"What is your favorite Destination Wedding to date?"
This is probably the single most popular question I get when it comes to traveling and shooting destination weddings. In order to answer this question though, we must first talk about what exactly qualifies as a "destination wedding". There are several definitions in my mind and believe me when I say I've shot them all. But I want to define what people are asking me when they want me to answer that question, so here goes.
The first definition I think of, is when a couple comes to California from somewhere up north, to get married in the beautiful sunshine. They book a beach wedding or even one at the more popular wineries here in Temecula as their "Destination Wedding" because they are planning it via emails and telephone and not "hands on" like they would if they lived here. I (on the other hand) do not REALLY consider that a destination wedding but I have to be careful when talking to them and keep in mind they are booking a "Destination Wedding". I have photographed so many couples this way since I moved to California more than 20 years ago, I couldn't even begin to count how many.
The second definition I think of when it comes to destination weddings is when a couple is getting married close to where they live and they hire me to come to them by flying me across the country. It makes my definition of their wedding a "Destination" while to them it is a local wedding that they just happened to hire a destination photographer to shoot. This is probably the most complimentary way I get hired considering there are so many wedding photographers out there and for them to hire ME over a local is simple astounding. Weddings I have been to this way include:
Waikiki Beach in Hawaii
Mountains in Whitefish, Montana
Mansions in Newport, Rhode Island
Plains in South Dakota
Apple Orchard in Vermont
Lakeside in Wisconsin
Frozen Lake in Minnesota (Ten Degrees Below ZERO)
Riverboat Cruise on Lake Tahoe
Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada
High Rise in Downtown Miami, Florida
Tiki Bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
I'm sure I'm missing a few on this list but to say I am truly blessed to travel and take beautiful photos would be an understatement. There are so many more places I would like to add to that list and I'm sure some day I will get the chance. The only regret I have is that some of those weddings were in my "film days" and I no longer have the ability to post photographs of them on my website because I gave all my couples their negatives and no longer have them, lol. So, use your imagination and trust me when I say they were all so uniquely different and insanely beautiful in their own way!
The third and last definition of a "Destination Wedding" is when everyone travels to the wedding from different locations for an extended weekend or mini vacation. That my friends is the ultimate destination wedding and I think the most fun because everyone is experiencing the same thing. I have always dreamed of going on a cruise for a week to achieve this status or even a foreign continent like Europe or Australia, but I do have one wedding on my list that qualifies for this ultimate experience. It is what I think of every time someone asks me the "Destination Wedding" question and definitely ranks #1 in my book.
Can you guess where it is?
There's something romantic and sexy about a destination wedding and if you are one of the lucky ones to be able to have one, then consider yourself very fortunate. If planning a wedding wasn't stressful enough, imagine planning one far away like in another state, or better yet, in another country. Back in 2010 that's exactly what one of my couples was trying to do and I was blessed to be invited to shoot it for them. I am happy I do have photos of this wedding to share and I really hope you enjoy them.
Now I had already worked two other weddings for this family so I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say they considered me part of the family to ask me along on this spectacular journey. Not only was I invited on this trip but my husband (at the time) was also invited and guess how long we were going to be gone...NINE GLORIOUS DAYS! The original plan was to have the wedding in Jamaica and since I had never been there I was completely excited. To be able to go to an island in the Caribbean was a dream come true for me especially when I was also getting paid for it. As I impatiently waited for travel confirmation from my generous couple we got some good and bad news. The bad news was that they couldn't secure the location they wanted in Jamaica. The good news however, was that they found another location instead and that we were going to CANCUN!!! WooHoo!!!
I consider myself pretty well traveled because I have been to Europe twice, Canada, The Mexican Riveria, and about 50% of the states, but I had never been to the Caribbean or any tropical islands for that matter. I'm not a big fan of swimming in the ocean because if you know me, you know I am deathly afraid of sharks. (Sidenote: My mother took me to see "JAWS" when I was 6 and I'm still scarred from it.) I am however a big fan of heat, sun, food, drinks, and swanky hotels so it's pretty safe to say I was excited for this trip. I did as much research I could before the trip but honestly, there isn't enough info in the world that can prepare you for a foreign country you've never been to. Experience is key and I was in for one wild ride let me tell you!
It was lucky for us that the travel package we had was so inclusive it included airfare, the taxi to and from the airport, and all the food and drinks at resort we were staying at. Lucky because we were not actually in Cancun but a bit further south in the Playa del Carmen area almost 45 minutes away at The RIU Palace Riveria Maya Resort. The shuttle that drove us down there was excellent too and I'm so glad we didn't have to hire a separate driver to take us there. If you ever consider booking a destination wedding like this they have travel packages that are so inclusive they think of everything. I STRONGLY suggest booking this way to avoid and unexpected charges or fees once you get there.
Our resort was in a gated area that encompassed dozens of inclusive resorts and the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. I was only familiar with cold water beaches in New England and Dirty sand beaches in California so when I set my eyes on the beaches in Playa del Carmen and saw that the water was so crystal clear blue and the sand was soft and white like baby powder, I was simply in awe at it's beauty. I'd never seen anything like it and I don't know if I ever will again. I will never forget that sight. I knew at that moment there was no possible way I could take a bad photo at this wedding and I was ok with that!
If my memory serves me correctly we arrived on a Wednesday and the wedding was the following Saturday so as quick as we got settled in a routine I was shooting this beautiful wedding in a hotel with marble floors, stone columns, impeccable landscaping, crystal pools, and again the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. It was surreal and I never wanted to leave. If you can imagine a world with no stress or financial worries, delicious food, endless drinks, entertainment galore, dancing till the sun comes up, room service, and simply being treated like a Hollywood star, then that was the world I was in. Looking back now I truly regret I haven't gone back as Cleghorn Photography with my current husband. Any takers?
Since there are no words that can describe fully how spectacular this wedding location was I want to post a few photos for you to enjoy. If you are one of the fortunate ones that is planning a destination wedding and want a recommendation, The RIU chain is a good one. They have hotels and resorts all over the world and I cannot say enough good things about them and the way we were treated there. Go to http://www.RIU.com to find your perfect destination and then sit back and ENJOY! I know you won't regret it!!!
Tell them "Andrea the Photographer" sent you!
In closing and to sum up my final answer, this wedding back in 2010 tops my list as my #1 epic destination wedding. I have been waiting 10 years to top that shooting experience but to date nothing has quite done it for me. I challenge any one of you to be my next EPIC Destination Wedding and I promise if I get to go to another amazing continent with my amazing hubby it will definitely be my new #1. Iceland? Scotland? Africa? Australia? Germany? I'm not picky, you choose!!!