How to Plan a Travel-Themed Wedding That Doesn’t Suck

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I'm not exaggerating at all when I tell you that when I got engaged at the end of 2016, I literally had no clue what kind of wedding I wanted to have. I've always been the girl dreaming of her next passport stamp – not of her perfect wedding dress or wedding venue.

But, at the end of the day, I AM a planner. And even though I hadn't given it much thought before, it quickly became clear that my wedding was going to have to have a travel theme.

Here's the thing about themed weddings of any kind, though: they can either be really awesome… or they can be really cheesy.

I was determined to plan a non-cheesy travel-themed wedding.

Amanda and Elliot wedding
Elliot's inherited vintage Mercedes is travel-themed, right?
Wedding sign
Travel themed wedding decorations

If you, too, would like to plan a travel-themed wedding (or if you just want to scroll through some of my wedding photos), then this is the post for you!

(Note: All photos taken by Jadie Foto!)

How to plan a travel-themed wedding that doesn't suck

Choose a venue

The easiest way to plan a travel-themed wedding would be to plan a destination wedding. Nothing says “travel” more than… well, traveling!

In my case, though, I have a 92-year-old grandma who doesn't fly and doesn't even like long car rides any more, and since I really wanted her to be at my wedding, a destination wedding was out. (That, and planning a wedding from far away can be tough unless you hire a wedding planner or purchase a package through a resort.)

Amanda and Elliot wedding

Instead, Elliot and I settled on a venue close to where we live in Ohio. It's called Happy Days Lodge and it's inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park. My (now) husband Elliot and I frequent the park a lot for walks and bike rides, and I loved that the building is historic – it was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and is on the national register of historic places (which is super cool to a #historynerd like me!).

Happy Days Lodge
Inside Happy Days Lodge on our big day

Your venue doesn't really need to be travel-related – just make sure it's a good backdrop for all the other travel-themed goodness you'll be planning.

Focus your theme

Saying your wedding theme is “travel” is pretty broad; you could take it so many different directions! But that also means that you run the risk of bringing *too many* ideas into your plans and design.

To avoid this, I recommend choosing one or two focus points for your theme. Maybe you center your wedding around a specific destination or country, or around your favorite form of transport (think planes and trains), or around previous trips you've taken.

We decided to go with globes and bikes (since Elliot is a pretty avid cyclist), declaring a “vintage travel” theme that went well with our semi-rustic venue. With a more focused theme, it was much easier to plan the rest of the details.

Travel themed wedding decorations
Globes…
Amanda and Elliot wedding
… and bikes!

Get the invites right

Once you narrow down your travel theme, you should be able to start looking for invitations that might match. You'll have to decide if you want to something super on-theme like invitations that look like passports or boarding passes (which would be perfect if you go with a “flying” theme), or whether you want something more subtle.

We actually just went with simple fall invitations since we were having a fall wedding – but also because I couldn't find anything I loved that screamed “vintage travel” that didn't take the theme too far.

My best advice is to look for designs you like on Etsy. Most designers will customize their designs with your info, and then send you PDF files that you can get printed wherever you want. This is usually a more economical option, since the designs aren't too expensive, and you can often find great coupons and deals from places like Vistaprint to do the actual printing.

Add in ALL the travel touches

These touches will depend on your theme, but can be included in your decorations, ceremony, and even practical parts of your wedding.

Our travel touches started before people even walked in the door. We had an old tandem bicycle outside our venue, and bicycles of all shapes and sizes scattered throughout our decorations (including a super cute cake topper.)

Bike cake topper
Our themed cake topper on a cake made by one of my bridesmaids!
Wedding decorations
Bikes and globes everywhere

Inspired by the love locks you can find latched onto bridges and fences all around the world, we added in a love lock ceremony after our vows. (Because, yes, there's totally a company out there that specializes in love lock ceremonies!)

Amanda and Elliot wedding ceremony
Love lock ceremony
Love lock ceremony
Our love lock tree

We had fun with our table numbers, opting for vintage-style postcards (design also purchased on Etsy, and then I just printed them myself) paired with wooden sign holders that my dad made from birch trees in his backyard.

Travel themed wedding table numbers
Table numbers

Our centerpieces were vintage globes mixed with LED lights and candles (including cute ones I found with compasses on them).

Travel themed wedding decorations
Our centerpieces

I considered doing some sort of map for our seating chart (I've seen those paired with naming each table after a country or continent), but in the end went with cards shaped like luggage tags pinned to a burlap-covered cork board. Our cards said “Adventure with us,” and tied in to our Save the Dates. Tiny paper airplanes would have also been cute – if only I was better at origami!

Travel themed wedding seating chart
Easy seating chart

Our card box was a pair of stacked vintage suitcases (one from each of our grandmas), with the top one propped open for cards.

Suitcase card box
The suitcases belonged to family, and I got the cute “Cards” sign on Etsy.

And our guestbook? I considered doing the whole “sign a globe” thing, especially since globes were very prevalent in our decorations. But I've seen that on Pinterest one too many times. So, instead, I gathered up dozens of postcards that I've collected on my travels (they make great souvenirs!), and we encouraged people to write us some advice on these in lieu of a traditional guestbook. Everyone loved it, and we got such lovely messages!

Travel themed wedding guest book

Postcard guestbook
Postcard guestbook

Consider your favors

Here's the thing about wedding favors: you really don't need them! I know it's somewhat traditional and all to send your guests home with something to remember your day by. And I did briefly consider doing luggage tags or bike-shaped bottle openers for our favors. But, at the end of the day, many people either toss these favors or just never take them home at all.

So, instead of potentially wasting money on favors that we thought were cute but that might not actually be practical for all of our guests, we decided to go with edible favors instead! We went with flavored popcorn from a local company, which was perfect for us since we both LOVE popcorn.

Wedding decorations

Edible wedding favors
Our popcorn wedding favors

It wasn't really on-theme, but we also didn't go home with lots of extra favors that people left behind.  😉  (You can absolutely theme edible favors, though – think macarons for a Paris-themed wedding, or airplane-shaped cookies, or even chocolates with a cute travel quote printed on the label.)

Themed food… or no?

Will you go themed with your food? If you're doing a country-specific theme, it would be easy to theme your food/desserts to match; or you could go with an international smorgasbord and have all your favorite dishes from all around the world.

Since our theme was fairly generic, we went with pretty normal wedding food – but we had fun with donuts and cider for dessert, which played into the fact that we had a fall wedding.

Wedding donuts
Blueberry donuts from the bakery at White House Fruit Farm, near where I grew up.

Set up a honeymoon fund

Elliot and I lived together for three years before we got married (and we also bought our condo half a year before the wedding). So we didn't really *need* all of the household-type things that you traditionally receive as wedding gifts.

If you're in a similar situation (and if you are confident most of your guests would be cool with not buying you “stuff”), you could consider registering for a honeymoon instead on sites like Honeyfund, Wanderable, or Zola. What would be better for a travel-themed wedding?

Amanda and Elliot wedding

Spend money on what you care about most

This isn't really a travel-themed wedding tip, but just a planning trip in general: this is YOUR day, and you should spend money on the parts that mean the most to YOU.

For us, this meant spending a lot on good food and a kickass photographer (shoutout to Jadie Foto!), but not spending any money on real flowers (fake ones looked just fine!), expensive decorations, or a photo booth (we set up a DIY one with an Instax camera).

DIY wedding photo booth
No need to spend a lot on a photobooth when you can DIY it with an instant camera!
Amanda and Elliot wedding
We did, however, spend money on an awesome photographer. As someone who takes a lot of pictures myself, this was really important to me!

We also didn't really care if we adhered to all the typical wedding “traditions” or not – for example, we skipped the garter thing and threw two lottery ticket bouquets instead!

So there you have our vintage travel-themed wedding! The subtle approach to our travel theme might not be perfect for you, but hopefully you still came away with an idea or two from this post!

(And maybe be convinced that themed weddings don't have to be cheesy!)

Here are some more of my favorite photos from the day… because why not??

Amanda and Elliot wedding party
Our wedding party having fun

Amanda and Elliot wedding

Amanda and Elliot wedding details

Amanda and Elliot wedding
This is my favorite!!

Amanda and Elliot first dance

Wedding shoes
My green wedding shoes

Themed weddings: yea or nay?

 

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Planning a travel-themed wedding that doesn't suck

 

How to plan a travel-themed wedding that doesn't suck | Travel wedding | #weddings

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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32 Comments on “How to Plan a Travel-Themed Wedding That Doesn’t Suck

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  1. Love it all, especially the mini globes! And your dress – just gorgeous.

    I likely rode close by your address on the back of my boyfriend’s Harley on your wedding day (or month!), as I was home in OH for six weeks this past Fall, and on the bike a couple of gorgeous Saturdays.

    So glad your themed wedding was a success – congrats again!

      Thank you! My dress was quite comfy, too, as far as wedding dresses go. 🙂 We had a pretty overcast wedding day, but that was okay since the weeks leading up to it had been unbearably hot and humid!

      I’m definitely taking some of your ideas (especially the bikes). Thanks for the post!

        Feel free to take as many ideas as you want!

    Wow the decorations and everything look so beautiful! You did an amazing job with the design. Congrats on having a wonderful wedding!..and travel themed makes it that much better! 🙂

      Thanks, Maura! I had fun planning everything and it all turned out even better than I thought it would!

    AHHHH I love all of this! The globes and the candles are so lovely! I adore the suitcase box too (even if I can’t quite see it!) and the postcard idea, and I totally think food is a great idea for favours! Such a gorgeous wedding, congratulations. (again!)

    P.S. you look ABSOLUTELY beautiful!! <3

      Thank you so much! And yes, edible favors for the win!!

    I can’t believe your flowers were fake!! I couldn’t tell at all! Wow. Your wedding looks smashing and you really tied it all into your venue so well! And I love that pic with Elliot in the hat with you and the bike, too.

      That is awesome to hear because both my mom and mother-in-law were pretty appalled that I didn’t want to spend money on real flowers! Silk ones 50% off from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby for the win! And yes, that bike-top-hat photo is getting framed and hung in our front hallway!

    Congratulations! I LOVE the love lock idea! I had a travel themed wedding too! I had a map box similar to yours, it’s so handy when it comes to storing the memories! Our guestbook was a thumb print board where we asked all our guests to turn their thumb print into a cartoon character version of themselves! Because I then moved to America it was almost like I could take a piece of everyone overseas with me! We had boarding pass invites too and my poor Grandad nearly had a panic attack thinking he’d have to get on a flight for the wedding! Whoops! Looks like you had an AMAZING day 🙂

      Oh gosh, I didn’t think about boarding pass-style invites making people think they had to fly somewhere! But yes, we had such a fun day! 🙂

    I absolutely loved this post!
    I always felt like I could be a wedding planner in another lifetime. I love your rustic travel themed wedding, I feel like the bikes are very unique!

    Also, not to sound cheesy, but you looked like a princess <3

      Aww thank you so much! I felt like a princess! (If you’ve seen other photos of me, you’ll know I rarely wear makeup and usually never do anything fun with my hair!) Planning a wedding wasn’t as stressful as I feared it might be (we got really lucky and didn’t have a lot go wrong), but I’m not sure I’d want to do it for other people full-time. 😉

    you guys are adorable. Such a beautiful wedding!!! I love all of your travel themed touches are so perfect 😀

      Thank you! We had a lot of fun, and I think our personalities came out in everything.

    Warmest congrats to you! As much as pictures can reflect it, we really like the vibe of your wedding. Autumn leaves, the mix of vintage and travel… So fabulous!

    We’ve never actually heard of themed weddings before (only in movies 😀 ). Most of the weddings here in Hungary are traditional, and some of them are the “let’s escape and get married somewhere beautiful” types. But the idea of a themed wedding sounds quite exciting as you can make it really personal.

      Ah I didn’t think about that; but yes, themed weddings definitely happen here in the US quite often! It is fun to be able to personalize everything though. 🙂

    Congratulations! I loved the postcard idea instead of the guest book. And I’m all for themed weddings, especially if they don’t suck. This post also makes me so happy because it’s nice to see a traveler go from, well, traveling, to settling down and that it’s still possible to find someone out there that supports your travel dreams! Guess I’ll keep traveling until I find that person then. 😉

      I’m very lucky that Elliot has always supported what I do. I’ve never traveled full-time, but buying a house and getting married all in one year certainly does make me feel a bit more “settled.” (Though don’t worry – I’ll still be traveling a ton!)

    Congrats on your special day and sharing some of the wedding album on your blog.

      Thank you! I know this is a little different than what I usually share here, but I figured why not??

    Oh, Amanda, it’s perfect!!!

    I’m a romantic at heart, so I love weddings in general, but I cannot imagine a more beautiful wedding.

    Thank you so much for sharing your private day with us! I love that you chose to stay close to home so your grandma could attend. I can’t decide which I love more; your absolutely perfect decorations, or the photography, but I think your photos win because I can see clearly how much love the two of you have for each other. I especially love the second pic from the top where the two of you have your eyes closed, and the one near the bottom (with the bicycle where Elliot has a top hat on).

    The perfect wedding. (sigh)

      Thanks so much, April! It was such a fun day, and everything turned out even better than I thought it would (including the amazing photos!).

    Congratulations, both of you just look so happy in all the pictures! I am another one who hasn’t really put much thought into my hypothetical future wedding, but wow yours looks so cool, I didn’t realize they could be like that! The bikes were a fantastic idea; that’s unique and aesthetically appealing

      Aww thanks! I sometimes watch shows about weddings on TV, and I guess I was never drawn very much to all the “traditional” things. Both our moms were a bit confused that we didn’t want to do a reception at a traditional hall or hotel, but I’m so much happier with the venue we chose! And yes, all the touches were very “us.”

    ‘Love it!

    Congratulations once again Amanda! Your wedding looks lovely, you both look really happy, and the theme fits you to a tee!

    I don’t know if having my wedding in a castle is considered to be a theme, but I wanted to get married in a castle, and I did! I live in Germany, so getting married in a castle isn’t very difficult!

    We were very lucky to have the whole area to ourselves, the castle, a lake, and a farm, because it was an Autumn wedding too, and on a Friday! I wanted my wedding to be traditional and formal, so I asked all our guests to come dressed for Ascot, and they all did (phew!), and because I wanted it to be family-friendly, we started at 10.am. We provided champagne, juice & Berlin doughnuts for breakfast, and lunch, dinner and supper, so that nobody went hungry or died of thirst! I hired a child-minder, and also hired a coach/bus to transport every one, as it was in a different part of Germany to where I live.

    I pulled in a lot of favours to save on money, my gay friends designed a dress for me, my best male friend did my make-up and hair, our musician friends brought their own instruments, our actor friends supplied the entertainment, and since we didn’t need household items we asked our guests to either contribute to a charity or our honeymoon fund instead. Unsurprisingly, most did both!

    Loved how your wedding turned out!! This is the theme I’ve been thinking all along, travel-bicycle with the vintage touch. It’s great to see something in my mind come to life. Might need to take some ideas from your for ours. We will have globes throughout the reception too. Our guestbook will actually be our globe. I’m super excited for that!

    If you want to part with any of your décor let me know. Also did you guys already have the bicycle or was that your photographers?

      Everybody loved our globes, so we told people to take them home – we only ended up with about half a dozen left over! Haha. And the tandem bike was loaned to us from a family friend. We had another vintage bike in our ceremony space that Elliot’s mom found at an antique store. 🙂 Feel free to definitely use any of our ideas for inspiration! It was a fun wedding theme, and not really all that expensive to pull off, decorations-wise.

    Huge congratulations! What a wonderful wedding theme! Love the donuts and food, makes me want to get married again 🙂

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