Wedding Airbnb - Lead 2016
Credit: Craig Derrick/Adriatic Images

To be honest, I was never that girl who fantasized about her wedding day. Sure, I've always wanted to get married, but the day itself—the venue, the dress, the flowers—it all eluded me. Perhaps it was because all weddings just kind of looked the same in my mind. Little did I know at the time, there's no formula or template you have to follow, and there certainly aren't any rules. Your wedding day is truly a blank canvas, and that's why so many couples are now opting to say "I do" at Airbnb listings rather than traditional wedding venues.

With listings literally all over the world, Airbnb has thousands of possibilities depending on your desired location, budget, and overall vibe (just make sure to use the “suitable for events” filter while searching on the app). Right now, one of the fastest growing international hot spots for destination weddings is Croatia. I was recently able to visit a few of the country's highest-rated Airbnb villas and couldn’t imagine a more romantic setting—not only for the wedding itself, but for all the events leading up to the big day.

Whether you're planning an exotic destination wedding or simply looking to book a quirky barn in your hometown, here are some of the benefits of exchanging vows at an Airbnb.

1. A personalized experience

Unlike some traditional venues that offer set wedding packages or have limitations on what is customizable, pretty much anything goes at an Airbnb—within reason, obviously. Mariah Carey's reported request for circus animals probably wouldn't fly, but as long as your host is cool with your ideas, they can most likely be executed. In other words, you’re not locked into certain table linens or food options that can often times feel cookie-cutter and generic. And the best part is that many Airbnb hosts, like the folks at Adriatic Discoveries, love working with local chefs, bands, florists, and planners to help customize and tailor your event. So everything from the flowers to the music will be unique and personal to you.

Wedding Airbnb 7 - Embed 2016
Credit: Craig Derrick/Adriatic Images

2. So much privacy

Sometimes traditional venues will have multiple events happening at one time in different banquet halls, and while some couples might not care or even notice, others might want to feel like they're on their own personal island. At an Airbnb, you can throw a totally private event without the risk of anyone trying to crash. I’d also highly recommend spending a few days alone at your listing to take advantage of any super romantic amenities that may be available, like the outdoor shower at this gorgeous beachside villa. Or, start your day with a couple’s massage or private yoga class on the terrace overlooking the ocean. Ah, the life!

Wedding Airbnb 5 - Embed 2016
Credit: Craig Derrick/Adriatic Images

3. Convenience

Transportation to and from the venue isn’t something you’ll have to stress about if you opt for an Airbnb. This villa in Hvar, for example, has seven super private bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom, and accommodates a total of 14 people, so there’s plenty of room for the bride and groom’s parents to stay on the premises as well. Say someone has a bit too much Plavac Mali—a delicious local red wine you can taste at the nearby Vina Tomic Winery—they can easily escape to their bedroom when nobody’s looking. Hey, #nojudgment.

Wedding Airbnb 6 - Embed 2016
Credit: Craig Derrick/Adriatic Images

4. Affordability

If a traditional wedding venue doesn’t work for your budget, an Airbnb might be a more afforable alternative. While you won’t necessarily get all the bells and whistles that come with a pricy hotel package, you will be able to save for other local experiences to share with your friends and family in the days leading up to the nuptials—like, say, renting a private yacht and exploring the caves of the Pakleni Islands while drinking unlimited champagne. Don’t forget to hire a local photographer like Craig Derrick from Adriatic Images to be your personal paparazzi for the day so you can recreate pictures like this one. Trust me when I say it’s worth it.

Wedding Airbnb 4 - Embed 2016
Credit: Craig Derrick/Adriatic Images

5. Amazing new friends

We’ve all seen Airbnb’s commercials about not just going to a city, but actually living there—and with that experience comes new friendships. After a few days at one of their listings, you’ll feel like you’ve known your host for years, even if you only communicate via text. By the end of my stay in Croatia, I was legitimately sad to say goodbye to everyone I met along the way, but now I have long-distance friends from all over the world.

Wedding Airbnb 3 - Embed 2016
Credit: Craig Derrick/Adriatic Images

And that genuine human connection is what staying at an Airbnb is really all about!