Photo: Kate Headley
Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular for many reasons: They're romantic, fun, and often are the perfect opportunity to make your big day a two-for-one honeymoon special. Whether you want to jet off to wed in Europe and bury your toes in the sand of a Caribbean beach, flying to a foreign land adds an extra layer of special to an already magical day. But, like any added bonus, there are logistics to consider. Picking a venue and vendors abroad can be tricky. And what about transporting your wedding dress? Rife with possible disaster. Most importantly, though, a destination wedding begs two serious questions: Costs and legality.
As for the costs, people always wonder whether the claim that destination weddings cost less is fact or fiction. According to the Brides American Wedding Study, the average cost is $29,734, while a hometown fete costs $26,737. And that's with fewer guests than a local affair (101 vs. 163). Still, a far-flung bash can be a great excuse to go super-intimate (just friends and immediate family) instead of inviting every Tom, Dick, and third cousin in town—a move guaranteed to save you big.
Once you've settled on a guest list, you might forget about one very important aspect of your pending nuptials—how to make your "I do" official in a foreign country with foreign laws. You could spend time researching the rules for a legally recognized destination union—or you can make your life easier and get hitched at home before you go. More couples are heading to city hall for a quickie wedding-before-the-wedding because it reduces paperwork, eliminates language-barrier headaches, and minimizes big-day stress. It's especially smart if your location has tons of red tape (like Mexico and Italy) or extreme residency requirements (like France, which requires a 40-day pre-vow stay). Besides, no one has to know you officially became Mr. and Mrs. three days ago. Says Harmony Walton: "Many of the couples I work with don't even tell their families."
—Sarah Z. Wexler