Sunrise Pool 1

By Lisa Light, International Wedding Concierge, Chatham, N.Y.
With suggestions from JoAnn Gregoli, MBC™, Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli, and Carley Roney, The Knot, New York City

What are today’s hottest spots for destination weddings? 
Here is Wedding Planner Magazine’s Top 10 Destinations—a delightful mixture of ageless gems alongside new and unique places for your couples to consider.

1. Guatemala
In this well-kept secret, couples can choose venues with views of stunning Lake Atitlan, nominated for the “New 7 Wonders of the World,” or dramatic mountains, volcanoes, and some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins on the face of the earth. As a matter of fact, the largest pyramid in the world, El Mirador, is in northern Guatemala—a mere two-day hike through the jungle. Guatemala also offers boutique hotels, romantic coffee plantations, luxurious golf courses and, best of all, the city of Antigua, a United Nation’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site. Its cobblestoned streets wind through a large collection of magnificent colonial buildings and 17th century churches, convents, and monasteries that can be rented very reasonably for wedding celebrations for as many as 1,000 guests.

Top venues: Casa Santo Domingo (, Filadelfia Coffee Resort (, La Reunion Golf Resort 
(, Hotel Atitlan (

Additional options: Hotel el Meson de Maria ( and La Casa Colibri (

Average temps: 72˚F—Guatemala is known as the country of the “eternal spring.”

Legal issues*: Foreigners may be married in Guatemala with a valid passport, birth certificate, and for those who have been previously married, a divorce decree or death certificate that have been authenticated by a Guatemalan Consul in the United States.

Area resources:

Hotspots: Antigua (; La Fonda de la Calle Real in Antigua (; Lake Atitlan (; Tikal (

2. Belize
The largest living coral reef in the world, with over 200 cayes, is located in Belize and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the top snorkeling and diving destinations in the world. Belize is also home to 600 Mayan ruins and is unique because couples can actually be married on the ruins. In addition to exploring the reef and ruins, couples and guests can track jaguars, dive in caves to see ancient Mayan burial grounds, or celebrate their wedding night by sleeping on top of a Mayan temple under a full moon. Belize is authentically exotic.

Top venues: Victoria House (; 
Cayo Espanto (; and 
Hidden Valley Inn (

Average temps: 75-81˚F-; year-round water temperature average 82˚F.

Legal issues*: Foreigners may be married in Belize with a valid passport, birth certificate, and for those who have been previously married, a divorce decree or a death certificate. It is recommended that couples seek the help of a local wedding planner to apply for the license in advance and then present them at the Registrar General in Belize City or the Office of the Solicitor General in Belmopan. One of the party members must be in Belize for at least three days before getting married.

Area resources: Romantic Travel Belize ( and Travel Belize (

Hotspots: San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Cahal Pech, Xunantunich.

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3. Mexico
Mexico has some of the most luxurious hotels and villas, with the best service in the world. Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and the Riviera Maya are the top destinations. Couples will find beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, rich cultural traditions, the finest purveyors, delicious food, a large variety of attractions and festive music.

Top venues: Maroma Hotel ( and Xcaret 

Additional options: Grand Velas (; The St. Regis Punta Mita (; The One and Only Palmilla 
(; and Las Ventanas

Average temps: 85˚F daytime and 80˚F evening, although temperatures vary with altitude. The dry season is from October to May.

Legal issues*: Although there are no residency requirements in Mexico, couples need to arrive three business days prior to their ceremony, because they are required to have blood tests to determine blood type, HIV, and STD status. Most hotel and resort wedding planners will assist with this process. If not, it is recommended that you hire a local wedding planner.

Area resources: Mexico Tourism Board (

Hotspots: Cabo Wabo (, Playa del Carmen for nightlife, Cancun for luxury shopping, Tulum to see the ruins by the sea, and Coco Bongo (

4. Massachusetts
From the renowned islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to Cape Cod, Boston, Plum Island, and the North Shore, Massachusetts has a lot to offer. The Berkshire Mountain region is a growing wedding destination because the fall foliage is second to none. It is so spectacular that notable people from the northeast thought it worthy to build elegant mansions that would only be used for one month a year in order to have front row seats to see the leaves turn. Today, many of those mansions can be “hired” to host weddings. Lenox and Norman Rockwell’s Stockbridge are home to more than a dozen spectacular venues ranging from the Norman Rockwell Museum, Daniel Chester French’s Chesterwood, and Edith Wharton’s The Mount. Lenox is also the home of the acclaimed Canyon Ranch health spa.

Top venues: The Mount (, Wheatleigh 
(, Blantyre (, Stonover Farm 
(, Cranwell Resort Spa and Golf Club (, Norman Rockwell Resort (, The Red Lion Inn (, Chesterwood (, Gedney Farm (, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort (, Hancock Shaker Village

Average temps: The Berkshire region is a four-season destination. Expect 60-70˚F from April –May; 80˚F from June-August; 70-80˚F in September; 60-70˚F in October; and 31-52˚F November-March.

Legal issues*: There is no residency requirement, but there is a three-day waiting period, which means you must get your license three days before the ceremony. Identification (driver’s license, birth certificate, social security numbers) is required as well as divorce or death certificates when applicable. Both bride and groom must appear at the city or town clerk’s office in order to obtain the license.

Area resources: Berkshire Visitors Bureau (, Lenox 
Chamber of Commerce (, Berkshire Chamber of Commerce (, Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce (

Hotspots: The Lion’s Den in the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge Main Street, Chocolate Springs, Kripalu, Tanglewood.

5. Upstate New York
Upstate is anywhere outside of New York City, including the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, the Thousand Islands, Niagara Falls, and the Adirondack Park. The Hudson Valley is actually one of the top wedding destinations in the country, because it is home to over 50 barns that can be rented for weddings and a plethora of historic mansions that housed families like the Roosevelts, the Livingstons, and the Van Burens.

Top venues: Fort Ticonderoga (, Blue Hill Farm (, The Sagamore (, Glenmere Mansion (, Mohonk Mountain 
House (, Circa 1799 Barn (, The Point Resort (, Lake Placid Lodge 
(, Whiteface Lodge 
(, Hall of Springs 
(, The Otesaga (, 
Geneva-on-the-Lake (

Average temps: Upstate New York is a four-season destination. The temperatures depend on season and altitude. Expect cold temperatures and snow Oct.-March; 60-70˚F from April-May; 80˚F from June-August; 70-80˚F in September.

Legal issues*: There are no residency requirements, but there is a 24-hour waiting period between filing for the license and the ceremony. Both parties have to be present when purchasing the license and proof of identity and freedom to be married is required.

Area resources: New York State Tourism (, Hudson Valley Weddings (, Adirondack Weddings (,
Well Wed NY (

Hotspots: Saratoga Performing Arts Center (, Saratoga Race Track (, Double Day Field (, Watkins Glen (, Lake Placid Olympic Center (, Helsinki Hudson (
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6. Italy
The Amalfi Coast, Venice, Florence, Lake Como, and Tuscany have been top destinations for years, however, more recently, Portofino and Sicily have regained some of the limelight thanks to the Orient Express. Most foreigners think of the movie, The Godfather, when they think Sicily—imagining rural, arid terrain and olive trees. However, parts of Sicily are lush and green like the town of Taormina, which has a history as a mecca for artists and writers. It is a small, vibrant city with an amazing Roman amphitheatre, gardens, and cliffside hotels overlooking the sea, like the luxurious Grand Hotel Timeo.

Top venues: Villa D’Este (, Grand Hotel Ambasciatori 
(, Orient Express Hotels (, Hotel Mira Mare (

Additional options: Il Positano ( and Sirenuse (

Average temps: Temperatures range from 30-75˚F depending on the region and the season.

Legal issues*: Foreigners can be legally married in Italy, but it is highly recommended they hire a local wedding planner to assist with the bureaucracy. There is even a disclaimer on the Italy wedding requirements page on the U.S. Department of State website. Couples might consider getting legally married at home and celebrating in Italy.

Area resources: Italy Tourism Bureau (

Hotspots: Ristorante Museo Caruso (, The Island of Capri (, Piazza San Marco 

Jumby 4

7. Jumby Bay, Antigua (
Situated on a private, 300-acre island two miles off the coast of Antigua, this elegant resort focuses on enhancing its lush, natural surroundings and on fostering serene seclusion. Couples can wed on one of the three sandy beaches or reserve the entire island resort.

8. Anguilla: Cap Juluca, Anguilla (
This continues to be a Caribbean gem for weddings. With 18 stark white, Moorish-style villas set against the bright blue sea, this resort looks like no other in the Caribbean. Its long list of celebrity guests guarantees it doesn’t feel like anything else either. Viceroy, Anguilla (, is modern and chic, with private, oceanfront villas. The Sunset Bar is a spectacular place to watch the sun set while sipping fruity rum drinks.

9. Canuan Resort, Canuoan Island in the Heart of the Grenadines (
Although farther away, this resort has unique amenities, such as a stone chapel for weddings, a Monte Carlo-style casino, and stunning views of other islands from its beach. The villas are beautifully appointed and the food is delicious.

Additional options in the Carribbean: Island Outpost Boutique 
Hotels, Jamaica (, Parrot Caye, Turks and 
Caicos (, Amanyara, Turks and Caicos 

Average temps: Temperatures vary island-to-island and depend on altitude, but they average 70-85˚F. Check rainy seasons when researching, although most “rainy” days mean a passing shower.

Legal issues*: Generally, it is easy to be legally married in the Caribbean. Foreigners cannot be legally married on French-ruled islands, but you can always be legally married at home and hold the spiritual ceremony and celebration at the destination of your choice.

Area resources: Caribbean Tourism Organization (, Caribbean Wedding Association (, Caribbean Hotel Association (

Hotspots: Margaritaville, Montego Bay, Jamaica (, 
for rum, dancing, and waterslides; Rick’s Cafe, Negril, Jamaica 
(, for sunsets, rum punch, and cliff diving; 
Sandy Island, Anguilla (, for beach fun 
and barbeque.

10. Bali, Indonesia
Although Bali is a small island, it offers state-of-the-art services as it has access to a lot of worldwide resources. Local entertainment is unique and very affordable. Imagine hiring fire dancers to entertain, women in Balinese costume to greet guests, and Balinese girls processing as flower girls with the bride during the ceremony. Bali also has a tremendous number of luxury hotels and other beautiful venues and a temple on just about every corner.

Top venues: Amanusa, Amandari, and Amankila (, Como Shambhala (, The Chedi Club (, Villa Istana (

Other options: Bvlgari (, Four Seasons (, The Oberoi Bali (, Jimbaran Puri bali by Orient Express (

Average temps: Around 80˚F, with a low of 75˚ and a high of 88˚.

Legal issues*: Marriage laws are quite complicated in Indonesia, so it is recommended to be legally married at home or to hire a wedding planner that specializes in Bali weddings.

Area resources: Tourism Indonesia ( ) and Bali Wedding Blog (

Hotspots: Ku De Ta (, Ubud to shop for arts and crafts, and John Hardy Factory (, a must-see in Mambal. ••

Additional Resources
The Knot Guide to Destination Weddings by Carley Roney and Joann Grigoli,
Destination Bride: A Complete Guide to Planning Your Wedding Anywhere in the World by Lisa Light,

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