7 of Our Favorite Dream Destination Wedding Venues

Some brides have been dreaming about their big day for years — they’ve decided on every little detail, from the color palette to the cake. And there are others who are caught off guard with wedding planning, and find themselves caught up in the whirlwind of flower, tablecloth and dress options.

No matter what camp you’ve found yourself in, it’s hard to resist the allure of these dream destination wedding venues. From Hawaii, to Santorini, to Provence, each of these locations is a dream come true for any bride.

Take a look at 7 of our top dream destination wedding venues:

haikumillHaiku Mill
Honolulu, Hawaii

macakiziMaçakizi
Bodrum, Turkey

dromoland2Dromoland Castle Hotel
Clare, Ireland

santorini
Celestia Grand Villas
Santorini, Greece
(photo by Anna Roussos)

tulum
Hotel Escencia
Tulum, Mexico
(photo by Thayer Allison Gowdy Weddings)

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 10.56.59 AMGrand Hotel Ambasciatori
Sorrento, Italy

chateauChateau La Gorce
Gironde, France

Wine Country Wedding Dessert: Chocolate Cabernet Cake

Text written exclusively for Have & Hold by Christy Hulsey
Produced by:  Salted & Styled and Camp Makery

Making your own wedding cake isn’t exactly easy. And it’s definitely a task that’s outside my area of expertise. So, when I arrived at the venue for our wine country wedding inspirational shoot in Georgia to see this gorgeous dessert whipped up by the talented Libbie Summers, I had to get the step-by-step guide to making this stacked cake.

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Although this cake looks just as delicious as it tastes, the styling geniuses of Salted & Styled and photography by Chia Chong make these photos look even more luscious. Long after the cake is devoured, the memories of making it will stand. The whole thing is actually pretty awesome. Without a doubt, its one of the treats I loved the most from our incredible Vineyard Wedding Tabletop shoot.

Chocolate Cabernet Naked Cake
Recipe by Libbie Summers
Serves 12

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Ingredients

For Red Wine Syrup:
3⁄4 cup Cabernet
1⁄2 cup brown sugar

For Cake:
3 1⁄2 cups cake flour
1⁄2 cup high quality cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), room temperature
2 1⁄2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups Cabernet or other full bodied red wine
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
Red food coloring (optional)

For Frosting:
6 egg whites
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
6 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1⁄2 tablespoons vanilla paste

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Directions:

For Red Wine Syrup: In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the sugar and wine and whisk together until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

For Cake: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the butter and sugar. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated. Mix in the flour mixture and wine, alternating with each. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla paste and mix until combined. At this point if you want your cake to have a more prominent red color, you can add a little red food coloring.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (about 30 to 40 minutes). Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans completely.

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For Frosting: In a medium saucepan over low to medium heat combine the egg whites and sugar. Stir constantly until the egg whites reach 160 ̊ F and the sugar has completely dissolved.

Transfer to a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly increase to high speed. Whip until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.

Add in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time. Add in the vanilla paste. Continue whipping until the buttercream is light and airy.

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To Assemble: When cakes are completely cool cut each in half lengthwise with a serrated knife (your making 6 layers). Working one layer at a time, place it on your chosen cake stand (cut side up). Brush with a very thin layer of the cabernet syrup and allow it time to seep into the cake. Place about a 1⁄2 cup of frosting in the center of the cake layer and spread it out evenly all the way to the edge. Don’t frost the sides, this is what makes it a “naked cake.”

Continue this process with the next 5 layers of the cake ending with a thicker layer of frosting on top of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with grapes and flowers if you like.

Store cake at room temperature.

Vineyard Wedding Tabletop in Savannah, Georgia

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Text written exclusively for Have & Hold by Christy Hulsey

As a little girl, I remember dreaming about a party amid my grandmother’s grapevines. To me, a vineyard soiree is the epitome of magical romance. I love it all — from the rich colors of bronze, burgundy and green, to the sweet smell of a grapes begging for harvest, to the peaceful sound of leaves dancing through the acreage. All of this is why setting up this inspirational shoot with the girls of Salted & Styled was almost effortless.

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Libbie Summers took her naturally beautiful, of-the-Earth style to our tabletop, and set the stage for an engagement party. Every floral element was intentionally foraged and hand snipped from the lush grounds, which are full of pear, pomegranates, figs, grapes, and bamboo.

The shoot is full of ancestral poetry — olive branches and ginger lily were picked with my grandmother and daughter, while I shaped the garland with my sister.

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white_flower_wild_boquet vineyard_flower_crown

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Chia Chong snapped every single moment so perfectly that you can practically see the story unfold: A younger sister named Anna, a soon-to-be the maid of honor for her beloved sister and bride, Lily. Anna beautifully crafts a ordinary setting for Lily of found tables, bench and even a family room sofa, and sets the table with full flavored wine, cheese and dessert — a recipe she had been working on since she learned about the history of the stack cakes of Appalachian weddings. Using the environment as inspiration, her breathtaking palette fuses greens with rich reds through a warm, deep and abundant garland.

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The day created by one sister for the other is crafted around a loving set up with fun details that blow the guests away. The love between the sisters is instinctively divine. And the gorgeous wine country soiree? Just as stunning.

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Credits:

Concept & Photo Styling by:  Libbie Summers
Produced by:  Salted & Styled and 
Camp Makery
Floral Garland + Cake Topper: Christy Hulsey, Colonial House of Flowers
Table Garland: Amanda Currier, Colonial House of Flowers
Olive Branch Collection: Margie Tygart (aka The Butterfly Girl)
Photography: Chia Chong
Production Assistant: Candace Brower
Model: Anna Heritage
Vintage Plates: Habersham Antiques Market
Cheese Stand: Pottery Barn
Glasses: Pottery Barn
Slate wine markers: Pottery Barn
Wine: Cameron Hughes
Olive Oil: Georgia Olive Farms
Location: Temples Farm

Our 8 Favorite Rustic Elegant Wedding Venues

Whether your taste leans modern or traditional, there’s something about rustic elegant weddings that transcends all styles. It’s hard not to love the combination of dripping crystal chandeliers, lush green garlands, elegant white lace and warm reclaimed wood. It’s one of our favorite looks.

If you’re considering a rustic elegant look for your upcoming wedding (or just love some gorgeous wedding eye candy), take a look at our top 8 favorite rustic elegant wedding venues, below!

san ysidro ranch

San Ysidro Ranch: Santa Barbara, California (photo by Tec Petaja)

cornmanfarms

Zingerman’s Cornman Farms: Dexter, Michigan

high point

High Point Farms: Flintstone, Georgia

longridgefarm

Long Ridge Farm: Shelbyville, Kentucky (photo by Todd Pellowe)

memorylane

Memory Lane: Dripping Springs, Texas

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Hermitage Museum & Gardens: Norfolk, Virginia (photo by Sarah Goodwin)

durham ranch

Durham Ranch: St Helena, California (photo by Delbarr Moradi)

Ruffled - photo by http://www.withloveandembers.com/ - http://ruffledblog.com/ostertag-vistas-wedding/

Oystertag Vistas: Myersville, Maryland

PS: Follow our Rustic Elegant Weddings board on Pinterest for more inspiration.

Wedding Do or Don’t: Rehearsal Dinner Location

With so much that goes into planning a wedding, it’s easy for the rehearsal dinner to slip through the cracks. It’s difficult enough to pull it together towards the end of the planning process, let alone deal with all of the opinions and ideas from (usually well-intentioned) family members.

We’re continuing our Wedding Do or Don’t series (Here’s Part 1 and Part 2) with this tricky topic: Where should you host your rehearsal dinner? Kelly McLeskey-Dolata of A Savvy Event and Sonia Hopkins of XOXO Bride provided their expert advice on how to choose the right rehearsal dinner location and style that will make everyone (most importantly, you!) happy.

all_white_rehearsal_dinner_2Photos from A Beautiful Nantucket Rehearsal Dinner by Katie Kaizer Photography

Choosing a rehearsal dinner location can be a surprisingly controversial topic. Why do you think that is?

Sonia: While traditionally the rehearsal dinner is considered the “Groom’s Dinner” and generally hosted by the groom or the groom’s family, this concept has evolved over the years. More and more, the rehearsal dinner and/or welcome reception is hosted by the bride and groom, the bride’s parents or a mix of all parties. That said, you now have multiple opinions on what type of dinner, where to host and who to invite — let alone defining a budget for this event. All of this can create controversy. It’s human nature to want to have an opinion on the venue, food and beverage and design if your funds are paying for it.

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Kelly:  Today, many couples choose a rehearsal dinner destination outside of where they grew up — a location that requires travel for over 50% of the people invited, so they feel they should invite them to the rehearsal dinner. Instead of calling it a rehearsal dinner, more people are calling it a Welcome Dinner or Reception. It’s a nice way to invite all your guests to kick off the weekend of festivities.

Because this event has grown beyond the traditional immediate family and friends, it is more controversial because it is more expensive. Often, it’s almost like having two weddings. One of the ways you could still have a “rehearsal event” is to have a rehearsal in the morning and then invite the immediate people that are involved in the rehearsal to a nice lunch. That evening you could invite people to a “Welcome Wine and Cheese Reception” early in the evening, before dinner, or after dinner for a Dessert and Cocktail Reception.

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Who traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner? Are there exceptions?

Sonia: (see above)

Kelly: Typically it has always been the groom’s family that pays for the rehearsal dinner. I would say this is true 75% of the time, but now, because the scope of weddings has changed and they are much grander than years past, I have seen it all ways. I really feel you need to have this conversation early in your planning process so you know upfront who is paying for what and what level of involvement people are having financially in your wedding day.

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How do you choose who is invited to the rehearsal dinner? Does everyone have to be in the wedding?

Sonia: We definitely see the separation between rehearsal dinner and welcome reception concepts more now. While we only require the immediate family and wedding party to attend the actual wedding rehearsal, most couples want an opportunity to greet their guests before the weekend’s activities begin. A welcome reception is a perfect platform for this to occur. While the rehearsal dinner generally hosts 30 to 40 guests, the welcome reception can be opened up to the entire guest list. (We encourage this especially when you have a destination wedding and more than 75% of the guests are traveling to your event.) We also take into consideration the budget for these events. We may opt to host a Welcome Cocktail Hour by providing a beer and wine bar and a few tray passed hors d’ oeuvres.

Kelly: It really depends on the wedding and all the factors involved. It’s a very nice gesture if you are having a destination wedding to invite all the guests to an event outside of the wedding and welcome them to your wedding weekend. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, but it’s nice to have things for your guest to do after they’ve traveled to be there for your special occasion.

Tristan & Isolde: A Romantic, English Countryside Wedding Shoot

Camelot, King Arthur and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde — it’s hard not to fall in love with this period of chivalry, love and Old-English romance. This romantic, English countryside wedding style shoot by D’Arcy Benincosa somehow incorporates everything to love about this era with a distinctly modern twist.

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Inspired by the tale of Tristan and Isolde, this talented team set up a tablescape (including our Vintage Wood Chargers and Driftwood Garland) that embraces the charm of a simpler way of life.

englishweddingideasPhotography, styling and design: D’Arcy Benincosa
Stationery: Kathryn Murray
Cake: Cake-A-Licious
Hair and makeup: Vintage Rouge
Dress designer: Sarah Janks
Hair accessories: Lacielle Roselle
Veil: Lily Bride Designs

englishcountrysideshootcountrysidetablesetting

Rustic elements on the table are sturdy but elegant — a nod to what might’ve been used by Tristan and Isolde themselves.

yellowflowerspraysdecoryellowweddingbouquet

A simple bouquet of wildflowers feels spontaneous and romantic — like the groom picked the flowers on the way to the ceremony.

oldenglishbrideandgroomwhitelinenandburlaptablewoodencirclechargersrusticelegantbrideandgroom

Wedding Do or Don’t: Pictures Before, After or Both?

A successful wedding day is all about good timing. There’s only so much you can do in a day (half of a day, really), so making sure you and your planner are on the same page about timeline and priorities is vital. This is especially true for photography — wedding photos are a big investment, so you want to make sure you have the time to make them perfect, without it taking up a gigantic chunk of your special day.

We talked to two of our favorite wedding planners — Kelly McLeskey-Dolata of A Savvy Event and Sonia Hopkins of XOXO Bride— and asked them this wedding do or don’t: When is the best time to take pictures? Before the ceremony? After the ceremony? During the reception? Or all of the above?

seaside real weddingPhoto from Bill & Blaire’s Beautiful Seaside Wedding by Dear Wesleyann.

Q: In your experience, what leads to a more seamless wedding: taking photos before the ceremony, after the ceremony, or both?

Kelly: I feel that doing photos prior to the ceremony allows for more time and a more seamless wedding flow. You are able to get all the photos out of the way ahead of time so you can enjoy your reception after the ceremony. I do however respect the wishes of my couples and if they choose not to see each other prior the ceremony I work with my photographers on a realistic photography timeline during the cocktail hour.

Sonia: Both! We highly encourage our clients to take advantage of the growing popular choice of “First Look” in their photography. We find the couple is able to capture so much more on film this way. But I also personally feel there is an opportunity to capture another moment on your wedding day: the walk down the aisle meeting at ceremony. The walk down the aisle is so special, but it’s also is so quick. It’s nice for the couples to have that time beforehand to take each other in for more than 30 minutes.

Photos pre and post ceremony also allows for two additional options that would not be available if the couple didn’t do a First Look. The first option is to focus more time on the bride and groom photos post ceremony, giving ample time for multiple locations. The other options is to take a short amount of time for bride and groom photos post ceremony and then join their guests for cocktail hour.

first look real weddingPhoto from Gina & Ryan’s Classic Villa Montalvo Wedding by Ashley Maxwell.

Q: What kinds of things should a couple consider before making this decision?

Kelly: I always tell my couples to think about whether or not they want to see each other prior. There are pros and cons to each. I loved an element of surprise, so for my own wedding it was important for me to see my husband at the ceremony. But, I know a lot of couples really like that intimate moment between the two of them when they see each other for the first time. A lot of times the decision is easily made by how many photos they are going to take and the fact they want to be a part of the cocktail hour. There really is no right or wrong way to do it, you just really need to think about what works best for the two of you and work with your planner and photographer to create a seamless timeline for the decision you make.

Sonia: Type of photos desired and the overall timing and layout of the venue will play a large role in this decision. If photos are important to the couple, which they are more often than not are, then planning for time to capture all of the scenarios with family, wedding party and all those fun bride and groom moments take time. We always recommend 1 minute per photo. If you count how many photos a couple would like during the day, those minutes add up quickly. It’s about maximizing the short amount of time you have in one day and not feeling rushed. 

eclectic real weddingPhoto from Julia & Jonathan’s DIY Block Island Wedding by Katie Slater.

Q: What do you find photographers’ expectations are for this? How should that factor into things?

Kelly: I know from experience that photographers love when the clients want to do the First Look — this is great for them, as it allows them ample time to get all the shots they need and not rush through a list of photos in 45 minutes. However, if you are working with both an experienced photographer and planner, they should be able to create a realistic timeline for your day that won’t feel rushed or delayed.

Sonia: Photographers are always wanting, needing and asking for more time. I make it my priority to map out a day that allows for the proper amount of time to give to the photographer to do their magic and not have the bride, groom, families and wedding party feel as if we rushed them throughout the entire day just to get a photo taken. Photographers love when I can give them at least 20 minutes for the First Look and 30 minutes post ceremony with just the bride and groom.

Tell us: What did you do for your wedding? Or when are you planning to take photos?