Nothing sets the tone for a wedding more than the location. Every couple is after that special place their guests will adore, will look fantastic in the wedding photos, and will make for beautiful memories the rest of their happily married lives. Quite often, for British-based bride and grooms wanting to avoid the capricious climate, this means travelling further afield than the back-garden.
Here, we unveil our top five countries of choice for jet-set nuptials – and we've designed some special destination wedding invitations to match.
The classic beauty of France
A château ceremony is perhaps the epitome of a dream wedding, so no wonder France is a go-to destination. The vineyards of the Loire valley are replete with beautiful manor houses of yesteryear – and of course you'll always be sure that the catering (and, more importantly, the wine) will be magnifique. For something on a more glitzy scale, the grand hotels of the Riviera will add healthy doses of glamour and no end of sunshine.
Château Alpheran, Aix-en-Provence. Photo: Sebastien Boudot
Personally, as we have a soft-spot for anywhere flourishing with wild floral beauty, we're always drawn to Provence; a celebration with friends and family amongst the fields of lavender is sure to send us weak at the knees. Especially somewhere like Château Alpheran near Aix-en-Provence.
The traditional romanticism of Italy
Is there any country more romantic than Italy? From the rolling hills of Tuscany with its cypress lined drives unfurling before grand villas, to its pretty fishing villages with sun-set coloured hotels rising from a jumble of small cobbled streets, the homeland of Casanova has no shortage of gorgeous locations to send hearts aflutter.
Villa Balbianello, Lake Como. Photo: My Lake Como Wedding
Whether you gather your guests amongst the trees of a sun-soaked olive grove, or set sail into your first night of matrimonial bliss from the glittering Amalfi coast, your dream-wedding scenarios can come to life in Italy. If we had to pick one venue in particular though it would be the sensational Villa Balbianello on the shores of Lake Como. Available to book through the award-winning destination wedding planners My Lake Como Wedding.
The tropical adventure of Costa Rica
For the more adventurous of wedding couples, the island of Costa Rica holds a variety of potential knot-tying treasures. Head to the Osa Peninsula for an ocean-view and some post-ceremony surfing. Or trek into the rainforest to celebrate your vows with the canopy-hopping monkeys – and the obligatory waterfall-backed kiss photo.
There are many eco-resorts across the island where you can combine a wedding surrounded by nature with some refined comfort; hike up the Arenal volcano, say your "I dos", and then relax in the hot springs or grand spa at Tabacon.
The dramatic scenery of South Africa
Another one for the adventurers but with a side-helping of more classic wedding elegance. The mountainous terrain out in the countryside will make for stunning backdrops in your wedding photography while vineyard country is full of fantastic hotels ready-made to host you and your guests.
Molenvliet, Cape Town. Photo: Jenni Elizabeth
With South Africa's varied landscape, it's the perfect place to drive a couple of hours from your wedding destination for a honeymoon spent relaxing on one of its endless, pristine beaches or, for the wildlife lovers, heading out on safari in one of the country's nature reserves. If you pushed us for a single recommendation on a big day venue, we'd suggest the Molenvliet vineyard and guest estate outside of Cape Town.
The colourful vibrancy of Morocco
The exotic hotels of Morocco are a draw for those looking for some bohemian chic when they exchange vows. Marrakech has more than its fair-share of glamorous venues amongst its labyrinthine streets and souks, but the coastal town of Essaouria is more than wedding-party worthy. Up in the undulating hills of the surrounding countryside nestles Jardins des Douars, a boutique hotel whose seclusion will make your day feel even more romantic.
Jardin des Douars, Essaouira
If you're looking for a sprinkling of star-dust on your wedding, then hosting it in the Atlas mountains would certainly make for some epic wedding snaps, but heading into the Sahara and dancing the night away under starry skies would also be a truly magical celebration.
Cover and homepage photo: Samuel Docker