Photos by our amazing friend and photographer: Frankee Victoria Photography
From the moment we got engaged on the black sand beach in Iceland, we knew that a "normal" wedding wasn't for us. Our relationship has always been centered around our mutual love for travel and adventure, so it was an easy decision to incorporate these things into our wedding. We firmly believe that there are no rules in wedding planning. Do what makes you happy. Period.
We've put together some tips to hopefully help you plan your own adventure destination wedding! Enjoy!
Before we could do anything else, we had to decide who we were going to invite to our destination wedding. We talked about how romantic it would be to elope just the two of us. We would only have to plan the trip for two people (something we've gotten really good at) and we could save a lot of money. We talked with our families and were surprised when everyone was up for whatever adventure we decided to take them on. And ultimately, we decided that having our closest family members present at our wedding was important to us. We thought about how memorable it would be to go on a week-long trip with our two families to a place that none of us had been before. In the end, we had twelve people come with us.
If you're unsure about whether your want to elope or invite guests, we suggest having an open discussion with your families. Know that it's possible that not everyone will be able to come (whether for money reasons or difficulty getting time off work). We set our wedding date almost a year and a half in advance to give our families time to save up and to make sure they could take a week off work.
Where to Go?
Choosing the destination for our destination wedding was one of the most difficult decisions we made, but also the fun part! We spent hours and hours exploring maps, Google image search, TripAdvisor, and even Pinterest. In the beginning, we were positive that we were going to have our destination wedding in Marrakech, Morocco. We found an amazing venue in the desert, complete with canvas tents (we're big fans of glamping), camels, a traditional Berber band, and of course some incredible Moroccan food.
But then we came across a photo of Isle of Skye, Scotland... And we were torn.
We called a family meeting, complete with two A+ PowerPoints outlining each location. It came down to a family vote and Isle of Skye won! (And we ended up going to Marrakech for our honeymoon, so win-win!)
Again, this is one of those times when you should choose the destination that inspires you and makes you the happiest. Maybe Yosemite has always been your favorite National Park, or maybe you've always wanted to hike a volcano in Hawaii. Choose a place that excites you and will act as the perfect backdrop for what the day is really about: Marrying your best friend.
You have so many options when it comes to your venue! You can find a traditional venue to host your ceremony and reception, you could find a hotel or resort with a wedding package, or you can do what we did and have your ceremony on a cliff and then rent an AirBnb for your lodging and reception. As we've mentioned multiple times already, there are no rules.
Isle of Skye has a couple castles that can host weddings, and they're amazing. But they didn't feel very us. We imagined hiking to an awe-inspiring location to exchange our vows and then returning to a cozy home for dinner. That's what's so exciting about eloping or having an intimate wedding, you don't have to have a real venue at all! You can head out into nature and say your vows, trust us, it's incredible! We do suggest doing some research on whether or not you will need a permit to do this. For example, some National Parks require a permit, but it's usually pretty affordable (less than $200).
We found that renting through AirBnb was surprisingly affordable. We rented three homes that were within 15 minutes of each other for the three nights we spent in Isle of Skye. This gave everyone the freedom to cook meals in their kitchen, which saved money, and was a really fun way for our families to get to know each other a little better. The largest house was where we got ready before the ceremony and then returned to for our reception.
If you do decide to rent an AirBnb for your wedding, we suggest paying close attention to the photos in the listing. This house will serve as the backdrop for all of your photos and videos taken during the day. So it's good for the house to fit your style as well (or even the style of your location). Also, take a look at the amenities provided. Is there an iron and a hair dryer, or will you have to bring your own? We found that having a washer and dryer was important because of Scotland's wet climate. Before requesting to book on AirBnb, we suggest messaging the host and telling them about your plan just to make sure they're okay with you having a (potentially) large group of people at their home. Our AirBnb hosts ended up being wonderful and gave us many sightseeing and restaurant suggestions.
The Legal Stuff
If you are from the US and plan on having your destination wedding in another state, you can pick up your marriage license in your destination state. So make sure to allow yourself some time to do this! In most states, you will need to have an officiant sign your marriage license. States such as Colorado and Pennsylvania allow you to "self solemnize" your marriage. This means that you are not required to have an officiant or any witnesses.
If you are getting married outside of your home country, we recommend getting legally married before you leave the country. Some countries may be easier than others, but in Scotland, we found that you need a special marriage visa. We decided to avoid jumping through legal hoops and get legally married at the courthouse. It was quick, painless, and it gave us much less to worry about in Scotland! It also allowed us to have our ceremony in our own unique way, which meant not having an officiant present. And as far as we're concerned, spiritually the ceremony in Scotland is the day we got married. That's the day we said our vows to one another after all!
Get the Most Out of It
When you have a destination wedding, it only makes sense to take full advantage of that destination. Go out, explore, see everything you can! And allow your guests to do the same! While planning our wedding, we did a lot of research and gave our families a list of the "must sees" in every city we traveled to. Sometimes we did things as a group, other times we split up to explore on our own.
On the day of the wedding, we blocked out a couple hours to explore with just our photographer (and being us, we brought our equipment to do our own videography). After the ceremony, our families were able to go explore more of Isle of Skye on their own, and we could have our own adventure without feeling guilty about everyone waiting on us. With so much available time, we were able to take more photos in the Quiraing, where we had our ceremony, and then we hiked part of the Old Man of Storr. Once we returned to the AirBnb, everyone shared their adventures from the afternoon, it was a lot of fun!
And of course, don't be afraid to get dirty. We may sound like a broken record, but we truly believe in this! You'll likely only wear your wedding clothes once, so make it count! By the end of the day, my dress smelled like mud and Alex's right pant leg was wet up to the knee, but it was beyond worth it!