WHAT'S TO LOVE Yes, the Riviera Maya is beautiful. But this 75-mile
stretch of beaches, bays and inlets on the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula
is so much more than storybook pretty. Those who visit literally feel the
passion emanating from a region that combines mystical remnants of an
ancient culture with lush, tropical jungle, gorgeous, unspoiled beaches
capped by the world’s second largest reef, and quaint villages.
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY If you picture a wedding on the beautiful
beaches of Riviera Maya but still want the luxuries of home for yourself
and your guests, then plan your destination wedding at El Taj Oceanfront
& Beachside Condo Hotel (eltaj.com) in Playa del Carmen.
Couples wanting a spiritual connection should opt for the Mayan
Cosmic Wedding. Following ancient ceremonial wedding rites, the bride
and groom are presented to the seven directions: The four winds (north,
south, east, west), up to the superior cosmic energy (masculine), down to
Mother Earth (feminine), and inside to their hearts or the superior
being. The ceremony takes place inside a circle of family and friends who
are asked to join in prayer for this special union. Following the ceremony,
modern décor and palm trees strung with lights will be the setting for
your cocktail hour and later everyone can follow the lead of a mariachi band to Wicky’s Beach Club (wickysplayadelcarmen.com) to dine on delicious
fare such as shrimp ceviche shots and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. After the
last dance, settle into the luxurious condos of El Taj—part of Condo Hotels
(condohotelsplayadelcarmen.com)—complete with full kitchens, a living
room and outdoor hot tub.
SPECIAL TOUCHES Activities are plentiful in Riviera Maya and if you are
looking to create an itinerary for your guests be sure to include a tour to with
Sian Ka’an Tours (siankaantours.org), which provides trips through the
ancient Sian Ka’an canals. Tour guides provide a fascinating history of the
land and the Mayan culture. For animal lovers plan a boat ride to see the
manatees in one of the local cenotes (underwater sinkholes) or visit Punta
Venado (puntavenado.com) where a local cowboy will lead you on a horseback
riding adventure through trails and along the beach. Finish off the day
with burgers, fries and lively music at Tequila Barrel (tequilabarrel.com) on
the famed 5th Avenue, just a short walk from El Taj. —Stacy Holz
WHAT’S TO LOVE In Spanish encantado means “enchanted” and this
Auberge Resort’s (encantadoresort.com) setting will quickly have you under
its spell. Luxury casitas have indoor and terrace wood-burning fireplaces, and
décor that mimics the lands’ natural earth tones and sunsets, and exudes
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY Imagine a ceremony at Juniper Mesa,
perched above property, overlooking the valley, with the Sangre de Cristo
Mountains as a stunning backdrop, or the Aspen Ballroom’s floor to ceiling
fireplace with multi-layers of candles will amaze. For intimate gatherings, the
Pinon, the private dining room at the award-winning Terra Restaurant, features
a terrace for guests to enjoy cocktails and sunsets. Later, invite friends
and family to dine at the on-site LewAllen Contemporary Gallery amid
SPECIAL TOUCHES At the VIP Green Room Concierge Lounge you can
plan your activities. Enjoy a massage, chef prepared meal, Champagne and
truffles, private sauna and soaking tub. Ah, wedded bliss!—Gerrie Summers
THE FLORIDA KEYS
WHAT’S TO LOVE Florida’s Keys are beloved for their white sand and
turquoise waters, as well as the truly fun-loving vibe. Stretching for more 120
miles off the mainland coast, these isles make visitors forget they’re still in the
U.S. Incredibly beautiful resorts dot such well-known locations as Key Largo,
Islamorada, Key West, Marathon that make up the archipelago.
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY At Hawks Cay (hawkscay.com) on Duck
Key, you can host a wedding on the beach at sunset, at the gazebo, or poolside.
Then cruise in style and enter your reception on the resort’s own catamaran,
Blue. The 60-acre private island retreat offers something for every taste.
Wedding menu selections can highlight cuisine from any one of the resort’s
five restaurants, which range from ultra-casual beach bar food to more formal
Latin fusion dishes.
SPECIAL TOUCHES Of course there is always time to explore the private
beach, unwinding in the enormous water-therapy spa or relaxing in an oceanfront
cottage. —Patricia Canole
WHAT’S TO LOVE Hosting a destination wedding doesn’t necessarily mean
leave the good ole U.S.A. Southern California, for example, offers ideal
weather and postcard-perfect setting for every taste.
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY Surrounded by rolling hills and the commanding
Topatopa Mountains, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (ojairesort.com)
has been a favorite wedding location for the Hollywood set since 1923. The
220 acres of the Spanish colonial-style resort offer several ceremony and
reception options. For an intimate weekend, host a small group at the private
residence originally built for the owners of the resort. The estate home features
four bedrooms, a dining room, a hair salon and massage studio, plus a
private pool and Jacuzzi. Another option is the property’s herb garden, a
three-acre stretch perfumed by the scents of lavender, geranium, rosemary
and sixty-three other herbs, can accommodate a ceremony for an intimate
wedding. Larger parties of up to 350 may be held on the resort’s great lawn.
If you’ve longed for a sunny ceremony among the rolling hills and vineyards
of Tuscany, but found your budget wouldn’t cooperate, don’t despair. The
76-room South Coast Winery Resort & Spa (wineresort.com) in Temecula
Valley offers rough-hewn beamed ceilings, red-tiled roofs, wrought-iron
accents and sun-drenched gardens. Have your ceremony on the sweeping
staircase beneath the dramatic bell tower (they’ll ring the bell to announce
your marriage) or on the grass near the Rose Arbor or Winery Garden. Then
celebrate under the stars on the brick courtyard or in one of the ballrooms
featuring sweeping views and ornate vaulted ceilings.
SPECIAL TOUCHES Both locations offer couples and their guests
plenty of activities. Ojai Valley offers guests a world-class spa, tennis and
golf. With a stay at South Coast Winery, there are practically endless hiking
and biking trails in the nearby Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The
surrounding Temecula Valley wine country also features more wineries for
tastings and tours. —P.C.
WHY WE LOVE IT If sun, warm weather and gorgeous scenery are on your
list of destination wedding musts, you need look no further than the St. Croix
in the United States Virgin Islands. White sand as powdery and fine as confectioner’s
sugar, waters that range from sapphire blue to turquoise are all at
your fingertips. For a beachside ceremony, you couldn’t get a better location.
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY A stay on St. Croix offers Caribbean hospitality
and ambiance with the ease of home—and its accommodation reflect
that feeling. The Buccaneer (thebuccaneer.com), once the residence of
Alexander Hamilton, is the Caribbean’s oldest continuously operated hotel.
Featuring spacious rooms and located near the Danish-built port of
Christiansted, the hotels sits on 340 acres and encompasses three gorgeous
beaches. Wedding options at the resort include The Sugar Mill Wedding, a
romantic sunset wedding on the palm tree-lined Mermaid Beach, followed
by an elegant candlelit dinner reception under the stars in the old sugar mill.
There’s also The Hibiscus Wedding, a reception at one of the resort’s restaurants
and a next day couple’s massage. The Buccaneer also offers a traditional
Jump the Broom ceremony, which is popular with African-American and
Caribbean couples. Just the two of you? Then opt for the stress-free Elope to
Paradise Wedding that includes an intimate ceremony on the beach or at the
historic sugar mill.
SPECIAL TOUCHES Brides are encouraged to go online and use the Spa
Reservation Form to select treatments before arrival at the Hideaway Spa for
their wedding party. Enjoy a relaxing day for the body, mind, and soul with a
wide variety of services including the Deep Tissue Massage and the popular
Mango Madness Pedicure. New to the spa menu is the Bamboo Massage
which uses tools of different shapes developed especially for rolling and crisscross
CABO SAN LUCAS
WHAT’S TO LOVE On your wedding day you deserve the best, and that is
exactly what Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa (grandsolmarresort.
com) delivers. Built into natural rock formations, this cliffside hacienda-style
resort offers unsurpassed luxury, beauty and an impossibly blue ocean paired
with golden sands—the trifecta for fairytale weddings.
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY A Romance Coordinator will ensure that
every detail of your wedding for up to 50 guests will be perfection. The
Wedding Terrace provides an unforgettable location for this cherished day.
Choose from several packages like the popular Intimate Wedding (for up to
20 guests) which includes a beautiful beach wedding, a boutonniere for the
groom, and the service of the Wedding Coordinator to personalize your
The all-inclusive resort features genteel old world Mexican décor, 119 suites
with private terraces, royal garden landscape, beachfront Jacuzzi and hammocks,
water sports, horseback riding, and easy access to lively downtown
Cabo San Lucas. Experience a couple’s spa treatment in the sanctuary of the
natural rock garden where you can gaze upon an Indian rock head that has
rested here since Baja California Sur was formed! —Sherry Amatenstein
WHAT’S TO LOVE Romance is always alive in the pristine mountain air at
the Trapp Family Lodge (trapplodge.com), set on endless acres above what
may be America’s most perfect town—Stowe, Vermont. And, yes, the Von
Trapps are the singing family from The Sound of Music. The lodge, reminiscent
of an exquisite alpine chalet, is brimming with memorabilia from the
years the Von Trapp Family Singers toured the world. Today, its proprietor is
hotelier extraordinaire, Johannes, the youngest child born to Maria and
Georg Von Trapp and their only child to be born in the U.S.
WHAT’S WEDDING WORTHY Destination weddings are a specialty at the
Lodge, where couples can customize their ceremonies. Popular ceremonies
are outside with a beautiful backdrop of the Green Mountains. Continue the
bliss as you both honeymoon in one of the Lodge’s romantic suites, which
feature wood-burning fireplaces and breathtaking views of nature at her very
best—and where each season brings its own unique charm to this magical
SPECIAL TOUCHES: Wedding parties can enjoy myriad activities at the
resort. Hike or cross-country ski the miles of trails, then relax in the fullservice
spa with a romantic couples massage. Hoist a stein of Trapp Lager,
brewed on premises followed by a dinner featuring some of the best food
served this side of Austria. Explore the picture-perfect town of Stowe at the
foot of the mountain. You will definitely come away from the Lodge with
many, many more—favorite things. —Clint Brownfield✦