Image Credit: Villa Botanica / Nicola Lemmon Photography
If you've always dreamed of a wedding in a far-flung destination, you might be feeling a bit deflated right now with the effects of the pandemic. While the promise of a vaccine will eventually help return things to "normal", there are still ways you can make your special day a reality now. The dream of a destination wedding can still come true — it just needs to be a little closer to home.
Thankfully, Australia has managed the Coronavirus pandemic very well, so domestic travel is mostly still possible, with a few restrictions in place. And what better way to declare your love to your soulmate than by making a holiday out of it with those close to you?
We are also lucky enough to have some of the most spectacular wedding destinations right here on our shores. From unrivalled coastline to world-famous wineries, there's something to suit every couple. And best of all — many venues are offering excellent deals on wedding packages, so you can say "I do" in style without breaking the bank.
Where should you host your wedding?
Image Credit: Luna Park Venues / Michael from Splendid Photography
Here in Australia, we are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to spectacular natural backdrops. All you have to do is close your eyes and picture yourselves exchanging vows and wedding rings at one of the many incredible locations. But which one is right for you?
The team at Wedded Wonderland, one of Australia's leading wedding companies, says "The first thing a couple should consider is the type of destination wedding they're wanting to have — coastal, regional, wine-country, lakeside, countryside, the list goes on! The cuisine, ambience, style and vibe are all set by the location."
This will be one of many decisions you will have to make as a couple, so it's best to approach it together, explains the team at Villa Botanica, a premier wedding venue in the Whitsundays. "Planning should be a team effort. If you are both seeking a tropical locale, then create a list of destinations that work, then list the pros and cons of each and rule out those which least meet your wants and needs."
If you are at odds on which type of destination you prefer, you may be swayed by a number of other factors including potential border closures, where most of your friends are based, and your budget. You may also need to practice some compromise — it's a skill you will need through the rest of your lives together after all!
Australia's Best Wedding Destinations
Now let's get down to the fun part — getting to know some of Australia's best locations to host your nuptials. From tropical paradise to rugged wilderness, there is no shortage of breathtaking places to spend one of the most important days of your life!
The Tropical Wedding: The Whitsundays & North Queensland
Image Credit: The Reef House
If balmy temperatures, lush rainforests and sparkling white beaches are your thing, North Queensland could be the perfect choice for your big day.
"The Whitsunday region is a premier destination for couples the world over," states Villa Botanica. This beautiful Whitsunday's venue boasts an abundance of Instagram-worthy photo locations, from their incredible cactarium to an exclusive private beach that meets the Coral Sea. "As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the area is home to crystal clear waters, unforgettable beaches, a vivid nightlife and delicious local culinary options like no other."
Located a short boat or helicopter ride from Hamilton Island, Hayman Island is a top pick for Couture Wedding Planning. "This 5-star resort has an array of ceremony locations, such as Coconut Grove and the Stella Maris Chapel, as well as some exceptional venues for receptions like Bam Bam Lawn or Formal Gardens. They also have a number of different types of accommodation on the island from Hotel rooms to Beach Villas."
Wedshed, the digital wedding platform, encourages couples to check out some of the lesser-known gems in this beautiful part of the world — including a cattle station on a huge stretch of private beach! "Plus there are private islands you can hire for your entire wedding (and no, it won't cost you an organ)," they say.
Further north, you'll find Palm Cove, a beautiful little village by the sea with many picture-perfect wedding locations. Reef House, where many wedding guests choose to stay, is an iconic boutique hotel overlooking the Coral Sea and lush rainforest. There are worse places to spend a few days — or weeks!
When to go: If you want to avoid the crowds, extreme heat and higher prices, it's best to book in the shoulder seasons — spring and autumn advise the team at Reef House. Winter weddings can also be beautiful in this part of Australia. Not only are the days usually warm and dry (to keep your dress and make-up from melting!), you will also be able to find excellent deals on venues and accommodation.
The Boho Wedding: Byron Bay, New South Wales
The once sleepy town of Byron Bay on the New South Wales north coast has been well and truly put on the map by some of its now-famous residents (Chris Hemsworth, we are looking at you!) and its abundance of natural beauty.
"Byron Bay is a no-brainer for weddings," says Wedshed. "Beautiful beaches and countryside, an abundance of accommodation, great bars and restaurants, and a collection of amazing wedding vendors that live in the area."
Wedded Wonderland agrees. "Byron Bay is one of the most popular local destinations, with limitless opportunities in style and design, access to some of the world's top wedding stylists, planners and boutiques, as well as beaches, boho-vibe and an iconically Australian setting," they say.
You'll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to venues. "The Byron Bay region has some beautifully unique venues and properties that are the perfect mix of romantic, luxe, relaxed and chic," says Ashdown & Bee.
When to go: Being in the far north of New South Wales, Byron Bay has pleasant temperatures all year round, however, the summer months tend to be wetter with more thunderstorms. December and January are also busier with holidaymakers. Spring and autumn are a great time to say "I do" in Byron Bay, with September being the driest month of the year here.
The Winery Wedding: Margaret River, Western Australia
Pristine coastline, rugged national park, mouth-watering cuisine and award-winning vineyards — it's not hard to see why the Margaret River region is an incredibly popular location for destination weddings.
A top pick for Wedshed, Margaret River is situated about 280 km south of Perth in Western Australia. Whether you're dreaming of an intimate wedding at a boutique winery, or a bigger affair at one of the larger wineries, there is no shortage of incredible venues to host your special day.
If you're not in Western Australia but would love to get married at a winery, there are plenty of other beautiful ‘wine country' destinations to consider, from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in South Australia to the Yarra Valley in Victoria and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales,
"Each state boasts its own unique vineyards, wines, of course, chefs and more," says Wedded Wonderland. "This is definitely our pick for foodies who like to wine and dine their guests, and particularly for winter weddings," they say.
When to go: You can expect very Mediterranean-like weather in the Margaret River region, which never gets too hot or too cold. The summer months, especially December and January, tend to be busiest with school holidays, so you're more likely to get a better deal on venues and accommodation outside of this period.
The City Wedding: Sydney & Brisbane
Image Credit: Victoria Park / Ben and Hope Photography
If most of your guests are based centrally, a city wedding might be the best choice for your special day. Each state has its own unique cities, which each offer something special, but our experts' picks for city weddings in Australia are Sydney and Brisbane.
When it comes to classic Australian settings, you can't get much more iconic than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. "Luna Park Venues offers unique and elegant waterfront venues with unrivalled views, set in the stunning location of a beautifully restored 1930's art deco amusement park," says the team there.
They even have a ‘Brides on Rides' experience available exclusively for couples having their reception at Luna Park Venues. Imagine snapping your wedding photos with the glamorous backdrops of the vintage carousel, the Ferris wheel with views overlooking Sydney, and a spectacular sunset on the boardwalk.
There is no shortage of beautiful places to exchange your vows in Brisbane, but our top pick is the inner-city sanctuary, Victoria Park. Situated just two kilometres from the Brisbane CBD, couples visiting Brisbane can stay close by and enjoy beautiful Brisbane city views and natural surrounds.
"Victoria Park is a great destination for weddings as it's an all-inclusive, one-stop-shop with the ability to host both ceremony and receptions on-site," says the team there. "Plus, wedding guests are able to experience plenty of activities on-site like Putt-Putt, the Driving Range or having a drink in the Bistro whilst couples are taking photos." Your guests will certainly never be bored!
When to go: Sydney offers a relatively temperate climate for most of the year, with average temperatures ranging from 18c in winter to 26c in Summer. The summer months in Sydney tend to be busier so you may find better deals and more availability outside of this period. Brisbane can get very hot and humid in the summer so if your guests are not used to the heat, these months may be best avoided.
The Unique Wedding: Top End, Northern Territory
Wedded Wonderland's top pick for the most underrated wedding destination in Australia is the North Territory. "With so many incredible resorts, epic backdrops and unique flora and fauna, it definitely is a memorable place, and opportunity to take your guests somewhere they've never been," they say.
While the Northern Territory has many beautiful regions, our number one location for your destination wedding is the Top End which can be easily accessed via Darwin. Here you'll find some of the most unique and spectacular terrain on earth including the famous Kakadu National Park, coastal floodplains, the Katharine River, sweeping escarpments and breathtaking waterfalls.
Choose from one of the many hotels and resorts which have been designed to work in perfect harmony with the natural beauty of the area. Aside from the astonishing views, locally sourced cuisine and the abundance of wildlife, you'll also be able to dance the night away under the stars of a night sky as you've never seen before.
When to go: The best time of year to plan your Top End wedding is in the dry season between May and September, when rainfall and humidity are at their lowest. Just think how pleased your guests will be to escape chilly temperatures in much of the rest of the country and enjoy the warmth and welcome in the NT!
The All-Out Luxury Wedding: Wolgan Valley
For our last destination, we are pulling out all the stops. Given top marks by both Couture Wedding Planning and Ashdown & Bee, Wolgan Valley will elevate your wedding to the next level.
Located about three hours from Sydney in the Blue Mountains, One&Only Wolgan Valley has to be experienced to be believed. Framed by dramatic sandstone cliffs, this 2,800-hectare retreat promises complete luxury in the wilderness.
"It is super unique with a countryside setting, indoor plunge pools in each private cabin and fine dining," says Ashdown & Bee. "Your ceremony can be held onsite in many locations around the property, and the reception can be held either under the stars or in their luxurious dining room. It's a great location for a weekend-long wedding extravaganza for your nearest and dearest."
Couture Wedding Planning agrees. "The property has some incredible ceremony locations and the original homestead makes a beautiful spot for your reception. For the ultra-exclusive wedding experience, the entire resort can be booked out so you have complete privacy for you and your guests."
When to go: Wolgan Valley and the Blue Mountains region offers something special at all times of year. The winter months from June to August can get very cold at night with temperatures below zero, however, the days can still be warm and sunny, with more wildlife around and less pesky flies. Spring and autumn offer the mildest temperatures which may be more suitable for the logistics of a wedding.
8 Tips for planning a destination wedding in Australia
Image Credit: Ashdown & Bee
Once you've chosen the location for your dream wedding, now it's time to get planning. From dealing with the weather to setting your budget, here are some tips for making your Australian destination wedding a truly incredible occasion.
1. Agree on what's most important to you
"Make sure you get crystal clear on what your priorities are for the day," says Wedshed. "How do you want it to look and feel? How will you make it a reflection of what you guys are all about? What traditions do or don't resonate with you?
"Weddings are a big investment of time, money and emotions, and by getting clear on what you both want from the day, it'll allow you to spend your budget and energy on the stuff that really matters to you, and not the stuff that you ‘think' you need to have. Trust us, aside from an authorised marriage celebrant, everything else is totally open to interpretation," they say.
2. Do your research
Now more than ever, it's important to do your due diligence on your potential wedding destination and venue. "The key to a successful destination wedding is doing your research, take the time to look at all your options, stalk socials, read reviews and learn as much as you can before setting in stone," says Villa Botanica.
It's also important to be aware of any venues restrictions which may be in place. "Check reception times, bump in/out times, noise levels permitted, are children permitted, is parking available and the cost, any limitations on styling," advises Luna Park Venues.
"If possible, it's also advisable to visit your destination prior to the wedding so you can meet suppliers and check the venue in person," says Reef House in Palm Cove.
Here are some important areas where doing your homework will pay off:
If you're getting married outside of your local area or in another state, you will need to consider the weather in terms of temperatures and rainfall before you select a date. "The southern hemisphere winter runs from the start of June to the end of August. These cooler months provide the perfect climate for those not used to tropical climates," says Villa Botanica.
It's also worth noting that the northern areas of Australia including North Queensland and the Top End have very distinct wet seasons where you can expect a lot of thunderstorms and rainfall.
Consider border closures
As we are all learning, things can change very quickly in a pandemic. In these uncertain times, it may be wise to select a wedding destination that's closer to home, says the team at Wedshed. "Choose a wedding venue within the state that you and the majority of your guests live. With border closures being a very real thing right now, this will safeguard you against not being physically able to get to your venue," they say.
Your wedding day is about you and your partner, but due to the unusual circumstances, you will also have to think carefully about how your friends and family will feel about travelling to your venue. "Guests might feel safer driving to the wedding location now given the current environment," says the team at Luna Park Venues.
The Reef House and Spa in Palm Cove agree. "Make sure the majority of your guests will be able to get to your venue either by road or flights if that option is available," they say.
If you are really worried about the risk of border closures, you may need to get creative. "Consider alternative locations that can be transformed into a beautiful space such as a family property," says Ashdown & Bee. "A professional stylist can transform any space into a new ‘destination' with the right decor choices, placement and atmosphere."
Check your venue and destination are COVID-Safe
You will also need to check that your wedding venue and destination are a safe option for both you and your guests. "Couples should ensure that their chosen venue has a registered COVID-19 Safety Plan, know specific requirements around service, and request to know the cancellation terms of your booking prior to signing a contract," says Luna Park Venues.
The team at Victoria Park agrees. "Couples should definitely consider picking a venue that is reliable and that they can trust with their special day, especially in the current climate," they say.
Foodservice can pose a risk at this time so Couture Wedding Planning suggests sourcing a venue that can facilitate a sit-down event. "Buffet and cocktail events are tricky at the moment due to current restrictions," they say.
Can you change or postpone your wedding?
Another important factor to consider when planning a destination wedding during these times is how flexible your venue and suppliers are.
Flexibility is also crucial during this time. "As the restrictions are ever-changing, it may be best to look for a versatile venue — one that can host a variety of guest numbers with different floor plan options to ensure your dream wedding reception can take place, even if there remain some restrictions by your date," says the team at Luna Park Venues
"Chat to your venue about what their terms are when it comes to postponements and make sure you're comfortable with how this would play out if it were necessary to push your wedding date back due to restrictions," says Wedshed.
"The same applies to your accommodation if you won't be staying onsite at your wedding venue — check their postponement or cancellation terms. If you can find some flexible accommodation options for guests then do share with them via your 'Save the Date' or wedding website," they say.
3. Choose guest numbers carefully
The team at Couture Wedding Planning says that your choice of destination will strongly affect your guest numbers at the moment.
"If you want more people to attend, then we would suggest a location that is within a two to three-hour drive from your city. If you want to have a smaller wedding, you could consider a location interstate. You will most likely find your guest numbers will drop as soon as flights are involved," they say.
4. Get your date confirmed ASAP
"A lot of couples who had booked their wedding in 2020 have had to reschedule to 2021, thus there may be little availability for Saturday's next year, especially in peak seasons," says the team at Luna Park Venues. Once you've decided which time of year want to get married, get in touch with some venues ASAP to reserve your date.
5. Set a budget and stick to it
This might sound obvious but it's worth considering that destination weddings tend to have some additional costs like accommodation and travel, so it's important to keep a firm eye on these as you plan your big day.
"Have at least a ballpark figure for your budget," says Villa Botanica. "This gives you a rough idea of what to plan for to make sure you don't overspend."
"Find out amounts and due dates of deposit payments. You may be best to consider an alternative day to Saturday's," recommends Luna Park Venues.
6. Outsource or DIY?
There tend to be a few more moving parts with destination weddings, even if it is a local destination, so it's important to consider how much you personally want to take on. "While sometimes DIY can save you money, paying a professional for their services will save you stress and allow you to come into the wedding day feeling relaxed and in control — something that's invaluable," says Wedshed.
7. Make it personal
Whether you're planning to have your nuptials on a white sandy beach or tucked away in the wilderness, the most important thing is that it feels very personal. "Invest in making the experience really customised and thoughtful with details such as hand-knotted napkins, hand-lettered place cards, and a love note to each guest from the newlyweds. These little touches make the wedding that little bit more special," says Ashdown & Bee.
8. Host your wedding and honeymoon at the same destination
With the current restrictions on travel, you might be wondering if or how you'll plan your honeymoon. The Reef House in Palm Cove has a clever idea. "You could choose a destination for your wedding where you and your partner can also spend your honeymoon," they suggest. If you intend to stay longer at your wedding destination for your honeymoon, this may also influence your choice of location. Can you see yourselves spending a week or so there and is there enough to do (or not do) to keep you both happy?
When it comes to finding a place to get wed, Australia offers an abundance of natural riches. With scenery as vast and diverse as the country itself, food and wine to tempt the senses, and experienced venues to take care of every special detail — you certainly won't feel limited in any way.
Planning your dream wedding right here in Australia, even in the middle of the pandemic, can be a joyful experience. With some careful thought and consideration, your soulmate by your side and your closest loved ones there to share it all with you — it's sure to go down as one of the most extraordinary days of your lives.