As a professional wedding photographer that has seen almost every kind of wedding imaginable, I’m often heralding the benefits of destination weddings to my couples and friends.  There’s a gazillion reasons destination weddings can be amazing, notwithstanding the fact that it gives you the chance to exchange vows in breathtaking locations.  The most amazing part of a destination wedding is the fact that you get to spend more than just one night with your friends and family – a de facto vacation with the very people you love most. It feels intimate and more spread out than a one night affair.

While my clients Stuart and Vera weren’t exactly throwing a destination wedding for themselves, they were throwing a destination wedding for their family and lots of their friends. One of the best parts about living in Lake Tahoe is wanting to show it off and Stuart was absolutely adamant that he show it off from the best vantage point possible: by boat!  Now, I’m no stranger to boat weddings (it ain’t my first rodeo y’all) – so here are all the reasons why a destination boat wedding might be for you and maybe why a destination boat wedding on Lake Tahoe specifically might just suit you perfectly!  Unforgettable location? Check! Stunning backdrops with 360 degree views? Check! Unique and interesting? Check check check!

Stuart has been a longtime Tahoe staple and I knew him well from my work with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, where I frequently contribute photos to. Stuart can add to his resume the incredible feat of helping usher in Tahoe’s very first Tahoe Blue Event Center which we are all incredibly proud to have in our town and excited to attend events at. Vera is also a veritable force in Tahoe and a force of good at that. She works for Live Violence Free, which provides critical support and resources to victims of abuse in our community.

Some of Vera’s family and many from Stuart’s family were coming from abroad so this truly was a destination wedding for many of their guests. In fact, even more amazing, it was the first time that Stuart’s entire family had all been in one room together since 1987! It was incredibly important for the two of them to showcase their love for the location where they not only fell in love, but is their everyday playground. Stuart called in all the stops from our local friends for his destination boat wedding and then, ultimately, held the reception at the Tahoe Blue Event Center, which passed inspection literally THAT morning.  Stuart and Vera were the first people to hold an event in our brand new event center and I was the first person to be a Tahoe Blue Event Center photographer!

Things to consider when planning a destination boat wedding

Looking to throw a destination boat wedding? It’s going to involve a bit more planning and careful logistics than a normal wedding. In fact, it’s going to involve careful consideration of several key factors beyond just climate, scenery, accessibility, and local regulations. Here are additional aspects couples should keep in mind:

  1. Venue Options: Research the variety of boats and their capacity available in your desired destination. Some locations may offer a range of boats to choose from, including luxury yachts, sailboats, or quaint riverboats, each offering a unique atmosphere and amenities. Consider the size of your guest list, preferred style, and budget when selecting the venue.  On Lake Tahoe, our options for large boats are actually fairly limited. Because Stuart and Vera know so many people with boat companies, they decided to hold a flotilla wedding – which is where there are a number of boats involved anchored around the main boat where the ceremony was held.  For me, that meant that I had a photographer on one of the other boats and then myself on the main boat. At my last Flotilla wedding I actually had THREE photographers so that three of the four boats involved were covered with various vantage points.
  2. Accessibility: Assess the accessability of each of the boats and their ability to accommodate any guests that might have unique needs or disabilities.
  3. Travel Logistics: Evaluate the ease of travel to and from the marina and the eventual reception venue for both you and your guests. Consider factors such as available parking, mass transportation options, and distance.  Leave ample time for guests to move between the marina and your reception venue and consider an afternoon break, as Vera and Stuart did. Clear communication and providing travel guidance to guests will help streamline the planning process.
  4. Weather Patterns: While considering the climate is important, delve deeper into the weather patterns of your chosen destination, particularly during the time of year you plan to host your boat wedding. Research historical weather data to anticipate potential challenges such as rain, wind, or extreme temperatures. Having contingency plans in place for inclement weather will ensure a smooth and stress-free wedding day.
  5. Catering and Beverage Options: Consider whether the boat venue allows outside catering or if onboard catering options are available. If you’re going to have a break in the day you might offer snacks on board the boats to ensure full bellies if there’s also going to be alcohol onboard.
  6. Maritime Services and Amenities: Evaluate the availability of maritime services and amenities that may enhance your boat wedding experience. This includes considerations such as onboard restroom facilities, seating arrangements, entertainment options (e.g., live music, DJ), and any additional services offered by the boat rental company or venue. Discuss these details with potential vendors to ensure your needs are met and expectations are clear.
  7. Permits and Insurance: Investigate the permit requirements and insurance policies associated with hosting a boat wedding in your chosen destination. Obtain any necessary permits well in advance and ensure that the boat rental company or venue carries adequate insurance coverage for liability and property damage. Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions governing events on the water to avoid any legal issues or complications.

By carefully considering these additional factors when choosing a destination for your destination boat wedding, you can ensure a seamless and unforgettable experience for you, your partner, and your guests.

Ceremony Venue: Tahoe Star on Lake Tahoe | Guest venues: Clearly Tahoe Boat and the Tahoe Tastings Legend | Officiant: Mike Peron | Bagpiper: Lake Tahoe Bagpiper | Boat Catering: Cork and More | Reception Venue: Tahoe Blue Events Center | Catering: Tahoe Blue Events Center | Cocktail Hour Entertainment: Ted Kennedy | Band: Plastic Paddy Celtic Band | Wedding Party Attire: Wedding Party Kilts from Edinburgh, Scotland – Tartans of the Clan Maclean | Videographer: Ludo Fekete | Sensational Second Shooting: Starscape Studios