Photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy
Deciding on a destination for your wedding can seem a bit like throwing a dart on a map and watching where it lands. Should you exchange vows cliff-side in the Caribbean or tie the knot between the vines in a Tuscan vineyard? Or how about a safari with your new extended family in tow? We drew inspiration from the planning experts themselves at Destinationweddings.com to compile a step-by-step solution to navigating through the endless list of locales to decide on just the right destination for your wedding, suiting everything from your style to your wallet.
Start with a budget
Airfare is just the beginning when it comes to working out a budget for a destination wedding. A fabulous locale and a top-notch resort wedding don't have to be out of reach, though. Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean are teeming with gorgeous beachfront resorts that are the ultimate definition of affordable luxury. For an off-the-beaten path choice, think Guanacaste, Costa Rica, where you can say "I do" on golden sand surrounded by rain forests and volcanoes.
Settle on size
Deciding on a number is important for both your wedding and the hotel. An intimate affair opens up the choice of destinations, as your nearest and dearest will likely shell out for a far away locale like Europe, South Africa or Australia. For larger affairs, consider going with a Caribbean resort with all-inclusive amenities, tons of dining options and endless activities that will keep everyone in the family entertained throughout your wedding weekend.
Keep the kids in mind
If an adults-only affair is what you had in mind, there are plenty of romantic five-star spots all over the globe with everything from butler service to swim-up pool bars with panoramic views. Saying no to kid-friendly wedding also makes it easier (not to mention cheaper) for the adults to pick up and go anywhere in the world, so your choice of dream locale really opens up. But if you want the kids to take part in the celebration, opt for a location with family friendly accommodations and restaurants, plus kids' clubs and babysitting when the adults want some alone time.
Decide on your ceremony style and traditions
Couples tying the knot in a Catholic ceremony can take their pick of picturesque seaside chapels in Cancun, where a Catholic priest can officiate the ceremony and a horse-drawn carriage awaits newlyweds for a grand getaway. Jewish couples can also rest assured that their Caribbean reception will stick to kosher cuisine thanks to specialty menus at many hotels in Negril or Riviera Maya.
Decide on a dream landscape
Do you envision saying "I do" on white-sand shores in the Caribbean or surrounded by Central America's ancient ruins and rainforests? Or perhaps you've always dreamed of Tahiti's thatched roof villas and turquoise water, for a combination wedding and honeymoon destination. Once you've narrowed down details from budgets to guest lists, the fun part comes into play--deciding on the destination itself. It's your wedding, after all, so don't be afraid to step out of the box and trade up sandy shores for city lights, or even leave land altogether and take to the open seas for a ceremony on board a mega ship or a boutique luxury liner, where your wedding backdrop can change by the day, exchanging vows in one gorgeous setting like Bora Bora and then dancing the night away in another.