After the exhilaration of an engagement and sharing the good news with family and friends, it’s time to start thinking about the wedding, not only the time of year, but where the ceremony and festivities will take place.
Gone are the days when the betrothed are expected to wed in their hometowns. Rather, more are opting for destination weddings to share extended experiences with their guests in their favorite places. According to the Global Destination Wedding Market Report 2023, the global destination wedding market grew to $23.31 billion in 2023, up from $21.31 billion in 2022, and is expected to reach $78.89 billion in 2027.
I Do. Sí, quiero. Je le veux
For insights into the increasing popularity of destination weddings, ALHI reached out to Sarah Chancey, founder of Chancey Charm Weddings, who works alongside her team of destination wedding planners to make bridal couples’ dreams come true.
“I think that couples are largely trying to spend less and see destination weddings as a luxurious way to celebrate with a smaller guest count and lower budget,” Chancey said.
When choosing where to go for a destination wedding, she said that some hot spots are always going to be more expensive than others. “If a couple is looking to keep costs low, they should explore less popular destinations,” she said. That could also mean looking at seasonality and avoiding holidays.
Chancey’s top tip for couples planning destination weddings?
“Keep it simple,” she advised. Couples who are looking to have a destination wedding that is stress-free should focus on a naturally stunning backdrop and less on details they will have to ship or pack.”
Naturally Stunning Destinations
ALHI’s curated portfolio of luxury independent hotels and resorts are found in naturally-stunning destinations around the world, and right here in the United States, from the East Coast to west, and places in between. Here are seven places to consider for destination weddings in the U.S.
From its natural coastline caressing the Atlantic Ocean to the urban vibes of Atlanta and the calm of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia has it all when it comes to stunning destinations to say, “I do.”
For more than 100 years, The Georgian Terrace in Atlanta has welcomed guests ranging from American presidents and entertainers to socialites and, of course, bridal parties. The Terrace, as it’s known by those in the know, adds elegance and southern charm to wedding fêtes; its French-inspired architecture makes for stunning photo backdrops.
Taking inspiration from the city’s urban canopy and blending it with Japanese arts and crafts, the design and decor of Nobu Hotel Atlanta in the prestigious Buckhead neighborhood integrates wood tones and grains, pocket gardens and ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Here, bridal parties can splash out in the Nobu Villa, a 2200-square-foot suite with direct access to the rooftop terrace — the perfect spot for a cocktail reception — that affords stunning views of Buckhead and beyond.
The landscapes found throughout the Lone Star State makes for dramatic backgrounds for any wedding party, and its handful or so of international airports makes traveling to and from easy for bridal parties and their guests.
The recent $70 million renovation at The Houstonian Hotel Club & Spa in the heart of Houston garnered notice within the industry: it was named #1 Resort Hotel in Texas in Travel + Leisure’s 2022 World’s Best awards, and is a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star urban retreat. The resort’s 27 acres of versatile event space act as a blank canvas for wedding parties to create their breathtaking moments surrounded by the natural elegance of green space. One particularly magical spot is under the Live Oak tree with thousands of twinkling lights.
More green space is found on the 4,000 acres of countryside in Texas Hill Country at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, near Austin. The resort is ranked among the best resorts in Texas — Top 5 Resorts in the Southwest by Condé Nast Traveler, and Top 5 Resorts in Texas in Travel + Leisure’s World's Best Awards 2022. With three ceremony sites and five reception venues, the wide-open Texas sky is the limit when it comes to planning your perfect destination wedding here. Dance the night away under the starts at the Rock House, tucked away in the rolling hills of the Fazio Canyons golf course where it’s just the bride and groom and their beloved family and friends.
Elsewhere in the Texas Hill Country is Hotel Viata, named the #29 hotel in the world by Condé Nast readers in 2022 and just eight miles from downtown Austin, but seemingly a world away. Take advantage of the endless views with an outdoor ceremony and reception, whether in the courtyard with a flowing fountain as a backdrop, or on the luxe poolside deck. Step inside to find grand ballrooms and intimate spaces. Whatever size destination wedding, Hotel Viata will make it unforgettable.
Another option outside of Austin and in Texas Lake and Hill Country is Horseshoe Bay Resort. The lakeside resort boasts numerous outdoor spaces like scenic lawns, intimate patios and waterfront venues to soak in the sunset. Inside, the elegant, chic ballroom may be just what your bride is looking for, or maybe it’s Highlands Bar. Horseshoe Bay also offers creative spaces like the jet center at its private FBO, a party on the putting green, or a reception on its yacht.
With 1,350 miles of coastline and myriad places in between, there are plenty of options when it comes to planning a destination wedding in Florida.
On the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast, TradeWinds Island Grand Resort sits on St. Pete Beach, which is close to both downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa, with two airports serving the area that make traveling in and out a breeze. It’s hard to find a more romantic setting than on the beach with your toes in the sand as the sun sets into the Gulf of Mexico and you say your “I dos.” One fun option is Pirate Island, with swaying palm trees and waterways that set the scene for a rehearsal dinner or bridal party brunch.
If a bridal party is looking fore a unique destination wedding location, look no further than Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, about 25 or 30 miles north of Tampa and St. Pete. Here they’ll find 900 acres of rolling hills featuring four signature golf courses, one of which is where “the wedding tree” is found, the Island 10th Tee Oak Tree. Another option is the Spa Garden Terrace, and there are always the resort’s elegant ballrooms that can be reimagined to reflect any bride’s style.
The newlyweds can ride off into the sunset on a golf cart at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, on Florida’s East Coast. A recent $100 million dollar transformation restyled all of the resort’s event spaces, including indoor ballrooms and outdoor venues like the Lakeside Lawn, considered the most picturesque venue, and the Masters Terrace. A unique space for intimate gatherings is the cabanas next to Spa Waters of the World with its tranquil mineral pools — the perfect spot for couples who want to start their wedded bliss with a sense of serenity.
Lush forests, rugged coastline, urban spaces and laidback vibes… you’ll find it all in California, and with hotels and resorts to match.
The neutral color palettes at L'Auberge Del Mar lend themselves to transforming interior spaces into the perfect places for destination weddings that land in San Diego. A handful of outdoor spaces, accommodating 20 to 200 guests, provide sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, an idyllic backdrop for ceremonies and receptions. Another fun option is the Del Mar Train Station, built in 1912 and the perfect setting for a couple on the go.
In Los Angeles, Terranea sits on 102 awe-inspiring, oceanfront acres on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, with 270-degree jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. With 75,000 square feet of beautiful oceanfront venues, and inside spaces that go as big as the 18,000-square-foot Palos Verdes Grand Ballroom, there are plenty of places for ceremonies and receptions, from intimate gatherings to parties that go all-out.
The Ojai Valley Inn sits on 220 oak-studded acres in a coastal valley with Topatopa Mountains rising up behind it, all of which make for a dramatic setting for that special day. Both the Hacienda Courtyard and Artist Cottage Lawn feature mountain views, while The Farmhouse Lawn offers rustic charm with a luxurious elegance. Make the most of a destination wedding by arranging treatments at Spa Ojai, going for a bridal party hike, or blending a signature scent at Artist Cottage & Apothecary.
Get a taste of the Caribbean while leaving the passports behind with a destination wedding in Puerto Rico.
Transporting wedding guests to the Royal Sonesta San Juan is easy — the resort is just two miles from the airport. That said, it’s its own tranquil, tropical oasis overlooking palm-fringed Isla Verde Beach and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. Imagine a sunset ceremony on the beach followed by a reception in one of the dazzling ballrooms or take over any of the 24,000 square feet of flexible event space. Bridal parties and their guests will enjoy the resort’s seven restaurants and bars, a lagoon-style pool with a swim-up bar, and elegant guest rooms and suites.
Just three miles from the airport is Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, an oceanfront urban luxury resort built in 1919. Though an historic space, all of the modern conveniences are at the ready, as is the hotel's 11,000 square feet of outdoor, oceanfront event space, which can be transformed to make any tropical destination wedding dreams come true. Expansive and luxurious guest rooms and suites, unsurpassed culinary experiences and exquisite service make everyone feel like it’s their big day, too.
The Rocky Mountains reach to the sky in Colorado, making for incredible wedding photos any time of the year.
For more than 100 years, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs has welcomed guests from around the world into its opulent spaces. In more recent history, the resort has the privilege of being the longest-running Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond Resort in the world. Wedding venues can be found throughout the resort’s 5,000 acres on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains and the Cheyenne Mountain foothills, like the Cheyenne Lodge Terrace that feels like you’re in the remote wilderness, the Fish House on the East Golf Course with stunning lake and mountain views, or Pauline Chapel with an impressive religious art collection, to name a few.
They say, “Virginia is for Lovers,” which makes the state with Atlantic Coast beaches, Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains and horse country among its landscapes a terrific place to tie the knot.
A National Historic Landmark, The Omni Homestead Resort welcomed its first guests a decade before the American Revolution, and has been welcoming them for more than 250 years since. Bridal parties and their guests can soak in the atmosphere at the resort’s Warm Springs Pools, which recently underwent a $4 million rehabilitation, before the festivities begin. Speaking of festivities, the resort has 12 distinct wedding spaces, with the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop, on its 2,300-acre estate.
Drink in Virginia’s horse and wine country at the Salamander Resort & Spa, about an hour from Washington, D.C. With 60,000 square feet of outdoor event space, and 15,000 square feet inside, the resort is ready to host weddings and fetes of any size and style. Imagine an elegant rehearsal dinner in the Equestrian Center, a reception in the Culinary Garden, or a cocktail reception in the Library. The sky’s the limit at Salamander.
Just eight miles from Dulles International Airport is the Lansdowne Resort and Spa, a spa, golf and wellness retreat on 500 acres overlooking the Potomac River Valley. The resort’s outdoor and indoor spaces are perfect for saying “I do,” and can be transformed to reflect any bride’s vision. The sweeping property offers myriad idyllic spots for photo opps, ensuring memories of the day last a lifetime.