Portugal may be relatively “off the beaten path” in the realm of destination weddings, but this coastal European destination is steeped in history. It’s also home to some of the continent’s most beautiful scenery. Aside from the wealth of cultural and historic places to visit on the mainland, Portugal offers a particularly enchanting location for couples and their guests to spend a full wedding weekend – Madeira, a Portuguese island just off the West African coast. For couples in search of a unique blend of luxury, Old World charm, and natural beauty, it doesn’t get much better than the “floating garden of the Atlantic.” A remote location, luxury properties, fresh local fare, and world-famous are all experiences visitors can look forward to during a destination wedding in Madeira.
Traveling to Madeira
TAP Air Portugal (which stands for Tansportes Aéreos Portugueses) is headquartered in Lisbon and offers flights to four continents: Europe, Africa, North America, and South America. There’s even a direct flight from New York to Madeira Airport (also known as Funchal Airport, Santa Catarina Airport, or Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport). Since destination wedding guests will be flying in from different parts of the world, traveling to Madeira with TAP Air Portugal will make the journey comfortable and convenient – especially if they fly Executive Class. The Executive Class experience features meals served on bespoke porcelain from a collaboration between TAP and Vista Alegre and highlights various Portuguese products and traditional desserts. It’s a great precursor to destination weddings in Madeira.
If newlyweds wish to prolong their stay in Europe after their nuptials, they can even take a quick TAP Air Portugal flight to a number of swanky destinations such as Tenerife, Bilbao, Valencia, and Gran Canaria. It’s an easy, “one-stop shop” for booking a destination wedding and mini moon all in one go.
Location: Calheta, Madeira, Portugal; Yacht: 3 m’s, Rota Dos Cetáceos, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal; Lunch: Octopus salad, steak, tuna, bread and wine & spirts; Photography: 4 Eyes Photography
Where to stay in Madeira
Located in the island’s capital of Funchal, Savoy Palace is the ultimate 5-star hotel destination for anyone who wants the ultimate blend of Madeira charm and a chic, cosmopolitan setting. Branded as “The Palace of Tomorrow and the Days Before,” Savoy Palace is a stunning property filled with bespoke furniture that was created by local artisans. Madeira’s natural beauty provided inspiration behind the guest rooms, which are airy and modern, yet cozy and cocoon-like. Think “restrained glamour with sumptuous finishes.”
There’s a multitude of dining options and experiences, which couples can pick and choose to create the perfect menus and settings for each of their wedding events. Welcome receptions during the day could take place over an elegant afternoon tea with the music of a live pianist or harpist in the background, or couples may opt for a more lively and casual gathering at the poolside Alameda Restaurant. Rehearsal dinners may be hosted at Galaxia Skyfood – a stylish restaurant with an impossibly chic setting – and a romantic dinner for two under the stars can also be arranged for newlyweds who’d like to decompress after their big day.
The hotel’s onsite Laurea Spa is a veritable haven for pre- and post-wedding spa treatments with 11 treatment rooms, a sauna, jacuzzi, steam room, sensorial showers, indoor pool, hydrotherapy room, relaxation room, beauty salon, and a champagne and nails bar. It’s pure bliss for a bride-to-be and her bridal party. With 30 event spaces, one ballroom, and a capacity of up to 1,400 people, Savoy Palace is an impressive Madeira wedding destination for guest lists of all sizes.
For an extra special touch, couples can have a bottle of Madeira wine sent to each of their guest’s rooms.
Location: Marina da Calheta, Calheta, Madeira, Portugal; Goat Crossing; Photography: 4 Eyes Photography
Flower Festival, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal; Photography: Francisco Correia-AP Madeira
Activities for a destination wedding in Madeira
Wedding weekends may take place over the course of two days, but it’d be a shame to make the journey to Madeira without staying longer to explore the island and take in as much local culture as possible. Fans of watersports can take to the ocean for diving, sailing, and surfing, while golf, scenic hiking trails, and shopping are readily available on land. Madeira has phenomenal weather year-round, not to mention warm and friendly locals; so there’s never a bad time to host a destination wedding.
If newlyweds want to plan a post-wedding excursion with their guests, they can take a ferry to Porto Santo for a day trip. Early birds will love the sunrise island jeep tour with Mountain Madeira Expeditions, as it allows visitors to indulge in a sense of tranquility unlike any other. There’s a true sense of peace when driving through the countryside, winding along curved roads, encountering crossing goats, and gazing upon endless ocean views. Then there’s the Madeira sunrise – indescribably gorgeous, and a “must” for any destination wedding itinerary.
Of course, post-wedding brunches are always a favorite. Rota dos Cetáceos offers the most incredible outings on the water, including whale watching, swimming with dolphins, or a private yacht charter. Wild dolphin swims are becoming less common nowadays, with high-traffic tourism destinations like Hawaii outlawing dolphin swim tours in order to protect the wildlife. Fortunately, Rota dos Cetáceos is committed to maintaining high levels of safety and respect for sea life, so visitors have the opportunity to swim with dolphins in a way that is calm, safe, and stress-free for the animals. There’s an abundance of different species in Madeira’s waters and chartering a boat may lead to encounters with spotted dolphins, pilot whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales, fin whales, and more. Even the elusive sperm whale has been spotted during whale watching tours in Madeira.
Couples can gather a few of their closest friends and family members for luxurious afternoon of yachting, jumping off the boat for a refreshing swim in the Atlantic, and lounging around on board with lunch and spirits provided. Basking in the sun surrounded by turquoise waters with crystal clear visibility (and perhaps enjoying the company of some friendly dolphins) is the perfect way to conclude a destination wedding in Madeira.