Destination Destination

A “destination” is nothing new. We’ve used that word for centuries. An example is in Heaven’s My Destination, the title of a 1934 novel by Thornton Wilder about a pious schoolbook salesman. Wilder prefaces the story with a verse that, he says, “children of the Middle West were accustomed to write in their schoolbooks”:

George Brush is my name;
America’s my nation;
my dwelling place
And Heaven’s my destination.

Until recently, “destination” was always the head noun of a noun phrase, not a modifier of another. Thanks to the wedding industry, however, that changed in the 1990s. Some enterprising wedding planner reversed the familiar phrase “wedding destination” to coin “destination wedding.” The simple reversal opened a new world of possibilities for prospective brides, grooms, and advertisers.

For a “destination wedding,” a couple makes a point of going far from home to a place that is a tourist attraction and that can conveniently serve for the honeymoon too. It’s touted not only as a romantic getaway but as a way to save money, since far fewer guests typically are able to attend. A destination wedding puts “forsaking all others” into practice.

Naturally, there are publications and Web sites that offer help with destination weddings. Destination I Do magazine was founded in 2004 by two women who “found a glaring oversight in the bridal market—where was the coverage about destination weddings and romantic honeymoons? … The Editor in Chief was interested in having a destination wedding herself and could find little information about it, which was quite troubling. …  The ladies decided to take matters into their own hands.”

A competing magazine, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, soon followed, beginning publication in 2005 with features on Jamaica, Maui, and “10 great places to let loose in nature, then come home to a luxury resort.” A current issue offers “eight botanical garden wedding venues,” “seven grand wedding staircases,” and “12 sexiest wedding destinations,” the first being Bora Bora.

To go along with destination weddings, there are destination bachelorette parties and destination rehearsal dinners. And in the pattern of destination weddings, we have destination anniversaries, as well as:

Destination birth: “Is there a place you’ve been, a memory you have, or an event that took place in your life that holds special significance and lovely feelings for you? How would you like to bring some of those most fond sensations into the experience of welcoming your child into the world?” says the Birth Spa.

Destination birthday: “If you or someone you love is celebrating a milestone birthday, consider a destination birthday event to an exotic locale or out-of-the-way retreat,” says the Web site SheKnows.

Destination funeral: “For those with enough money to turn this dream into a reality, the result can be an unforgettable funeral experience that brings people together in ways you never imagined,” says iMortuary.

Nowadays a magazine can have a “destination issue”: WSJ. magazine of The Wall Street Journal calls its July/August issue a “destination issue,” explaining: “This issue celebrates the culture of destinations. This doesn’t mean educational afternoons spent at local museums or ticking off the usual sightseeing spots. It means valuing truly distinct cultures that are worthy of admiration—even awe—in our increasingly homogenized world.”

By extension, the modifier “destination” now also designates a place worth a special trip. “Destination wedding” means a wedding at a desirable destination. “Destination” with other nouns, however, labels the following noun as a desirable destination itself. So we find destination cities, spas, restaurants, stores, and malls. Also there are:

Destination museums (like the Milwaukee Art Museum, according to a 1997 article in New York magazine)

Destination parks (like Lewisburg Area Recreation Park in Lewisburg, Pa., according to the Recreation Management Web site)

Destination playgrounds (like Barretto Point Park in the South Bronx, according to

Destination hospitals (like the Cleveland Clinic, with locations not just in Cleveland but in Florida, Las Vegas, West Palm Beach, Toronto, and Abu Dhabi)

Destination clinics (like HealthNOW Medical Center in Sunnyvale, Calif.)

And even destination colleges. The Web site Her Campus last year offered its list of “10 schools where location is a top perk, as long as you don’t let it impact your GPA.” In order, they are Tulane (New Orleans), Pepperdine (Malibu), University of Miami, University of Tampa, UCLA, New York University, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Occidental College (L.A.), Georgetown, and the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

All of those require going somewhere. But you can also just sit at your computer and go to a destination Web site, one that is so appealing you make a point of going there. Like Lingua Franca.

Bon voyage!

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