Travel, wedding perfect together

June 03, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

My husband was grumpy when this whole destination wedding trend hit us for the first time.

Italy? They are getting married in Italy?

Why can't these crazy, love-struck kids walk down the aisle of the parish church like everybody else, he wanted to know.

"Look," I said. "Your best friend's daughter is getting married. If the wedding was being held in Antarctica, we'd be going.

"And, by the way," I said. "I am not going to Italy just for the weekend."

Last fall, Maria and Morgan were married in an ancient monastery in a tiny village in the hills of Italy in one of the most intimate and original ceremonies we have ever witnessed.

A flock of sheep blocked the road up the mountain to the monastery, briefly delaying some of the guests. A member of the local constabulary officiated, wearing a colorful sash and speaking in Italian.

"Morgan, kiss your bride!" he barked in English at the conclusion.

There were no more than 60 people in attendance, and we all dined together and toured together and shopped together in the days before the wedding.

My husband and I capped the celebrations with four days in Rome and returned home broke but newly converted to the idea of leaving the country to get married.

So, when my nephew Bill and his fiancee, Meghan, decided to get married in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands - a place that held wonderful childhood vacation memories for both - I was on the phone to a travel agent even before I'd posted the RSVP.

"We were taking a walk in a park and trying to work the whole thing out, and Bill just turned to me and said, 'How about St. Thomas?' " remembered Meghan.

Bill's recollection was somewhat less rosy. When the umpteenth reception hall told him silverware would cost extra, he decided he had had it with the usurious American wedding industry.

"The only hurdle was the parents," Bill said. "We said, 'If we do this, will you come?' "

Both sets of parents were receptive, but if they had not been, Bill says now, "We'd have run away. I was just turned off by the whole system."

Destination weddings are a billion-dollar bonanza. Cheaper and more intimate than traditional weddings, they account for 16 percent of all first American marriages, according to the travel industry - a 400 percent increase during the past 10 years.

Tropical resorts from Jamaica to Hawaii have on-site wedding planners who will take care of everything from your blood test to the rose petals on the bed for your wedding night.

And the beach is no longer the automatic destination. There are African safari, skiing, fly-fishing and Scottish castle weddings, according to TheKnot.com.

Bill and Meghan were married in an ancient Catholic church in St. Thomas, but while we were there, we saw couples getting married all over the island.

The priest was a childhood friend of Bill's father and, after pronouncing them man and wife, the wedding party and guests - all 27 of us - adjourned to a hilltop restaurant for a luxurious dinner.

The bride and groom danced once to a favorite song they had brought along on a CD. Dessert was served, but no wedding cake. (They will serve that to their young friends when they celebrate at an informal party in Pennsylvania this month.)

Bill figures the entire wedding - including the week in St. Thomas before the nuptials and the weeklong honeymoon on the island of St. John that followed - cost perhaps a third of the modest budget they had set for a traditional wedding for 120 guests.

"There is no other way I would have done it," Bill said.

And I am glad he did.

Destination weddings can be emotional blackmail, no doubt about it. There are certain weddings you don't miss, no matter what the cost.

But this wedding, like Maria's and Morgan's, allowed us to spend lazy time in a wonderful place with people we love - and it required us to visit and experience foreign destinations that might never have been on our travel wish list.

"It was the best vacation of my life, and the perfect wedding," Meghan said.

My husband and I are in the thick of a wedding season that could go on for years. Our children and the children of our friends and family are all coming of age, and I bet many of them will have destination weddings.

My passport is ready, and so am I.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Online

Susan Reimer blogs about audiobooks every Tuesday at baltimoresun.com/readstreet

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