I’ve been traveling the world for the past 15 years, first as one of Conde Nast’s travel editors, then as editorial director of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons and now as “traveler-in-chief” of The Honeymoonist, a luxury honeymoon website and planning company. People always want to know, “Where should I plan to have my wedding?” Narrowing it down is virtually impossible — there are so many incredible places in the world! However, here are 10 breathtaking locations at which I’d personally love to throw (or attend…hint, hint) a wedding in 2014. Do you have a dream destination? Let me know all about your favorite locations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bluffton, South Carolina
I love everything about the Low Country, from moss-draped live oaks and golden marshes to creamy shrimp and grits. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff is a thoroughly southern, private resort community tucked away at the end of a long drive near Bluffton. Stay in chic cottage suites with fireplaces and screened-in porches, or spread out in multi-bedroom villa homes. The villas are ideal for family gatherings, thanks to the addition of gourmet kitchens and ample space for entertaining. A sweet, New England-style chapel overlooking the May River is the perfect spot to say, “I do.” Pose for photos afterwards amid the stone-column ruins of the original plantation house.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
I’ve had the great fortune of visiting a lot of amazing places all over the world, but as far as sheer beauty goes, nothing tops the Tahitian islands. The water spans a spectrum of hues ranging from emerald greens to tiffany blues that simply have to be seen to be believed. Bora Bora has the highest concentration of luxury resorts, with wooden strings of overwater bungalows reaching out into the lagoon from every angle. Each resort has a unique personality and quite a few of them have stunning chapels. Most notable among them are the InterContinental, Four Seasons, The St. Regisand Le Meridien. That said, my favorite ceremony spot would be one island over at the private-island, Le Tahaa Island Resort & Spa. It has its own tiny wedding island!
Brush Creek, Wyoming
I’m pretty sure I was a cowgirl in another life, which is why, were I tying the knot myself, this just might be my ultimate spot. Brush Creek, a private ranch, is in the middle of nowhere (four hours from Denver, two from Laramie), but it has amazing amenities. A stunning main lodge and standalone rental houses decked in contemporary Western chic (I wanted to take all of the artwork home with me) are the perfect lodgings. A help-yourself bar and wine cellar, tasty group dinners served family style, and a fantastic activities program that spans horseback riding (real riding, not just trail rides), guided hikes and even archery ensure there is never a dull moment. A beautiful hayloft-turned-chapel is an ideal spot for ceremonies, however, my vow spot would be a lovely stone amphitheater overlooking the high-desert landscape.
County Mayo, Ireland
I’ve been visiting Ireland since I was a child and it never fails to charm me with its warmth and beauty. Set alongside a lake in County Mayo, sprawling Ashford Castle is one of the country’s premier castle hotels, and ideal for large events, with 83 antique-filled guestrooms and activities including golf, horseback riding and falconry. The hotel closed in late 2013 for a three-month reno, which debuts in March 2014. Don’t miss a photo op at the stunning 13th century ruins of Cong Abbey, just outside the castle grounds.
I consider myself first and foremost a writer, so it’s no wonder I love the idea of a wedding at the former home of author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. GoldenEye is a collection of villas and cottages tucked away on its own beachfront enclave on Jamaica’s northern coast. It is owned by Chris Blackwell, the Caribbean’s hippest hotel owner, who first shared Bob Marley with the world when he founded Island Records. I’d bring all of my musician and writer friends to soak up the vibe with a sunset ceremony at hilltop Firefly Estate, once owned by another literary legend, Noel Coward.
The Ritz-Carlton chose this small town across the bay from Phuket as the site of its first Reserve brand property. I love the view of the Andaman Sea from the sunset bar and infinity pool, looking out over the iconic rs. The rooms are amazing, with beds made for giants (two California kings put together) and free-standing garden bathtubs. The Resort even has its own baby elephant(!), who drops in on a weekly basis to play with guests. Hold your ceremony in a traditional Thai pavilion overlooking the sea, an ever-so-romantic option. The pavilion was originally built for the wedding scene in The Hangover 2 (filmed here), but the resort liked it so much, they opted to keep it.
The Lodge at Koele is a New England-style mountain lodge set by a lake in a pine forest — only it’s in Hawaii and operated by Four Seasons (a win-win in my book). I’d hold the ceremony on the great lawn, surrounded by trees and a Japanese-style pagoda, and let guests go wild with golfing, hiking and horseback riding. After the ceremony, it’s easy to escape 20 minutes down the hill for some beach time on a honeymoon at sister property, Four Seasons at Manele Bay (Watch out! Your guests may want to come with you). Both properties are currently undergoing multi-million dollar renovations by owner Larry Ellison, making this exclusive getaway even more luxurious.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
I’d been to Mexico dozens of times, but arriving in San Miguel de Allende for the first time made me appreciate the country in a whole new way. Set in the mountains, four hours north of Mexico City, this artists’ haven is a maze of cobblestone streets and colorful, stucco buildings that date back to the 1500s—think Spanish hill town dropped down in the middle of Mexico. I’m not the only one who loves it; it has a thriving expatriate community, and Conde Nast Traveler named it the best city in the world in their 2013 reader’s poll. For small groups, I love the 20-room Casa Misha; for bigger events, you can’t go wrong with a party on the rooftop terrace at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, overlooking the pink-hued cathedral.
At Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, I swooned every time we received a real-wedding submission from this iconic island, where white-washed buildings stack precariously against the cliffs and the surrounding sea is such a unique shade of blue that Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren and Benjamin Moore have all named paints after it. Intimate Perivolas feels more like a villa than a hotel, and has won multiple awards (including top ratings in Greece on the Conde Nast Gold List), while cliff-hugging Mystique has the best views of the cliffside village, Ora. My advice: Don’t blend into the background with a white dress. Santorini is the perfect place to rock a pink gown.
Is there anything more iconic than a villa in Italy? I doubt it. What I love about Tuscany is that it lets you bookend a relaxing rural escape with amazing sightseeing by flying in and out of Florence. Start out at the over-the-top Westin Excelsior (Heavenly beds plus river views and plenty of gilt and frescoes? Yes, please!), convenient to sightseeing in the birthplace of the Renaissance. Then, head an hour or two south into the countryside for days of wine-tasting, poolside lazing and exploring medieval-era hilltowns. Bellini Travel has an amazing array of private villas ideal for buyouts, including Villa Laura in Cortona, Under the Tuscan Sun’s shooting location.