By Angela Caraway-Carlton
Not everyone is going to the proverbial chapel to get married these days. Whether it’s an elopement, an intimate micro-wedding, second marriage or vow renewal, we’ve highlighted off-the-beaten (bridal) path destinations for the unconventional couple. Think adventuring with penguins in Antarctica, marrying in verdant gardens at an estate with a haunting love story, and vows with views that you’ll never forget.
Here Comes the Tellu-Bride
The Place San Sophia Overlook, Telluride, Colorado
Aisle Style While often overlooked for glitzy Aspen or Denver, Telluride is a postcard-worthy small town in a remote southwest corner of Colorado that’s tightly hugged on all sides by the majestic San Juan Mountains. What does that mean for couples looking to get hitched? Breathtaking backdrops and bonding adventures for an unforgettable destination wedding.
Talk about making an entrance, imagine arriving to your wedding by gondola. That’s exactly how the wedding party and their guests arrive at the stunning San Sophia overlook, which is part of Telluride Ski and Golf Resort. Rich in natural beauty that doesn’t need much embellishment, this covetable ceremony spot overlooks the town, mountain peaks and towering trees, and it highlights those bluebird skies that Telluride is known for. The backdrop of the pictures from the ceremony will look Photoshopped. Walk just a few feet away for a reception at Allred’s, a cozy high-end restaurant that wows with glass windows spotlighting gorgeous vistas. Luxury accommodations can be found around the buzzy Mountain Village like the Madeline Hotel & Residences, a posh Auberge property, or opt to stay at one of the luxurious boutique residences at Lumière with Inspirato. There are also plenty of large homes to rent.
Things to do with the “I Do Crew” Hike the appropriately named Bridal Veils, which leads to a dramatic waterfall for epic pictures, or paddleboard scenic Alta Lakes or Trout Lake. Kick-off the celebration with a Champagne sabering experience and multi-course wine and food pairing with Top Chef alum Eliza Gavin at 221 South Oak restaurant. For winter weddings, you can snuggle up on horse-drawn sleighs, zip around on snowmobiles and ski on uncrowded slopes. tellurideskiresort.com
Boho and the Beach
The Place Azulik Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico
Aisle Style With its well-preserved Mayan ruins, gorgeous beaches and freshwater cenotes, Tulum offers a blissfully bohemian wedding destination on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Those in search of a truly unplugged wedding venue should consider Azulik Tulum Resort, a mystical sanctuary that’s located where the jungle meets the turquoise sea. An architectural marvel, Azulik features treehouse-like structures and villas fashioned from twisted vines and thatched roofs perched on stilts. Winding paths through the jungle and hanging nets for romantic lounging are sprinkled throughout the property. Couples can choose between different magical wedding venues like The Dome, a meditative space where light flows through a geometric structure; The Deck, a platform with an outstanding view of the sea; or Azulik Uh May, an esplanade in the jungle surrounded by unique and internationally awarded architecture. This is Tulum—where nature, land and ancestry are highly honored—so nuptials begin with a Mayan ritual where couples are welcomed with a shamanic chant and energy cleansing.
Things to do with the “I Do Crew”
One of the most incredible experiences for a couple or small group is sunset dinner at Kin Toh, a treehouse restaurant where you’ll cozy up in private nests to indulge in Mexican-Mayan cuisine while soaking up the vistas of the jungle and sea. You’ll stay in open-air sculptural villas like the Aqua Villa, which stars a bathtub supplied with water from a cenote —a natural sinkhole— and an outdoor plunge pool overlooking the beach. Connecting with each other and nature is a priority here, so there is no disruptive technology like TVs or even electricity—so you may want to plan your visit during the cooler months since there isn’t air conditioning. There’s a strong focus on wellness with healing rituals, spa treatments and yoga. Explore the nearby coral reefs by kayak or by snorkeling, hike the jungle or sightsee at archeological sites. azulik.com
Say “Yes” to Adventure
The Place The World Is Your Venue
Aisle Style For the couple who lives for traveling to far-flung and exotic places, doesn’t mind swapping traditional wedding apparel for hiking boots or snow gear (or can hike a mountain in a wedding dress or tux) and wants to combine adventure with their nuptials, there are photographers who will help plan an epic elopement and then photograph and film the entire event.
One of those photographers is 28-year-old Nate Shepard, who’s been chasing adventure since he was a kid traveling throughout Asia with his family. Now, he helps curate bucket-list escapades and elopements for couples, from dreaming up and researching unique locations and backdrops to leading them on the adventures where he captures every moment with his camera. Imagine saying your vows at the top of a snow-capped mountain in Switzerland, then sledding or skiing down together. Or how about nuptials in front of an epic waterfall in Lebanon or inside an ice cave in Iceland or while mingling with penguins in Antarctica or flying in a hot air balloon over Morocco?
Things to do with the “I Do Crew” Shepard usually scouts the preferred location, then guides couples on the journey, focusing on their safety, making sure they have the right gear and ensuring that they leave no trace behind. The photographer can follow the couple over several days—even during part of the honeymoon—documenting special moments or memorable activities which can be anything from rock climbing to dancing in fields of wildflowers to riding camels in the desert. He’s up for the adventure of your lifetime. nateshepard.com
The Place Barnsley Resort, Adairsville, Georgia
Aisle Style Host a fairytale wedding at a destination with its own swoon-worthy, yet haunting, love story. Nestled in the foothills of northern Georgia, about an hour from Atlanta, Barnsley Resort is the site of an estate built in the 1840s by an affluent Englishman named Godfrey Barnsley for his wife, Julia. Unfortunately, Julia fell ill and passed away before the estate’s construction was completed; but after vividly seeing Julia in a dream and her encouraging him to finish the country estate for their children, he finally moved forward with the project, which resulted in an Italian-style manor house—the roof of which was torn off by a tornado in 1906—and elaborate gardens rivaling those in the English countryside. Today, the 3,000-acre property is restored to its former glory and is set up like its own all-encompassing village. Couples can marry on a picturesque lawn under canopies of trees, then dance under the stars at the open-air Manor Ruins with views of the formal boxwood garden or choose from indoor venues like the picturesque Town Hall chapel or grand Georgian Hall, fitted with vaulted ceilings and a floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace.
Things to do with the “I Do Crew” The beauty of this resort is its isolation and that it’s packed with endless activities and restaurants. A wedding party can choose from a variety of accommodations, from rows of adorable cottages to a regal inn. At night, guests can gather around the firepits for s’mores. During daylight hours, they can enjoy activities like axe throwing, archery and clay shooting. Spend a spa day together, play a round of golf on the Jim Fazio-designed course, take a horseback ride through the nature trails or drift in a canoe on the lake. barnsleyresort.com
The Place The Gasparilla Inn & Club, Boca Grande, Florida
Aisle Style If you’re seeking authentic old-Florida charm, plan your big day at The Gasparilla Inn & Club. Situated on Gasparilla Island, a seven-mile-long barrier island that’s midway between Fort Myers and Sarasota, this historic and secluded property encompasses 180 acres offering breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico and Charlotte Harbor. The iconic wooden hotel built in 1912 has played host to notables like Katharine Hepburn, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and still maintains its genteel hospitality and cherished pastimes from another era, like afternoon tea and croquet matches. With different scenic venues sprinkled throughout the property, couples can marry under a towering banyan tree and then dance the night away under a tent on the croquet lawn; host a beach ceremony at sunset with details like a sand sculpture, or tie the knot on the golf course lawn. As a seasonal resort, weddings take place from early October to early July, excluding the month of March.
Things to do with the “I Do Crew”
Charter a boat to one of the tranquil barrier islands or try tarpon fishing. Engage in friendly competition with a croquet match, take a guided nature tour, or just simply sit by the pool with a cocktail. The tiny island has zero stoplights or chain restaurants, and visitors zip around on bikes and golf carts to explore downtown, lined with unique boutiques. When it comes to lodging, the wedding party has several options, including the charming main inn, private cottages and expansive homes. the-gasparilla-inn.com
Privacy-Plus, Relaxed Romance
The Place Bungalows, Key Largo, Florida
Aisle Style Make the short drive—or plan a splashy seaplane arrival—to Key Largo where love comes easy at the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo. Edging the Florida Bay and nestled in a garden oasis, this all-inclusive gem is the place to truly slip off the radar for an intimate elopement, vowel renewal or a relaxing getaway with the wedding party. Just like its name, guests are treated to their own spacious bungalow, boasting either water or garden views. It’ll be hard to leave your bungalow, where an outdoor pathway leads to an inviting soaking tub and a rainfall shower. When it comes to saying “I do,” couples can make their marriage official in a private ceremony on a beach by the water. And the resort offers special packages that include an officiant, photography, a Champagne toast and a celebratory dinner on the property. Return to your room, where bubbles and rose petals will set the mood for more romance.
Things to do with the “I Do Crew”
Scoot around the property on beach cruisers, explore the waterways on paddleboards and water trikes, or embark on a fishing or snorkeling excursion. Couples can steal away to the bayside tiki for a signature massage in a soothing environment or escape to the spa to enjoy amenities that include a salt room, eucalyptus steam room and a Zen garden. In the evening, cozy up on Adirondack chairs to watch the sun slip into the water from your private veranda. Spring for the “Bungalows Bubble Service” to be spoiled with everything needed for a dreamy soak with candles and aromatherapy in the alfresco tub. bungalowskeylargo.com
South Florida Moments
Say “Yes” to the perfect plan Planning a proposal can be daunting, so the W Fort Lauderdale hotel is currently offering the “Marry Me Proposal Package” for those who need a little creative help. Here’s how it unfolds: after checking into a beachfront WOW suite, you’ll waltz down a hot-pink carpet sprinkled with rose petals to drop to one knee (or whatever your please-love-me-forever move is) in front of a wall covered in roses and a neon sign that screams “Let’s Do This.” After popping the big question in front of the Instagram-worthy wall, the couple can pop a bottle of bubbly to celebrate with up to eight friends and family members. (They’ll be secretly waiting in the suite’s living room.) There are add-ons like a photographer to capture the moment or a romantic serenade from local crooner Kerst Lehmann. The package starts at $1,500. wfortlauderdale.com
Make it Micro. During the pandemic, we saw an increase in “micro-weddings,” from backyard nuptials to elopements and mini ceremonies. The Hillsboro Beach Resort, a newly opened boutique hotel nestled between over-the-top mansions on Hillsboro Mile, is offering an elopement package where couples can marry on the hotel’s private stretch of beach using all local vendors. With the all-inclusive package, couples receive an officiant, catering by on-property Roí Restaurant for a waterfront dining experience and Champagne toast, a wedding cake by mother-daughter shop Cakes D’Sabores, flowers by Dalsimer Atlas Floral & Event Decorators, live music by Bay Kings Band, as well as photography and videography by James Minns Photography and Diego Stuart Films. hillsborobeachresort.com