The basic definition of destination weddings will often be: A wedding held in a destination, that is not the couples hometown. Hmm. Sounds a bit not so exotic to me. Or this definition: A destination wedding is a wedding held more than 100 miles from where the couple lives. Kind of the same, right?
Here’s the thing. The above definitions are just the general idea of a destination wedding. It is very non specific and it doesn’t really get you much closer to what the term means.
You will find different definitions from planner to planner, form photographer to photographer, from blog to blog.
But I’m sure they will all agree on one thing: It’s about doing something else.
1: It takes place in a setting far from home and everyone stays for the number of days it is planned for.
2: You want to do something else. And you decide what that else is. The traditional wedding is maybe not quite your thing, even if there are some elements you like. You want to be able to create the wedding you dream of, without having to adhere to a template or other peoples expectations.
3: You have fewer guests. In my definition it is an absolute cap of 50 guests. A destination wedding is a bubble centered around you two and your love. When there are too many guests, it often becomes about tending to their needs and making them comfortable. And the love bubble bursts.
Like I said, it’s a bubble. A bubble with the focus on the two of you. The main idea of a destination wedding, is to take the stress out of planning. It’s about you just enjoying some time with the people you love. Who all are there, because they love YOU too.
There are especially two reason, that being for from home is awesome. When you are in a foreign environment that is different from your every day lives, you enter another state of mind. You – and your guests – become more present in the moment. And since everyone is far from home, no one will be tempted to cut the event short, because they have other plans. They are here for you. And frankly, from experience, those who would cut your wedding short, also most likely won’t be the ones travelling far for you.
Can you imagine you all burying your toes in the sand, sipping Mai Tai’s at the beach or breathing in frost clear air, knee deep in the snow outside your warm and cosy lodge. Whatever you can imagine as your perfect day, is what we create. That is what destination weddings are all about.
This is something different from the normal wedding, where you might spend six hours dining and three hours dancing with a lot people, also the ones you had to invite, because your parents wanted you too. A destination wedding is you spending perhaps days of hanging out, having great experiences and doing fun activities with the people you hold dearest and nearest. Typically there are fewer guests at a destination wedding. Of course you can have 200 people come to a vineyard in France if you want to. But most often it is a lot fewer. I only photograph weddings with a max of 50 guests, because I wish to work with clients who want something else, something special. And who do this to avoid the ‘production’ feel of a bigger wedding. For me it is very much a mindset thing.
Every elopement is a destination wedding, but not every destination wedding is an elopement. They are both born from a desire to have a different experience, but there are two big differences. An elopement has even fewer guests. I define the guest count for elopements from just the couple and up to 15-20 people. The second difference is, that an elopement often is more designed around activities. This could be exploring a city and the wonders that city has to offer or hiking a mountain, camping out under a starlit sky. Things that can be hard to do, if you are 30-40 people. Read more on elopements here and how to plan them here.
But an important thing to note, is that these definitions are just guidelines and absolutely not rules. They are meant as inspiration and ideas to start planning from. It is as described, the mindset behind you wanting this adventure, that is important.
Unless you are very familiar with the local area you are eloping to, I highly recommend hiring a wedding planner. When planning a wedding from a distance you might face some additional challenges and logistics, so hire a planner who has experience with destination weddings and a trusted network of local vendors. I recommend Nadia from Amulet Events for wedding in Austria, Norway and Sweden and Katrine Brenne for weddings in Italy.
The cost of a destination wedding is not that far from a classic wedding, but the things you spend your savings on can be very different. Not following the templates of a classic wedding, you can forgo things as center pieces, printed menues, special cutlery, etc. Or you can of course have them. It is not like, because you have non traditional wedding, you can’t include any traditions. Of course you can. No rules, remember.
Typically the guests pay their own travel expenses and sometimes also accommodations. That will be your call, you know your gang best. And depending on your budget, you might take care of accommodation partly or completely. You wanna host of course the main event meal. And in general take care of most of the meals, when you are all dining together. It’s also thoughtful to take care of transportation in the local area and some pre-planned activities.
A lot of things play in as a factor, first and foremost, where you wanna go, for how long and with whom. And from there you can make it as you want. A beer and pizza wedding in a local shack with coloured lights or fine dining at a restaurant with a spectacular view.