On the Yucatan Peninsula along the crisp, vibrant waters of the Caribbean is one of the most well-known cities in Mexico: Cancun. The beaches of this area can make a dreamy background for a Cancun destination wedding. With some of the whitest sand in the world and see-through waters that reflect colourful, dynamic sunsets, don’t let your memories from high school and college discount the charm of the region. The ruins of the ancient Mayan empire in seaside Tulum provide a stunning backdrop. For a slower-paced setting, try Playa del Carmen, which displays an authentic rustic charm and is home to some gorgeous beaches. And there’s no shortage of natural settings here, either: Say “I do” in a lush, tropical garden, in a beautiful eco-park or among the cenotes, or freshwater pools, the Riviera Maya is famous for.
Puerto Rico’s got all the assets of the other Caribbean islands—gorgeous beaches, friendly locals, plush resorts—plus one big one that sets it apart: It’s a US territory. That means you and your guests will have few, if any, of the hassles associated with travel abroad. You won’t need to go through customs, phone service is excellent, and most people speak English. Puerto Rico offers a blend of both traditional beachy relaxation and unique cultural and historic sights (which non-beachgoing guests will appreciate). As with the rest of the region, beware of hurricane season, which lasts from June through November.
This collection of 700 islands has something for every taste—enjoy complete privacy by renting your own island, or host hundreds of your favourite people at a mega-resort. Nassau and Paradise Island are two of the most visited and activity-packed destinations, while more remote areas such as Harbour Island and the Exumas tend to feel more laid-back. And since the Bahamas are just a 35-minute plane trip from Florida, it’s an easy journey for guests and makes for a great excuse to spend a few extra days vacationing, scuba diving around Andros Island (the third-largest barrier reef in the world), strolling the white-sand beaches, touring the historic homes of Nassau and sipping Goombay Smashes (hint: a great signature cocktail). The high season lasts from mid-December to mid-April, while summers are sleepier. Although hurricanes are infrequent, they can occur, so it’s best to avoid the area from June through November.
Turks and Caicos
Less developed and more upscale than much of the Caribbean, this collection of 40 islands, eight of which are inhabited, has an intimate feel. Many of the islands are surrounded by a natural reef, making the turquoise waters just offshore clean, calm and full of sea life, and the perfect backdrop for a beach ceremony. And sunsets over Grace Bay are unforgettable (sunset ceremony, hint, hint). The islands are also relatively easy to reach, since you can fly direct from a number of US cities to Providenciales, the main island—a plus for guests. Snorkelling and scuba diving are great options to suggest, since Turks and Caicos has some of the best underwater sightseeing around. Historic Cockburn Town on Grand Turk is also worth a visit for history buffs, and whale and bird watching are two other popular activities. The climate is sunny and dry, with highs between 26 and 28 degrees (centigrade). from November to May. But during the summer and early fall, daytime highs range from 29 to 32 degrees(centigrade), sometimes reaching the mid-90s in late summer, and hurricane season also runs from June through November, so that’s not prime wedding time.
This idyllic island not only has a whopping 365 beautiful beaches to get hitched on, but it’s also steeped in nautical history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Antigua was home to a huge British naval base, and its harbour is still a popular yachting destination for the international jet set. If you want to host your nuptials at a high-end all-inclusive resort, look no further—many of the world’s swankiest are here. The high season runs from mid-December through April. After April, rates go down as much as 40 percent, but some places do close between August and October. The humidity and rainfall are low year-round, but avoid hurricane season, which runs from June through November.
Discerning couples who want more than a destination-wedding-in-a-box head to the Cayman Islands for the ultimate in hospitality and tropical romance. Whether you choose to marry at a smaller resort or a five-star hotel, this destination has the resources to cater to every couple’s personal style and guest-list size. Not to mention the backdrop is absolutely gorgeous (think: tranquil turquoise waters and sugary white-sand beaches dotted with palm and pine trees). All three islands are home to a wealth of wedding venues and pros, so there’s little need to bring your own pros. And your guests will have plenty of options for how to spend their downtime, including swimming, snorkeling and visiting historic George Town, where sparkling-jewelry retailers abound. Keep in mind: There’s no live/outdoor music allowed on the island on Sundays, which means if you’re saying “I do” beneath a tent on the beach or poolside on a Saturday, your band or DJ must wrap it up by midnight. High season begins the week before Christmas and goes through April, so you’ll deal with crowds then. Avoid hurricane season, which is May to November.
Saint Lucia, Caribbean
If the lost city of Atlantis were to re-emerge from its watery depths, it would likely resemble Saint Lucia. With white volcanic sand, sapphire water, tall mountains and cascading waterfalls, this Eastern Caribbean island is any beach lover’s wedding dream. Those who decide to travel to this stunning destination be warned, you may never want to leave.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The Big Island, Hawaii
The Big Island is (you may have guessed) the largest island in the chain and offers incredibly diverse topography. In fact, 11 of the world’s 13 climatic zones can be found on the island (there’s even snow on top of the highest mountains!). The landscape varies dramatically as you travel around the perimeter, so you’ll have your choice of backdrops: The Kona coast to the west has a lunar-like landscape, while the north and east coasts are wet and super-lush. There’s plenty for guests to do too, from exploring the rain forest region to going horseback riding, snorkelling or just lazing on the beach. You won’t have to go anywhere for a dream honeymoon. These are just some of the reasons we consider The Big Island on our list of best destination wedding locations.
Many visitors think of Maui as the most romantic Hawaiian island, perhaps because it’s filled with waterfalls and rainbows. And its beaches are considered to be among the best anywhere, so it’s a popular spot to wed. Guests will enjoy hitting the links on the west coast, or “Golf Coast,” and surfers (or aspiring ones) will find some of the world’s most famous waves here. Of course, snorkelling, kayaking, whale watching and all the activities you’d expect from a tropical paradise are here as well.
Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, California
Wine Country USA is filled with stunning landscapes—rolling hills, lush valleys and acre upon acre of vineyards (aka the perfect romantic backdrop for your nuptials). Of course, the abundance of amazing wines produced here, and the world-class restaurants with dishes worthy of accompanying them, will certainly make treating your guests a breeze. And given the sheer number of vineyards and charming inns, resorts and spas surrounding them, you’ll also have plenty of options for venues and accommodations.
Summer and October are the best times to visit the region. September can be beautiful, but you may have problems with availability, and rates will be at their peak because it’s harvest season. Even though you’re in California, temperatures can drop at night (think: mid-50s in the summer), so be sure your guests know to bring sweaters and wraps for the evenings.
If fairy tale castles, hidden beaches, and world-class seafood rank highly on your traveller’s bucket list, Portugal is the wedding destination for which you’ve been searching. Located right next door to Spain, this country has something for everyone. From the turquoise ocean coves of Lagos to the whimsically bright coloured castles of Sintra, Portugal provides the perfect backdrop for a truly unique wedding.
French Riviera, France
One of the world’s first modern resort destinations, the French Riviera was a favourite vacation spot for royalty in the 19th century. What later became a hotspot for prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse is nowadays the home to celebrities such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot. With 310 to 330 days of sunshine per year and 115 km of coastline stretching across Saint Tropez, Cannes, and Monaco, it’s clear why the world is in love with this stunning location. If you envision lush forests, breathtaking cliffs, sparkling blue water and bright flowers at your wedding, put this destination at the top of your list.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
If your wedding dreams consist of sparkling turquoise waters, sheer cliffs adorned with vibrant lemons and exotic flowers, and a perfect summer’s day, make your way to the Amalfi Coast. The playground of the rich and famous, this 50km stretch of Southern Italy’s coastline offers picture-perfect views from every angle. Whether you select Positano, Praiano, Capri or Amalfi from the coast’s seemingly endless line of glittering islands, you’re in store for an unforgettable experience. Spend your special day exchanging vows by the sea before dining on a meal of fresh seafood and drinking Amalfi’s famous Limoncello. April through June, and September and October are the best times to explore Italy, with mild temperatures and smaller crowds. August can get hot, and it’s the month when most Italians go on vacation, so many shops, hotels and restaurants may be closed. Winters stay on the warmer side, with temps averaging around 10 degrees (centigrade).
For a destination that matches seamlessly with any bride’s beautiful white dress, the Greek island of Santorini lies in wait. Here, whitewashed houses cling to the breath-taking cliffs, while their famous cobalt blue roofs match the endless expanse of the glittering ocean below. Turn up the heat with a ceremony on one of the island’s volcanic sand beaches while a fiery copper sunset creates a truly unforgettable wedding moment. For something different, head to the mesmerising black sand beaches of the island’s East coast or the red sand beach of the South.
Surrounded by the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, Sicily’s gorgeous beaches are not the only thing that makes it one of the world’s best wedding locations. Harnessing all of the elements, this island combines pristine waters with breath-taking mountains, a smoking volcano, and fresh island cuisine. If that isn’t enough to lure you to Sicily for your wedding, also consider the rich culture and history that comes alive here. Set your wedding against a backdrop of Byzantine mosaics, Arab castle ruins, or in an ancient Baroque palace for an unforgettable experience.
South Africa has been called “a world in one country,” and it’s easy to see why: Towering mountains rise over a vibrant and trendy Cape Town; ostrich-dotted grasslands stretch to connect quaint villages; monkey-filled forests line the deserted beaches of Natal; and the Stellenbosch wine route tucks vast vineyards into lush, fertile valleys. Then, of course, there are the lions (and giraffes and crocodiles…). South Africa’s stunning landscapes, wildlife preserves and pristine beaches along the 2,174 miles of coast and rolling vineyards have made it an ideal vacation—and exotic destination wedding— spot. So, it’s the perfect locale for adventurous couples to throw a unique wedding for guests willing to make the trek. Summer (December to February) is ideal for beach bashes, while winter (June to August) is best for game viewing if you want to give guests a wild treat. Average temperatures in Cape Town range from 17 degrees (centigrade) in winter to 26 degree (centigrade) in summer, so you’re pretty safe year-round, but other regions can reach as high as 35 degree (centigrade) in the summer months.
For a wedding that appeals to all of the senses, make the journey to the incredible Marrakech. Vibrant colours, exotic sights and spice-packed flavours are found at every turn in this former imperial city of Morrocco. As a treasure trove of stunning Islamic architecture, it is undeniable that it will provide a gorgeous backdrop for your special day.
There’s a reason why locals commonly describe this Southeast Asian kingdom as sanuk, or “fun.” From the ornate palaces to the rich coral reefs and other wildlife—not to mention the tasty cuisine—guests will be thrilled to have an excuse to visit this exotic gem. For an exciting urban experience rivaling the pace of New York City, suggest that guests stop in Bangkok enroute to your chosen wedding locale. The huge metropolis consists of kitschy souvenir shops, dance clubs, the must-see Grand Palace and the notorious red-light district. For nature lovers, northwestern Thailand is where it’s at, but the beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters and luxe resorts of destinations like Phuket (the largest and poshest island) and Koh Samui are why couples make the long trek to Thailand to get hitched. November to January is the official “dry and cool” season, but heat and humidity are always present. Summer (from February to May) is the warmest, while the rainy season lasts from June to September, and you’ll get cooler temps from November to February.