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If you’re a travel addict and can’t sit stay put long enough to exchange vows, a destination wedding might be for you. And you wouldn’t be alone. A 2017 trend report estimated that one out of every five engaged couples plans a destination wedding — and if you’ve got a stash of points and miles, there may be no better time to cash in than on your international nuptials.
Though the top destination wedding spots are typically scattered across the Caribbean and Mexico, travelers don’t need to tie the knot under a thatched roof palapa. To really wow your wedding guests, consider one of these over-the-top ceremonies.
In a Hot Air Balloon
We’re all obsessed with planes and aviation here at The Points Guy — so the idea of getting married up in the air has us all swooning. Couples can plan a sky-high ceremony with various companies, including operators based in Arizona and New Mexico. Some of the balloons are large enough to accommodate 12, meaning the bride and groom can bring the whole wedding party along to witness the union.
TPG Tip: Brides may want to swap stilettos for a more comfortable ‘ballooning’ shoe, such as a flat sandal or sneaker.
On a Vintage Plane
AvGeeks, pay attention: you can get married (and dance the night away) on a retired Boeing 747 at Cotswold Airport. Both the plane — as well as the operational control tower — are able to host civil ceremonies, so while you won’t actually be able to kiss the bride or groom in the air, it’s still a one-of-a-kind experience ideal for serious aviation enthusiasts. The reception can also be held onboard the 747, or the event can continue at the airport’s on-site restaurant, AV8. The 747 has space for a stage, makeup and dressing rooms, too.
TPG Tip: Civil ceremonies in the control tower can’t start until after 5:30 p.m. (outside of operating hours).
At a National Park
If you want to tie the knot in the great outdoors, you can do so at many national parks around the United States. Some of the most famous sites for destination weddings include Yosemite, Crater Lake, Arches and Glacier. Before booking, however, make sure to consider factors like the age and mobility of your guests; your flexibility with the weather; and specific park rules. Many reserves don’t allow food, flowers or speakers.
TPG Tip: You’ll most likely need to secure a permit to hold your ceremony at a national park.
In the Middle of the Desert
Starwood’s Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, offers weddings of all kinds: on the desert dunes, on horseback (Arabians, of course) and even on camels. The resort is only an hour from bustling Dubai, but the property feels completely isolated, as though it’s only visited by the onyx and gazelles that roam the desert grounds.
TPG Tip: Although you can’t pay for the wedding festivities with points, you can use them to book your room. Expect to spend 60,000 SPG points per night, but the all-inclusive rate covers your meals and two activities per day.
Near Ancient Mayan Ruins
If a standard destination wedding in tropical Belize just isn’t enough, you can get married at the foot (or on top) of Mayan Ruins such as the Altun Ha temple. With the impressive monuments and lush Central American jungle as your backdrop, you won’t miss traditional banquet hall decor. In some cases, you — and your guests — may have to ford rivers and follow moderate hiking trails to reach the ruins: an important consideration for couples.
TPG Tip: Warn your officiant to speak loudly, as guests may have trouble hearing your vows over the sound of howler monkeys in the background.
Inside Caverns and Caves
Want to hold your destination wedding in a natural church? Try Cathedral Cave, part of the Capricorn Caves in Australia. You’ll walk down a candlelit aisle and your music will resonate throughout the space — after all, caves have some pretty impressive acoustics. If Australia is just too far to manage, there are several cave venues in the United Kingdom, such as Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset.
TPG Tip: Travelers can also get married in the underground chapel at the SPG Design property, the House Hotel, in Cappadocia. This way, your first wedding gift will arrive in the form of Starpoints.
On a Pirate Ship
You can always get married on a boat, but if you want a truly unconventional wedding, why not have one on a pirate ship? Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas offers wedding services on their pirate ship in Sirens Cove. The only kicker? You’re not actually out on the open seas. Consider this an ideal way to prevent seasickness from interfering with your wedding day.
TPG Tip: The ship wedding packages don’t include room rates. That means you can get married at Treasure Island Hotel, but bed down at a nearby property where you can use your hotel points for award nights instead.
In a Fairytale Castle
If you want to feel like a prince or princess on your wedding day, get married in a castle. Close to home, of course, getting married in front of the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World is a popular option. But if it’s a real castle you’re after, head to Europe. Castle weddings are fairly common in France and Spain, where châteaus and castillos are scattered across the countryside.
TPG Tip: You can’t get married inside Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle (thought to be the real-life inspiration for the aforementioned Cinderella Castle) but you can use it as your magical backdrop. Another option? The Ashford Castle hotel in Ireland, which you can book with you Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card through Hotels.com/venture for 10x miles on your stay — equal to a 10% return
Up in a Treehouse
Embrace your inner child (while making a very adult decision) in a whimsical treehouse wedding. Various treehouse-style venues all over the world host weddings, but our favorites include Alnwick Garden in the United Kingdom, which can accommodate 65 people at a ceremony held beneath a woodland canopy, and the Kanopi House in Jamaica. Here, you can tie the knot in a treehouse with sweeping ocean views.
TPG Tip: Make sure to ask about accessibility options at your treehouse if any of your guests will require special assistance.
Under the Sea
Captain Slate is a well-known underwater officiant in the Florida Keys, and he’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records for having presided over the largest documented underwater wedding (110 costumed guests were present). But many venues in destinations such as the Bahamas and Thailand also offer underwater weddings if you’d like to scuba your “I Do’s” farther away from home. As an added bonus, brides won’t have to worry about selecting (or packing) a dress, as many venues provide white neoprene suits for the special occasion.
TPG Tip: Just because you want to get married underwater, doesn’t mean your guests have to get wet, too. They can typically watch a live video stream of the ceremony from a boat or on shore.
Check out the TPG guide on maximizing your points, miles and credit cards for your wedding and honeymoon.
Featured photo by Mark Brodkin Photography/Getty Images
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