Near, Far, Wherever You Are: Our Favorite Destination Wedding Locations

Photo: Courtesy of David Stark

These days, more and more couples are choosing to get married in a far-flung locale. And while the destination weddings are exotic and fun, there are lots of logistics to consider before choosing your venue and signing on the dotted line. Price of travel for guests, for one. And those costs add up fast when you start calculating: flights, transportation, accommodation, and gifts, to name a few. Planning a destination wedding that’s both accessible for guests as well as Zika-free is a bit of a tricky task. So, we’re here to help.

We asked five of our favorite industry experts and experienced planners: what’s a great destination for a wedding, that’s (catch this), 1) no further than one direct plane ride away from you AND 2) Zika free? Read all about their favorite destinations and venues in our roundup below.

Jennifer Zabinski of JZ Events

Domestically, one of my favorite hidden treasures is the Calistoga Ranch. Located in Napa Valley, CA, the ranch offers guests an endless list of activities and breathtaking views. For the more adventurous, there’s biking and hiking. And then for those who prefer extracurriculars that are a bit more leisurely, there are wine tastings galore and a spa that’s topnotch. There’s truly a little something for everyone. Even the spontaneous hot air ballooning excursion is right at your fingertips!

The property boasts several lovely locations to host your next event. There’s the Wine Cave—which is a cozy, intimate venue that’s totally secluded. A tent can be erected within the vineyard itself. Or out on the lawn, it’s possible to dance under the stars, lakeside. The best part is, you can fly right into San Francisco or other surrounding airports, and the ranch is just one short, scenic drive away. Just think of the beautiful backdrop you’d have in pictures!

Photo: Courtesy of Calistoga Ranch

If you are looking to host an international destination event, Venice, Italy is my top choice as there are direct flights. With its rich history and magical aura, The Granaries of the Republic at Cipriani Venice, allows guests to enjoy all aspects of the city: waterfront views, stunning architecture and the knowledge that Casanova once dined in the same rooms. The 19th–century buildings were recently restored to all of their former glory with the added convenience of central air.

The city itself caters to our inner scholars with endless walking tours, museums, and a beautiful opera house. The city’s iconic Carnival and intricate masks; Venetian blown glass; and a timeless ride through the canals on a gondola are all absolute musts!

Photo: Courtesy of Belmond Hotel Cipriani

David Stark of David Stark Design

We were recently challenged to find a warm weather wedding destination during the winter months in the United States that was not Los Angeles or Miami and was drenched with flavor. Palm Springs was our answer!

Up until recently, there were no direct flights from NYC to Palm Springs, but thanks to Jet Blue, that has changed, and certainly if you live in Los Angeles, it’s only about an hour and 40 minute car ride. Filled with old Hollywood glamour, mid-century architecture, and extraordinary nature, the area has much to offer and is the perfect backdrop for a wedding weekend. The Parker Palm Springs is an ideal property to completely take over for your festivities. With 144 rooms, you can turn it into a private home base for a sizable group. The world is filled with many fine hotels. You are not going to the Parker for its service although it is fantastic, for sure. Rather, it’s gorgeous campus is like a stylish summer camp for adults that is insulated from the world. There are tons of hidden spots for various wedding events—from outdoor welcome drinks around a fire to dramatic mountain backdrops for a ceremony, your guests can enjoy the grounds for the entire weekend and still be surprised with the location of, say, the after party, as the gardens are lush and extensive and hide magic moments at every turn.

Photo: Courtesy of David Stark

Palm Springs offers many options for excursions or events off the campus too. Although you definitely don’t have to leave the property if you don’t want to. Regardless, if you are looking for a stylish location, this town is oozing with vibes of Hollywood’s Rat Pack, storied nightclubs, and period architecture. Imagine stepping into a Slim Aarons photo at its chicest and you get the gist.

Photo: Courtesy of The Parker Palm Springs

Calder Clark of Calder Clark

Blackberry Farm is my absolute favorite wedding destination, situated in the Smokey Mountains on 4,200 acres in the heart of Walland, TN. Nearby major airport McGhee Tyson makes it an absolute breeze for travel, and its rural location makes it the perfect woodsy escape. The Farm is the perfect fit for foodie and vinophile couples with its renowned cuisine and stunning cellars, with visitors often experiencing world-class cooking demos and culinary tastings. Between wedding weekend parties, guests often fly fish, shoot skeet, mountain bike, hike, and rejuvenate at the Wellhouse, or simply hang out by the Singing Brook and doze. There are several stunning spots within the property for ceremonies, brunches, luncheons, and dinners. With its lovely staff and endless panoramic vistas, the property simply epitomizes the world class pastoral getaway.

Photo: Courtesy of Blackberry Farm

Bryan Rafanelli of Rafanelli Events

Our favorite destination is only a car ride away for New Yorkers and can be easily accessed by non-New Yorkers by flying into any of the three main international airports nearby (Newark, JFK, LaGuardia). From there, it a 1-2 hour car ride. You guessed it: The Hamptons!

The Hamptons offers endless locations for a spectacular wedding weekend. From beaches overlooking the Atlantic, to more traditional country clubs, the Hamptons provides a multitude of unique yet sophisticated venues for your special day. One of our favorite options is building a bespoke tent at Wölffer Estate, a sprawling Hampton’s vineyard that’s an idyllic setting with a picturesque seaside backdrop. Surrounded by rolling lawns in the distance, candlelit-farm tables are the perfect fit for these countryside wineries. Some of our favorite Hamptons’ weddings that we’ve done have been at private residences, whether they are on the beach, indoor/outdoor, or held in a tent we’ve erected, there is nothing more romantic or intimate than getting married in your own backyard or on a special estate that you can rent for the evening. For guests, there is no shortage of activities to keep them busy throughout the weekend, making it feel like a true “get-away.” Everything from surfing, swimming, boating, wine-tasting, and hiking is possible out East. There are countless ways to create a wow-worthy experience on your wedding weekend in The Hamptons, and this is a location where accessibility and specialness go hand in hand.

Photo: Courtesy of Wölffer Estate

Virginia Edelson of Blue Bird Productions

We absolutely adore Santa Barbara as a wedding destination. It’s beach-y but not tropical, close to Los Angeles (where guests can fly in directly from nearly every airport, or even fly into Santa Barbara directly), and there isn’t any of the hustle and bustle of the city, which is nice. It also pretty much has perfect weather year-round. Some of our favorite venues include The Biltmore, San Ysidro Ranch, The Bacara Resort & Spa, and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Guests can easily fly into Santa Barbara directly as well from many locations and be at the beach or on a hike in the mountains within minutes. From various water sports to amazing golfing, everyone will be able to find something they enjoy in Palm Springs.

Another destination we love, and are well known for, is Aspen. Aspen is an ideal town for a wedding. Depending on where you come from, Aspen can be an easy direct flight (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, or whatever range your jet has, wink); if you’re not coming from one of these locations, it might require two flights but there are a variety of options and times because guests can fly through major cities like Detroit and Chicago, which have flights to and from Aspen everyday.

This location has a small mountain town vibe but paired with world class amenities and activities. Not only do the majority of the wedding venues have million dollar views for their backdrops, but they also have phenomenal service. The Little Nell, The Pine Creek Cookhouse, The Hotel Jerome, and the T Lazy 7 Ranch are a few of our go-to “standard” venues for wedding events. However, some of our favorite weddings have been hosted at private residences. These unique one-off venues allow us to really personalize a wedding and create a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Regardless of whether you decide to have your Aspen wedding at a mountaintop hotel, horse ranch, or in your own backyard, the weekend is always incredible for both the couple, their families, and the guests. The service is always exceptional, and the plethora of activities for guests to do regardless of the season is endless—from skiing, snow-tubing, hiking, biking, and white water wafting, the options are endless in Aspen!

Photo: Courtesy of Lucky Malone

Written By: Samantha Tritsch