Under-the-Radar Destination Wedding Locations For 2017
Thinking of getting married somewhere other than your hometown? You're in good company — according to The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Survey, there are more than 340,000 destination weddings each year.
Whether you plan a semidestination celebration here in the continental United States, elope with just the two of you to an international locale, or turn your nuptials into a fun-filled vacay with your nearest and dearest, we've got just the ticket.
We consulted with wedding pros on the most creative places where couples are getting hitched this year, along with top venue picks and crowd-pleasing activities. From jaw-dropping natural scenery to architectural marvels to historic landmarks, the world is your oyster.
Why We Love It: Annapolis is a nautical bride's dream, with sailboats as far as the eye can see, waterfront restaurants, and spectacular vistas of the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to being the sailing capital of the U.S., this historic town is replete with cobblestone streets, flower gardens, and more 18th-century brick homes than any other city in the nation. "It feels like a cross between San Diego and Nantucket," says Mike Busada from Mike B Photography. Located between Washington and Baltimore, Annapolis is accessible via three major airports.
Where to Get Hitched: Choose from a variety of unique settings for your "I dos," including beachfront locales, sites with a colonial vibe, or even a sunset ceremony on a schooner. The Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and the William Paca House and Gardens are all close to the downtown area, making it convenient for guests to explore the town in their free time. "You could even throw an after-party at a pub or restaurant within walking distance of your reception," Busada says.
Why We Love It: For art-lovers, it just doesn't get much better than Barcelona. The city is world-renowned for its rich artistic heritage and distinctive Gothic-inspired architecture. "With a temperate climate and its unique fusion of beach lifestyle and hip city vibes, it's the perfect location to entertain your guests," Carlson says. In recent years, Barcelona's charms may have fallen under the radar due to more up-and-coming European destinations. However, with the latest outpost of Soho House having opened up in Barcelona at the end of 2016, Carlson believes it's officially back on the list of trending wedding locations.
Where to Get Hitched: The Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona is synonymous with luxury and style. "The hotel will work closely with the two of you to create a one-of-a-kind, personalized celebration. Its restaurant, Moments, won two Michelin star awards for its excellent Catalan cuisine," Carlson says.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Why We Love It: From live music seven nights a week to free-flowing beverage service to mouthwatering Cajun and Creole cuisine, NOLA attracts newlyweds-to-be seeking a fun, laid-back atmosphere for their big day. "There is no hard-and-fast waiting period for couples to tie the knot here, and at times, our pricing can be much lower than larger cities," says Kim Sayatovic from Belladeux Event Design. Heavily influenced by French and Spanish architecture, there are endless stunning backdrops throughout New Orleans to choose from for your wedding photos. Not to mention that since the climate is subtropical nearly year-round, there's always lots of (free!) blooming flowers and lush greenery to enhance your event decor.
Where to Get Hitched: The Audubon Tea Room is a nonconventional venue located in the Garden District, across from a beautiful park with 100-year-old oak trees. All proceeds go toward feeding and housing the animals at the Audubon Zoo. "I had my wedding reception there, and I cannot speak highly enough about the staff and food," Sayatovic says. Insider tip: add the patio to your contract to accommodate a large number of guests.
Why We Love It: Couples seeking a truly off-the-beaten-path locale for their nuptials should look no further than Marrakech. This diverse melting pot boasts ancient medieval architecture, street markets dating back thousands of years (don't miss Old Medina Souks, filled with every treasure you can imagine), and magnificent hotels. "You'll feel like you're walking into a different century yet still have all of the modern amenities at your fingertips. In fact, it might be one of the only places where you’ll see someone riding a donkey down a busy street next to a Ferrari!" says Fabrice Orlando from Cocoon Events Management Group. Direct flights are available from New York City.
Where to Get Hitched: "Private villas are popular for destination weddings. They provide the ultimate luxury setting and beautifully capture the essence of Moroccan culture," Orlando says. Jemaa el-Fnaa is the heartbeat of the city — snake charmers and henna tattoo artists enchant during the day, while at night, you can devour delicious Moroccan street food.
Why We Love It: Nicknamed the "Land of Fire and Ice," Iceland has become an alluring option for destination weddings because it offers memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences for every type of traveler. Where else can you visit snow-covered glaciers and hot springs on the same day? "Southern Iceland is home to dramatic black-sand beaches and lush national parks that draw in adventurous couples, whereas Reykjavik is the best choice for a fun and quirky city experience," Velez says. Iceland is known for its frigid weather, so plan ahead. Most weddings here take place in the summer because the temperature is milder, and there are 22 hours of sunshine in a day. However, September through April offers the best chance to witness the spectacular Northern Lights.
Where to Get Hitched: Embrace the rugged side of the country at Hotel Rangá. "It offers all of the facilities of a modern resort with a log-cabin feel. Amenities include an acclaimed gourmet restaurant and outdoor hot tubs heated by geothermal water," Velez says. Prefer not to stray quite so far? 101 Hotel is a contemporary venue option in the heart of Reykjavik.
Why We Love It: Outdoorsy couples will feel right at home in New Hampshire. Nicknamed the "Switzerland of America," this state offers almost every type of al fresco wedding setting imaginable, including majestic mountains, serene lakes, and lush river valleys and forests. "Although New Hampshire has the smallest coast in the United States, don't be fooled; the ocean views are unparalleled," says Kate Malloy from Malloy Events. Take full advantage of the stunning landscape by planning an outdoor activity with your wedding guests, whether it be hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, or boating.
Where to Get Hitched: "Rustic charm abounds in New Hampshire, with ceremony and reception locations fulfilling the woodland or barn vision of so many clients these days," Malloy says. One such venue is Sandy Island YMCA Camp, located on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. For a nautical-themed bash, check out the Portsmouth Harbor Events and Conference Center.
Why We Love It: With its rural hillside towns, dazzling beaches on the dotted Dalmatian Coast, and vibrant music festivals, Croatia offers romance at every turn. The city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. "It's now most widely known as the location portrayed as the mythical city of 'King's Landing' in the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones," Carlson says. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, Croatia is a sunny destination for most of the year. It's also surprisingly affordable.
Where to Get Hitched: "The newly renovated Excelsior Hotel overlooks the Old Town of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea, guaranteeing your guests spectacular sunset views from their stunning terraces," Carlson says.
Why We Love It: Throwing a vineyard wedding? It's no secret that California produces 90 percent of the nation’s wine, but couples aren't just limited to Napa. For a lesser-known alternative, consider the Livermore Valley. This hidden gem has been in the winery business for over 130 years. In addition to award-winning wineries, the region also features championship golf courses and a bounty of restaurants. Livermore is just an hour east of San Francisco, but it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city thanks to its quaint setting.
Where to Get Hitched: A proud family-run venue for five generations, Wente Vineyards is dedicated to a high level of service and offers six different wedding locations. The weather is beautiful year-round, but keep in mind that the landscape changes as the vineyard matures. "March through May is the best time if you want lush green scenery as the backdrop. June through September is perfect for those who want golden hills with grapes hanging from them. We especially love the period between late September and November, when the grapes have been harvested and the leaves turn into vibrant shades of gold, orange, and red," says Heather Jones from Wente Vineyards.
Why We Love It: Ireland is making its way up the ranks for wedding destinations and with good reason. You'll feel as if you stepped straight into a fairy tale thanks to the Emerald Isle's awe-inspiring landscapes. "From Limerick to Galway, Western Ireland is the idyllic place for couples that want to bask in the glory of historic castles and estates," Velez says. In addition, the country is openly accepting of same-sex weddings. Keep in mind that the climate depends on where you choose to visit (the southwestern coast tends to be the warmest area). No matter where you go, don't forget to bring a raincoat!
Where to Get Hitched: We love the Ashford Castle outside of Galway, which dates back to 1228. "Guests will be blown away by its sprawling lawns, luxurious suites, and amazing amenities," Velez says.
Why We Love It: Puglia is a city located in the heel of Italy's "boot." It's often overshadowed by the rustic charm of Tuscany or the glamorous appeal of Capri. However, "in-the-know travelers come here because it's still a relatively untapped treasure of lush olive groves, sun-dappled vineyards, whitewashed medieval towns, and miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea," says Kylie Carlson, the CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning.
Where to Get Hitched: Make like A-list couple Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel and throw a "la dolce vita" affair at the luxe Borgo Egnazia Hotel. "In a region where food is the star attraction, this is the perfect location for foodies. The venue's stunning artisan craftsmanship reflects authentic Apulian architecture," Carlson says.
Why We Love It: If saying your "I dos" in a tropical locale is your personal definition of heaven, then consider Curaçao. Less touristy than other areas of the Caribbean, the island is ideal for couples who want to plan fun excursions with their guests. "From the Hato Caves’ stalactites to the lush Christoffel National Park to the underwater Mushroom Forest of coral, there is no limit to the adventures a couple can take," Velez says. Also, Curaçao's capital, Willemstad, was voted one of the world's most colorful cities. Although the weather is warm year-round, keep in mind that rainy season occurs from October through February (thankfully, showers tend to be short-lived).
Where to Get Hitched: For wedding receptions, Velez is a fan of Sunscape Curaçao Resort & Spa: "Couples can save big by opting for one of the resort's all-inclusive packages." The sprawling property features eight restaurants, an aquarium, a spa, a casino, a theater, and even an onsite dive center.
Why We Love It: Couples flock to Austin for its live music scene and downtown nightlife. It offers endless entertainment options for a wedding weekend away. "The culture is a mix of hipsters, indie rockers, creatives, tech moguls, politicians, oil barons, and cowboys alike. Austin is all about relaxed fun, and I think that the ideal wedding would embrace that," says Jenny DeMarco from Jenny DeMarco Photography. Since it's located in the middle of the country, it's a great meeting spot for bicoastal families. With 300 days of sunshine a year, newlyweds often take advantage of the stunning hill country scenery and outdoor activities, such as paddleboarding on Town Lake.
Where to Get Hitched: "Brazos Hall is in a prime location of downtown Austin. Its exposed brick and weathered wood floors have the feeling of a Texas honky-tonk in the middle of the city," DeMarco says. Cocktail hour takes place on the rooftop terrace overlooking the skyline. Dinner is hosted in the street-level ballroom, where you can treat your guests to an evening of live music and lots of dancing.
Why We Love It: For a mountain wedding that's not too far from home, you can't beat Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. This destination is a snowy wonderland in winter while picturesque lakes and peaks rule in the summer, making for stellar wedding snapshots no matter which season you choose. "Visit the Banff Gondola, where tourists can hop on an eight-minute ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is also a must-see for those who appreciate nature and history. Often referred to as the birthplace of Banff National Park, it showcases caves and hot springs," Carlson says.
Where to Get Married: "The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a world-famous Gothic masterpiece that adds a touch of grandeur to your big day," Carlson says.
Why We Love It: Thinking of eloping to a far-flung locale? New Zealand is worth the trek thanks to its otherworldly beauty. Visitors can get their fill of mountainous landscapes, sprawling beaches, and urban cities alike. Adrenaline junkies gravitate toward Queenstown, which has earned a reputation as the adventure capital of the world. Couples can take the plunge and go bungee jumping before getting married. Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, January is the best time to get married since the average temperature hovers around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where to Get Hitched: Matakauri Lodge offers spectacular lake and mountain views while still being near urban Queenstown. "With only four luxury suites and six luxury villas (each with its own private terrace), it truly is the perfect venue for an intimate wedding retreat," Velez says.
Why We Love It: England's rolling countryside, rich culture, and cosmopolitan cities have cemented its status as an up-and-coming wedding destination. "Visitors can take in the best view of the city from the London Eye. For enthusiasts of the royal family, there is no better attraction than the Tower of London, where the crown jewels are on display," says Megan Velez from Destination Weddings Travel Group. Beyond the metro area, history buffs can explore castles and other historic sites to their heart's content. While winters here can be chilly, the summer months average an enjoyable 75 degrees, perfect for an outdoor wedding celebration.
Where to Get Hitched: The Grosvenor Hotel was built in 1862 and continues to accommodate travelers from all over the world. It's situated just between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. "The Grosvenor is the ideal venue for couples who want a wedding full of grandeur, with easy access to the nightlife and historical offerings of the downtown area," Velez says.