Getting married somewhere other than the bride's hometown is a fast-growing trend. The trend first emerged about 10 years ago among second-time and older brides; now more first-time brides and grooms are planning weddingmoons in exotic locales. Can't decide where to go? Caribbean Cruisesare a great way to visit many locations to help you choose the perfect place.
There is plenty to love about these globe-trotting weddings. "People don't necessarily live in the same town where they grew up," says Bratten. Since so many people, including the couple, have to travel for the wedding, why not go somewhere really exciting? "It makes it a vacation for everyone," Bratten adds.
Depending where a couple decides to exchange vows, these runaway weddings can really simplify plans. For starters, it's an excuse to whittle down the guest list. While the average wedding has 200 people, according to Bride's destination weddings have 30 to 40 guests, tops.
Although exchanging vows in a tropical beach seems like the champagne lifestyle of the rich and famous, these celebrations "can be very budget-friendly," Bratten notes. Weddings have become big business for many resorts, which offer special packages and even the services of an on-site wedding coordinator to oversee the details.
And those niggling details are crucial when you get married outside the United States.
Apparently, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall's wedding coordinator (assuming they had one) overlooked a few key matters when they exchanged vows in a Hindu ceremony in Bali in 1990. When Hall sued for divorce in 1999, it was discovered that the couple never completed the civil paperwork required by Indonesian law. Whoops! Turns out the rocker and model were never married after all.
The Caribbean and Hawaii top the list of warm-weather locations where couples can hitch together wedding and honeymoon festivities according to The Most Romantic Resorts for Destination Weddings, Marriage Renewals & Honeymoons. While Hawaii simply requires a driver's license to obtain a marriage license, couples should check the individual requirements of each country in the Caribbean.
While many Caribbean countries have relaxed their residency requirements and simplified the paperwork foreign couples must complete, requirements still vary from country to country. Want to get married in the French West Indies? One of you needs to be a resident for 30 days, plus you'll both need to provide birth certificates, a "certificate of good conduct," medical certificates and French translations of all English documents. And don't forget the blood test. Other Caribbean countries have residency requirements ranging from 24 hours to 10 days. The good news is, most of the major resorts have wedding coordinators to walk you through the process and even file the necessary paperwork. Some packages include accommodations; others are offered as an add-on.
At the Lodge at Koele and The Manele Bay Hotel, both on the island of Lanai in Hawaii, wedding packages are $2,500 with a two-night minimum stay. That covers the services of a wedding coordinator, flowers, minister, wedding license appointment, photography, catering and other details.
Old World Charm
Some couples have romantic dreams of saying "We do" in a Scottish castle, French chateau or Italian villa. Unlike Hawaii, or even the Caribbean, getting married in Europe is "a little more difficult," says Bratten. "Details that are trying enough in your own country are that much more difficult in another language."
Her advice: "In every case, contact the tourist board and request a list of requirements to get married in that country."
Sometimes you can pull that information off the Web. The French Government Tourist Office site (www.francetourism.com) has a page detailing that country's convoluted marriage requirements. In France,for example, a civil ceremony is mandatory, since religious ceremonies are not legally binding.
Other French requirements include that at least one of you establish residency in the town in which you plan to marry for 40 days (30 days residency, plus another 10 to publish the marriage banns). All documents (birth certificates, etc.) must be translated into French as well. Other European countries have their own requirements.
For this reason, Bratten says, you'll need to allow more time to plan the wedding. Although faxes and e-mails can help expedite the process, couples may find they need extra time to arrange a religious ceremony or secure that dream castle.
Get What You Pay For
While an exotic wedding may be simpler in some ways, it also raises some new issues. As with any wedding, be sure to get everything in writing.
Visit the destination before you decide to get married there. It's one thing to dream of a wedding on the beach, or at a crumbling old villa; it's another to deal with the reality.
Double-check the marriage requirements for any location. Even in the United States, requirements vary from state to state.
--If you go with a resort package, be sure you understand exactly what package prices cover.
--Also, get the price of any extras in writing. You may choose to add personalized touches to a package or upgrade a few items.
--Find out if the resort can offer a discount on a block of rooms for guests. Some resorts may also work with airlines to arrange special airfares.
--Pack accordingly. Warm-weather locales demand a lightweight wedding dress. Similarly, consider the surface when choosing footwear. You don't want to negotiate sand in a pair of heels. Also, opt for a simple hairstyle and headdress to stand up to a breeze.
--Be sure the location offers an indoor setting as a backup in case of rain.
--When you arrive a few days early, remember to use plenty of sunscreen. You don't want sunburned faces turning up in the wedding pictures.