You’re familiar with some of the most famous backdrops for weddings: The palm-fringed beaches of the Caribbean, the lush landscape and stretches of golden sand in Hawaii and the rolling hills and vineyards amid 15th-century architecture in Tuscany.
But what are some of the lesser-known destinations wedding planners and couples might consider for weddings in 2023? Where are the locales that are ripe for romance, yet are unique and still feel a bit undiscovered in the wedding industry?
From Istanbul, a place where two continents merge, (surely, there’s some symbolism there) to the high-desert beauty in Arizona and the charming streets of London, ALHI insiders have the scoop on wedding destinations that are bidding for some attention in the upcoming year. Here’s five spots to put on your radar.
Why It's Hot: Traveling to Turkey almost makes you feel as though you’re in a live-action fairytale. The photographic dreamscape includes a colorful kaleidoscope of lanterns in the six-century-old Grand Bazaar, the glittering Bosphorus River that’s especially eye-catching at night, many grand palaces and castles plus opulent Turkish baths and hammams for relaxing.
Plus, those who travel to Turkey for a wedding appreciate the variety of vacations available within its borders, from the cosmopolitan dining scene in Istanbul to the ritzy beaches in Bodrum that are an equally swank alternative to the French Riviera or Amalfi Coast.
After the ceremony, honeymooning couples and their guests can choose their own Turkish adventures. How about hot air balloon rides above the otherworldly fairy chimneys in Cappadocia at sunrise? Or history lovers can explore Ephesus, the ancient Greek ruins with well-preserved buildings like a theater that once could hold 24,000 spectators.
Best Time of Year: Turkey is a four-season destination. For those who are looking to hit the beaches along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, summer months are a great time to visit, but they can be pretty hot in Istanbul, which straddles Asia and Europe. So, if you’re planning a wedding in Istanbul, April to May and September to October are pleasant.
Where to Wed: For a one-of-a-kind beach wedding, Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum is nestled amid cliffs and has a private beach facing the brilliant blue Aegean Sea, making an idyllic backdrop for stylish weddings. Or, in Istanbul, couples will find a palatial Ottoman luxury at the palace-turned-hotel Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul that’s set on the Bosphorus. The hotel has a number of wow-worthy venues for ceremonies and receptions.
Why It's Hot: Anguilla is one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. Just under 40 square miles, the intimate island is packed with beauty with 33 postcard-perfect beaches, as well as silky white stretches of sand, secluded coves, and limestone arches rising out of the water looking like Mother Nature’s answer to frames.
Plus, one of the island’s most sought-after stays—Aurora Anguilla Resort & Spa—has been newly renovated and is a beach and garden oasis that also happens to have the only golf course on the island, an 18-hole Greg Norman International Course that greets players with views of the Caribbean.
On top of all that, wedding planning in Anguilla is a breeze because compared to other Caribbean islands it's relatively dry (and when it does rain, it passes quickly).
Best Time of Year: Enjoy an endless summer in Anguilla, which is the consummate host for weddings almost year-round. Avoid September and October, though, which tends to be peak hurricane season.
Where to Wed: Set on the idyllic Rendezvous Bay, the aforementioned Aurora Anguilla is a 300-acres island resort with immaculate suites and villas well-suited for families and friends in your wedding party. On the big day, beach-facing ceremonies with the lull of gentle turquoise waves sets the scene. You can even spot the neighboring St. Martin in the horizon.
Why It's Hot: London is a stylish and timeless city. But it also has quite the romantic side with pre-wedding or honeymoon itineraries that can include picnicking in the royal parks or picking up sweets from one of the famous chocolate shops like Charbonnel et Walker or book a booth at Bob Bob Ricard that has a "call for champagne" buzzer. Also, there’s an exclusive “Cupid’s Pod” on the London Eye, and the private capsule comes with your own waiter, champagne and chocolates.
London is also a well-connected city, which means it's an easy place for guests to convene and a great launching point for European honeymoons.
Best Time of Year: It’s hard to pick! The springtime in London is special because the temperatures are mild and the parks are in full bloom. But London is a remarkably festive city come the holiday season. The decorated storefronts, Christmas markets and holiday lights draping streets add to the magic.
Where to Wed: For a luxurious castle-like venue, The Langham, London has romantic venues to host weddings from a chandeliered Grand Ballroom to a lush, rose-filled garden. The luxury hotel is well situated in the heart of London and, leading up to the wedding, you and guests can enjoy traditions like afternoon tea. Did we mention two Michelin-starred Chef Michel Roux, Jr. can curate your wedding menu?
Why It's Hot: Phoenix and Scottsdale have emerged as a favorite destination for all things weddings, from bachelorette parties to weddings to honeymoons. It’s no surprise why, either: year-round sunny weather, romantic sunsets, sweeping outdoor vistas and the majestic desert landscapes all add up for wedding bliss. Plus, there’s lots of spas and chef-driven restaurants to round out wedding weekends for guests and the wedding party.
Best Time of Year: Spring weddings are popular in Arizona because the temperatures are just right, as highs range from 75 degrees to 85 degrees in March and April. Some couples opt for fall and winter, too. But summers in Scottsdale and Phoenix are too sweltering for outdoor weddings.
Where To Wed: Couples have their pick of hotels that are perfect for weddings.
A Phoenix getaway, The Wigwam is a stunning escape where the Sonoran Desert landscape meets southwestern charm, with luxury casitas and suites. The lush grounds have pathways lined with palms and 8,000 fragrant rose bushes plus a picturesque wedding lawn and majestic ballrooms.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a dream destination for weddings, with more than a dozen scenic venues for vows and receptions. They include Princess Falls, which is surrounded by Italian cypress trees and a 22-foot limestone waterfall; the trellis-covered outdoor terrace at La Hacienda, Toro, that overlooks the 18th green of the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Golf Course and many more.
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, couples can wed at the foot of the stunning Camelback Mountain and each wedding day is punctuated by the historical chime of a bell from the El Camino Real. Originally, there were 450 bells along this route. Today, the Mountelucia retains one of them and it chimes to introduce the news bride. The resort is also a coveted wedding destination because those who come for weddings feel as though they’ve been transported to the whitewashed villages and sun-drenched hills of Andalusia in Southern Spain without having to leave the country.
At The Scott Resort & Spa, a beautifully designed boutique hotel, couples will find oasis-like outdoor settings, with venues nestled amid glistening pools and colorful landscapes. The hotel has several stunning venues including the Laguna Lawn that’s next to a cascading water feature and tropical gardens and the Orangedale Ballroom that has floor-to-ceiling windows and a private patio.
Why It's Hot: You know the expression: Virginia is for lovers! So, it makes sense to marry the love of your life here.
On top of the built-in marketing, the state is becoming a destination for wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. In fact, Virginia is one of the top five largest wine-producing states in the United States, and wine country makes for a lovely wedding setting. Plus, there’s wedding venues for every couple, from historic hotels that feel like they’re right out of a fairytale to beautiful vineyards in a modern setting.
Best Time of Year: Virginia is another destination with a year-round appeal for weddings. While temperatures are most pleasant in the spring and fall and May, June and September are fantastic months for outdoor weddings, a winter wedding can be gorgeous, too, especially if it happens to snow.
Where to Wed: Couples who get married in Virginia have several luxury options for hotels to host their nuptials.
Picture gliding down a grand staircase to a beautifully manicured lawn with the scenic Allegheny Mountains in the background. With loads of Southern charm, the Omni Homestead Resort is a 2,300-acre estate with elegant ballrooms, plus a magnificent spa and an award-winning golf course for extended wedding experiences.
In Northern Virginia, Lansdowne Resort and Spa is a set on 500 acres that overlook the Potomac River Valley. Just 30 miles from Washington, D.C., the serene resort in Leesburg feels a world away. The resort can host intimate reception dinners to large receptions in its various venues, plus has 45 holes of golf available.
Salamander Resort & Spa is set in Virginia’s wine country and offers several unique wedding venues including the century-old stone Stallion Barn, the Culinary Garden, the Grand Lawn and more. Pastry chef Jason Reeves is known for his spectacular wedding cakes, too.
Colonial Williamsburg Resorts has built a reputation for itself within the wedding industry as being a fairytale-like destination with elegant venues including the Regency Room at the Williamsburg Inn and the Fountain Garden of the Rockefeller Complex. The special events team include skilled pastry chefs and floral designers who can bring wedding visions to life.
Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg is another idyllic wedding location with the James River in the backdrop and technicolor sunsets. The team can make wedding weekends extra special by arranging a bridal party spa day and golf outing for groomsmen.