Dramatic Destination Wedding Venues

by  Donna Heiderstadt | May 26, 2010
Beach wedding
Beach wedding / Preto_perola/iStock

Want to get married surrounded by 12-million-year-old rock formations, perched 1,100 feet above the Caribbean’s most photogenic peaks or standing in a vine-draped 700-year-old cloister? You can. With destination weddings accounting for about 16 percent of all marriages, many of the world’s leading resorts are now making their most unique and picturesque settings available for ceremonies and receptions. Here are three visually breathtaking places to utter “I do.”

Paradise Pavilion at Ladera, St. Lucia The stunning view of this Caribbean island’s iconic twin Piton peaks hasn’t changed since this serene, 32-room resort opened, but the recent addition of this 1,200-square-foot, open-air (yet sheltered) wedding venue means couples and their guests can enjoy it in private. Set along the same rainforest ridge as Ladera’s romantic plunge-pool suites, with unobstructed panoramic views of the Pitons and the sea, Paradise Pavilion (see photo, above) accommodates up to 100 people for a sunset ceremony and reception – catered by award-winning chef Orlando Satchell of Ladera’s Dasheene restaurant – and guarantees memorable wedding photos. It is linked via landscaped stone pathway to Hilltop Dream Suite #X8, which serves both as a bridal party dressing room and post-party honeymoon suite. For a wedding of approximately 80 guests, couples can take over the entire resort. Rooms from $380; for Wedding Packages and Paradise Pavilion rental rates, contact weddings@ladera.com.

Promise Rock at The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Carefree, AZ Nature provides a magical altar at the made-for-sunset wedding venue recently added by this pampering resort and spa with 160 casitas and 61 villas located just outside Phoenix. Against a backdrop of 12-million-year-old golden-hued boulders, a trickling waterfall and an abundance of cacti – including a pair of giant “his & her” saguaros – couples can marry in front of up to 250 guests (see photo, right). The site, a grassy meadow set at 2,288 feet and offering dramatic vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the resort’s emerald fairways, is part one of a celebration that will carry over into one of The Boulders’ many special events venues, some with patios and fireplaces. Rooms from $149; for Promise Rock venue and catering rates, email erin.maguire@theboulders.com.

The Cloister at One&Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Couples seeking a one-of-a-kind setting for intimate “I Do’s,” can now book the “Cloister Wedding Celebration” to marry at the ivy-wrapped 12th-century Augustinian Cloister (shipped piece by piece from France – see photo, left) at this elegant and easy-to-reach Bahamas resort. The package includes a five-night stay for the couple – plus all ceremony-related details such as license, officiant, venue fee, bridal floral and photographer – and allows a maximum of 10 guests to attend the ceremony. Also included: a champagne turn down, a Caribbean Awakening Spa experience for two and a dining credit of $400. If you’ll be celebrating with friends, a dinner reception can be arranged at either Dune, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s seaside restaurant at the resort, or the alfresco Courtyard Terrace. Rooms from $495 and five-night Cloister Wedding Celebration for two, from $8,093; for more info, email celebrations@oneandonlyoceanclub.com.

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