DESTINATION WEDDINGS WITH A DIFFERENCE

When you think destination wedding, minds often drift to a beachside getaway. However, there are so many other stunning backdrops to say “I do” at across the world.
Preferred Hotels & Resorts has put together a list of distinct hotels that specialise in throwing an unforgettable wedding – no sand in sight.


Castello Di Casole in Tuscany, Italy
Perfect for oenophiles and food lovers, Castello Di Casole is a 4200 acre estate in the heart of Tuscany that offers a picture-perfect backdrop for wedding day nuptials with sweeping views of the romantic Italian countryside. Couples can exchange vows among rows of Italian vineyards, in an intimate centuries-old chapel, or in a newly restored stone amphitheatre. The hotel also offers a couture wedding package, featuring a couture wedding gown designed by an Italian designer. Between formal gatherings, wedding guests can live la dolce vita by enjoying a pizza making class, painting with wine, or taking a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the grounds.


The Alpina Gstaad in Gstaad, Switzerland
With the beautiful Bernese mountains as a stunning wedding backdrop, blissfully-engaged couples can choose The Alpina Gstaad as an exclusive and reclusive retreat. The resort hosts one or two big weddings per season, allowing discerning brides and grooms the opportunity to have an ultimate extravaganza with limitless possibilities. The resort can organise helicopter flights, limousine transfers, or even ceremonies on alpine huts. In the summer season, couples can exchange vows in the mountain huts located in the alpine gardens and enjoy long days. After sundown, couples can release lanterns into the sky or choose a fireworks display to wrap up the evening. Couples can soak in the alpine scenery on their wedding night in the stunning Panorama Suite, voted one of the 50 greatest suites in the world by The Telegraph.


Hotel New Otani Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan
For couples looking to participate in a one-of-a-kind ceremony, the Hotel New Otani Tokyo offers a “Shuugen” wedding package in its beautiful 400-year-old Japanese garden. The package includes live instrument performances, decorations, and ceremonial equipment for Kagami-biraki, a Japanese tradition that celebrates a significant event such as marriage with pair of round mochi – round ornamental rice cakes. Couples break the mochi to mark the beginning of their new lives together. For even more memorable wedding portraits and a true immersion in local culture, traditional wedding kimonos, with hair-sets and makeup, are currently available for the brides and grooms to purchase.

The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming, USA
Celebrate wedded bliss with a slice of Americana at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming. The sprawling 30,000 acres of unspoiled ranch land provides a rustic and romantic setting for couples looking for a truly intimate affair. Couples can exchange their vows outdoors in a natural stone amphitheatre with the majestic Medicine Bow Mountains serving as the backdrop, for a stylish and unique ceremony. The ranch also offers the Cowboy Chapel & Dance Hall for indoor ceremonies and receptions so guests can fully immerse themselves in the ranch experience. The bride and groom will arrive and depart by horse drawn carriage and guests can enjoy a fully immersive ranch experience. For brides and grooms looking for a western wedding weekend, the Brush Creek Ranch is the ultimate one-stop destination.

For more no-sand celebration ideas, visit
preferredhotels.com/experiences/preferred-weddings-and-celebrations

PROPOSALS TO MAKE YOU SWOON

Whether you are already engaged or dreaming of that ring, we have some of the most beautiful proposal destination ideas from Tania Alaee and Gloria Gammo, from my proposal co.
Destination engagements are very much on trend, these romantic getaways will inspire and get your heart all aflutter.
Already have the ring? These might be the perfect places for a honeymoon.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK 
So romantic they named it twice. It’s exciting, it’s fast paced and it presents a truly spectacular backdrop to that most important question. What better place to have your head in the clouds, almost, than atop the Empire State Building? The photos of this proposal will be treasured forever.
Want something a little more grounded? Look no further than the divinely beautiful Central Park – even jaded New Yorkers are swept away in this green haven in the middle of their city. Don’t want grass stains on your trouser knees? There are a myriad of deliciously decadent restaurants overlooking the park that are perfect proposal locations. But make sure you book months in advance – lovers from all over the world have made these places insanely popular for romantic dinners.


WE SAY ‘OUI’
When we say romance, you say… Paris! A city that is the epitome of amor. Picture yourself with your sparkling diamond on your finger with the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkling behind you. Or sitting pretty enjoying a classic French picnic of cheeses, breads and red wine in one of the many lovely parks dotted around this awe-inspiring capital. The love of your life, the city of your dreams, swoon.


HOME GROWN LOVE
We Australians simply adore our beaches, and being proposed to on one is a dream many of us harbour. Let’s not make it any old beach though, let’s make it on the whitest sand beach in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. Hyams Beach is a hop, skip and jump south of Sydney and promises to make this a proposal location you won’t forget. And we can’t forget the proposal you can see from space – proposals on and under the sea on the Great Barrier Reef are out of this world.


SPICE UP YOUR LOVE
Mexico is so hot right now, and rightly so. The Mayan Ruins in Tulum, overlooking the breathtaking Caribbean Sea, are a proposal or holiday destination that has to be seen to be believed. Straight after you say “yes” dive into the warm waters of the Caribbean and just see how your ring glitters. If getting close to nature is your thing, then steer yourselves inland with the steamy jungle behind you, why not pop the question whilst visiting the Cobá archaeological site with its pyramid-shaped temples.


WILD THING, YOU MAKE MY HEART SING
Get yourselves over to Yosemite National Park for a proposal that will take your breath away in more ways than one. Thundering waterfalls, majestic mountains or meandering rivers – this location has them all. Glamp overnight in one of the 13 beautifully appointed campsites or for the more energetic amongst you, hike to a stunning rocky outcrop and let the magic happen.


VENICE – THE TRUE CITY OF LOVE
For die hard romantics, there is only one destination to ask the most important question of all. Venice. Corridors and secret stone passages, countless bridges over endless water or being slowly guided in a gondola through the canals of this absolutely stunning city, the locations are endless for the perfect proposal spot. Trying to decide where to actually pop the question is a tough one. Rest assured, romantic places are around every corner.

Top 10 Chapels to Say ‘I Do’

A breathtaking backdrop can made your special day even more special, something truly unique to remember. Cheapflights.com.au has listed 10 spectacular and unforgettable chapels for the ultimate destination wedding.
chapel-of-the-holy-cross

1. Chapel of the Holy Cross, Arizona, USA – In a remarkable display of nature and architecture coming together, this Roman Catholic chapel resembles a piece of art. Built into the red rock of Sedona, it was inspired by the Empire State Building.
Flights to Arizona from $1229 with United Airlines.

2. Church of the Good Shepherd, Fairlie, New Zealand – On the shores of Lake Tekapo and built from durable stone and oak, this church’s surroundings have been left in its pristine and natural state, making visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time.
Flights to Auckland from $313 with Jetstar.

holy-trinity-chapel
3. Holy Trinity Chapel, Antarctica – Antarctica may not immediately spring to mind when searching for a romantic destination, but this Siberian Pine chapel is the perfect venue if you’re dreaming of a white wedding. Originally built in Russia in the 90s, it is manned by volunteer priests year-round.
Flights to Ushuaia from $3,211 with Aerolineas, before a ship voyage to Antarctica.

4. Thorncrown Chapel, Arkansas, USA – Created by a retired school teacher, this awe-inspiring glass chapel boasts 425 windows to showcase the lush Eureka Springs forest outside, allowing guests to get in touch with their spirituality and feel at one with the wildlife.
Flights to Arkansas from $1,512 with Delta Air Lines.

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5. All Saints Chapel, Hamilton Island, Australia – In our own backyard, this idyllic chapel is nestled amongst the lush gardens overlooking Catseye Bay. For tropical weddings, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Flights to Hamilton Island from $340 with Jetstar.

6. Chapel in Valleacerón, Almadén, Spain – Like an abandoned UFO, this astonishing and angular building contrasts dramatically with the rural landscape on which it sits. There’s a remarkable curiosity about it, which was designed to mimic the lines of a ‘box fold’.
Flights to Barajas from $1098 with Qatar Airways.

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7. The Yosemite Valley Chapel, Yosemite Valley, USA – Surrounded by magnificent cliffs, meadows and Yosemite Falls, this building is the oldest man-made structure in the heart of Yosemite National Park. With a quaint, New England-style design and gorgeous natural setting, it is incredibly scenic.
Flights to California from $922 with Delta Air Lines

chapel-on-the-rock
8. Chapel on The Rock, Colorado, USA – Despite recent setbacks – including fire and flood – this extraordinary chapel that sits atop a massive granite rock near Rocky Mountain National Park continues to act as a sacred place of worship for locals and visitors alike (including Pope John Paul II in 1993).
Flights to Colorado from $1289 with Delta Air Lines.

9. St. Nicholas Chapel, Georgioupolis, Crete – Located about 100 metres out into the Sea of Crete, this Mediterranean chapel was originally built as a guardian for sailors and fishermen. The whitewashed building against the sparkling azure sea showcases Greek architecture at its best and is the perfect setting for a romantic holiday union.
Flights to Georgioupolis from $1625 with Emirates and Aegean Airlines.

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10. Chapel of St. Michael’s Church, Hallstatt, Austria – A little bit eerie and whole lot fascinating, the aptly-named, “Bone House” (Beinhaus) in the chapel of St. Michael’s Church is a must-see for quirky couples look to have a memorable wedding. While there is a display of over 1,200 decorated skulls, visitors will also be faced with picturesque rolling views of the mountains, lake and town below.
Flights to Salzburg from $1,561 with Cathay Pacific Airways and Austrian Airlines.

For more information or to search for your next romantic holiday, visit Cheapflights.com.au.

MY BLUE HEAVEN

malta3Malta dazzles with its rich tapestry of colour and history,
writes STEPHANIE AZZOPARDI


Landing on the small strip next to a  modest building, it’s easy to forget you’ve just arrived at an international airport.
But don’t be fooled by its size, Malta is a country packed with beauty and culture.
For four twenty-somethings trying to savour the remainder of the European summer in late September, Malta is the perfect place to land.
A tiny nation situated in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and North African coastline, Malta is sunny most of the year, with the temperature sticking to a mild minimum of about 13 degrees in the coldest months.
A popular tourist destination for the British, the Maltese also have a soft spot for Australians.
As soon as we tell our taxi driver where we are from, we get a response we are about to hear over and over throughout our trip.
“There are more Maltese in Australia than in Malta,” he says.
This statement is not quite true, however, Melbourne and Sydney both boast large Maltese communities, due to a migration agreement in the mid-20th century.
With the entire population of Malta sitting at under half a million, it’s not hard to see how the misconception starts.
The beauty of this small island, about 246 square kilometres in total, is that you can see so much in just two days – and it doesn’t really matter where you stay, everything is close.
Malta is best described as an open air museum, with its historic honey-coloured buildings taking your breath away.
We first head to Rabat, home of St Paul’s Cathedral, named aptly because this is where apostle St Paul was said to reside after he was shipwrecked on the island in about 60AD.
It might be one of Malta’s most holy sites, however, there is so much for the non-believer to see.
Underneath the church is St Paul’s Grotto and the holy catacombs. Malta was hit severely by air raids during the Second World War, so the underground labyrinth was modified in the 1940s to accommodate the Maltese people during air raids.
We wander through the narrow tunnels and small “rooms” with makeshift beds carved out of the earth and find ourselves overwhelmed – it is definitely not an experience for the claustrophobes, or anyone approaching six feet tall (1.8m) for that matter.
We then walk to Mdina, the country’s medieval 2500-year-old former capital – a truly well preserved ancient city.

malta4 malta1
Unlike historic sites in neighbouring Italian cities such as Rome and Florence, Mdina is a tranquil place free of excessive tourists.
The quiet streets and alleyways give us a true idea of what life was like in the days of the Knights of St John, we wander through and then up to the city’s fortifications, with enviable views of the bay.
Mdina’s St Paul’s Cathedral rivals several European churches for its beauty, and – due to the lack of swarming crowds – has a calming feel you cannot get in the jam-packed Notre Dame or St Peter’s Basilica.
We take a bus to Malta’s current capital, Valetta. Valetta is a well-structured fortress of buildings built 450 years ago. The city is easily explored on foot, starting with the main strip, Republic Street, which runs from the Fort of St Elmo to the city gate. We weave our way through the alleys along to the waterfront; you cannot get lost, the whole city is structured in a grid.
We visit the impressive St John’s Co-Cathedral and wander along the waterfront.
This is where we sample our first Maltese meal. Traditionally the protein of choice is rabbit, however, those not game enough to eat it can indulge in a number of other things, including fresh seafood. We dine on stuffed squid in rich tomato-based braises with capers and olives.
There is an obvious Italian influence in Maltese food, with pasta easily accessible.
For a snack, try a traditional savoury pastry called pastizzi, with either peas or ricotta cheese inside; they are best enjoyed fresh from the oven, a perfect mid-morning snack from any number of Maltese bakeries, while you explore.
You cannot visit Malta without enjoying its stunning coastline, the Mediterranean laps at the sunny isle, daring us not to swim.

malta5 malta2
We decide to dedicate a day on the water to visit some of Malta’s most beautiful natural spots, Blue Lagoon and Gozo.
Captain Morgan Cruises can take you on a Comino and Gozo daytrip for 35 euro (about $52). The boat cruises to the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino, where the water is crystal clear. We dock and then wander over the rocky cliffs to the little white beach and wade into warm Mediterranean waters. Unlike the majority of Malta’s rocky beaches, this sandy lagoon is an absolute treat.
After letting the threat of being left behind get too much, we leave this haven to board a speedboat and explore the area’s caves. Our captain has a little fun with us and drives so fast we all clutch all in half nervousness and half excitement as we feel as though we’re flying over the water to and around the natural wonders.
We then make our way to Gozo, another stunning site. The water is a deep blue and we realise the island is the perfect place to while away a week of swimming and diving and wandering the rocky terrain.
Our two days in Malta are up quicker than we can say “sahha” – a Maltese term that translates to “goodbye and good health”. As we take our taxi back to the tiny airport to make our way home, we all agree that this is truly an underestimated gem of Europe.

GETTING AROUND:
Take buses if you can, whether it be a hop-on-hop-off bus or the island’s public transport. Taxis are quite expensive.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

honeymoon

After the rush of your wedding it’s time to unwind on a dream honeymoon. Take the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and start your next chapter together on the right note

Daylesford and Macedon Ranges
Nourish the soul in the natural beauty of the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region.
Bathe in mineral waters, discover historic villages, relax in gorgeous wellness retreats and feast on locally-produced food and wine.
Take a picnic to Hanging Rock, walk through enchanting forests or peruse craft markets.
Stay at a cosy B&B or chic apartment. The popular Lake House in Daylesford, for example, has heated bathroom floors, pamper packs, views across the lake and a fine-dining restaurant and spa on site. So there’s no need to leave.
This region is little more than an hour’s drive away from Geelong, so it is the perfect place for a quick escape. Many couples choose the area to host their full wedding affair, from pre-day dinners to the ceremony and post-occasion gatherings.
For those short on time, it is also an ideal minimoon destination.

spa

Hamilton Island
Chase the sun to tropical love nest Hamilton Island.
This luxurious self-sufficient haven among the Whitsunday Islands has a whole department dedicated to wedding planning and proposal packs, so it is no surprise it does honeymoons exceptionally well too.
Whether you want to laze by a private pool and indulge in spa treatments or seek a little adventure and hit the water, this destination has it all. And you don’t even need a passport.
For those wanting a five-star VIP stay, you can’t go past world-class resort Qualia. You might even spot a celebrity while you’re there.
There’s more affordable hotel and apartment accommodation too.

qualia

New York City
Let love blossom in the Big Apple.
This is a place where it pays to do your research and immerse yourself in the city like a local.
Find secret gems among the hustle and bustle and explore the alluring cultures of different districts.
Pack comfy shoes and get about the avenues on foot.
Of course, make sure to visit iconic buildings, statues, bridges and parks. Picture yourself on the set of Sex and the City or Gossip Girl and continue the dramatic theme by catching a theatre production on Broadway.
On a spare day, dress up in your best nautical threads and slip to the stylish Hamptons.
Accommodation options range from classic hotels, downtown boutiques and budget hostels.

new-york-city

Maldives
Clock onto blissful island time at the Maldives. Bury your toes in the sandy shores and wade in the crystal blue water with your new spouse.
You deserve to be pampered, so book in for spa treatments and soak up the sunshine afterwards.
Feeling adventurous? Plunge into the calm Indian Ocean seas and discover a colourful world of marine life.
Later you can sail at sunset, toast your union with a candlelit dinner on the beach and retire to an above-water bungalow or lavish villa.
Other tropical paradise options include Fiji, Bora Bora and the Bahamas.

maldives

Paris
This city of love was made for newlyweds.
Stroll hand-in-hand along the beautifully maintained boulevards full of historic charm and romance.
Stop by the iconic landmarks of movies, skip across bridges over the river Seine, take happy snaps atop the Eiffel Tower and indulge in the quaint restaurants and patisseries which pepper the city. Take a day trip to nearby wineries and villages.
Accommodation options are plentiful to suit all budgets.
The real treat of Paris is its central European location, meaning you can start there and simply skip to other cities you fancy.

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