Did Match.com — or friends or fate — help you find the perfect mate? Congratulations! Wedded bliss awaits. But first there’s the matter of a ceremony, probably a reception, and quite possibly a honeymoon. If you love to travel (doesn’t everyone?), these elements can be creatively combined into one magnificent excursion.
Destination weddings — customized to reflect the lifestyle of the bride and groom — are more popular than ever these days. Not big on wearing shoes? How about saying your vows on a beautiful Hawaiian beach? Kapalua Bay on Maui is a great spot for a small gathering. If you want to keep it really simple, pick up a couple of orchid leis and invite close friends and family to meet you on the sand at sunset. Flip flops optional.
Want to take it up a notch? The nearby Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua offers scenic oceanfront settings for ceremonies and receptions. Lava Point is an extraordinary spot just big enough for the bride, groom, an officiant, and two witnesses. Prefer a luau for a large number? The Ritz-Carlton’s Beach House Lawn can accommodate up to 500.
Having said that, a smaller guest list is one reason many couples choose to get married away from home. In fact, it’s ideal when the wedding party and attendees are the right size group to enjoy sole occupancy of a boutique hotel for a few days of private celebrating.
The Holualoa Inn on the Big Island of Hawaii is a cozy spot for just this kind of occasion. Located mauka (toward the mountains) from Kona, this bed-and-breakfast offers a wonderful ocean view and amazingly peaceful surroundings. It’s cooler here than on the coast, so 6,000 coffee trees and a fruit orchard thrive on the 30-acre property. Four of the six guest rooms at this boutique hotel have an ocean view and everyone shares the pool, gazebo, and Buddha Garden. Weddings can be intimate or grand — the estate also includes an open-air pavilion that accommodates up to 120 people. (www.holualoainn.com)
If you’re thinking of a wedding outside of the U.S., make sure you understand the requirements involved and allow plenty of time to produce the proper paperwork. You might also decide to be legally married stateside and then enjoy a symbolic ceremony at the destination. Personally, I can’t think of anywhere more romantic than gorgeous Tuscany. If you agree, consider Borgo Santo Pietro — a 13th-century stone-clad villa set in 13 acres of gardens overlooking the Serena Valley about an hour from Florence. Here you’ll find 15 rooms and suites — all exquisitely furnished — plus a pool, spa, and excellent restaurant. (www.borgosantopietro.com/en/)
The dedicated Borgo staff will help you arrange an “intimate affair or something on a grander scale.” You can have your ceremony in any of the lushly landscaped areas of the garden or in an atmospheric indoor environment. They can also arrange for you to have a Catholic wedding at San Galgano, home of Monte Siepi, the famous round church with the sword in the stone, or a civil blessing at the ancient San Galgano Abbey. (www.sangalgano.org/eng)
Not Hawaii? Not Italy? How about Hastings House Country House Hotel on Salt Spring Island between Vancouver and Victoria, Canada? This luxury lodging, located on 22 waterfront acres, is known for its casually elegant atmosphere and great food. Wellspring Spa is housed in a cozy, cedar-clad barn and colorful plants bloom around manicured green lawns. Nearby, walking paths wind through rainforest and sheep graze in green pastures. (www.hastinghouse.com)
An intimate ceremony in the scented flower garden could be followed by a traditional English tea or cocktails and canapés in the Manor House, which resembles an 11th century Sussex-style family home. Alternatively, the Farmhouse Lawn accommodates up to 175 guests for weddings and receptions.
Ferries connect Salt Spring Island with the Vancouver area and Victoria. However, the best ride is on one of the sea planes that fly into Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island from downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver International Airport, and Seattle. En route, passengers can watch white sailboats bobbing in the water, search for orcas, and marvel at the number of Gulf islands. Like marriage, it’s one magnificent excursion (in spite of the occasional bump along the way). Elizabeth Hansen
Holualoa: Photography courtesy of Karen Louden Photography Kapalua Bay: Photo courtesy of ADAMS / HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS Hastings House: Photo courtesy of Hastings House Gardens at Borgo Santo Pietro: Photo by Andrea Jones/Garden Exposures Photo Library Borgo Santo Pietro and Tuscan countryside: Photo courtesy Borgo Santo Pietro