1. Make some Maui memories
The sun sets. Waves crash. Your toes sink into the white sand as you and your sweetheart exchange vows. This is the destination wedding of your dreams, on the shores of Maui with your loved ones looking on. You can go barefoot and casual in Maui, where the beaches are free and open to the public. Or if you’d rather swap the Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops for more formal attire, schedule an elegant ceremony at an estate, chapel, restaurant, or banquet hall. Gannon’s Restaurant in Wailea boasts an outdoor lanai with a panoramic ocean view, and the Kukahiko Estate features lush green lawns on a lava rock cove.
2. Toss a bouquet in Cape Cod
Nothing beats the rumpled elegance of Cape Cod, and you don’t have to be a Kennedy to have your own fairy-tale wedding there. With more than 500 miles of coastline, you’ll have your pick of inexpensive beach options. In Woods Hole, you can hold your ceremony in the shadow of the Nobska Point Lighthouse. In Orleans, you can walk down a sandy aisle at the Jonathan Young Windmill Park. For more indoor-outdoor affairs, check out the Cape Cod Museum of Art or Heritage Museums and Gardens. And if you want to go all out, book historic Highfield Hall, considered the “crown jewel” of Cape Cod wedding locations.
- Nobska Point Lighthouse, Cape Cod
- Cape Cod coastline, Provincetown, MA
- Woods Hole, Falmouth, MA
3. Gather your kin in Gatlinburg
Picture yourself tying the knot next to a cascading waterfall, in a quiet chapel nestled in the woods, or in a mountain lodge with a wraparound porch with stunning views. Whether it’s fall leaves, springtime wildflowers, or summertime blankets of green, the Smoky Mountains will infuse your wedding with natural beauty. It’s no wonder this area is often called the “Wedding Capital of the South.” Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers many venues for your ceremony—you need only obtain a permit. And for a bigger event, try the Appalachian Clubhouse, with a 3000-square-foot meeting hall that opens to a babbling creek.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN / photo credit: Eric Gebhart Photography
- Gatlinburg, TN panorama
- Laurel Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
4. Go west for a Wyoming wedding
Go ahead, two-step in that tuxedo. Don that ten-gallon hat. Or trade in those high heels for some pointy-toed cowboy boots. You’re in Wyoming, a perfect spot for romance, rugged beauty, and an unforgettable wedding. Whether you’re imagining a simple ceremony in the Great Outdoors, a four-star affair in an elegant lodge, or a ranch-style event with chuckwagons and barn dancing, Jackson Hole has you covered. With a permit and some planning, you can tie the knot in Grand Teton National Park at Schwabacher's Landing, Blacktail Ponds Overlook, or Signal Mountain Summit. At Mill Iron Ranch, you can even get married on horseback.
- A chapel in the Grand Tetons National Park
- Grand Teton National Park, WY
- Blacktail Ponds Overlook, Grand Tetons National Park, WY
5. The toast of Toronto
You’re thinking big-city wedding. You’re imagining eclectic dining options, great live music, and sightseeing attractions for your guests. But how about hosting your nuptials in a brewery, an old schoolhouse, a converted church, or even a castle? Toronto has them all and more. You can celebrate by the water with up to 800 of your closest friends at the art deco-styled Palais Royale. The historic Berkeley Church, converted to an event venue, still retains its stunning 17-foot stained-glass windows. And at Steam Whistle Brewing, you can enjoy beautiful views of the city’s skyline while toasting your beloved with a foamy microbrew.
6. Say “I do” in San Francisco
Let’s face it: No list of wedding destinations would be complete without the City by the Bay. With its charming streetcars, picturesque Victorian homes, and breathtaking views, the city oozes romance. For your one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony, you can go hippie chic with a casual outdoor gathering at Golden Gate Park’s Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden or at Inspiration Point at the Presidio. Or if you’d rather throw a bash worthy of a dotcom billionaire, book your event at the Julia Morgan Ballroom, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece in the heart of the city. For something in between, say “I do” under a redwood canopy at the Stern Grove Trocadero Clubhouse.
7. Tie the knot in Sonoma wine country
One word: gorgeous. No, two words: gorgeous and relaxing. That’s Sonoma, long a magnet for destination wedding seekers (and the friends who desperately hope they make the invite list). Of course you’ll want to consider a picture-perfect ceremony at one of the region’s wineries. You can celebrate among the oak barrels at Buena Vista Winery or Deerfield Ranch Winery, which both have wine caves tucked into the mountains. Or if a priceless vintage isn’t your top priority and you’d like to experience Sonoma’s natural beauty, exchange your vows on a stunning cliff above the Pacific Ocean or under the stars at the Wolf House at Jack London State Historic Park.
- Ledson Winery
- Sonoma wine country panorama
- Bodega Head, Sonoma County
8. Exchange vows in the vineyards of Seneca Lake
A lake sparkles in the background. Rows of vineyards surround you. Golden light envelops you and your guests. You’re away from it all, and right where you want to be. The Finger Lakes region has long been popular with weekend warriors escaping the city. It’s also a prime spot for weddings. You can uncork the fun with a ceremony at more than 100 wineries, or book a boat cruise and say your “I do’s” on the water. For a more formal event, check out Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park, where you can arrive via horse-drawn carriage and exchange vows under a pergola.
- Seneca Lake sunset
- Vineyards on Finger Lakes
- Seneca Lake Pier