Eight Totally Unexpected Destination Wedding Ideas
If you've always imagined having a quiet, backyard wedding, this article isn't for you—unless your idea of quiet means saying "I do" more than 1,000 feet above traffic, or if you would consider a Kenyan wildlife reserve a backyard.
As far as wedding venues go, these are some of the most unexpected places to say tie the knot on the planet—and they range from major U.S. cities to far-flung ancient temples. Considering that as many as 25 percent of all couples are planning destination weddings, why not make yours just a bit more unconventional? That's not to say beachy, oceanfront nuptials can't be unique: some lovebirds exchange vows underwater, with only a scuba-diving minister to act as their witness, while others opt for raucous, Bahamian-style carnivals to celebrate their union.
For example, if you really want to make sure you’re breathless on your wedding day, consider getting married on an electric orange roller coaster inside Minnesota’s Mall of America. If you just don’t see the sense in waiting for your honeymoon to have your first adventure—or you want to discourage as many family members as possible from attending—consider jetting halfway across the world or hopping on the back of a horse and riding straight off into the horizon.
Your wedding is already going to be unforgettable—these backdrops and special traditions will just make your wedding day nearly unbelievable.
In a Minnesota Shopping Mall
Could there be anything more American than getting married in the Mall of America? This mega-shopping-center (the biggest mall in the U.S. and the second largest in the world) attracts more than 42 million visitors each year, meaning you'll have plenty of witnesses. The mall's wedding chapel (yes, that's a thing) may have performed thousands of weddings since it opened in 1992, but that's just too routine for some thrill-seeking couples, who have gotten married on the neon Pepsi Orange Streak roller coaster and from the seven-story Ferris wheel, El Círculo del Cielo.
Underwater in the Caribbean
If even white sand beaches bore you, take your nuptials to new depths. At Seven Mile Beach, adventurous pairs can participate in an Aqua Vows Ceremony, with the Grand Cayman's coral reefs serving as the vibrant venue. Guests include sea turtles, colorful fish, and non-threatening stingrays. The island's premier dive shop, Divetech, can help arrange for a certified scuba-diving minister, while the Cathy Church Photo Center can help with a photographer to capture the special moment.
From 1,353 Feet Above Chicago
If you want your marriage to soar, why not get married at the highest wedding venue in the United States? With 360-degree views of Chicago and its four surrounding states, the 99th floor of Willis Tower (one of the tallest buildings in the world) is an awe-inspiring space for a wedding reception. To make it even more outrageous, you and your significant other can say your vows on The Ledge, Willis Tower's famed glass-floor balcony hovering 1,353 feet above Wacker Drive.
At an Ancient Japanese Temple
Consider celebrating your wedding with an epic journey to Kyoto, one of T+L'sbest cities in the world, where you can don a kimono-style gown for a ceremony at an ancient temple or shrine. Weddings in Kyoto are also known for traditional performances by Geishas and Maiko, and a Kagamiwari ritual with sake barrel-top breaking.
With Elephants in Kenya
Bring a bit of Maasai tradition to your wedding by getting hitched in Kenya's Maasai Mara Nature Reserve. The event will feature a blessing—led by a local community elder—the bride will be decked out in hand-beaded jewelry, and locals in regalia will sing during the ceremony. Wild elephants and giraffes may even join the wedding party. Start planning your Kenyan wedding by reserving Angama Mara, the newest luxury safari lodge in the area. It's perched high above a game reserve on the very site where some of the most romantic scenes from Out of Africa were filmed.
With a Wild Carnival in the Bahamas
Not all Caribbean weddings have to be beachy, quiet affairs. In Nassau, partiers can opt for a wild Bahamian Junkanoo wedding—inspired by the island's very own version of Carnival. Your special affair will include a raucous Junkanoo rush-out, (a parade of musicians decorated with tassels, masks, and cowbells) and a colorful feast with local specialties and tropical cocktails. At the One&Only Ocean Club guests can plan this type of wedding in the lush, romantic Versailles Gardens.
Behind Bars in Philadelphia
Nothing says "I love you forever no matter what mess we get into" quite like a wedding inside Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary. Many believe the prison—where Al Capone served part of his sentence—is one of America's most haunted places, but it's actually a beautiful backdrop for wedding photos. The antebellum prison boasts high, arched ceilings and glass skylights. Services can be held in the central rotunda or outside on the expansive grounds.
ln Arizona's Wild West
Nestled between the Rincon Mountain Range and the Saguaro National Park is Tuscon's Tanque Verde Ranch, a dude ranch where couples can tie the knot. After you exchange rings, all that's left to do is to ride off into the sunset—on horseback, obviously—or ditch the dress for mountain biking through 60,000 acres of prickly pear cacti, pastures, and the Sonoran Desert.