What is a Destination Wedding?

What is a Destination Wedding — and Why are They so Popular?

Cancun destination wedding
Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun Resort.

A destination wedding is a wedding held in a setting away from your hometown. Oftentimes, a destination wedding and the subsequent honeymoon are celebrated in the same resort venue.

What's a destination wedding like? Picture yourselves in a warm, luxurious atmosphere with happy friends and family toasting the two of you after recuperating from travel time. Music plays and a feast of fine food awaits.

Every wedding detail, from the setting to the officiant to the flowers and the cake, can be arranged at a resort destination to suit your taste. After the wedding ceremony, you won't have to leave a breathtakingly beautiful location so soon... if you choose to have your honeymoon there as well.

Advice from a Destination Wedding Expert

Bridal consultant and author of Weddings for Dummies Marcy L. Blum notes a rise in the destination wedding, where a couple invites their nearest and dearest on a mini-vacation. The ceremony itself, the reception, and the honeymoon all occur over a long weekend, along with other destination wedding activities designed to bring the revelers together.

"A four-day wedding weekend can cost less than a meal and reception for 150-200 people at a luxury hotel in New York," says Blum. "At a resort in Jamaica, for example, it might cost $40,000 to invite 20 couples to spend four days at a destination wedding. That includes a rehearsal dinner on the beach serving the island's traditional jerk barbecued foods and exotic tropical drinks while a reggae band plays -- as well as a formal sit-down wedding in an air-conditioned room or on an outdoor terrace and a farewell brunch."

The etiquette of a destination wedding generally calls for invited guests to pay for their own airfare and hotel room. The bride and groom pick up the tab for the ceremony, guest food and beverages, and additional festivities at a destination wedding.

It's smart for a couple planning a destination wedding to negotiate a discounted rate for booking multiple rooms and also check with airlines to determine if group airfare rates are available.

For one destination wedding, Blum sent invitees a questionnaire beforehand to determine each one's special interests in order to construct an itinerary. Over the course of three days there were opportunities for them to snorkel, SCUBA, participate in a tennis tournament, play beach volleyball, and take lessons in dancing to reggae music.

Couples planning a destination wedding without the help of a consultant can work with a hotel's concierge, wedding planner, or banquet planner. Do call an area's Tourist Office to learn the legal requirements for marrying in the destination. Some Caribbean islands require residency prior to the ceremony plus proof of citizenship, completing several documents, and a nominal fee.

A Destination Wedding Isn't for Everyone

Brides and grooms who have known forever that they will want to celebrate their wedding in their hometown, perhaps reciting vows in the same church or synagogue where their parents or even grandparents wed, will not want to travel out of town. 

Couples who don't enjoy travel shouldn't have a destination wedding, either. Nor should couples who look at their guest list and know that many people who matter to them would not be able to attend a faraway wedding because of finances, time constraints, family obligations, or for other reasons. But if a destination wedding sounds like the answer to your prayers, go for it!