Mother kisses her daughter, who is getting married.

How Destination Weddings Have Changed Over the Years

This Ain't Your Mother's Destination Wedding

Oh my, look at your mom’s hairdo! Is she smuggling a watermelon in that thing? And your dad…what is he wearing? Was that suit made from a tablecloth from an Italian restaurant? You could deep-fry a basket of fries in all the grease in his hair. 

Looking at your parent’s old wedding pictures is a genuine delight for every generation—your kids will one day laugh at yours! It’s just fun to see how much weddings have changed over the years, from overall fashions and hairstyles to the flowers and the setting.

Destination weddings are driving that change. For decades now, destination weddings have helped brides and grooms escape the limited options of the typical hometown wedding package to embrace the dream-fulfilling, anything-is-possible sense of freedom the world at large provides.

Here’s a look back at ceremonies then and now, along with points to think about if you are considering a destination wedding.

Streamlined Attire

In the 1980’s, wedding dresses required puffy, full-lace sleeves, a corset and an enormous train, which made it quite difficult for the bride to saunter down the aisle, let alone pack the monstrosity in a suitcase and haul it to Europe.

Destination weddings prove how effortlessly elegant a low-key ensemble can be. When you get married on a beach in the summer, you don’t want to wear heels or a black suit with a neon pink cummerbund to match the bridesmaids. It’s all about form and function at your destination—so simple dresses, linen suits, even flip-flops are A-OK to wear.

Breaking Tradition

By the early 2000’s, fewer couples were I do’ing in churches as a new wave of outdoor venues emerged. As social media blossomed, couples were sharing amazing photos from their destination weddings, with crashing waves or stunning vineyards in the background. While the ceremony often still reflected an element of religion, the expanding site selection empowered couples to express their personalities rather than tradition.

Bride kisses mother's hand.
Tradition: It's great to have a traditional wedding, but it's OK to add your own flair.


Early destination weddings were more like classy elopements: the couple ran off to get married on a quick weekend getaway, back at their jobs early Monday morning. Nowadays, travel is more accessible, accepted and, thanks to social media, shareable. No one bats an eye at the thought of taking two weeks off to jaunt to St. Lucia with the whole family to get married. All weddings are destination weddings for a good portion of your guests—is it so crazy for the bride and groom to travel as well?

Social Media

Transfixed from our couches, we can now fantasize about the big day in a whole new way thanks to seeing gorgeously-filtered photos of weddings on Instagram and Facebook. Whether they star our friends or complete strangers, these new sources of inspiration dangle unique carrots before our eyes, giving modern brides more options to consider than their parents had.

Beyond inspiration, social media now plays other key roles. Posting first-dance rehearsals on YouTube and creating hashtags for friends to share the wedding experiences never crossed the minds of an older generation. Instead, they focused on elaborate centerpieces, the plumpness of the shrimp in their cocktails and jacking up the size of the bride’s hair to impress those in attendance.

Collection of wood, crystals and cotton.
Pin It! Social media, including Pinterest, have sparked new and creative ideas for destination weddings.

Pinterest Inspiration

The one social media tool that has had the largest impact on weddings is Pinterest. Brides and grooms alike can now create boards filled with potential ideas for ceremony décor, unique wedding favors, chair decorations and things our parents never even considered. It has made the planning process easier for some, while causing others to succumb to analysis paralysis due to the overwhelming volume of options.

In the past, decoration choices were limited to the table cloths and place settings your wedding venue could provide. This too is part of the destination wedding allure. You’re now making decisions about the overall style of your wedding and the scenic location it’s held in, but you don’t have to get bogged down with every detail if you choose. Seeing what others like you have done, and the creative ways they have stretched their dollars, makes you feel like anything is achievable.

Easier Logistics

Planning an international trip with family members in tow is easier now thanks to travel agents who have experience in planning travel for both large groups and destination weddings. Your parents would have never considered dragging old Aunt May to Barbados for a wedding, but your travel agent can make sure her trip is seamless and easy, booking the exact room she needs and handling her reservations without bothering you.

Women compare and show off their wedding rings.
You're Cordially Invited: Travel agents make a destination wedding seamless for older guests.

Rising Budgets

In the 80’s, an average U.S. wedding budget was $5,000 to $10,000, while a recent survey put the average local wedding cost between $20,000 and $33,000. Destination weddings to the rescue! 

Nowadays, the average Caribbean wedding package is around $1,000, but that doesn’t cover your hotel stay and flights. Many all-inclusive resorts throw in a basic wedding package for free if the couple stays a minimum amount of nights. However you swing it, destination weddings are proving to be the budget-friendly option your parents never had.

A World of Options

Destination weddings used to be reserved for a few specific locations, but the Internet age has opened the entire globe as possible locales to tie that knot. 

Heading to Las Vegas, Florida or Mexico were the default for years, but now remote spots like the Maldives and Belize are easier to coordinate for both the ceremony and travel. And with all-inclusive resorts employing some of the best on-site wedding planners in the game, you can personalize every inch of your Jamaican ceremony without even stepping foot on the island.


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