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Travel: The Weddingmooners
Exotic trips make for cheap weddings

NEWSEEK JANUARY 27, 2004

By Debra A. Klein
NEWSWEEK

Jan. 27 issue When Karl and Kimmie Kemberling tied the knot last August, they managed to avoid many of the usual wedding hassles. Then again, the Kemberlings had to make an 800-mile trek across New Zealand before boarding a helicopter that whisked them 8,000 feet up a snowcapped mountain. There, dressed in formalwear and hiking boots, they exchanged their vows. The entire guest list: the chopper pilot, a photographer and the shepherd who officiated.

If a wedding without bridesmaid dresses and seating charts sounds like bliss to you, join the party?just don?t throw one. A growing number of couples now fold their wedding and honeymoon into one far-flung event. There are no hard statistics on the trend, but travel professionals say the number of ?weddingmooners? is rising steadily. At Unforgettable Honeymoons in Portland, Ore. (unforgettablehoneymoon.com), bookings for destination weddings have increased tenfold in the past two years, according to owner Renee Duane.

Some couples just don?t want a traditional ceremony. (Kimmie Kemberling was creeped out by the idea of everyone?s staring at her.) But there?s another incentive for the peripatetic wedding party: it can be a lot cheaper. For about what you?d shell out for fancy floral arrangements and hors d?oeuvres back home, you can say your vows inside Florence?s 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio (destination-weddings-in-Italy.com) or at a villa on a Greek island (thewedding experience.com). If you plan ahead, you can even get the mayor of Santorini to officiate. New Zealand Wedding Services (nzweddingservices.co.nz), which organized the Kemberlings? nuptials, charges between $2,000 and $2,500 to arrange local transportation, flowers, photography and legal documentation at jaw-dropping locations like the Tasman Glacier. And for $4,000 to $6,000, Duanes company coordinates Fijian wedding ceremonies (weddings-in-fiji.com), featuring costumed warrior escorts, elaborate bridal boats and choirs.

Certainly, money isnt everything when it comes to planning a wedding. Rick Hernandez, 50, a Washington, D.C., financial-services executive, was more interested in reducing his stress than cutting the tab. So he held his second wedding on the sand at Fijis isolated Turtle Island resort.
At a traditional wedding you have relatives tugging at you and rehearsal dinners. On my wedding day, I was walking on a beach. No stress.(Sipping calming tea at a Fijian kava ceremony also helps.)

As demand has increased, the governments of such idyllic spots as the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Bonaire have made it easier for foreigners to marry. In June, Scotland enacted a new law permitting couples to wed almost anywhere, not just in a registrar?s office or a church. (Scottishweddings online.com can put together a ceremony in a 14th-century friary, complete with bagpipers in kilts, for about $6,500.) But getting married abroad isn?t all white veils and teal beaches?there?s also plenty of red tape. If you want a Buddhist monk to watch you wed in Thailand, you?ll have to marry before 11 a.m. Mexico requires a blood test in the town in which you marry. And forget about wearing a swimsuit at a beach ceremony in Aruba.

Most countries require that official documents, such as birth certificates and licenses, be translated into the local language. And most places have residency requirements?in France, couples must cool their heels a minimum of 40 days before they wed. The British Web site confetti.co.uk/travel/ finder.asp lets you check such rules (and search out the best weather). Although it?s not required, you can have an overseas wedding authenticated by the local U.S. Embassy for about $32 (travel.state.gov). And if things don?t work out, don?t worry. No matter where the ceremony is held, as long as it?s legal, you can still get a quickie divorce in Vegas.

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