Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Say Bon Voyaqe to Destination Weddings: Save the Beach for the Honeymoon. Instead, Get Married at Your Local Parish

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Say Bon Voyaqe to Destination Weddings: Save the Beach for the Honeymoon. Instead, Get Married at Your Local Parish

Article excerpt

"I don t understand why they just can't get married here!" lamented the grandmother who was being force-marched 2,800 miles to Mexico for her grandson's wedding. "We spent $2,000 on the trip, if you can believe that," said a friend who returned with her husband from a family wedding in Hawaii.

A mom whose two oldest children are getting married in the coming year regaled me with horror stories about the booming nuptial trend of destination weddings. Her daughter got socked with expensive airfare and hotel costs when standing up in several weddings in far-off locales, in addition to the usual bridesmaid outlay. Of course she had to go solo because she could no more afford to bring a guest to these affairs than she could afford to buy the tropical islands on which they were held.

Destination weddings are creeping up to 25 percent of weddings nationwide, often held in beachy spots such as Mexico or the Caribbean. "You might be dreaming of a barefoot ceremony on a white sand beach," says a website dedicated to these affairs. "But maybe you want something completely out of the ordinary like waterfalls, mountains, or even an erupting volcano as your backdrop." Just be sure to head for the hills before the lava ruins the bride's pedicure.

Two groups who love destination weddings unreservedly are the couples themselves and advice columnists, who relish the steady stream of irate e-mails from those expected to take time off work and shell out big bucks to attend. Like the one couple who wrote to Miss Manners after being browbeaten into attending a week-long cruise wedding of a friend's daughter. The bride called off the wedding with three weeks to go, but the travel insurance didn't care, so the two guests were stuck with an unwanted cruise. Miss Manners, they asked, do you think the bride and her family would reimburse us for the money we laid out? Miss Manners politely laughed up her sleeve.

Why do couples choose destination weddings?

The magazine Destination Weddings Honeymoons trumpets, "You'll stand out from the pack ... [Y]ou won't have to choose from the same old hometown spots all your friends have booked." Such as that parish church where you had your first communion. The culture of individualism in which we live insists that you must be unique, above all.

It's true that many guests must travel to a wedding regardless--if you have to travel anyway, why not travel to a fun location? I get it. But driven by consumerism and "can-you-top-this" culture, they often escalate into a self-centered extravaganza. Is it not better for at least one of the marrying pair to be at home, with the ability to invite at least some of the folks who would never think of (nor could afford) flying to Cozumel for the wedding?

Wedding websites say that a destination affair can save you about $3,000 off the average wedding bill of--gulp--$26,000. How? Couples know well that only about half of those invited will actually come, so going to the Bahamas is a way to clandestinely prune your guest list without appearing to do so. A friend told me of a bridal couple appalled to learn that the groom's entire extended family decided to attend en masse, planning a family reunion to coincide with the wedding. Um, that wasn't exactly the plan.

Destination weddings usually mean no church wedding, unless the couple is diligent enough to scout out a Catholic church at the wedding location and get permission to marry there. Few do. More common nowadays, as the Mexico-bound grandmother soon discovered, is that a friend of the couple officiates. "I went up to this girl who performed the ceremony and I asked, 'What are your qualifications?'" said the grandma. "She said to me, 'I just went online!' I'm thinking to myself, 'And we came all the way here to see you?'" The wedding-planning site lists churches that will ordain someone "instantly via the Internet" and presto, you too can do a wedding for your pals. …

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