Swapping vows in your hometown or the city where you live is incredibly special, but there's no denying the fact that more and more couples are venturing to far-away places to make their marriage official. “Many times, they are introducing their guests to a special location that plays a part in their love story and they wish to create more memories at,” express Nancy Park and Paean Wang of So Happi Together. From Caribbean islands to the Tuscan countryside, destination weddings provide a breathtaking backdrop that enhances any pair’s nuptials. “You can make a beautiful wedding happen almost anywhere in the world,” says wedding planner Summer Newman.
In addition to the stunning scenery, destination weddings also present duos with memorable activities and elements of culture that aren’t available at venues nearby. “Clients want a unique guest experience where décor, food, and hospitality are king,” Newman explains.
Plus, far-off locales are absolutely brimming with décor inspiration. Whether it’s serving the traditional cuisine, decorating your venue with local flowers, or setting the table with customary keepsakes, there are endless ways to integrate your location into your wedding design. “The local culture, art, food, history, architecture, and people can inspire so much,” Newman explains.
Meet the Expert
- Nancy Park and Paean Wang are the co-owners, principal event designers, and planners of So Happi Together, a wedding planning and design firm that specializes in destination weddings. They’ve been planning weddings for 13 years.
- Summer Newman is the founder and lead designer of Summer Newman Events. She has been planning Southern California and destination weddings since 2013.
That being said, the planners of So Happi Together note that it’s essential to honor your individual tastes and preferences when using your destination to inform your decorations. “Being true to one’s own personality and style is most important, and our team thrives on finding ways to ‘marry’ this with popular local styles and vibes,” they share.
If you’re traveling for your big day, here are 15 ways you can integrate your destination into your wedding décor and design.
Incorporate the Location Into Your Invitations
There’s no better way to set the tone of your special day than with invitations. Introduce guests to your locale by painting your venue on your envelope liner. For a cohesive design, select a font color that matches the natural landscape. Bonus points if you include a map of the region in your stationery suite, which help your friends and family can familiarize themselves with the area before they arrive.
Welcome Guests With Domestic Goods
Is there any warmer welcome than receiving a gift? Greet your guests with goodies that represent your destination’s culture. At this couple’s wedding in Portugal, they distributed mini bottles of Ginja Sem Rival, Portuguese liquor with a sweet cherry flavor, and handmade bar soap with local scents. The duo also passed out azulejos, well-known hand-painted Portuguese tiles, which influenced the design imprinted on their bags.
Dress the Part
Not only do your fashion choices hint at your personality, but they also complement your setting. Whether it’s at your welcome party, wedding ceremony, or after-party, the clothing you select has the power to establish the vibe of your nuptials. Add a subtle nod to your site through your accessories or go all out by transforming your entire ensemble. This couple said “I do” in downtown Nashville, so they donned cowboy hats and boots to complete their looks. Encourage your friends and family to dress in theme, so they can get in on the fun, too!
Elevate Your First Look
What makes a first look even more sentimental? Revealing your outfits to one another against a scenic backdrop. For that intimate moment with your partner, find a spot that highlights the exquisite views of your venue, such as along the coast, atop a mountain, or in the middle of a vineyard. Plus, a picturesque first-look location leads to stunning photos that will capture the moment more authentically.
Coordinate With the Landscape
If you’re wondering how to make an impression with your ceremony décor, look toward nature. Arrange an altar installation with flowers that blend into the surrounding environment or plants that are grown locally in the area. Integrate texture and dimension to mirror the landscape. Dried palm leaves and pampas grass in muted hues are the perfect accompaniment to a desert wedding. Hosting a garden bash? Lean on lush greenery and vibrant blooms. For a fête in the forest, gather ferns, vines, and wildflowers.
Frame Your Vows With the Scenery
All of the magic happens during the ceremony, so newlyweds should to say “I do” at the dreamiest spot possible. Have your altar placed in front of a jaw-dropping landmark, from a fairy-tale mountaintop to the sparkling seas, to emphasize the beauty of your site. Pro tip: Keep your décor to a minimum to really let the space shine.
Integrate It Into Your Escort Cards
If you’re jetting elsewhere for your nuptials, why not play on your love of travel? Rely on your locale to inspire illustrations that encapsulate the spot you made your marriage official. Custom luggage tags engraved with your wedding hashtag, for example, make the perfect escort card. Your escort cards can also double as wedding favors. So, whenever your loved ones use these tags on their next adventure, they’ll recall your grand celebration.
Add It to Your Tablescape
By infusing your reception tables with pieces of culture, you’ll give guests more insight into your setting. At this Cabo wedding, the couple had each place set with maracas, a staple in Caribbean and Latin music. Macramé runners and palm leaves in glass vases topped off the setup and really drove the theme home. To find an object that signifies your site, familiarize yourself with the area's most popular customs.
Embrace the Native Language
Finding little ways to incorporate the language into your décor is an understated way to exhibit the region’s way of life. Present a phrase on your invitations, programs, welcome sign, seating arrangements, or even your desserts. Select a saying that speaks to you as a couple and then have it translated into the native vernacular. It will be a learning opportunity for everyone.
Sip on Regional Flavors
Give guests a taste of your surroundings with signature cocktails steeped in local flavors. For this couple’s nuptials, tequila-based cocktails served in a coconut shell hinted at the tropical destination. Before settling on your beverage of choice, research the liquor that’s prominent in the location. Then, garnish with fruit or herbs that are grown naturally there.
Dine on Local Cuisine
Another way to feature the flavors of a region is through your dinner menu. Have your entire lineup reflect the traditional fare, or choose just one dish to serve. Dine on tacos at a celebration in Mexico, pasta at a Florence fête, or lobster at a gathering in Maine. For the cherry on top, set up food stations where cooks prepare the items in front of you.
Savor the Customary Cake
Instead of the classic buttercream confection, why not nosh on sweets your destination is known for? At this couple’s wedding in Tuscany, they savored a handmade millefoglie, an Italian cake made of custard and puff pastry topped with fresh berries. If you don’t fancy cake, have a dessert spread arranged with popular traditional pastries from a local bakery.
Play the Region’s Sounds
The key ingredient to every successful party is killer music! Enlist a live band to play your locale’s standard music throughout the evening’s events. For an even more transformative experience, have your band stage perched in front of the landscape.
Hire Popular Entertainment
Wondering the best way to get everyone out on the dance floor? Hire incredible entertainment! At their destination wedding, this couple invited a plena group, which performs a style of music and dance native to Puerto Rico. You can also recruit belly dancers for a Middle Eastern soirée or a second line band for a New Orleans function. With an interactive experience, your attendees will connect with the locals and learn more about the culture (while having a blasting, of course!).
Gift Guests a Common Keepsake
There’s no question that you’ll want your friends and family to remember your big day. Sending them off with a parting gift will definitely do the trick! Distribute favors that accurately portray your destination. Bottles of limoncello not only depict Italy’s famed fruit, but they’re also beautiful and practical. To go the extra mile, wrap each goodie in fabric sourced from that setting.