Destination weddings: Always in style, and one of travel’s most lucrative markets

This story originally ran in the Oct. 17, 2019 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.

TORONTO — Staying on top of wedding trends has become almost as big of an industry as weddings themselves.

Hemlines: short or long? Sleeves or strapless? Ball gown, sheath, mermaid or A-line? And that’s just the dress.

Anyone who’s ever helped plan a wedding knows that trends for everything from décor to colour schemes to venues come and go as quickly as some celebrity marriages.

And while not every couple is 100% focused on what’s hot and what’s not, most want to incorporate at least a few of the latest styles into their nuptials.

And that includes couples planning destination weddings.

Destination weddings have been popular so long, they’ve transcended trend status and are now their own multimillion dollar industry. According to stats compiled by TripSavvy, based in the U.S., some 25% of nuptials are destination weddings.

Destination weddings: Always in style, and one of travel’s most lucrative markets

Amy Bielby, Editor in Chief, Today’s Bride

Amy Bielby, Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Bride, sees her share of wedding trends. Some stick, some don’t. Alexis Colby-style wedding dresses from the 1980s, complete with shoulder pads, were a flash in the pan. Destination weddings, on the other hand, are here to stay. “The trend seems to be continuing and growing,” says Bielby. “Couples are craving adventure and unique weddings more and more.”

And the market is booming for travel agents. There are even destination wedding specialists whose expertise has propelled them to star status among brides and grooms planning nuptials away from home.

For tour operators, the demand for destination weddings has been a boon, fuelling the success of many Groups departments.

Here’s a look at the top wedding trends for 2020 …


Wedding dresses with pockets? Yes, they’re a thing. Not that you’d want to stuff those pockets, ruining the smooth lines of the dress, but we can see the attraction.


There’s also a trend to modern dresses with a clean, unfussy silhouette, à la Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex. Markle’s dress in May 2018 – the ceremony dress, at least – had sleeves, another trend that’s still going strong. Sleeves aren’t ideal for destination weddings in Mexico and the Caribbean, but they’re perfect for European nuptials. Ball gowns and capes are trendy too – again, not so much for warm weather climates – and so are one-shoulder dresses. What better way to say ‘I do’ at a destination wedding and show off a great tan at the same time?





The real trendsetters would no doubt say that ‘rustic-chic’ weddings are past their prime. But barnboard backdrops, artisanal drinks in Mason jars and twinkly lights looped atop reception tables still look great on Instagram, meaning the rustic-chic trend will probably continue long past its expiry date.


One décor trend that Bielby’s seeing a lot of – and it’s one that works great for destination weddings in beach locales – is a vibrant colour scheme. “Brighter colours and richer colour palettes seem to be growing in popularity, rather than white or pastel décor,” says Bielby. “This is great news for anyone planning a tropical destination wedding. Caribbean and tropical florals can add a great pop of colour in bouquets and in tablescapes.”

Oversized elements – and that could include larger-than-life centerpieces, huge balloons, and fireworks and even (gulp) flares – are also popular right now. While wisely passing on the pyrotechnics, many Caribbean resorts are incorporating another trend, elegant archways and greenery, into their wedding package décor themes.


In this age of Instagram, and keeping up not just with the Joneses but with all and sundry on social media too, the emphasis on weddings with ‘wow factor’ has reached epic proportions. Every couple wants something different, something unique, and they’re going global in their search for one-of-a-kind décor items and favours.


But couples have to remember that resorts don’t always have the space to accommodate all the swag that gets sent in advance of the Big Day. Says Bielby: “Couples bring décor items, favours, gift bags and more. I was recently at a resort in the Caribbean and the wedding planner told me couples are sending more and more items prior to arrival. But couples really need to clear that with the destination property. The planner I spoke with showed me the planning offices and they were packed with boxes and boxes of décor from upcoming weddings. The poor planners could barely get to their desks. So check to see if the property has the storage space.”

As Bielby points out, a destination wedding is a great opportunity to go local. “The couple might have a very specific vision, but what is the point of going to an incredible destination if you aren’t going to experience the culture of that country? Purchasing favours, wedding party gifts and other décor items at the destination will add to the uniqueness of the event.”


This is a no-brainer for destination wedding brides and grooms. The location is such a key part of the wedding ceremony and reception (and honeymoon) that it dictates just about everything about the entire event. That said, there’s a whole world out there and couples are getting more adventurous about where they choose to say ‘I do’.

“We see lots of couples venturing outside of the Caribbean. Italy and Iceland are popular destination wedding choices at the moment,” says Bielby.


She notes that when planning a destination wedding of greater distance, “couples should be prepared to have a higher amount of invites declined.” Since couples are not expected to cover guests’ travel expenses, the trip costs can be a struggle for some guests, she adds. “Plus, going over the pond means taking extra vacation time from work, which often isn’t easy. The couple really has to be considerate of the budgets of their invitees and decide which is more important to them: the destination or the guest list.”

And this is one situation where a long engagement – with plenty of wedding planning time – is a good thing. “If couples do plan nuptials somewhere outside of the Americas, they should give their family and friends plenty of time to book vacation time and save the cash.”


Bielby oversees not just Today’s Bride but also Today’s Bride Destination Wedding publication. Are there any photo shoots that come across her desk that make her want to get married or renew her vows all over again? “Destination wedding photography gets to me every time,” she says. “Seeing the couple surrounded by beautiful scenery – in the mountains, in the ocean, in the jungle or rainforest. Yep, I would like to experience that. Also, when I see photos of the guests, I think about how I would love to share that bonding experience with my family and friends.” Good thing great photography never goes out of style – or, for that matter, celebrating promises to love and cherish each other in front of family and friends.