Articles, Wedding Destinations

Small Destination Wedding Ideas: Top 20

Written By: Megan Miller
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated September 26, 2023

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Small destination weddings are all the rage these days, and it is easy to understand why so many people are searching for ideas in July 2024. Planning to tie the knot somewhere far away and exotic adds a touch of magic and excitement to your big day and lets you really go to town for the wedding of your dreams.

A destination wedding lets you add stunning ocean views, rugged mountain vistas, glorious architecture, or a beautiful beach background. It brings the spirit of adventure to your special day and makes it an event everyone will remember for the rest of their lives. 

When planning something as grand as a destination wedding, the temptation might be to go all the way and invite a huge crowd. But planning a small, intimate wedding in a far-flung location has many benefits – not least that it is far easier to organize!

There are loads of locations that are perfect for small destination weddings. Whether you plan to get married after a Mexican Riviera cruise or want an intimate affair on a Caribbean beach, here are 20 of the best small destination wedding ideas to help you plan a day you’ll never forget. 

Puerto Vallarta, México

Puerto Vallarta is full of small destination wedding ideas

Mexico’s Pacific coast is a magnificent combination of tropical jungle and glorious golden beaches, with a charming, alternative atmosphere thanks to the surf culture that still exists here. Less well-known (and less crowded) than the Caribbean coast near Cancun, Puerto Vallarta offers a wonderful spot a little off the beaten track for your nuptials. The combo of lush green jungle and perfect Pacific Ocean beaches makes for some amazing photos too!

What to do in Puerto Vallarta

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing to do in Puerto Vallarta is to jump on a boat and visit the Islas Marietas just off the coast. You’ll find an amazing array of birdlife, some fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving, and the remarkable Hidden Beach, essentially a hole in the ground that leads to a secret beach!

Where to eat in Puerto Vallarta

No visit to Puerto Vallarta would be complete without eating in Hector’s Kitchen. A native of Oaxaca, chef Hector Leyva specializes in a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine. His moles, in particular, are to die for!

Lake Como, Italy

Italy’s Lake Como is a fabulous choice for an intimate wedding and one of the world’s most picturesque and romantic spots. Not only are you guaranteed Old World charm, character, and romance by the bucketload, but you will be blessed with extraordinary landscapes as the Alps’ foothills merge with the lake’s glittering waters, highlighted by gorgeous Italian architecture.

What to do in Lake Como

Whatever you do in Lake Como, don’t miss out on spending a day exploring Como itself. The biggest town in the area is filled with stunning architecture, picturesque churches and cathedrals, and many fascinating museums. 

Where to eat in Lake Como

Given the Italians’ love of great food, it is hardly surprising that Como is full of excellent dining options. Try Agriturismo Sorsasso, a family-run restaurant and farm shop specializing in locally-sourced fare for a true taste of northern Italy.

Joshua Tree, California

The otherworldly, almost alien scenery of Joshua Tree National Park in California is truly stunning, and it makes a dreamy backdrop for a small, special wedding event. With picturesque desert views interspersed with the iconic Joshua Trees themselves, it is perfect for couples looking for a cheap wedding venue with an alternative twist. 

What to do in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is about its stunning landscape, so the best thing to do is explore it! The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is an easy hiking trail that takes you on a short one-mile loop and lets you see this fantastic national park’s beauty and weird majesty.

Where to eat in Joshua Tree

Pappy and Harriet’s is a Joshua Tree icon, a restaurant and music venue that dates back to the ‘40s when it was built as part of a movie set for an 1800s frontier western! Now it is a vibrant and lively spot offering great food and plenty of liquid refreshments as well. 

Samui Island, Thailand

You can’t get much more intimate than a wedding on a private island, and if this level of privacy and exclusivity appeals, look no further than Samui Island in Thailand! It is an amazing adventure, and you’ll get the stunning turquoise waters and golden sands of the Gulf of Thailand as your wedding venue. 

What to do on Samui Island

A visit to Samui’s Big Buddha can be a wonderful part of your pre-wedding plans, and it is quite an awe-inspiring sight in its own right. Twelve meters tall and covered in gold leaf, it is no wonder this is the most famous landmark on the island!

Where to eat on Samui Island

There are a lot of great restaurants in Samui, most of them boasting amazing sea views. But the pick of the bunch is Jahn, home to one of the most famous chefs on the island, and offering stunning 360-degree panoramic views! Perfect for the last meal of your single life.

San Miguel de Allende, México

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico’s central highlands is regularly recognized as one of (if not THE) best places to live in the world. So why not get married here too? With its stunning Spanish architecture, charming cobbled streets, sprawling vineyards and haciendas, and the amazing pink Baroque beauty of the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, it is the ultimate small wedding spot. 

What to do in San Miguel de Allende

Wandering San Miguel’s charming cobbled streets is all you really need to do to enjoy this excellent little town, but don’t miss a visit to the fascinating Casa de Ignacio Allende. This museum goes into detail about the life of this significant revolutionary figure.

Where to eat in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel is a foodie’s paradise, with amazing fine dining around every corner. One spot you mustn’t miss is Luna, the tapas restaurant on the roof of the Rosewood Hotel. As romantic experiences go, nibbles and cocktails at sunset with the town spread out beneath you is hard to beat. 

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala, is one of the world’s most picturesque cities and remains relatively undiscovered as a tourist destination. This relative lack of crowds, coupled with its stunning Spanish colonial architecture, makes it a perfect intimate small destination wedding idea for couples looking for something a little off the beaten track. Plus, its proximity to the airport of Guatemala City makes it surprisingly easy to get to!

What to do in Antigua

If you or you intend to have a sweet tooth, don’t miss Antigua’s charming Chocolate Museum. Learning about the chocolate-making process is fascinating, but the best part of this experience is tasting the finished product at the end of the tour!

Where to eat in Antigua

Try traditional Guatemalan cuisine (and not-so-traditional but delicious cocktails) at Los Tres Tiempos, a spectacular rooftop restaurant and bar with stunning views across the city. 

Napa Valley, California

Combining beautiful scenery, a wonderfully warm Mediterranean climate, and some of the world’s best (and most beautiful) vineyards, California’s Napa Valley is almost custom-built for intimate destination weddings. Tie the knot overlooking rolling hills covered in grapevines or surrounded by centuries-old olive trees, and toast your new partner with a world-renowned vintage!

What to do in Napa Valley

Taste wine! You can’t come to Napa without tasting the world-famous vintages, so incorporate a wine-tasting tour into your wedding plans. You won’t be disappointed!

Where to eat in Napa Valley

Napa is packed full of amazing restaurants, with every winery boasting its own amazing kitchen and fine dining spots all over the place. One of the best is Solbar, a Calistoga mainstay serving exciting breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. 

Miami, Florida

Miami’s glitz, glamor, and party atmosphere might not be the first idea as the most natural spot for a quiet, small destination wedding. But there are loads of awesome locations tucked away in South Florida that are absolutely perfect. With powder-soft sand, Art Deco architecture, the highest quality catering options, and a wonderful joie de vivre, Miami offers something spectacular for weddings. And if you find the right venue – somewhere like Redlands Koi Gardens, for example – you’ll be able to have the intimate wedding of your dreams just a stone’s throw from the party vibe of Miami Beach!

What to do in Miami

When in Miami, head to the beach! You might be planning a beach ceremony anyway, but leave a little time to soak up the real, authentic Miami vibe on South Beach. Pro tip: Don’t forget to order wedding snacks for the guests!

Where to eat in Miami

One of Miami’s most famous eateries, Crust is regularly voted as the best restaurant in Florida, so give it a try. It is well worth a visit with a perfectly-curated menu of modern dishes and interesting twists on classic recipes. 

Newport, Rhode Island

For elegance and sophistication, the New England coastline is hard to beat. On Aquidneck Island, Newport is the perfect spot for a wedding filled with class and style. With Gilded Age architecture and an effortlessly chic atmosphere, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere more delightful to say ‘I do’.

What to do in Newport

Newport is full of beautiful Gilded Age mansions, and a mansion tour that takes in Cornelius Vanderbilt’s The Breakers is one of the best things you can do when visiting the city. 

Where to eat in Newport

Newport’s best eateries are all set on the bustling waterfront that overlooks Narragansett Bay. The Mooring Seafood Kitchen and Bar is an upscale seafood restaurant with picturesque views from its heated outdoor deck and a wonderful menu of delicious fresh seafood. 

Franschhoek, South Africa

Breathtaking wine regions make for wonderful small wedding destination ideas. Places like Napa, Burgundy, and Tuscany are all firm favorites for destination weddings. But Franschhoek in South Africa is fast making a name for itself as the country’s food and wine capital. After tying the knot, it offers stunning mountain backdrops, perfect weather, and some wonderful wines to toast your happiness. 

What to do in Franschhoek

Franschhoek is all about the great outdoors, and the best thing to do is to get out into the surrounding countryside and explore. A guided mountain bike ride can be lovely with your partner, taking in nature reserves, mountain farmland, and centuries-old vineyards.

Where to eat in Franschhoek

Delivering ‘complex culinary artwork’, La Petite Colombe is not only the best restaurant in Franschhoek but one of the best in the world! Don’t miss the chance to try chef John Norris Rogers’ endlessly Instagrammable offerings at this gorgeous spot. 

Santorini, Greece

If getting hitched in a bleached ivory-white town clinging to rugged cliffs overlooking the sparkling blue sea & Mediterranean cruises sound like a dream, then Santorini could be your perfect wedding venue! With a timeless charm, elegance, and sunsets to die for, this tiny Greek island is a must for couples looking for a genuinely awe-inspiring wedding.

What to do in Santorini

Oia is the quintessential Santorini village, a whitewashed gem topped with stunning blue domes clinging to the side of sheer cliffs. It makes the perfect backdrop for jaw-dropping wedding photography as well!

Where to eat in Santorini

While there are plenty of upmarket fine dining spots on the island, why not go a different route and head to Aktaion, an 80-year old traditional taverna that oozes charm and serves up mouthwatering classic Santorini dishes like fava with capers, mackerel fritters and white-aubergine pie.

Gibraltar, Spain

If you have five-star small destination wedding desires, consider this idea of getting married onboard a yacht! With remarkable sea views and the wind in your hair, making your vows on board a ship on a day trip from Gibraltar is a unique matrimonial experience and one you’ll remember forever. 

What to do in Gibraltar

One unique experience in Gibraltar is a visit to Apes Den to see the Barbary macaques that call the Rock home. The only indigenous wild monkeys in Europe, these cheeky, fascinating creatures are a delight – but watch your valuables as they are surprisingly adept pickpockets!

Where to eat in Gibraltar

Nunos is considered one of the best restaurants in Gibraltar, boasting marvelous views, great interior decor, a lovely intimate dining room, and a Michelin star!

Provence, France

Fairytale chateaus, rolling hills covered in lavender, beautiful mountain views, and one of the best cuisines on the planet. Provence is the perfect location for a small destination wedding. With a lovely Mediterranean climate to boot, you can plan a truly special, intimate affair in the south of France.

What to do in Provence

If you have time, visiting the magnificent walled city of Avignon is one of the best things to do while in Provence. Home to popes for centuries during medieval conflicts, the Pope’s Palace is a fascinating experience for history lovers and architecture fans alike.

Where to eat in Provence

Provence is one of the world’s food capitals, so almost anywhere you head, you’ll find amazing cuisine and fantastic eateries. However, it would be foolish not to try two amazing Provencal ingredients, saffron and truffles, and probably the best spot to do so is at L’Oustalet, a romantic one-room dining room in the hillside wine village of Gigondas, described by those in the know as the best restaurant in the region. 

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is just outside Lisbon, Portugal’s buzzy, picturesque capital city. The highlight of this quiet little town, and what makes it such a special place for a destination wedding, is the complex of stunning, Disney-style palaces decked out in glorious pastel colors. Get married in the wonderful coral chapel, then enjoy a reception in one of the many boutique hotels and resorts dotted around the town.

What to do in Sintra

pena palace in sintra

No visit to Sintra would be complete without a visit to the Pena National Palace, the pastel-colored fairytale castle perched high on one of the highest peaks of the Sintra Mountains in the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park.

Where to eat in Sintra

A hidden gem away from the tourist crowds, Tascantiga is tucked away behind  Sintra’s 14th-century, azulejo-tiled Pipa Fountain, and is the perfect spot to try traditional Portuguese cuisine in a beautiful, quiet location.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena’s bright, vibrant, colorful architecture is as full of life and joy as the city itself and makes for a wonderful wedding backdrop. Add gorgeous Caribbean views, delightful beaches, and a tropical climate, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a perfect small destination wedding. 

What to do in Cartagena

Discover Ciudad Amurallada, the walled fortress city in the heart of Cartagena designed to secure the populace against pirate attacks and storms. An absolutely gorgeous historic corner of an already stunning city. 

Where to eat in Cartagena

With an ambiance that evokes a Colombian Great Gatsby, Alquimico is a gorgeous restaurant/bar set in an old shoe factory full of class, elegance, and chic refinement. 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The medieval grandeur of Croatia’s most beautiful walled city has become a little more famous these days after being featured in Game of Thrones, but it is still far from a standard wedding destination. The glittering Adriatic frames, cobbled streets, ancient architecture, and stunning Baroque style make this an incredibly dramatic spot to celebrate your nuptials.

What to do in Dubrovnik

The best thing to do in Dubrovnik is to wander around the old town and along the awesome medieval walls, soaking up the stunning history of this extraordinary walled city.

Where to eat in Dubrovnik

Nautika is one of Dubrovnik’s finest dining options across two wonderful terraces offering stunning seaside views. The seafood is the star here, with scallops, octopus, and fresh-caught fish the highlights of the locally-sourced menu.

Suffolk, England

There is something about the English countryside’s tranquility and peacefulness that screams ‘intimate destination wedding.’ Maybe it’s the elegance and sophistication of the stately homes and countryside manors, maybe the beautiful green landscapes, or maybe just the reserved, polite charm of the people – whatever it is, Suffolk’s wonderful scenery makes the perfect background for your wedding. 

What to do in Suffolk

Take a step back in time at the amazing Anglo-Saxon burial mounds of Sutton Hoo. Although most of the treasures have been removed to be exhibited elsewhere, there is a remarkable, otherworldly atmosphere at this site that has to be seen (and felt) to be believed. 

Where to eat in Suffolk

Pea Porridge is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Suffolk, so head to Bury St Edmunds and discover the joys of the Mediterranean-influenced fine dining menu. 

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum is one of the most Instagrammed spots in the world, a gorgeous alternative boho paradise on Mexico’s unbelievably beautiful Caribbean coast. Set yourself up in one of the many world-class eco-hotels, then jump between a lush jungle on one side and a wide, untouched white-sand beach on the other. Try a temazcal before the ceremony, a Mayan ritual steam cleansing that will leave you feeling brand-new and spiritually awakened. 

What to do in Tulum

The star of Tulum is its gorgeous, white-sand beaches skirted by crystal-clear turquoise Caribbean seas. Head to the aptly named Paradise Beach to relax before your big day, watched over by stunning Mayan ruins on the cliffs above.

Where to eat in Tulum

Tulum has recently developed quite the reputation as a foodie destination in Mexico, but its best spot has been around for a while. Hartwood has been the heart of Tulum’s dining scene for years and continues to be the place to go for foodies in the Riviera Maya.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tucked away in Guanacaste on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Tamarindo is the ultimate in getting away from it all. With miles and miles of beautiful beaches, a charmingly exotic atmosphere, and some of the world’s most friendly, welcoming, and relaxed locals, experiencing Costa Rica’s Pura Vida lifestyle is a real treat. Tamarindo isn’t far from Liberia International Airport, which is served by a bunch of US carriers, and best of all, the Costa Rican officials make it easy to ensure your marriage license is valid back home!

What to do in Tamarindo

Tamarindo is another exotic destination where really the best thing to do is head to the beach and soak up the sun. One of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica (and up there with the best in the world), Tamarindo Beach offers a laid-back vibe and a vast expanse of pristine golden sand for you to enjoy. 

Where to eat in Tamarindo

Tamarindo is not the place to go for fine dining, but for relaxed, authentic, street-food style eats it really can’t be beaten. Head to El Jardin for a selection of the best food trucks and stalls this lovely corner of the world offers. 

Ubud, Bali

monkeys in bali

Ubud is one of the most significant arts and cultural centers on the island of Bali, a town bursting with creative life and remarkable history and culture. Coupled with the fantastic mountain scenery and the remarkable spiritual vibe enhanced by the countless Buddhist temples around town, it is an incredibly special place to celebrate your love for your partner. 

What to do in Ubud

Ubud is an intensely spiritual place, and to really soak up its unique atmosphere, a visit to some of the best Buddhist and Hindu temples is a must. One of the most interesting is the Tirta Empul Water Temple, a holy sight where Hindus go to bathe in the sacred waters.

Where to eat in Ubud

Crowned with the garland of ‘Best Restaurant in Indonesia’ in 2017, as well as being named the 49th best restaurant in Asia, Locavore is a must-visit. An adventure in food as much as a dining experience, it is truly exceptional and something that will add the finishing touch to your destination wedding trip!

Final thoughts

When planning a small destination wedding, there are endless ideas for creativity and fun. From finding the perfect location to choosing unique wedding decorations, many small details can make your wedding day unforgettable. Here are a few final thoughts to help you plan the perfect small destination wedding:

– Consider your wedding budget and choose a location that fits your budget.

– Find a unique location that reflects your personality as a couple.

– Choose wedding decorations that fit the location and reflect your personal style, as well as food and wedding snacks your guests will love.

– Make sure to include local traditions in your ceremony or reception.

– Relax and enjoy your special day!

With these small destination wedding ideas, you’ll surely have a wedding day you’ll never forget.

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