• Destination weddings are becoming more popular than ever
Your dream of a destination wedding may take you as close as Mackinac Island in Michigan or as far away as St. Lucia, Hawaii or another exotic location.
The best part about a destination wedding is that it combines the best of both worlds: a glamorous wedding and honeymoon, plus a manageable guest list.
Your destination wedding can be as individual and creative as you are. It can involve just the "eloping" couple, a few close friends and family or a full blowout affair with multiple parties over an extended wedding weekend.
Popular destination weddings in the U.S. include Las Vegas, Florida, California and Hawaii. According to Destination Wedding expert Diane Roberts, manager of Superior Travel's Fenton office, the most popular locations outside the U.S. are Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and St. Lucia.
If you'd like a destination wedding closer to home in Michigan, popular locations include Mackinac Island, The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Torch Lake in Clearwater Township and many waterfront sites along the western side of the state.
While a destination wedding can be an ideal solution to your wedding plans, it has its pros and cons.
* A complete package
Many resorts and tourism groups offer complimentary services of an on-site wedding consultant to help you coordinate all aspects of your wedding — from the marriage license to the cake, officiant, etc. Your wedding coordinator may also help organize activities for your guests, such as sightseeing, excursions, sporting events, shopping and/or spa services.
Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean offers couples the flexibility to either design their own wedding or choose from pre-designed wedding themes to keep it simple.
When couples book a certain number of rooms at the resort, Sandals will offer a free wedding package that includes a table set for four with a centerpiece and wedding cake. A wedding catalog offers a huge variety of options for a more custom design.
* Less stressful family situations
With a smaller guest list, you aren't "forced" to invite extended family members or acquaintances. In fact, some destination weddings involve only the couple themselves, who can then send pictures.
"Most of the destination weddings we plan are for a group of about 20, including the bride and groom, close family and friends," said Roberts. "They make a vacation out of it."
* Saving money
Spending a luxurious wedding weekend in a dramatic location can often cost less than a seated dinner at a nice location.
While some etiquette experts suggest that the hosting bride and groom pay for hotel and food expenses for destination wedding guests, Roberts' experience in planning these events is that guests assume those expenses themselves, including airfare. "Sometimes, hosting families will pay expenses for the officiant and photographer," she said.
* You can enjoy a nice honeymoon
Since you won't be hosting a huge wedding reception for hundreds of people, you can enjoy a trip of a lifetime to your choice of a glamorous location. Best of all, you'll have good reason to return there for many milestone anniversary trips.
* Long-distance planning and legalities
You'll have to juggle all the details yourself long-distance, unless you have the help of a travel agent and wedding coordinator who can guide you through some of the hoops.
Also, some countries have their own laws that can make planning difficult and more costly. For example, Jamaica requires couples to have a 72-hour residency before the wedding, and Mexico requires blood tests to be taken there.
"Some of our couples actually get married in the U.S. by a justice of the peace before their destination wedding, just to avoid all the legal issues of getting married out of the country," said Roberts. "Then they'll get married symbolically at their destination wedding."
For more information about laws in popular destinations, visit: the marriage site at about.com.
* Family members and friends you love may not be able to be there
Some guests may not be able to attend due to the expense, getting time off work or for health/medical reasons. Talk to your essential guests before finalizing your plans to make sure you'll be happy with who can come or can't come.
* Honeymoon interrupted
Will you have enough romantic time alone with so many guests in the same place? It will require planning, but maybe arrive a few days before everyone else does, or have a honeymoon off-site afterwards. Plan interesting excursions for your wedding party, while you and your new spouse have some "couple time."
"Some of our couples actually get married in the U.S. by a justice of the peace before their destination wedding, just to avoid all the legal issues of getting married out of the country. Then they'll get married symbolically at their destination wedding."
Destination wedding travel planner