For a pair of travel lovers like us, planning a travel-themed wedding was essential. Nathan and I met while traveling, started a couples travel blog together, and genuinely consider travel one of our greatest passions. Travel is a huge part of our life together. And so, we planned our wedding to be strongly travel-inspired. Here’s how we did it, plus our tips for those wondering how to plan their own travel themed-wedding day!
On a sunny but cold April 9th, 2016, Nathan and I celebrated with 60 or so of our nearest and dearest in a vintage and travel-inspired wedding day. Living in Asheville, North Carolina that year, we planned what was for us, a local affair, but for our guests it was a true destination wedding (travel theme already engaged!).
I can’t think of many better spots to bring a group of people, and our visitors all had a blast exploring the amazing city of Asheville.
In this post, I want to share not only the story of our magical wedding day, and photos to inspire your own planning and ideas but a collection of practical tips on how to plan a travel-themed wedding that you’ll adore.
You’re engaged!! Congratulations!
Or maybe you’re just browsing for the future. That’s cool too! No judgment here. What girl doesn’t have a secret wedding Pinterest board she’s been pinning to for years? If you’re into a travel wedding theme, there are tons of ideas on there.
Well, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want for your wedding. Personally, I found that thinking ahead was pretty helpful once we were officially engaged and began our legit wedding planning.
I’d already narrowed down my style and any major must-haves. And Nathan’s proposal was not a total surprise. We had talked and knew we wanted to get married and we even had our time frame tentatively set. Once Nathan popped the question, the real planning got underway.
We decided to have our wedding exactly 6 months after our engagement. This would send a lot of bridezillas screaming for the hills, because most wedding planning guides start the timeline about 18 months out!
Not for us. We never wanted to have a long engagement and we knew we could plan what we wanted in a short amount of time. If you’re planning a wedding in 6 months, it is most definitely doable.
Consider Travel-Themed Engagement Photos
The travel theme doesn’t have to wait until the wedding day itself. Consider incorporating elements of travel into your engagement photos.
Our travel wedding theme kicked off with our vintage engagement photos, taken in the fall at an old train station. These not only perfectly set the tone for our plans to come, and were an absolute blast to shoot. Check out more of them here.
Keep it Simple
Pinterest is a gold mine for travel wedding inspiration. But what you see online is sometimes a little over the top and excessive. Sure, I’d love to give our wedding guests hand-engraved compasses, but that’s a bit out of the budget.
When you’re doing a wedding with any kind of “theme” it can be so easy to get swept away. (Even without a theme this is true.) But the wedding industry is smart. There are soooo many adorable things you can get for your wedding day.
If you wanted, you could spend an absolute fortune, and you’d have the sweetest little travel-themed details, but all these trappings aren’t strictly necessary.
To save money on your travel themed wedding, keep it simple.
Travel themed wedding invitations are so much fun. But what will your design be? Invitations designed to look like airline tickets are totally cute. But all that paper and printing adds up. And chances are, guests won’t be saving your invitations. Instead, consider simplifying that aspect and directing your funds elsewhere. My lovely maid of honor Haley, who is also a talented artist, designed and printed our invitations for us as our wedding gift.
They were so special, so personalized, and so “us,” it was definitely better than anything we could have purchased. Look for ways to DIY something like your travel wedding invitations…you’ll be glad you did.
We also kept other things simple. Our flowers were relatively small bouquets, we didn’t have much in the way of extra decor (choosing a gorgeous venue helps with this), and we did a buffet-style dinner. These are great ways to trim the budget while still having all the elements you want.
Incorporate the Venue
A venue with a vintage feel will work great for a travel themed wedding reception! And stylish spots make it easier to save on the decor budget.
We only looked at one place for our wedding venue, and were sold on it right away. Homewood is a gorgeous stone manor in a Victorian Asheville neighborhood called Montford. The place, which looks like a modest and stately castle, purportedly once held such esteemed guests as Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald!
We loved the 1920s feel of this venue, with its warm cherry wood, cozy candlelight, and romantic chandeliers. It was the perfect blend of our literary souls and our traveler hearts.
The venue was also incredibly helpful with planning and organization. I loved that about working with them. In an area with many, many wedding options (Asheville is so romantic, and seems to be a top wedding destination), they are also a venue offering a great value. We held both ceremony and reception in the manor’s great room, and it was beautiful.
Keep it Classic
No matter what theme you want to go with, a classic style is a great way to have a beautiful, timeless wedding as well as an opportunity to save money. Many classic styled wedding items are easier to find and thus come in a larger price range.
For us, the classic feel came out of our venue (a 1920’s stone manor) and our own personal taste. We like vintage things, old books, muted colors, antique globes, etc. Going with a style like this made our color scheme more flexible, which in turn made it easier to find things in a range of prices. Choosing highly specific hues can be a budget-killer, as you may have to pay extra to source the items you want. But I wasn’t fussed.
As I’ve said before, I’m a very non-bridezilla bride. In fact, when the bridesmaid dresses I wanted would have to be rush-ordered, I went ahead and changed the color. I’d rather not stress and be flexible on my color scheme. Doing a classic style helps with this as it can be easier to mix and match when your colors are more traditional.
Keep it Subtle
Big, loud, and flashy often equals expensive. Instead, make your theme more subtle and understated. You can incorporate little touches throughout your wedding to pay homage to your love of travel.
Use postcards you’ve collected as part of your decor, sprinkle your tables with tiny airplane confetti, bring traditions you’ve discovered on your travels into your wedding celebration.
Your wedding can still have a travel theme without needing to fill the room with “themed” items. In fact, adding subtle suggestions of travel lets the wedding be its most personal and unique to you and your partner.
Going with a classic vintage travel themed wedding also allowed us to be very loose with our centrepieces and table decor. Instead of numbering our tables, we decided to name our tables, instead of numbering them, after countries we’ve visited and which mean a lot to us. Each table had a place card with its name and a lovely illustration.
Our bridesmaid and bridal bouquets doubled as our floral centerpieces, and scattered around these were books, small trinkets from our journeys, antique-styled glass bottles, candles, and other travel memorabilia…whatever we could find. Throughout the venue we stacked vintage suitcases and set up globes and other decor, including a small Eiffel Tower.
Our table cards were designed and created by Bellus Designs. We thought they were simple and gorgeous, and we were able to completely customize them in the way we wanted. They have so many wonderful designs, too, it was tough to choose. I’d highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for quality wedding stationery.
Guests found their seating assignments on the map above. I mounted the map on poster board and used gift tags, thumbtacks, and ribbon to label each country’s guests! It was fun to put together, and though I admit I did get this idea from Pinterest, many of my guests said they loved it!
Incorporate a Dreamy Destination Cake
Our cake was perhaps my favorite of our travel themed wedding paraphernalia. Created by Sarah at Asheville’s City Bakery , we had a chocolate chip cake with chocolate ganache and vanilla buttercream. It tasted like a rich eclair and was delicious. But it looked awesome too! We had Sarah create fondant silhouettes of some of our most beloved travel landmarks.
The cake featured the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, Edinburgh Castle, and even the Wallace Monument, which is found in Stirling, Scotland (where I went to grad school).
On top of the cake was a silhouette of a couple sitting on the moon, which I found on Etsy. This gave our landmarks a night sky to watch over them, and also served as an homage to “Moon River” the song from which our name Two Drifters originates. In fact, we had this song play as we cut our cake! It was very romantic and sweet.
Keep it Small(ish)
If you want to save money on a wedding, probably the best thing you can do is cut your invite list. It seems harsh, I know, but a small wedding is way more budget-friendly. Our wedding included 75 people in total.
A small wedding saves you money in a few ways, but especially in food and alcohol, which are two of the higher cost items. If you know a million people and you want to have all of them at your wedding, you might want to consider minimizing costs by serving heavy hors d’oeuvres or a buffet instead of a sit-down dinner.
Why not have a buffet with foods from all over the world? That’s a fantastic travel themed idea.
Should You Skip the Favors?
We ended up providing our guests with cute little antique key-shaped bottle openers. These were attached with a cute note. Unfortunately, we failed to tell our guests exactly what they were, and many were left behind.
We loved the key touch (it was a slightly different take on travel themed wedding favors) but there are so many options, from compasses, to postcards, to luggage tags and more.
The cost of favors, however cute they are, seriously adds up. Even inexpensive favors at a few dollars a pop can quickly turn into a few hundred. Keep this in mind when planning your budget, and consider if favors are really important to you.
Keep it Real
Everyone told me that I was one of the most relaxed and stress-free brides ever. Thank you! I love being known in that way, and I really did feel pretty chill. I’m not a perfectionist, and the only real anxiety I felt about the wedding weekend was making sure everybody had rides.
But the wedding could not have gone better. I applaud wedding vendors (particularly our amazing venue, Homewood) for how these big and meaningful occasions are so flawlessly run.
Our wedding ceremony was held on a Saturday, but most guests arrived on Thursday or Friday. This was one aspect I particularly loved. With many of us staying in the same hotel, it was like a big slumber party or family reunion. The Four Points Sheraton in downtown Asheville did a great job booking all our rooms conveniently in the same corridor.
And in general, the hotel was an excellent wedding accommodation choice. Affordable group rates, friendly and prompt service, and a downtown location that can’t be beat. We were able to walk to our rehearsal dinner and our guests could go out in the evenings without concern for parking or driving.
And with many guests in town early, we were able to spend time with them shopping, dining out, and sightseeing.
A wedding is traditionally a formal event, but you have the freedom to be as casual as you want. Approaching your wedding in a more relaxed manner is another option for staying within your budget. Trade tux rentals for button-ups and suspenders, have your bridesmaids go barefoot and wear short dresses, or keep it super relaxed and host the wedding in your backyard.
This type of wedding isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great way to save on unnecessary expenses and still have the wedding you want. And when you save money in one area, you can use it elsewhere, like on your honeymoon! (After all, you do love to travel).
Keep it About the Marriage, Not the Wedding
At the end of the day, the focus of your upcoming event should not be about the wedding itself, it should be about your marriage. Remember that the wedding represents only one day in your lifetime; your marriage will hopefully last for the entirety of that lifetime.
Spending more time considering your commitment and working on preparing for marriage is ultimately more valuable to you then obsessing over linen colors or finding the perfect travel themed decor.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed or starting to blow out your budget, come back to what it’s all about: you and your partner. If you keep your eyes on the two of you and your future, your wedding will be a wonderful experience, travel-themed or otherwise.
A Bit More About Our Asheville, NC Wedding
You can’t have a North Carolina wedding without a little Southern flair. To that end, we had our event catered by our favorite restaurant in the area: Luella’s BBQ. I can’t stress how MUCH this was the RIGHT CHOICE for wedding food!! With the sophisticated venue, I wondered if BBQ would seem out of place, but everyone was absolutely thrilled with it!
I’ve heard that wedding guests won’t remember your decor or your centerpieces, but they will remember what they ate and if they had fun. Real, hearty, and incredible BBQ was the ultimate in comfort food for our guests, and all were satisfied. I am so proud that everyone was fed, watered, and then grooved their tushies off on the dance floor.
I think we threw a great party. And eating macaroni and cheese at my wedding? Life goal, achieved.
Our DJ, Pat Lance of Spintastic Sounds was so friendly and easy to work with. And he played a great mix of tunes that we requested.
We held our rehearsal dinner at the downtown location of Twisted Laurel. I can’t rave enough about the divine food (lasagna, chicken parm, salad, garlic bread), and the beautiful space. It is the PERFECT spot for a rehearsal dinner.
Wedding officiant Rev. DiAnna Ritola was phenomenal. She put together a gorgeous ceremony that was truly personalized and incorporated a Christian ceremony with touches of other more worldly traditions. We had her perform a handfasting, a traditionally Scottish symbol of commitment.
Flowers came from Brown’s Floral Design of Weaverville. Our bouquets were stunning, and everything I never knew I wanted. I know nothing flowers, but I described what I envisioned and they exceeded my expectations!
The awesome Mason and the crew at Ananda Hair Studio did my hair as well as my bridesmaids.’ That is one of the nicest salons in Asheville, and the entire staff is so friendly and accommodating.
And our photographer Stephanie Smith, whose work you see in this blog and all over the website, was truly incredible. She came from Raleigh and did a masterful job on all of our wedding images and our vintage travel themed engagement photos. I love Stephanie’s style and the way she captured the dreamy romance of the day, and our happy love.
Both Nathan and I were so pleased with how our wedding turned out. It meant the world to us to have friends and family there, many of them who traveled very far distances!
Our families and bridal parties made everything run smoothly and pleasantly, and were wonderful supports. I am very grateful to my beautiful bridesmaids for all that they did including reminding me to eat on the wedding day, protecting my hair from the wind, and yelling at Nathan when he accidentally almost saw me beforehand.
And the biggest thanks to our parents. Thank you for birthing us and for encouraging us to grow up as confident and independent people who pursued their dreams. Without that independence that came from our family’s support, it’s likely neither of us would have ended up in that Edinburgh hostel on that fateful day. And of course, thank you for all the love, faith, and care. We have some really awesome parents! XO
If you have any questions about travel themed weddings, or about getting married in Asheville, NC, I’d be happy to answer! Just comment below or drop us a line.
Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both here on the blog! Amy is happily married to her husband Nathan, and when not working on their sites, Amy & Nathan can be found cuddling, reading, and enjoying delicious lattes.