Say “I do” to these hotels to create your destination dream wedding.
By Katherine Jacob

For the romantic or adventurous at heart, kindle love and commitment by stepping into a Venetian gondola, walking barefoot into clear turquoise waters or sharing vows on the crisp surface of an ancient glacier.

Destination weddings are increasingly popular. According to Lisa Oliver, sales manager for MLT Vacations, 15 percent of all weddings in the United States are destination weddings held in or outside the U.S. MLT Vacations is a regional preferred AAA Travel partner.

Top: Mexico, with is varied resorts and hotels, is growing in popularity with wedding couples. Karisma Hotels photo

Above: A romantic gondola ride can follow your ceremony in Venice at the luxurious Luna Hotel Baglioni. Hotel Baglioni photo
For the Midwest market, Jamaica is the most popular international site for destination weddings, Oliver said, because couples are not required to have a blood test and need only be in the country two days prior to the wedding. Well-known all-inclusive resorts–like Sandals, SuperClubs and Couples–are in Jamaica, and there are daily flights from Memphis to the island nation through Northwest World Vacations, Oliver said.

Mexico is growing in popularity with couples as a wedding site, according to Oliver. Here, a blood test is required, translation of documents from Spanish to English often is provided, and couples are required to be in the country three days prior to the wedding.

Here are a few of our favorite wedding destinations that are perfect for tying the knot or renewing original vows.

Mayan wedding in Mexico

The Riviera Maya, stretching along the Caribbean Sea for 100 miles, is renowned for its ancient ruins, intense sunsets and vibrant Mayan heritage. For a cultural experience, exchange vows through a traditional Mayan wedding ceremony on Paraiso de la Bonita’s clear turquoise waters and long stretch of talcum sand.

A Mayan wedding is a spiritual celebration where the bride and groom are in contact with nature and the four elements–fire, water, air and earth–representing union and commitment between a couple and the universe. The couple and their guests dress in white as these hues represent purity and integration with nature.

During the traditional ceremony, held at the private ocean setting of this beachfront boutique hotel, regional customs are used and the Mayan language is spoken, including customary music with pre-Hispanic instruments. The focal point of the ceremony is the altar, where four candles are lit on the arch and table corners, representing the cardinal points and the four gods that sustain the Mayan cosmology. The priestess lights the central flame, asks for permission from the guardians and then invites the couple in front of an altar for a cleansing ritual using copal and apple oil to bless the couple with love, happiness and hope. The couple shares gifts, wears floral crowns and makes “love promises.” The ceremony ends with a flower rain over the couple and a gift to the guardians.

A translator is available to explain the ceremony. For example, the groom will give his bride corn and cacao seeds and in return, she hands him tortillas and powder of cacao, symbolically turning the raw material given by her future husband into food.

This AAA five Diamond small luxury hotel is in Puerto Morelos on the Yucatan peninsula near Cancun. It has a dedicated wedding planner who makes all arrangements and handles details of the traditional ceremony and reception. Rates start at $604 per night.

A glacier wedding in Alaska

In the setting sun, a humpback whale breaches against an indigo sky. From the edge of a glacier, clear blue water trickles through a crevasse. These are moments that will make a wedding memorable at Bear Track Inn, a small AAA three Diamond hotel in Alaska’s remote Glacier Bay region.

The log cabin with 14 guest rooms and a spacious lobby overlooking Icy Strait is the ideal setting for an intimate wedding with a small group of friends in a pristine natural setting. Take a float plane to Reid Glacier, strap on boots and exchange vows in an untainted landscape. From this vantage point, various shades of turquoise ice run like veins through the terrain and the serene setting puts the focus on the moment.

For more adventurous couples, take a boat to a quiet cove at Point Adolphus where eagles circle overhead and humpback whales surface while feeding. Get married on the shoreline or exchange vows in kayaks while whales feed around the vessels and breach in the distance.

Return to the inn for a dinner with Alaskan specialties such as Dungeness crab and Alaskan spotted prawns. Bear Track Inn is located in Gustavus, Alaska. Rates start at $544 per night.

A gondola wedding in Venice

Home to Casanova, the most renowned lover, Venice will set any heart aflame. Getting married in Europe’s most romantic city is dreamlike, especially at the luxurious Luna Hotel Baglioni, where St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Rialto bridge are steps away. At night, once the ferries stop running and many tourists leave, the city’s residents stroll along cobblestone streets or dance in the piazza outside Café Florian while the orchestra plays.

In the 12th century, the hotel was known as The Moonlight Tavern and gave comfortable shelter to travelers. Today, it is the oldest hotel in Venice and is the perfect backdrop for a wedding, with original frescoes by students of 18th-century painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in the Salone Marco Polo.

After the wedding ceremony or reception, step into a gondola from the private canal dock at the hotel’s front door and drift underneath arched bridges and past balconies with colorful flowers as the gondolier’s voice echoes down the canals. Return to a candlelight dinner served on a private marble terrace in the Grand Lagune Suite, overlooking the Grand Canal.

The hotel works with Venice Events (www.veniceevents.com) for wedding arrangements, which include an interpreter and assistance with Italian documentation. Couples need to arrive in Venice two days before the wedding to complete paperwork. Three-night honeymoon packages start at about $650 per night.

Katherine Jacob is a contributor from Toronto, Ontario.
Mar/Apr 2008 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO
Let one of AAA Travel’s honeymoon specialists help you reserve your destination wedding. To find the AAA Travel office near you, click on www.AAA.com/travel or call (888) 366-4222.

AAA Travel’s Honeymoon Registry is another option for wedding couples. Plan your honeymoon through AAA Travel, make the initial deposit and receive registry cards to distribute to family and friends. See your AAA honeymoon specialist for details. AAA can also assist you with passports, international driver licenses and travel money to help make your honeymoon stress-free.

More ideas for saying “I do”

By Katherine Jacob

Here are additional ideas–some serene, some silly–for a destination wedding. Your AAA Travel honeymoon specialist can help you find a spot for your special day.

Take the plunge in St. Pete

Given the size of TradeWind Island Resorts at St. Pete Beach in Florida, couples have a large variety of wedding locations from which to choose: ballrooms to beachfronts, gazebo courtyards to beachfront terraces. For those with a whimsical nature, the bride and groom can slide down a three-story waterslide in full wedding attire.

Hawaiian beachfront wedding

The infusion of Hawaiian culture is part of a beachfront wedding at ResortQuest Waimea Plantation Cottages on Kauai. Along with traditional Hawaiian songs and a Polynesian show, a conch shell blower will sound the grand entrance of the bride and 20 Hawaiian butterflies are released. There are many Hawaiian resorts that offer weddings. When doing research, be sure there is an on-site wedding planner to assist with your plans.

Only in Vegas

At the Little White Chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard, couples can select the Tribute to Elvis package for a wedding that’s fit for a king.

Get hitched in a pink convertible at the drive-through Tunnel of Love. “Elvis” will walk brides down the aisle, serenade couples with “Love Me Tender” at the beginning of the ceremony and shake it up with “Teddy Bear” after the marriage vows are spoken. Other ceremony packages conducted in five settings also are available.

Tie the knot on Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay. Disney Cruise Line photo
Just add water to these weddings

By AAA National

If a wedding on the high seas has been a dream of yours, you are among an increasing number of people who are saying “I do” on a cruise, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Most cruise lines offer wedding packages that include such perks as candlelit wedding chapels, photographers, bridal bouquets, wedding cakes and more. Depending on the cruise line, wedding and vow renewals can be conducted by a local officiant while in port on embarkation day. Friends and family can join the couple for the day or opt to come along for the cruise.

Here are some wedding ideas available through selected AAA Preferred Partner cruise lines.

Celebrity Cruises exclusively features Deck Weddings conducted under wedding canopies adorned with flowing white sheers and fresh flowers. The line also offers nuptials and vow renewals at sea where the captain serves as officiant.

Crystal Cruises’ package perks include high-end wines and champagnes, portrait photos, couples massages in Penthouse Deck accommodations and specialty shore tours, such as hot air balloon rides.

Disney Cruise Line Weddings aboard Disney Cruise Line’s two ships are arranged through Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings program, which includes on-site wedding coordinators to assist with ceremonies and receptions. The wedding coordinator can also assist in booking shore excursions and spa appointments for couples. Passengers can also tie the knot on the line’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Princess Cruises is another line that allows captains to marry couples at sea. Couples also can select harbor-side ceremonies in embarkation ports or weddings ashore in select ports. Those guests exchanging vows in shipboard chapels can take advantage of live “wedding cams” to share their special day with family and friends at home.

Contact your local AAA Travel agent and learn more about romantic onboard options. Call (888) 366-4222 for an agent near you.

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