Destination Weddings Update

The elegant Bride’s Room at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas

The elegant Bride’s Room at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas


In the ever-competitive realm of the destination wedding business it seems that new packages, upgraded venues and innovations pop up faster than you can say, “I do.” Here are just some of what we found by checking around the industry. While all of these are relatively new developments, we have, in the spirit of the traditional bride’s ensemble, divided them into four categories: Old, New, Borrowed and Blue.


Something Old

Venues dating back to the 19th century certainly qualify as old, but maybe time-honored or venerable would better describe these two British offerings, beginning with Highclere Castle. Familiar to the millions of viewers of the PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey, Highclere’s profile as a wedding site was elevated by the long-awaited nuptials of Mary and Matthew, which kicked off season three of the show in January.

The Saloon, in the heart of the castle, is licensed for civil ceremonies. Brides can prepare for their wedding in one of the castle’s bedrooms and make their entrance by walking around the Gallery above the guests, before descending the Oak Staircase. Highclere Castle has a dedicated wedding coordinator to help you plan the couple’s day. The Victorian Library can seat 140 guests while the dining room can accommodate more intimate gatherings. For more information, contact via e-mail at [email protected].

Pre-dating Highclere by 13 years is The Langham, London, where the opulent Grand Ballroom has reopened after an extensive restoration. The room retains the renaissance pillars and shimmering chandeliers that welcomed well-to-do 19th century wedding guests. The elaborately draped windows now open on to a terrace overlooking The Middleton Rose Garden, one of the oldest private gardens in London dating back to the mid-eighteenth century.

Harmony Spa Suite at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco.

Harmony Spa Suite at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco.


The Grand Ballroom accommodates up to 375 for a reception, or 250 for a seated dinner. Immediately adjoining the Grand Ballroom is The Portland Foyer, a new pre-function space which can host 200 for a champagne reception before guests are seated for dinner. Reach out to Managing Director Duncan Palmer ([email protected]) with any queries.


Something New

When we say “new” here, we’re talking innovative and perhaps a bit outside the box. The Viceroy Riviera Maya, for example, is serving up the ultimate elixir for the bride and groom who want to personalize their wedding down to the smallest detail. The new Customized Wedding Cocktail Program allows a couple getting married at the resort to create their own branded drink to serve. The resort’s mixologists work with the couple, providing input and direction to help them develop a bespoke cocktail. The bride and groom have the resort’s full bar to work with, from the complete range of alcohols and mixers to fresh juices, spices and condiments. The cocktail can also be served at the bridesmaid party, the groom’s dinner, rehearsal dinner or reception. Direct your questions to General Manager Pedro Lara ([email protected]).

Couples choosing to get married at the new wedding chapel at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas can take advantage of one of the newer trends in weddings: the live broadcast. ARIA offers facilities to stream the ceremony live online so that family members and friends who can’t attend in person can watch and enjoy. 

Opened just in time for the traditional wedding month of June, the six-month old, 60-seat Wedding Chapel has already hosted more than 120 weddings. With only one chapel on-site, couples enjoy a completely exclusive space for their ceremony. Wedding coordinators act as personal concierge for each couple and the wedding party can relax pre-ceremony in the adjoining dedicated ladies’ dressing lounge and groom’s private game lounge; the latter includes its own pool table and wet bar. The go-to person is Colleen Kestel-Raidmae ([email protected]), director of The Wedding Chapel at ARIA.

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland has created “License to Wed,” an innovative bootcamp designed to test the eligibility and improve the housekeeping skills of the groom. The groomsmen book the stag party and the housekeeper, butler and chef put the husband-to-be through a variety of challenges to prepare him for married life. Housekeeper Sandra keeps tabs on the bachelor to see if he passes a washing and ironing test and provides guidance to polish his skills. Butler Josef will assess his gentleman’s etiquette and show him some tricks of the trade. Executive Chef Mauro Taufer will check and enhance his culinary skills in order to prepare a Sunday meal for the in-laws. Contact Doris Muhr ([email protected]), sales and groups executive.


Something Borrowed

Increasingly, wedding parties are choosing to “borrow”—or privatize—a luxury spa for some pre-nuptial mellowing moments. The bride and groom indulge in pampering and preening in the company of good friends and family, often with free-flowing champagne and tasty nibbles. Spas are meeting the challenge by offering customized treatments and a magical mise-en-scene.

A prime example of this is San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental, which completed a transformative renovation project in 2012, capped by the spa’s debut in October. Developed in consultation with specialists in traditional Chinese medicine, an array of holistic treatments are administered by highly trained therapists. Luxe products by Aromatherapy Associates play a starring role. Recommended: The signature, 60-minute Oriental Essence massage, which targets the neck, shoulder and lower back areas. 

There’s also a dedicated manicure/pedicure lounge for grooming of the hands and feet. The cherry on the cake: The wedding party is privy to special touches, such as couture cocktails that reflect the season; scented oshibori towels; and food that complements the treatments (using the same ingredients, like lavender, also present in the essential oils). For assistance with bookings, contact Spa Director Kristy Whitford ([email protected]).

For more examples, visit and search “Spa Takeover.”


Something Blue

Tying the knot alongside the clear blue waters of a tropical beach is a perennially favorite choice among newlyweds-to-be. Here are just a few examples.

Sandals took a new approach to tying the knot earlier this year, introducing “Your Wedding. Your Style.” This destination-wedding concept allows couples to personally style and execute their dream wedding at any one of Sandals’ 14 Caribbean resorts in Jamaica, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Antigua and Grenada. Bookings and queries can be handled through the weddings section of the Sandals website, or contact the wedding planners at 877-SANDALS. 

Hard Rock: The All Inclusive Collection recently launched “WOW,” the Weddings on the Water Travel Agent Specialist Program. Agents who participate in WOW events are automatically enrolled in the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Master Program. Privileges include one complimentary wedding collection (valued up to $3,000) per year; a $300 voucher for attending, which may be applied to a future wedding; a waived program fee (value of $99); a choice of car wrap, tradeshow display or window display; an endorsement video and personal letter from Colin Cowie, who designed Hard Rock’s customizable themed wedding packages.

Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, with properties in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica (as well as Europe and Africa), is also working on a destination weddings specialist program for agents, to be hosted on Travel Agent University. Look for the Iberostar STAR Weddings Program soon at

Romance By the Sea is just one of the customizable wedding packages at the Rendezvous couples resort in St. Lucia that can be customized and tailored to your clients’ specifications. The resort’s dedicated wedding planner is Sandra (using only first names is part of the personal touch at Rendezvous), who can be reached at +1-758-457-7900.