Photo: Michelle March
You don't have to leave the United States to have a destination wedding on an island. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, are incredible wedding destinations in the Caribbean where you can use American money and get married year round.
Don't like to fly? Or have relatives who can't go that far due to health concerns, etc.? That doesn't mean that you can't have an island wedding, it just means you need to choose something connected to the mainland by ferries or bridges. And depending on the location, you may have to be much pickier about the wedding date if you're envisioning a beach wedding.
The San Juan Islands, located northwest of Seattle, Washington, are an absolutely gorgeous cluster of islands with very different personalities. They're easy to get to, whichever island you choose, via a super-nice, modern, drive-on ferry at Anacortes.
Some of the islands are more developed than others, and have larger hotels and posher wedding venues. There are lots of gorgeous homes available for rent, too. Activities include everything water-related, including whale watching.
The little islands along the coast of Georgia, known as The Golden Isles, are an often overlooked East Coast gem. Situated along the Atlantic coast of Georgia, these beautiful areas, which have inspired so many books about the "low country," offer a host of beautiful beaches, hotels, and golf courses.
The very famous, historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel, located on Jekyll Island, was once the winter retreat of such notable families as the Rockefellers, Goodyears, Vanderbilts and Pultizers. It was once considered to be "the most exclusive social club" in the country, according to history books. Now it's a gorgeous landmark, open to the public, where you can get married in historic gardens and dance the night away in a grandiose ballroom. Some of your guests can stay in hotel rooms with turrets, making the entire experience like something from another century, while still providing all the modern conveniences. Plus, there's a beautiful private beach a short shuttle ride away if you get married there when the weather is nice (eight months out of the year).
There is more to the Florida Keys than Key West, and there are lots of less-commercialized spots throughout those islands where beautiful tropical weddings can be had without leaving the state. An added perk, they've got great weather 12 months a year so you can have a tropical wedding whenever you desire.
Little Palm Island, for example, will make your guests feel like they're in a remote paradise, somewhere far, far away. Guests arrive via a yacht shuttle from Little Torch Key, and at that point, they'll feel totally removed from the real world. Sort of a four-star Gilligan's Island, with WiFi.
If you'll need to keep children entertained at your destination wedding, consider one of the larger resorts that offers some special activities, and amenities, geared for the kiddos to help keep them entertained, and out of trouble.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.