If you’re wondering what the hottest destination wedding locations are, look no further than right here.
I often get asked what trends I see in destination weddings and destination wedding locations. Some spots have changed from the 2017 top destination locations list, and the trend is definitely about couples going farther and farther off the beaten path. More than ever, couples are seeking to add touches to their wedding to make it uniquely theirs, and the location plays a bigger and bigger role in that. The environment, venue, and setting play as much a role in defining the couple’s personality and love as the dress, bouquet or wedding ring. As a destination wedding photographer, most of the weddings I shoot are places I’ve never been before. I love how adventurous my couples have become in choosing their destination wedding locations, a lot of my inspiration for photography comes from a fresh environment where I can see things differently than they’ve been seen before. Every year we make a ‘top 10 destination wedding locations’ list.. and 2018 is no different. We compile it from places we’ve shot, places we’ve been asked to shoot, and locations we’ve seen that are the most popular places to get married.
As a destination wedding photographer, I’m very humbled to travel all over the world with my couples. While most couples choose a location close to friends and family, and I LOVE shooting those weddings too, destination weddings offer a chance for the couple to really step away from everything familiar in order to celebrate their relationships in a different light. From near to far, I’ve made a list of the top 10 destination wedding locations I’ve seen from my experience in the industry and projections for the next year.
- Iceland – Iceland shoots to the top wedding destination location in it’s first year on this list. It’s not long ago when Iceland was considered too cold and too remote for a destination wedding, but couples have been looking for just that – something off the beaten path. We’ve gotten more inquiries for destination weddings in Iceland this year than any other location, making it our top destination wedding location for 2018.
- Maui – Once again Maui makes our top 5 destination wedding locations. It’s just too good to pass up, and the idea of stunning beaches, great food, wonderful hotels while staying in our own country is paradise to many couples. Some of the great resorts to tie the knot here include the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont, Grand Wialea or the Andaz. Maui is the top destination wedding location in Hawaii because it truly offers something for everyone – stunning white beaches and sunsets, snorkeling or parasailing for those that love the water, bamboo forests and a huge national park for those that love the outdoors. Most of my couples that choose a destination wedding in Maui stay for weeks at a time, often making it their honeymoon as well. Venue recommendation for a destination wedding in Maui – Four Seasons Wialea.
- Bora Bora – Everyone loves the South Pacific. Thoughts of sipping a martini on an overwater bungalow, listening to birds chirp while the sun sets fill the mind of engaged couples everywhere. Bora Bora has been a top destination wedding spot for years and is one of only 3 destination wedding locations that has made our list for the last 10 years.
- Napa Valley – No top 10 list would be complete without Napa Valley. Napa has blossomed since the 80s as a top destination worldwide and is my pick for top wedding destination spot in California. It’s close to three huge international airports, making travel for your guests easy. It’s also very close to San Francisco, which offers every luxury of any big city in America. Your guests can make a vacation out of a destination wedding in Napa and Sausalito, Carmel or the California coast. Opulent venues such as the Auberge du Soleil or Calistoga Ranch can showcase the beauty of Napa Valley while hosting weddings of all sizes. In Napa Valley there’s no limit to how magnificent you can imagine your wedding.
- Savannah – The beautiful Southeast cannot be overlooked on a destination wedding list. Many New Yorkers heading to the beautiful coasts of the Carolinas or Charleston rather than the crowded beaches of Florida. Savannah is my top pick for top wedding location as it embodies the quaint charm of the south and the beauty of the ocean. I’ve shot a number of weddings here, and it always comes back as a perfect getaway for couples looking to share their love among the Spanish moss and cobblestone streets of old America.
- Mountain destination wedding – Aspen, Banff, Bachelor Gulch and Yosemite are among popular mountain destination spots that I continue to be a part of over the last few years. It’s a trend that hasn’t gone away and continues to make my list year after year. Mountain destinations aren’t just for the more rugged, outdoor couples, many luxury properties offer a complete experience for the city folk looking to get married among nature. Mountain destination weddings tend to occur off the beaten path, meaning there are fewer bystanders than a beach wedding. Taking the time to get away and capture amazing images like this one is always part of the repertoire when you want to embrace the beauty of a mountain wedding. Venue recommendation for a destination mountain wedding – Auberge Jerome, Ritz-Carlton Aspen, or the Fairmont in Banff.
- Philippines – South Asian weddings have become a popular trend for my couples on the West coast. It’s quite far from the ordinary, which means it offers unprecedented beauty not seen in the States. The beaches are stunningly beautiful and the water is warm. The locals are honest and friendly, and deep sea fishing or diving with whale sharks are just a couple of activities for your destination wedding guests. Venue recommendation for a Philippines wedding – any beach, anywhere in the country.
- Aruba – Stunning beaches, friendly locals, and the warm Caribbean ocean- what could be better? Aruba has become quite popular in the recent years with the addition of new luxury hotels and better infrastructure. The hurricanes that often slam the Caribbean islands tend to miss this locale, making it a safe bet for year-round weddings. Aruba dropped off our top destination weddings list for the last 4 years but is back on it as we have gotten a surprising number of couples looking at this location. Aruba even has Dunkin Donuts, so you can enjoy your Munchkins while listening to a local play a mandolin at sunset. Venue recommendation for Aruba – Ritz-Carlton.
- New York City – The city that never sleeps is also the city that never has an offseason. Year-round weddings, access to the best planners, and some of the world’s top venues make NYC one of the top destination wedding spots for 2018. Service is unsurpassed at every level, and a health-conscious movement makes it easier than ever for gluten-free, vegan, or other dietary restrictions to wed with ease. Everyone in the world loves to visit New York City, so your guests will be delighted when they open their wedding invitation to find that they get a trip to the Big Apple along with an amazing wedding experience. I really can’t say enough great things about a destination wedding in New York City, even locals stay in town to enjoy the splendor of America’s largest city.
- Costa Rica – This stunning destination rounds out our 2018 top destination wedding locations list. Costa Rica has been an ultra popular location for years and remains strong as a choice for couples looking to get married somewhere warm, tropical, and visually stunning. Fro my recollection of the destination weddings I’ve shot in Costa Rica, The locals are extremely honest, there’s a ton to do, and the resorts there are top notch. Resort recommendation for destination weddings in Costa Rica – Four Seasons Papagayo Peninsula.
If you’re getting married – we congratulate you! If you’re tying the knot at one of these amazing locations, we’re already familiar with the area and would love to be a part of your special day. Please reach out to us, we’d love to be a part of your wedding and get you images like these. No matter what destination you pick for your wedding, you can’t go wrong if you’re surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. Wishing you the best for your wedding, anywhere and everywhere.
Getting married or know someone who is? We’d love to be a part of it! Drop us a line here to start your wedding experience.
Article by Clane Gessel Photography