In the past, marrying away from home usually meant eloping. The couple would steal away in the night to flee family disapproval or expectations and tie the knot on their own terms. Today, the idea has shed its stigma and a growing number of couples are hightailing it away from the traditional formal affair to a casual, intimate occasion in their dream honeymoon spot.
These destination weddings involve just the couple; the couple and a select handful of friends and family (often just another couple); or the couple plus enough guests to constitute a bona fide weeklong family -- or college -- reunion. Then, the just-marrieds can take a second week to disappear on their own. The "reception," if any, is more like a big party and held when the couple returns home. Why are destination weddings a growing trend?
1. They're Virtually Stress-Free
Pop in the classic movie "Father of the Bride" and you'll soon understand why destination weddings are so popular. They are almost guaranteed to be simpler (and faster!) to plan than a traditional wedding and reception for two main reasons:
1) Honeymoon-happy resorts and cruise lines around the world have made it easier and more appealing to wed on-site. Many have full-time wedding coordinators on staff who are familiar with that country's marriage license requirements and who offer wedding packages that take care of all your ceremony essentials (photographer, cake, minister, etc.). You step off the plane and sign the papers; they take care of the rest.
2) Tourist boards are jumping on the bandwagon, with brochures listing ceremony sites and local wedding vendors in their area. Even governments are working to ease restrictions and attract to-be-weds.
If you're not getting married at a resort, you can hire a stateside wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings, contact a wedding planner in the town you plan to wed, or start early and do it yourself. Either way, you won't have to plan a reception, and won't that be a relief?!
2. No Family Drama
The second reason destination weddings rule? No scene-stealing family drama.
For Jennifer and Marc Schwartz, the initial family strategy session began to foreshadow a very large get-together of extended family and business associates. Predictably, each set of parents had their own ideas. One set thought the wedding should be held in New York City because most guests were from the area. Another set had a problem with the expense of a big-city wedding. Jennifer says that she and Marc never stopped feeling that the event is, first and foremost, about the two people getting married. "It's great if the two families are in rapport, but if not, who needs all that negative stuff?"
3. They're Cost Effective
The affordability of a destination wedding has many couples speeding off to the airport faster than you can say "I do." For instance, a couple can fly to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, get married, and stay for a deluxe weeklong honeymoon for a few thousand dollars, including lodging, meals, drinks, and airfare. Compare that with your average 150-guest wedding costing about $22,000 -- which can easily skyrocket to more than $40,000 in big cities -- plus a few extra thousand for a honeymoon. To ease the financial burden, many couples opt to travel to a place where they can get married, have a honeymoon, and still have some money left over to start their new lives together.
4. You Call The Shots
While formal weddings hold meaning for many couples, linking them to the traditions of their ancestors and culture, others want the experience to be unique, with a ceremony and location that reflect their true colors. Perhaps an "Out of Africa" experience? A snowy mountain-peak ceremony? The world is your altar.
Best of all? You make the rules! Feel free to wear a sundress or shorts (even a bikini!), go barefoot, carry fern fronds, hire a ukulele band, and toast your love alone on your balcony at sunset -- nude! If you can dream it, you can do it.
5. They're Simply Perfect for Second Marriages
Been-there-done-that couples who are getting married for the second or third time choose destination weddings because they're simple and private. Either the bride and/or groom have done the Hollywood-scale production before and want something quieter or less expensive this time around, or they want to be someplace anonymous, without the watchful eyes and whispers of the hometown crowd. (Get married at a kid-friendly, all-inclusive resort or cruise to help your new Brady Bunch do some solid bonding.)
6. They're a Once-in-a-Lifetime Reunion Opportunity
At a typical wedding, you're on the run, meeting and greeting. Destination weddings are on vacation time. You're usually required to arrive a few days early to fill out the paperwork, so by the time your wedding rolls around, you've had two to three days of fun with your sweetie, family, and friends. How often do you have the opportunity to spend no-rush quality playtime with dear, far-flung friends? This is your chance.
Need we say more?
Photo: Stewart Pinsky Photography