beaches in many countries are considered public property. How do you feel about random people in their bathing suits watching as you say your vows?
- What emphasis do you place on the quality of photography and video? Like florists, there may be only one or two photographers in a given location, and neither is a master when it comes to photojournalistic style. Are you willing to accept this situation, or would you rather pay the added expense of "flying in" a different photographer?
Are you willing to put in the effort?
Destination weddings are often billed as easy and carefree. While this is particularly true for an elopement, and also true in comparison to a traditional wedding, there is still a significant amount of planning and preparation that must be worked through, especially if you plan to have guests in attendance.
You still need to be in the right frame of mind to handle some details and decisions. For example, for a regular wedding, guests are mostly responsible for their own travel. For a foreign destination, you may have to be a lot more involved in your guests' travel and room arrangements.
Deciding if a destination wedding is right for you will require an assessment of all of the above items. Your frame of mind, guest situation and budget will all play an important role. Evaluating each of these components, and making sure you are comfortable with what you learn, will help you understand if this unique experience is indeed the right way to commemorate your wedding day.
Choosing the Perfect Destination Wedding Location
So, you've decided on having a destination wedding, and most of your family and friends are on board. Now comes the fun part - where are you going to go?
Key Steps to Deciding on a Wedding Destination
On a macro basis, this isn't so difficult. Do you want to be married on a beach? Places like the Caribbean, Hawaii or Mexico may be good bets. Do you prefer a historic setting? Europe is good to consider. Want to go further away? Australia, New Zealand or Fiji could be interesting.
Overall, it is important to select one, possibly two, geographies. If you really aren't sure and you have more areas you want to explore, that's fine - simply bring them along to Step 2!
A good exercise at this stage is to ask yourselves where you definitely do NOT want to have your wedding. Talk about it together - you'll have your individual reasons, and you may have different "no go" destinations, but from there you can concentrate on places of common interest.
When do you plan to be married? If you want to tie the knot in September, this is peak hurricane season in the Caribbean, so know the risks and decide if you are willing to take them. If not, the Caribbean (except Aruba) is out, and maybe Hawaii should move up your list.
If your dates are flexible, or if you think hurricane season means your guests will get a good deal (they will), consider overall climate. Do you envision a lush tropical setting with greenery everywhere? If so, that can eliminate about half of the islands in the Caribbean, which tend to be dry and somewhat desert-like. It can also eliminate places like the Greek Islands, while still dramatic, don't have as much vegetation as other places.
When considering the cost of travel and the time to reach your wedding location, you need to look at your preferences as well as those of your guests.
If eloping, you are only bound by how long you are willing to sit on an airplane, and your personal budget for the event. Ask yourselves about time and cost - while you may love the idea of marrying in Australia, are you willing to spend 24 hours in transit and $1600 per air ticket? Set your own limits as a first step.
With guests, things get trickier. For every additional hour of travel and every increase in cost, fewer people will join you. This isn't a problem if you have a small group of motivated people who can take time off. However, if you have a larger group, you'll need to evaluate your guests' time constraints and financial means, and make a determination if destinations you like are simply too far or too expensive to reach.
Travel time and costs are almost always some of the top considerations when couples are choosing their wedding location. Because having family and friends present is so important, couples often choose their wedding location based on guest preferences, and then choose their honeymoon location based on their own preferences.
If you desire a religious ceremony, is your denomination available and willing to marry you? If you must have a Rabbi, your choices for island weddings are fewer! Or, if you want to be married in a Catholic ceremony in Italy, you'll need permission from the Priest at the specific church.
Legal requirements have to be considered as well - in many countries or islands operating under French law, for example, there is a 40 day residency period before you can be married. Unless you have unlimited time, this usually means places like France, French Polynesia, and French St. Martin are just too difficult. You can still have a ceremony in these places, but it will not be legally binding. Many places have waiting periods of less than 3 days before a ceremony can take place, making it easier on the two of you.
Also consider that some places like Mexico and Puerto Rico still require blood tests, so if these are your destinations, be prepared for some running around to visit a local doctor or have your US test results authenticated.
Steps 5 and 6 often run in parallel because wedding ambiance can have a lot to do with the style of accommodations you like. While you don't have to be married at the hotel in which you stay, for many people it's a matter of convenience.
So, take a moment to envision what will make you happy - a cliffside seascape, a gorgeous hotel with great food, a festive atmosphere that will encourage fun among guests? Knowing the locations that are left after the prior steps, which offer these environments and accommodations?
Interestingly, especially when considering a beach destination, the decision often comes down to a handful of acceptable islands with good accommodations choices on each. And the ultimate location choice can be dictated by your favorite hotel. While some people will decide based on a location's ambiance alone and then worry about the hotel, many of you will select a series of hotels you like, and narrow the choice from there.
By now, chances are you've narrowed your interests down to a "short list". If you haven't, the next step is going to require a lot of effort, since it is the most detail oriented of all.
You now need to understand the specific options available at all of your finalists in terms of cost, accommodations availability, food/beverage, and all those things that are important to you as part of your wedding day.
Will you have a rehearsal dinner? If so, where can you have it and what might it cost? Do you want a photo-journalistic photography style? If so, is there a photographer who can work to your specifications? Is the cliff-side gazebo available on the day you want to be married? What room rate can be offered to your guests and what are the room block and deposit policies of each hotel under consideration?
Think about everything you want to have happen on and around your wedding day, and for those items that are truly important, make sure to understand your options before making a final decision. While you don't have to have all the information, you need enough to know that the location you pick will offer the environment you seek at a cost you can manage.
Especially if you have guests, this is when you'll probably realize that having a destination wedding really does take effort and energy on your part!
Data in hand, it's time to decide. What is going to tip the scales, if they haven't been tipped already? Cost to you? Cost to your guests? Ambiance? Island activities? Take a moment to revisit your priorities as you make your final choice.
The reality is that these steps can take place in parallel or in a variety of orders. If you encounter a destination or hotel you absolutely love, you don't have to complete this entire process, however you should run your decision through the different steps as a "sanity check" to make sure it stacks up to your expectations.
Having gone through this process, you'll be off and running! Congratulations - you have a game plan, you've chosen a destination, and particularly if you have guests, you can send out your "save the date" cards so everyone can make their plans to join.
To ensure everything goes as desired, we take an active role in planning all the major event components. We do not sell generic "packages" - no two couples are alike, so no two wedding experiences are alike. We help create personalized destination weddings based on our clients' individual interests.
With so many different elements, ranging from the ceremony setting to transportation coordination, our step-by-step process ensures that everything is tightly organized. Our role is to act as your "wedding manager" - we worry about the details so you don't have to.
Focus on Luxury
To make sure that key items do not fall through the cracks due to miscommunication or lack of process familiarity, we only work with a select group of 5-star hotels. Combining our methodology with the high quality standards of the top hotels allows us to create the desired wedding experience.
If you are considering an intimate destination wedding in a luxurious setting, please contact us to further discuss your ideas.