What do you get when you mix celebrity buzz, hotel debuts, resort renos and new flight routes? The 16 best wedding locations that are making headlines and attracting the next generation of to-be-weds. From Aruba to Oahu, here’s your road map to what wedding locales are trending this year.
St. Lucia is so romantic that The Bachelor has filmed here twice. Just as 2015 came to a close, The BodyHoliday added ITAL, an eight-seat organic experience in a garden, plus new treatments to the spa menu and fresh turquoise-and-driftwood guest-room decor. Twenty minutes away, Malabar Beach Club, a new locavore eatery at the 100-room Rendezvous, debuted in 2015. Other upgrades: a new swim-up bar, a refreshed main pool and renovated suites. Flying to this lush, volcanic isle from Chicago is a breeze on United’s new nonstop route, introduced in December 2015.
The Caribbean’s most-visited island is capitalizing on its popularity. After a $40 million face-lift in summer 2015, the artsy Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino is sleeker than ever for small weddings; the hotel’s transformation is part of Renaissance Hotels’ new global Wanderlust design initiative. New digs arrived in Cap Cana in 2015 as well: AlSol Tiara Cap Cana treats guests to a swim-up bar and lessons in Spanish and cooking. Eden Roc at Cap Cana is undergoing a multimillion-dollar reno in 2016, including 52 new beachfront suites, a new infinity pool, a new restaurant and a spa expansion. Aman Resorts revealed Amanera along the North Coast in November 2015 — gaze at the ocean from your posh casita above a 60-foot cliff. Coming to Punta Cana in 2016, the 500-suite Excellence El Carmen will cater to foodies with 12 restaurants and 16 watering holes. Plus, getting to Punta Cana is easier than ever, thanks to three new American Airlines routes (from Dallas, Chicago and Charlotte, North Carolina).
St. Where? Flying under the radar (for now), St. Kitts, pop. 45K, sits just east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The island’s first-ever five-star resort, the 125-room Park Hyatt St. Kitts, debuts in 2016 on Banana Bay. Share your first newlywed kiss overlooking The Narrows, a strait dividing St. Kitts and its neighboring island, Nevis. Or go off the grid at the 400-acre Belle Mont Farm on Kittitian Hill, opened December 2014. The “farm” in the name is for real: The property grows fruit that’s delivered to each villa, guesthouse and farmhouse daily. Host a reception feast for 20 in a field.
The birthplace of the all-inclusive is still a leader in the field: Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts will bring its signature Zen to Montego Bay in December 2016. Book your wedding one year in advance, and a cocktail party for up to 50 is included at no cost. Other all-inclusives that launched in 2015: the 700-plus-room Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios (offering six themed wedding collections) and the 287-room Melia Braco Village, with two wedding gazebos. In December 2015, Couples Resorts’ founders introduced six new villas, designed with families in mind, at Idle Awhile on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach.
Los Cabos, Mexico
After Hurricane Odile slammed Los Cabos in 2014, area resorts paused for a refresh and emerged sexier than ever. That includes the new Champagne Terrace at The Resort at Pedregal, introduced at the start of 2015. Feeling more Manhattan than Mexico, 161-room The Cape, A Thompson Hotel arrived in June 2015; host your wedding in its two-story Surfer Villa. Set to debut later in 2016, the 77-room Cachet Beach hotel (soon to be Cachet Corazon) on Medano Beach is already lining up rooftop nuptials.
Twilight actress Nikki Reed and hubby Ian Somerhalder of The Vampire Diaries sunk their teeth into Aruba on Valentine’s Day 2015. What’s new: Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino celebrated its 25th anniversary by redecorating all 357 rooms in 2015. Palm Beach newcomer Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino arrived summer 2015 with 24,000 square feet of outdoor event space; commence your torch-lit reception with seafood chowder. Host the rehearsal dinner at BLT Steak, serving up prime cuts at The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba since August 2015. Flight alert: As of 2015, Southwest services Aruba.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale generated media attention in 2015 when it celebrated marriage equality by hosting the country’s largest mass same-sex wedding. And JetBlue’s new routes from Baltimore and Philadelphia, launched in November 2015, make the area even more accessible. Big-city grandeur meets a casual beachfront vibe at the 290-room, 24-story Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, opening summer 2016 — swap I do’s on the oceanfront terrace, and spend your wedding night in a yacht-inspired guest room with a marble soaking tub, all designed by Michael Graves. Or party with up to 350 besties on the 11th-floor License to Chill pool deck of the 349-room Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, which entered the scene in nearby Hollywood in September 2015. Premiering mid-2016, the 487-room B Ocean Resort will have five venues (yes, the beach is one).
The birthplace of the Rum Runner naturally specializes in laid-back luxury, including Key Largo’s Playa Largo Resort & Spa, premiering spring 2016. Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the resort encourages marrying couples to plant a coral reef as a memento. Or anchor your love by the historic lighthouse at Marathon’s Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, launched December 2014. That same month, 96-room The Marker Waterfront Resort opened off Key West’s Duval Street; serve some Key West pink shrimp at your reception. Another new Key West property — The Saint Hotel, which debuted March 2015 in Old Town — lures guests with its 36 bright blue-and-white rooms. Renovations also breathed new life into two Islamorada resorts in 2015: The 63-room Pelican Cove, with three beach sites for I do’s; and Amara Cay Resort, where Sparrows Tiki Deck (seats 20) channels the tropics.
This pura vida jungle country boasted 99 percent renewable energy in 2015. Two new properties premiered at the close of 2015: In the surf town of Nosara, the 17-suite Olas Verdes is primed for a buyout. And on Papagayo Bay, the 202 suites at adults-only Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica are mere steps from volcanic sand. In Guanacaste, the town of Las Catalinas unveiled a Beach Club in December 2015; two hotels and a chapel will be added by the end of 2016.
Caribbean Sea meets jungle in this tiny English-speaking nation. The largest development ever to hit Ambergris Caye, the 60-acre Mahogany Bay Village will introduce a hotel (195 cottages and suites), a beach club, a spa, retail and dining in 2016. In 2015, Las Terrazas Resort & Residences began hosting sandbar receptions — lounge furniture included. Premiering 2016 on the Placencia peninsula, Itz’ana Resort & Residences will entertain private groups in the Rum Room, captained by a rummelier. Bonus: Southwest’s new daily flights to Belize City via Houston make travel to Belize a breeze.
The Obamas have spent Christmas on Oahu for the last eight years — and if it’s good enough for the first family, then it’s good enough for us. Hold a beachfront ceremony at The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki, built in 1927 and used as a film location in season 6 of Mad Men. The famed Pink Palace introduced the reimagined, 17-story Mailani Tower in spring 2015; receive concierge-level service, gratis mai tais and a nightly spread of snacks. Also in 2015, two new rooftop experiences landed in Waikiki: Sky Waikiki is a 7,000-square-foot nightclub and lounge with a fire pit; and Tommy Bahama Restaurant Bar & Store flaunts a sand patio area, vintage surfboards and a 55-foot-wide living wall of native tropical plants. On the “sunset coast,” the 358-room Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina is on track to open in June 2016.
Celebs from Johnny Depp to JLo have sought R & R on the Isle of Enchantment, and development is booming. Book a ceremony at Doubletree by Hilton San Juan’s new beach club, premiered in May 2015, and private golf carts will whisk guests to your I do’s. Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa added new family-friendly suites (sleeping six people each) in early 2016, and a director of romance has joined the staff. The 319-room Condado Vanderbilt, whose extensive reno wrapped year-end 2014, flaunts Puerto Rico’s first (and only) hammam; use the Bon Voyage brunch as a proper send-off. Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort’s fresh look, unveiled in 2015, extends to the ballroom and Adirondack chairs on the beach. Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa’s 2015 revamp introduced a new pool deck and updated villas on 20 tropical waterfront acres in Guanica.
Cancun and Riviera Maya, Mexico
More than 100 new hotels have surfaced in the Riviera Maya in the last 15 years, and the trend isn’t slowing down. At the all-inclusive Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, opened early 2015, wedding packages include late checkout and breakfast in bed, plus fun reception add-ons like late-night grilled cheese sandwiches. The Pyramid at Grand Oasis — a hotel-within-a-hotel concept unveiled in April 2015 — grants access to Cancun’s largest pool, a spa and a cigar bar. Two resorts also launched in 2015 near Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue: the 92-room Thompson Playa del Carmen (stage your wedding on the rooftop, on a private beach or in the boho Beach House); and the 314-room Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort (stay for the honeymoon package, with a candlelit dinner). In November 2015, Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya, a 434-suite all-inclusive, premiered in the fishing village of Akumal. And at Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ adults-only El Dorado Seaside Suites, revealed December 2015, each of the 192 rooms has its own pool or swim-up access.
Turks and Caicos Islands
With Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello posting up at COMO Parrot Cay resort for their 2015 honeymoon, TCI is more tantalizing than ever. Send your guests on JetBlue’s new daily direct service from Fort Lauderdale, launched in November 2015. The Residences, a new collection of five-bedroom beach villas, joined Grace Bay Resorts in July 2015; tie the knot under the glow of tiki torches.
Since George and Amal’s media-blitz Venice bash in 2014, Italy’s romantic heat has grown into a five-alarm fire. Marry at the 137-room Sheraton Lake Como, not far from Casa Clooney; open since March 2015, the hotel hosts welcome drinks by the sun-splashed pool. Spring 2015 welcomed the 266-room JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa on the private island of Isola delle Rose. Nearby, San Clemente Palace Kempinski Venice will premiere in March 2016; on its 17-acre grounds are gardens and a 12th-century church. Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa’s $16 million 2015 reno updated its 180 rooms, lobby and restaurants; event spaces include a ballroom, terraces, piazzas and gardens. Debuting December 2016, a 120-room, five-star hotel at Toscana Resort Castelfalfi will be tucked into an 800-year-old medieval village.
Blend it like David Beckham — the sexy former footballer owns a vineyard in this tony wine region — and exchange vineyard vows. Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer took over St. Helena’s Harvest Inn in 2014, rebranding it to Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer (shown) and introducing Harvest Table; a revamp of the 78 rooms is slotted for 2016. Get married in the Wedding Garden at The Carneros Inn (spruced up spring 2016 to the tune of a cool $1 mil), and greet guests with award-winning local pinot in the Hilltop Dining Room, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows.