About one in four US couples opt for a destination wedding—and some industry experts are expecting this number to increase after the pandemic years of postponed parties and travel restrictions.
So, why do couples choose to marry far from home—and what benefits and challenges come with a destination wedding? Newsweek spoke to three brides to find out.
Why Do Couples Choose Destination Weddings?
Julianne Ponan and Matthew Ford from Surrey, southeast England, have been together since they were teenagers and chose to marry on a beach in Antigua in October 2021.
“I started planning [the wedding] a good 18 months in advance,” Ponan told Newsweek. “Because of the pandemic and ever-moving travel rules, we had to constantly check the rules.”
While she and her partner explored other locations for their wedding, Ponan’s severe allergies played a key role in the final decision. “We had to choose a destination and resort that would relish the challenge and not see me as a total liability.”
Daisy Craydon and Wes Souster live in Bedfordshire, but their wedding is taking place on the other side of Europe—Marbella on Spain’s southern coast—in June. Denise and Stephen Bernstein, from London, tied the knot officially last year, but are hosting a celebration this month in Limassol, Cyprus.
Both couples had to scrap their original wedding plans because of the pandemic. Many other brides and grooms have found themselves in the same situation. According to Statista, more than 80 percent of weddings around the world that had been due to take place in April 2020 were postponed. Another 10 percent were canceled outright.
With or without the pandemic, Craydon knew what she wanted to do. “I’ve always imagined myself getting married abroad. My partner and I discussed this and the decision was made quite simply.”
Benefits and Challenges of a Destination Wedding
Settling on the guest list is one of the most difficult parts of planning a destination wedding—or any wedding. “It’s a big ask for your loved ones to fly abroad,” Craydon said Newsweek.
Two of her grandparents are unable to fly to Marbella, she said, so she and Souster are getting legally married in the UK first.
Ponan also emphasized that couples who plan destination weddings must accept that some people will not be able to attend—whether that’s down to cost, timing or another factor. To accommodate family, friends and colleagues who could not travel to Antigua but still wanted to be part of the day, Ponan and Ford set up a live video link.
The Bernsteins’ main reasons for choosing a beach wedding were their distrust of the British weather and desire to take advantage of great travel deals.
There have been unexpected challenges, however. Denise Bernstein is Black and found it difficult to locate Cyprus-based stylists familiar with her needs. She’s bringing her own makeup artist and hairdresser from the UK
Even with those additional costs, an overseas wedding can save a couple money. “It’s cheaper abroad compared to the UK,” she said. “Also, fewer guests attend, which works in our favor as we prefer a smaller ceremony.”
Ricky Paul, creative director of London floral design studio Ricky Paul Flowers, told Newsweek that the biggest advantage of a destination wedding is the luxury of picking a gorgeous venue anywhere in the world.
“Most hotels offer wedding packages and are on hand to organize every detail, so it can also take a lot of pressure off the bride and groom,” he said. “Most of the guests will be staying at the hotel” so the wedding “can become a full week affair with celebrations before and after the big day.”
What About the Honeymoon?
A week of celebrations sounds lovely, but some couples might not want family and friends accompanying them on their honeymoon.
Craydon and Souster will have more than 30 loved ones staying in the same hotel for the week of their wedding. “We have a 4-year-old daughter, so making sure she is surrounded by her cousins and grandparents is a big factor as to why this wedding is so special to us,” she said.
The couple have organized their own romantic getaway, however. “A week after we get back from Marbella, we will be flying off for our private, child-free honeymoon,” Craydon added.
The Bernsteins’ guests will be staying in the hotel that is hosting the wedding, but the happy couple will stay at a different hotel after the big day. “This ensures we have privacy,” the bride said.
Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding
Craydon offered one key piece of advice to couples who want a destination wedding: “I can’t stress this enough—get a wedding planner,” she said.
She also recommended doing your due diligence when picking a venue. Although she and her partner had initially considered Italy, they settled on Marbella shortly after spotting the location on Pinterest and flying to visit several venues in March 2020, just before travel restrictions hit Europe.
In Marbella, Craydon learned the value of seeing a place in person. “I was quite surprised that the wedding venue I thought we’d go for was my least favorite, and the venue we weren’t even going to bother to see was the one we ended up going for.”
Ponan suggested that you arrive at your chosen location a day or two before the ceremony to get used to your surroundings and relax. “Think holistically so that it feels like a holiday and not like a huge rush in a beautiful location,” she said. “Remember it’s your wedding, it’s your rules, and it’s all about you both.”
Denise Bernstein emphasized the importance of working closely with your partner to plan your dream wedding. “Enjoy the process,” she said. “Do and pick everything together to ensure the day is special.”