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Wonderful Wedding Destinations

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Whether far-flung or local and lavish, big weddings have bounced back from their recessionary diets. And nearly a quarter of all weddings, according to the most recent surveys from TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, are destination affairs in which couples choose a honeymoon-worthy locale, then invite friends and family to join them. The move is both romantic and practical; after all, given the time and expense, only your besties -- rather than your future father-in-law's law partner -- are likely to make it.

Destinations themselves, of course, come in every possible variety, from beach to peak. Pack your gown and your sense of adventure for these four newcomers poised to co-star -- alongside you -- in your wedding album.

An Italian Villa

Make like Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel and opt for an Old World setting that frames your celebration in timelessness. Monteverdi Villas and Hotel opened last summer in Tuscany's Val d'Orcia, reviving the nearly abandoned 12th-century hill town of Castiglioncello del Trinoro with a seven-room hotel and three villas fashioned from existing stone buildings. Each is uniquely designed -- one with a wood-burning fireplace, another with a private garden or a copper soaking tub -- but all feature modernist, pale-palette interiors with wood-beamed ceilings. Three villas in a similar aesthetic offer more spacious digs, including large open kitchens and wine cellars. All guests have access to a swimming pool, gardens and restaurant.

Hemmed in meadows and farm fields, the village -- population: 25 -- is largely inseparable from the resort, making guests feel like feudal lords. Hold your ceremony at the historic 13th-century chapel, then toast with glasses of prosecco on the terrace of Caffé Monteverdi before returning to a private al fresco dinner under a grape arbor. Details: Rooms from 350 euros per night, including breakfast; monteverdituscany.com.

Wine Country

Where Southern California's coastline bends east-west at Santa Barbara, the resulting Mediterranean climate allows just about everything to grow abundantly, from the lush garden shrouding tycoon Ty Warner's estate to, of course, the pinot noirs of Sideways country.

Opening this month on a hillside between the ocean and the four inland wine-growing appellations, El Encanto by Orient-Express celebrates the outdoors on seven manicured acres of lily ponds and arbor trellises, with weddings held in those gardens. Its 92 bungalows house residentially styled rooms and suites with fireplaces and patios. Services and amenities include a personal concierge assigned to each room; a seven-treatment-room spa, featuring botanical treatments based on local flora; and a mind-body-focused fitness studio with classes in yoga, Pilates mat and barre. The restaurant marries French cuisine to California produce -- cheese is made with milk from the resort's very own cow, Ellie, which lives off-site -- with an all-Santa Barbara wine list.

Drive out to dozens of wineries or take one of the resort-supplied electric bikes for a downhill trip to downtown winery tasting rooms, making the uphill trip back just as effortless. Details: Bungalows from $525 per night; www.elencanto.com.

Caribbean Idyll

In Puerto Rico's early glamour years as an alternative to Cuba, post-Castro, Laurance S. Rockefeller developed Dorado Beach on a series of scalloped beaches on the north shore about 20 miles east of San Juan, drawing the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Crawford. The 1958 property eventually changed hands and declined, closing in 2006. But now it's been largely demolished, rebuilt and revived in its most upscale incarnation yet as Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

Set on 1,400 acres, the resort has something for everyone in the wedding party: four golf courses, 11 miles of biking and walking trails, a spa that offers massages in treehouse-elevated huts and hot and cold pools in the garden, and a restaurant from acclaimed Washington, D.C.-based Spanish chef José Andrés.

Private quarters include 115 rooms, each facing the sea and equipped with private plunge pools and indoor/outdoor showers. Renovated as the presidential villa, Mr. Rockefeller's original 1920s-vintage hacienda, Su Casa, houses four bedrooms and a private pool -- and doubles as the ultimate wedding venue. Details: Rooms from $1,600; 800-836-3124, www.ritzcarlton.com.

Mountain Top

Round up your favorite adventure-lovers and light out for Colorado high country to gather a bridal bouquet of wild lupine at Crested Butte. New destination property manager Eleven Experience recently opened its flagship here in the Scarp Ridge Lodge, offering every amenity you'd want in a hotel -- a pool, steam room, sauna and outdoor hot tub, plus chef, staff guides and concierge -- but in a private setting, in this case a seven-bedroom, Victorian-era brothel.

Though it's walking distance to all the bars and restaurants in town, the lodge has access to its own private mountain, and dedicated guides offer daily excursions for fly-fishing, rafting, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. Atop the mountain, a restored log cabin serves as a ceremony site and reception venue framing 360-degree views of snow-capped Rockies peaks.

This summer a historic home neighboring Scarp Ridge Lodge, newly renovated, adds four additional rooms for the many wedding attendees sure to RSVP "yes." Details: Rates average $12,500 per night for the lodge, including guided activities, local transportation and most meals; elevenexperience.com.

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