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For some couples, getting married—and planning a wedding together—is as adventurous as it gets. Others, however, don't feel that adrenaline kick in unless they're in a hot air balloon, standing atop of a glacier, or somewhere underwater. Those risk-takers out there will love these wedding ceremony ideas, from Dubai to Iceland to Hawaii and many places in between.
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In a Traditional Mayan Ceremony
Riviera Maya, Mexico
A handful of top resorts in Mexico's Riviera Maya offer couples the chance to be married in a traditional Mayan ceremony (though note, the ceremony has no legal value). At Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita, Secrets Akumai Riviera Maya, Secrets Playa Mujeres, and Dreams Riviera Cancun—all part of AMResorts—a shaman will officiate a ritual that can include copal incense and traditional music (from $950). And at Sandos Caracol Eco Resort, weddings take place on the deck of a cenote, with the sounds of live drums in the background. After the vows are exchanged, couples are encouraged to jump in the crystal-clear water (from $3,150, package include dinner for up to 30 guests).
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In a Hot Air Balloon
Asheville, North Carolina
For a high-flying wedding, why not go up, up, and away inside a hot air balloon? Better yet, schedule it during the fall, when the foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountains is at its peak. The team at Asheville Hot Air Balloons can arrange intimate ceremonies for two, but if you prefer having friends and family nearby, they can accommodate up to 28 guests by tethering additional balloons together (from $1,420).
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At One of the World's Tallest Hotels
It should come as no surprise that the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah—the world's third-tallest hotel, at 1,053 feet—is located in Dubai, a city known for its towering skyscrapers and gravity-defying architecture. (No. 1 and 2 are also located in Dubai—as are No. 4 and 5, for that matter.) Weddings take place on the hotel's soaring helipad, set almost 700 feet high, with views of the buzzy city and Arabian Gulf beyond. Here are just a few included highlights: transportation (by twin-engine Italian plane or Rolls Royce Phantom), beauty treatments and training sessions at the on-site spa, a custom wedding scent, and private dance lessons (from $55,000).
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Inside a Volcanic Crater
Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like descending into the crater of a dormant volcano—in this case Iceland's Þríhnúkagigur Volcano. After riding the open elevator system down more than 400 feet, couples can recite their vows and then enjoy a private dinner in the giant magma chamber. Book it through the travel company Black Tomato (from $5,210 per person, also includes flights and accommodations).
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In the Presence of Monks
For the ultimate marriage blessing, there's no better place than Bhutan's Paro Valley, home to magnificent monasteries. Couples staying at the Uma by COMO Paro can arrange for a ceremony at an ancient temple, during which they're done traditional Bhutanese costumes and up to 15 monks will say a prayer accompanied by drums, horns, and cymbals. That night, the resort will set up a romantic table for two in a lush green field. If family and friends have traveled to celebrate, larger dinners can be held at the on-site restaurant (from $2,424; room rates from $450).
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In an Aquarium
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Certified scuba divers can take the plunge at Atlantis' 2.7 million-gallon Ruins Lagoon, which is filled with more than 20,000 fish and artifacts inspired by the fictional island of Atlantis. A certified officiant will conduct the ceremony, and the cost includes an hour each of underwater photography and videography, plus a completed album and edited video ($5,800).
Note: diving tanks and equipment not included and couples must present diver certification.
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In the African Bush
A wedding at Gondwana Game Reserve—a four-hour drive from Cape Town—means you may have some uninvited guests roaming around nearby: lions, buffalo, elephants, cheetahs, and rhinos—not to mention giraffes, zebra, and antelopes. The property takes a tailor-made approach to events, with options to set the ceremony right in the bush (rental from $835) or at the Lehele Lodge (rental from $2,090), which overlooks a watering hole. It can accommodate up to 104 overnight guests, and rates start at $156 per person.
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On a Sandbar
Couples staying at David Copperfield's private island resort Musha Cay can exchange vows on a three-mile-long sandbar in the middle of the ocean—which means ceremonies can only take place during low tide. The sandbar can accommodate the resort's maximum 24 guests (weddings require a complete buy-out of the property for $57,000 per night).
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Among Manta Rays
The Big Island, Hawaii
The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa is a main feeding area for manta rays—the largest of the ray species, weighing as much as 2,000 pounds. Lucky for adventurous pairs, the hotel recently launched the Under the Stars wedding package, which includes a canoe ride after dusk to Keauhou Bay to watch—and swim among—the manta rays as they feed on plankton. A dive-certified officiant will be on hand to perform the underwater ceremony, after which the couple will enjoy dinner and champagne (from $3,750; $300 each additional guest for dinner).
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Queenstown is the self-proclaimed Adventure Capital of the World, so there's ample opportunity to tie the knot while getting your adrenaline pumping. Through a partnership with Heli-Weddings, Matakauri Lodge can whisk couples away in a helicopter to the top of a glacier for an intimate ceremony amid stunning scenery ($7,000, includes marriage license, photographer, two nights at the lodge, breakfast and dinner, and more). And the Queenstown-based company Heliworks is another go-to for those seeking secluded wedding spots—it even has access exclusive landing access to a number of locations. Options include Mt. Nicholas, with views of Lake Wakatipu, and the towering Earnslaw Glacier (packages from $1,404, includes photographer, officiant, and a bottle of champagne).