The South Pacific
THE SETTING Staffers at Bora Bora Lagoon Resort (800/860-4095; www.orient-expresshotels.com; doubles from $495), on the private island of Motu Toopua, suggest following the Polynesian ceremony (which is not legally binding, by the way) with a picnic on an uninhabited island. After unloading baskets of lobster, lamb, local Hinano beer, and snorkeling equipment, they leave the bride and groom on their own. The wedding night is then spent back at the hotel, in an overwater, thatched-roof bungalow. • Couples staying in a suite on stilts at the Hotel Bora Bora (800/477-9180 or 689/640-460; www.amanresorts.com; doubles from $800) segue from the service to a sailing expedition on a 50-foot catamaran, where champagne and canapés are served. • Bill Gates honeymooned at the Wakaya Club (800/828-3454; www.wakaya.com; doubles from $1,600, all-inclusive; exclusive rental with up to 24 guests $25,000), a private island in the Fiji archipelago with a 6-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio. A Methodist minister conducts legal weddings at the club and four master chefs and two pastry chefs design reception menus featuring seafood, game, and produce from Wakaya's organic gardens. THE EXPERT Lee Barnitt (Cherry Creek Travel, 303/316-5902; www.cherrycreektravel.com) knows everything there is to know about arranging symbolic ceremonies and honeymoons in French Polynesia. She can also organize legal ceremonies in Fiji and the Cook Islands. THE ICING Picasso triggerfish and Moorish idol fish are among the many creatures that form a psychedelic underwater palette around the 118 islands of French Polynesia. For a private tour—on a 17-foot Boston whaler—of the best diving and snorkeling spots, try Moana Adventure Tours & Cruises (689/677-597; www.moanatours.com; half-day trips from $413, including gear). THE FINE PRINT Legal weddings in Bora-Bora require 30 days' residency (check the Tahiti Tourism Web site at www.gototahiti.com; for Fiji, call the registrar's office at 011-679/666-5132). It's easier to have a civil marriage in the United States and a symbolic ceremony in French Polynesia.
THE SETTING The 1964 classic movie The Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton, put Puerto Vallarta, a town of cobblestoned streets and exuberant nightlife set against the peaks of the Sierra Madre, on the map. The Westin Regina Resort Puerto Vallarta (800/228-3000 or 52-322/226-1100; www.westinpv.com; doubles from $99) holds weddings on its terrace above the sea. Have a simple affair or indulge in all the local frills: a five-tier cake, a Mexican wedding dress, a trio playing "Novia Mia." • Twenty-five miles north, on a private isthmus, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita (800/332-3442 or 52-329/291-6000; www.fourseasons.com/puntamita; doubles from $390) caters to the unusual—if you want flower petals sprinkled on your reception from a helicopter, consider it done. Guests can sleep in private casitas with plunge pools, and sign up for massages with sage oil and tequila. • The grand gates of the Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas (52-751/348-0636; www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com; doubles from $140), built by Cortés outside Cuernavaca in 1529, are thrown open for the reception of wedding groups of up to 1,000 (30 can spend the night). Ceremonies are held in a small chapel on the grounds, and the evenings end with fireworks. THE EXPERT If you just want to pack a bag and flee to a palapa on Huatulco Beach, call the bilingual planners at Weddings on the Move (800/444-6967; www.idoweddings.com). They'll do all the legal legwork and select traditional Mexican wedding goblets or even (for a Catholic wedding) honorary Mexican godparents. THE ICING A personal shopper can uncover the finest black pottery and weavings of Oaxaca and the most intricate silverwork of Taxco, and help you get that folk-art Nativity scene or wrought iron-and-tile patio furniture home. You can hire a personal shopper through your hotel concierge. THE FINE PRINT Legal requirements in Mexico vary, not just from Saltillo to San Miguel de Allende but from judge to judge, and there is no public information available in English. A planner or a hotel with a wedding coordinator is essential.
California Wine Country
THE SETTING Exchange rings under the willows at Meadowood (800/458-8080 or 707/963-3646; www.meadowood.com; doubles from $500), a 250-acre Napa Valley estate with a wedding coordinator, a wine educator, and even a croquet pro on staff. Garden weddings and day-after breakfasts here are legendary. • Hotel Healdsburg (800/889-7188; www.hotelhealdsburg.com; $60,000, all-inclusive, for two nights, for 110 guests), on Healdsburg's downtown square, is the home of Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen; that's reason enough to take over the place for a weekend. THE EXPERT Wedding planner Robbin Montero (707/579-5886) can arrange spa treatments for the bridal party at Indian Springs in Calistoga, as well as wine tours just for them, a rehearsal dinner with a string quartet in the caves at Clos Pegase Winery, or a wedding at the storybook castle at V. Sattui Winery. She'll even order bottles of wine from Windsor Vineyards with custom labels commemorating the day. THE ICING Getaway Adventures (800/499-2453; www.getawayadventures.com; weekends from $899 per person) will schedule a weekend of biking, sightseeing, and wine tasting by day and spa treatments and great inns and restaurants by night. THE FINE PRINT No residency requirement, no waiting period. To pick up your license, appear in the county clerk's office with identification; proof of divorce, death or annulment (if applicable); and the fee (which varies by county). For phone numbers and details, go to www.usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/california.
*In all cases, the price for wedding ceremony and reception varies according to specific requirements and the size of the party.