10 of the Best Destination Wedding Locations

May 16, 2013 by

Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

For those engaged to get married, having a destination wedding is a great way to make your special day even more memorable. Not only can you choose your ideal setting to say your vows, but it allows you to keep costs down by having a more intimate guest list. Where you should hold the ceremony will depend on your couple personality as well as what kind of experience you’re looking for. To help you narrow down the choices, here are our picks for the 10 best destination wedding locations.

1. Moorea, French Polynesia 

Moorea

It’s not hard to have a beautiful wedding in Moorea

Moorea isn’t a heart-shaped island for nothing. Surrounded by crystalline blue lagoons, coral reefs and jagged mountain peaks, the island is the epitome of romance as you’ll find glistening waterfalls, white sand palm-fringed beaches, expansive meadows, hibiscus gardens and birds of paradise about the tropical island. Moreover, while many people think Bora Bora (which is also stunning) is the best place to get married in Tahiti, Moorea actually has more to do on the island and caters to a wider range of budgets.

At one time foreigners could not have a legally-binding marriage in Tahiti, but since 2010, American and Canadian couples have been able to legally get married on the islands of Tahiti, and many travel agencies, tour companies, cruise lines and accommodations are now catering to that. In order to be married in Tahiti, you must be 18 years or older and cannot be a French citizen. Moreover, you and your partner must be of opposite sexes and cannot be directly related.

The process itself takes about three to five months and requires several documents including a “Marriage of Foreign Citizens in French Polynesia” application; a signed and dated letter by both future spouses; a copy of both spouses’ passports; a certified copy of both spouses’ birth certificates; a Certificate of Non-Marital Status and a photocopy of bills for both spouses proving residency – with all forms translated into French and legalized by the French Consulate.

Moorea is also a great destination wedding spot because there are many things to do on the island. First of all, it is a world-renowned destination for snorkeling and scuba diving, and is often called the “Land of the Shark” by locals as you can swim with at least four species of shark — the blacktip shark, whitetip shark, grey shark and lemon shark. One of the best spots for snorkeling on Moorea is Tiki Point, which is also great for whale and dolphin spotting.

Furthermore, don’t leave Moorea without getting a great aerial view, which you can do by heading to Belvedere Lookout. From there you’ll be able to see the beautiful Cook’s Bay, Opunohu Bay, Mount Rotui and the fertile Opunohu Valley. Other worthwhile activities on the island include hiking to Afareaitu Waterfalls, kayaking to Motu Fareone or Motu Tiahura from Tiahura, visiting the local fruit plantations, shopping for black pearls, lounging on Temae Beach and skydiving.

Best For: Those who want something intimate, elegant yet relaxed and out-of-the-norm with traditional Polynesian rituals.

2. Saint Lucia, Caribbean

St Lucia wedding

A wedding in St Lucia. Photo credit: LisaRoxy via Flickr.

Renowned as being one of the most romantic destinations in the world, Saint Lucia is not only beautiful and full of romantic activities, it’s also an easy flight from the East Coast (JetBlue operates a four-hour direct flight from JFK). Moreover, it has something to offer for all types of couples, whether you and your special someone are looking for some outdoor adventure with rainforest hiking, scuba diving, ziplining and ATVing or just want to relax on the beach or enjoy unlimited drinks at an all-inclusive resort.

The process to get married in Saint Lucia is relatively simple. You’ll need to be in Saint Lucia for two days before the wedding, as this is when a local Solicitor can apply for a license on your behalf. It’s smart to arrive about a week beforehand to leave room for error and give yourself time to make sure everything is set. Generally, it is recommended the Attorney General receive your application about four working days before the wedding date. Documentation you will need to bring with you includes a passport and birth certificate, both in English. If one of the spouses has ever been divorced a Decree Absolute is needed, if a name has been chanced a Deed Poll is required and if a spouse is a widow a Death Certificate of the first spouse is needed.

While Saint Lucia has the white sand beaches and billowing palms that the Caribbean is known for, it also has lush rainforest, rugged mountains, the world’s only drive-in volcano, sulfur springs and a diverse landscape that can be explored in many ways. For a mix of adventure and culture, head to Morne Coubaril Estate for some ziplining, a cocoa estate tour and a buffet lunch offering traditional Saint Lucia specialties like jerk chicken, ground provisions, green fig and salt fish, and fresh squeezed juices.

Moreover, Saint Lucia has a rich chocolate culture, which is best experienced at Hotel Chocolat where you can get a chocolate spa treatment, enjoy a cocoa-inspired meal, make your own chocolate and tour a cocoa plantation. Of course, no trip to Saint Lucia would be complete without spending some time in the water. Head to one of the island’s beautiful and secluded beaches for snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing or sign up to go on a diving trip.

Best For: Those who want a mix of relaxation and adventure in a lush and unspoiled tropical destination. Additionally, those looking for a quick Caribbean wedding will like the fact Saint Lucia offers a same-day marriage license similar to Las Vegas.

3. The Grand Canyon

While the Caribbean can immerse you in the romance of a tropical island, the Grand Canyon provides an atmosphere that is truly one-of-a-kind. Although words like “breathtaking” and “awe-inspiring” tend to get overused, the Grand Canyon is one of a few destinations that warrant their use. You and your special someone can exchange your vows while immersed in unworldly geological formations of all different colors and shapes featuring a multitude of dramatic peaks, buttes, ravines and gorges. Additionally, many newlyweds like to enhance their wedding with a scenic helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon before the ceremony.

Not only is the Grand Canyon a beautiful place to have a destination wedding, the planning and paperwork process is very simple. First you’ll need to get an Arizona marriage license (you do not need to be an Arizona resident to do this although you will need to get it in an Arizona courthouse), which you will receive on the same day in just a few hours. You and your fiance should both be present and have some form of identification with your birthdate on it, as well as $72 in cash, check or credit card for the fee. A Special Use Permit from the park is needed and costs $175.

Read more about getting married at the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is home dozens of great hiking trails, like the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail and the Hermit Trail. The Colorado River provides the perfect place to take a whitewater or smoothwater rafting trip, and you can also experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a translucent platform that allows you to stand 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) over the canyon floor. You can visit the Havasupai Indian Reservation and the Havasu Falls, the historic Cameron Trading Post in the Navajo nation and the free-to-enter Tusayan Museum and Tusayan Ruins to see artifacts, traditional handicrafts, original 4,000-year-old split-twig figurines, 800+ year-old ruins.

Best For: Those who love outdoor adventure and want to get married in one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

4. Tobago, Caribbean

Tobago wedding

Getting married on a boat in Tobago. Photo credit: Jed Scattergood via Flickr.

Part of Trinidad & Tobago, Tobago is a tropical paradise filled with resorts, white sand beaches, coral reefs and local culture rooted in African traditions. The island emits a care-free Caribbean vibe, and glimmers with pristine natural beauty. Moreover, locals tend to get very excited about weddings and will be interested to learn more about yours, so you’ll really feel like a star on your special day.

To get married in Tobago, you and your partner must both be on the island for three full days (not counting your arrival day) before you can apply for a Tobago wedding license. Twenty-four hours later it is possible to hold the ceremony. When applying both parties must be present and have their passports and airline ticket for proof of entry. If either spouse has ever been married before, proof of death of the prior spouse or a divorce decree is needed.

The island of Tobago is full of fun things for brides, grooms and their guests to enjoy. If you’re not certified to dive Tobago is a good place to take a PADI Dive Course, as it’s home to enormous coral reefs abundant with marine life, shipwrecks and an array of dive styles. Speyside is home to the tranquil underwater Japanese Gardens, one of the world’s largest pieces of brain coral, and an array of corals teeming with fish like parrot fish, trigger fish, angel fish, eels and manta rays. Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and visitors can see beautiful coral gardens of Star Coral, Elkhorn Coral, brain coral, Starlet Coral and more.

At Pigeon Point, visitors can enjoy one of the island’s most beautiful beaches as well as water sports like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, wind surfing and kitesurfing. Land-based activities also abound. Have a traditional lunch over water views at Jemma’s Treehouse Restaurant, enjoy a leisurely rainforest stroll to Argyle Falls, feed wildlife at Genesis Nature Park and try to spot about 270 bird species at Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the world’s “oldest legally protected forest reserve geared specifically towards a conservation purpose.”

Best For: Scuba diving, snorkeling and bird-watching enthusiasts. It’s also great for those looking for a budget-friendly Caribbean destination with a laid-back vibe and old-world charm and hospitality.

Read more about things to do in Trinidad and Tobago

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas wedding

Getting married with Elvis in Las Vegas

There are many reasons why people would choose to get married in Las Vegas, some of which include wanting to get married quickly, have a quirky ceremony (where else can you get married by Elvis?), get married on a budget or not make too big a deal out of the event. It’s also the land of the spontaneous impromptu wedding as there is probably no easier place in the world to get married than Las Vegas. In fact, there’s no waiting period, and you have the option to have a “drive thru ceremony” (similar to a drive-thru restaurant). In relation to most destination and at-home weddings Las Vegas is relatively cheap, as you can have a nice ceremony for less than $500.

The process for getting married in Las Vegas is very simple. As long as both parties are of opposite sex, at least 18 years of age and not directly related, all that is needed is to get a Marriage License prior to the ceremony from the Marriage Bureau. Both spouses should bring some form of ID (driver’s license, birth certificate, passport) and $60 cash. There is no waiting period.

Las Vegas is full of things to do before and after the wedding. Entertainment, nightlife and casinos are a big part of the local culture, and it can be fun to walk the strip and hotel/casino hop to see what unique offerings can be found. For example, at the Bellagio you can wander through their beautiful botanical gardens, take in a dancing fountain show and see the world’s tallest chocolate fountain. Moreover, at the Mirage you can see white tigers, an aquarium with sharks, fish, stingrays and eels, and an explosive outdoor volcano show. The best part is most of the hotel attractions are free or inexpensive to enjoy. There are also a wide variety of shows with big name performers you can see (usually these are ticketed performances). And despite its reputation for hardcore partying, Las Vegas also has an array of museums and cultural experiences like the Atomic Testing Museum, Carroll Shelby Museum, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, the Erotic Heritage Museum, the Neon Museum and more.

Best for: Those who want a non-traditional wedding and/or are looking to get married on a budget.

6. Barcelona, Spain

If the thought of Mediterranean waters, golden-sand beaches, fairy tale architecture, and a rich culture sounds like your perfect wedding destination, Barcelona might be for you. The European city enjoys a year-round sunny climate as well as an unmistakable magic that makes it feel part city, part beach destination. It features a large influence from artistic masters with a combination of old world charm and new age innovation.

To get married in Barcelona, spouses must be over 18 years old, cannot be a direct relative and can be either of opposite or same-sex. Ceremonies must be held at Town Hall or a Civil Registry. However, the process can take up to 45 days to get approved, so many couples choose to be legally wed at home and have a ‘faux’ ceremony in Barcelona to save time. Forms necessary to be married in Barcelona include an application form; original birth certificates; statements that both parties are free to marry that have been signed before the American Consul; and a Certificate of Residence or a temporary resident affidavit completed before a consular officer. For fifteen days before the ceremony there will also be the posting of banns, meaning the wedding is announced giving people the opportunity to object.

Make sure to see the architecture of famed Antoni Gaudi at sites like the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Mia, Colonia Guell and the Casa Batllo. His innovative structures defy logic, are extremely imaginative and ornate and often make you feel like you’ve been transported to the bizarre world of Dr. Seuss. Some examples include towers resembling ice cream swirl cones, windows with sharp menacing teeth, mosaic-tiled serpent benches, and sensual curves and vibrant colors that make the buildings seem alive.

Barcelona is also full of beautiful beaches, like Bogatell Beach, Nova Icária Beach, Caldetes Beach and Sitges Beach located about a half hour away from the city center in gay-friendly Sitges. Art lovers will enjoy the many creative museums, like the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture, the Fundació Joan Miro, Eat Meat and the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, as well as gallery-lined streets like Carrer Enric Granados. Other worthwhile experiences include seeking out tasty tapas bars, exploring the nightlife (Barcelona is a city that doesn’t sleep) and taking a flamenco class or watching a show.

Best for: Architecture buffs, beach bums, culture seekers and same-sex couples.

7. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany

Tuscany offers beautiful views and scenery

Few destinations offer the whimsical romance found in Tuscany. Often touted as the birthplace of the Renaissance, you’ll find a mix of historical towns and old world architecture as well as hilly countryside dotted with vineyards and produce farms. Tuscany’s mild and sunny climate allows for year-round, comfortable Mediterranean weather. And because Tuscany is home to unique and romantic wedding venues like private country villas, hamlet properties, historic churches, rustic farmhouses, medieval towns and luxury castles it’s a top destination for those wanting an old world fairytale wedding.

To get married in Tuscany, you should start the process from your home country and finish it once you arrive in Italy. The pieces of documentation you will need include a passport; birth certificate; death or divorce certificate if previously married; and a sworn statement of consent filled out by a parent or legal guardian if the spouse(s) is under 18. You will also need an apostille stamp that permits the documents to be officially used in a foreign country. Also, documents will need to be translated into Italian. About three months before your ceremony you and your partner should head to the Italian consulate and obtain an official Atto Notorio stating you are eligible to be married. About three days before your wedding you should visit the United States consulate in Italy to obtain a Nulla Osta, which involves swearing before a Consular Office that there is no legal impediment to your marriage under Italian and United States law. Once you and your spouse legalize the Nulla Osta at a local Office of the Prefecture, you have six months to perform the ceremony without the document expiring.

You and your guests could spend weeks in Tuscany and still not experience all it has to offer. Taking the train it’s easy to explore all the different cities of the area, especially when using Florence as your home base. Tuscany is known mainly for its rich art culture which can be explored in cities like Florence, Siena and Lucca, as well its whimsical countryside filled with balsamic farms, wineries, castles and small villages. Visit the many art and history sites in Florence, like the Uffizi Gallery which houses some of the world’s most impressive collections of Renaissance art; the Accademia delle Bella Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) where you can see Michelangelo’s famous David sculpture; and the Galleria Palatina, which holds many important collections including several of the best works collected by the Medici and Lorraine dynasties.

Moreover, no trip to Tuscany would be complete without a day spent exploring the wineries, vineyards and farms of Chianti and tastings its signature red wines. Because Tuscany is so famous for its culinary scene, it also makes sense to take a cooking class or food tour. Other worthwhile experiences include touring the medieval city of Siena, strolling around the Roman-founded Lucca and seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Best for: Wine enthusiasts and those wanting an old world fairytale wedding.

8. Montreal, Canada

For those who want a European vibe but don’t want to leave the continent for their destination wedding, Montreal is a great choice. The destination offers a charming blend of French and English culture along its tree-lined and cobblestone streets, as well plenty of cultural institutions, green spaces, aerial lookout points, 17th century architecture and ambient restaurants.

To get married in Montreal, spouses must be at least 16 years of age (those under 18 need parental or legal guardian consent), do not need to be residents and can be either same-sex or opposite sex. It is recommended to begin the process about nine weeks before the wedding date to be safe. A marriage license can be obtained from any Municipal Office Clerk in Quebec and is valid for three months. Required documents to obtain the license include an original birth certificate or current passport and a piece of photo ID like your driver’s license. Additionally, if you’ve been previously married you must show proof of divorce or death of your previous spouse. Weddings must be held in a place that is open to the public before an authorized officiant and in the presence of two witnesses.

Montreal offers tons of things for you and your wedding party to do before and after the ceremony. Old Montreal is where you’ll find the iconic cobblestone streets and old architecture, as well as high-quality French restaurants, the Notre-Dame Basilica, an entertainment-filled waterfront, history museums and a lively pedestrian street filled with artists and buskers called Place Jacques-Cartier. Additionally, Mount Royal — the highest spot in the city at 234 meters (768 feet) — is a hill offering hiking, ice skating, skiing, cycling, bird-watching, picnicking, lake-side jogs, scenic cemetery strolls and sculpture gardens. And at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, visitors can take in an impressive collection of Canadian art in one of the country’s oldest museums. Other interesting attractions in Montreal include the Montreal Botanical Gardens, Jean-Talon Market, the Montreal Biodome and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Read more about romantic things to do in Montreal

Best for: Same-sex couples and those who want a European vibe without leaving the continent.

9. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires tango

Get married, then learn to tango in Buenos Aires. Photo credit: Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires via Flickr.

Buenos Aires is full of historic architecture, tree-lined boulevards, picturesque parks, European-style cafes and vibrant street art — not to mention it’s the birthplace of one of the world’s most fiery dance styles, tango.

At least 30 days before your wedding you will need to marriage application forms at the district Civil Registry Office. This is also where you will pick up medical examination forms, as a medical exam a week prior to the wedding is required. Note that once you request an appointment at the Civil Registry Office it must be granted within five days. Documents couples must bring include a certified passport photocopy with valid tourist stamp, an address in Argentina and length of stay. The address you provide will dictate the Civil Registry Office where you will be married. If either spouse has been previously married a death certificate or divorce decree is needed. For brides ages 16 to 20 and grooms 18 to 20 parental consent is needed.

One worthwhile experience you and your wedding guests can have in Buenos Aires is taking a tango lesson or viewing a live tango show. You can also visit a milonga, a place where tango is danced and you can watch talented locals. Ask your hotel which ones allow novices, as some aren’t very welcoming of untrained dancers. Another quintessential Buenos Aires experience is getting to know the local art culture through local art galleries, art museums and taking in the myriad graffiti works that litter the city. Other top attractions and things to do include antique hunting in San Telmo, browsing markets like Feria de San Telmo and Feria de Recoleta, pay homage to Evita at the Casa Rosada, Recoleta Cemetery and Museo de Evita, and go bird-watching in one of the city’s many urban parks and reserves.

Best for: Art-enthusiasts, hot-blooded lovers, those who want a culturally-rich urban destination, and same-sex couples.

10. Cuzco, Peru

Machu Picchu

Visit Machu Picchu after your wedding

While Cuzco isn’t a city you normally hear people going to for a destination wedding, it should be. As the oldest inhabited city in the Americas, Cuzco is like one giant open-air museum and is a world heritage city filled with impressive Inca ruins and colonial architecture mixed with trendy restaurants and modern flair. Moreover, it’s surrounded by rural villages, fertile farmland and the Andes mountains, allowing for a mix of urban and countryside experiences.

To get married in Cuzco, couples must present a sworn statement prepared by American Citizen Services at the Embassy showing they are legally free to marry in Peru. Moreover, divorced citizens will need to present a divorce decree. Couples must also present their original passports, a notarized copy of their passports and legalized copy of their birth certificates (translated into Spanish) to local officials. Documents should be certified with an Apostille by the Secretary of State of the state were the document was issued. A blood test is also required to get married, and you will usually have the results within a day or two.

Having a destination wedding isn’t just about the ceremony, but also about the experiences offered where you are. The most iconic experience to have in Cuzco is visiting Machu Picchu, an enormous 15th-century Inca site thought to have been built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. Machu Picchu isn’t actually located in Cuzco, however, it is possible to do a day trip to the site by taking a tour or train. Other Inca sites are littered around and near Cuzco, like Sacsahuaman, Pisac, Choquequirao,  Q’enko and Tambomachay.

Cuzco is home to a beautiful historic center filled with churches and the peaceful Plaza de Armas. Cuzco also has a large indigenous population, and perusing the local markets is a great way to interact with these people and see their handicrafts. Other worthwhile things to do in Cuzco include the ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum), drinking chica (corn beer) and playing the drinking game Sapo at a local dive bar and visiting one of the city’s many art and culture museums like Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Art Museum), Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo (Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art) and Museo del Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco (Museum Center for Traditional Textiles in Cuzco).

Best for: History buffs, culture-enthusiasts and those wanting to get off the beaten path.

- Jessica Festa

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