Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not All Destinations Are Equal

In our recent article Domestic Destination Weddings, we responded to a comment from destination wedding photographer Mary Basnight that our coverage has been almost exclusively focused on destination weddings outside the United States. She’s right.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve been doing some research on destination weddings in the U.S. and really thinking about this. Unfortunately, our research isn’t as clear cut as we hoped it would be. And as we mentioned in What is a Destination Wedding?, we have a very clear definition on it takes to be a destination wedding: the location and venue itself need to be an integral part of the wedding experience.

We have found some locations in the U.S. that qualify. But we’ve also found a significant number of places passing themselves off as “destination wedding venues” that really aren’t (at least in our book).

As an example of what we are talking about, we would like to discuss Foothills Wedding Chapel in Golden, Colorado. Foothills Wedding Chapel promotes itself as a destination wedding venue. With all respect to this establishment, it really isn’t. One wedding chapel is like another, be it in Golden, Las Vegas or Gatlinburg. To be sure, Foothills Wedding Chapel is probably far nicer than anything Gatlinburg has ever seen, but it doesn’t qualify as a destination wedding venue for us.

To be a destination wedding venue, the venue itself has to be a part of the allure. Golden, Colorado is at the foothills of the mountains, is home to Coors Brewery and the Colorado School of Mines, and has a truly charming main street with numerous excellent restaurants. The town is nestled beautifully at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and sits in a valley created by North and South Table Mountains. Beyond this, the town is unremarkable. We should know, my husband was born and raised there.

Our goal in writing this is not to downgrade Foothills Wedding Chapel in Golden. It seems to be a truly fine establishment and if this is the kind of wedding you want, I’m sure it would be nice. But it really is not a destination wedding venue in our book. It is an elopement venue. The venue of the chapel in downtown Golden is not the destination and can be recreated elsewhere. It’s proximity to the mountains would make it an attractive choice for couples looking to elope, but you wouldn’t necessarily feel the town of Golden is essential to the wedding ambiance in the way that other venues might be.

In thinking about our own wedding, had we wanted to do a very economical elopement from our east coast home, Foothills Wedding Chapel would have made an excellent choice (my husband still knows a few folks in the area and Colorado is lovely). But we wanted a true destination wedding experience – a beautiful place where we could gather with our friends and family from all over the world. We wanted an experience that would be another church wedding someplace, we wanted an event that friends and family members will talk about for years to come. That is the essence of a destination wedding.

We use the Foothills Wedding Chapel as an example, but there are thousands of places like it across the U.S. They offer “destination wedding” services, but the location and the facility don’t offer a true “destination.”

This is the difference between “weddings away” or eloping and a TRUE destination wedding. One is not necessarily better than the other, but couples need to truly understand what they are getting – a wedding away or a destination experience.

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