Antonia van der Meer, editor-in-chief of Modern Bride magazine, says today's bride-to-be can wed like a celebrity even in tight economic times.
Destinations weddings have grown in popularity over the years, and are as popular as ever. Van der Meer says about 17 percent of all weddings right now are destination weddings.
While real people can't afford that, van der Meer says a wedding in Europe is doable if you think smart. For a smaller destination wedding -- about 20 to 25 people -- a great way to get a deal is to book a villa or two.
Sites like Homebase Abroad offer estates in many of Italy's most romantic locales: the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and Lake Como. The cost is from $10,000 per week -- but the villa can be used as both a reception venue and a place to house your family or bridal party. The villas usually have five or more bedrooms, offer an exclusive feel and the beautiful setting of a remote castle.
Van der Meer warns properties can be closed in the off season, so you want to focus on the "shoulder season" for the best deals. In Europe, plan for either late April/early May or late September/early October. You'll get good weather, but miss the crowds and high prices.
Seal and supermodel Heidi Klum are among the celebrity couples who were married in Mexico. Van der Meer says if you want a beachy feel for less, it's a popular destination loaded with afforable choices.
For eco-conscious couples, she says Hotelito Desconocido in Costa Alegre is perfect. It's very scenic, with natural beauty -- thatched cottages, a gorgeous beach -- but no air conditioning. Double rooms start at $230 a night.
El Careyes Beach Resort is a stunning spot on the Pacific. Actors Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. were married there. Doubles start at around $300 per night, so it's definitely not exorbitant, says van der Meer.
Another charming property is La Puertecita Boutique Hotel in San Miguel de Allende. It has just 32 rooms, with Colonial architecture and cobblestones. Doubles start at $227.
Larry Page of Google and actor Jimmy Fallon each had their weddings at Necker Island, Richard Branson's private island, which is about $47,000 per night. While Modern Bride doesn't recommend this for budget-conscious brides, there are other options.
Instead, The Cove Eleuthera in the Bahamas is a gorgeous resort with an exclusive feel. It has just 26 rooms and all the luxuries: a hilltop pool, iPods in the rooms and 600-thread-count sheets. Doubles start at just $235. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon were married there just a few weeks ago.
The shoulder season in the Caribbean is November/early December and late April to early June.
If you don't have a passport and still want the beauty of the beach, consider Hawaii. Tobey Maguire was married in Kona, and many celebrities have had their weddings at the Four Seasons in Lana'I, where doubles start at $445.
To get this type of destination wedding for less, van der Meer suggests the Big Island's Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa, which has cool, contemporary-style rooms and even an on-site wedding chapel. Double rooms start at $350.
Modern Bride of the Year
Modern Bride is still searching for its December cover girl -- a real-life bride!
The magazine has received thousands of entries and has narrowed the field to 10 finalists. Beginning July 2, you can visit Brides.com and vote for your favorite video. America will choose the five finalists who will appear on The Early Show in a few weeks.