Saying ‘I do’ overseas
Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia, Greece. (Nick Marcus/BBC)
Roughly one in five couples today are shunning the traditional church wedding in their hometown, opting for a destination wedding on a beach, mountaintop, castle or vineyard instead. And the trend is on the rise as couples realise that they can have their dream wedding by going abroad.
“With the average overseas ceremony costing less than a third of the cost of a traditional wedding in the UK, even for a really exclusive event, couples no longer need a big bank balance,” said Jennifer Kelly of Barefoot Bride, an online wedding planning service.
A destination wedding also solves the issue of who to invite. In Asia, many couples feel that having an intimate destination wedding is a way to reclaim their special day, rather than feeling obliged to invite many guests who are friends and associates of their parents.
Once you have decided to get away to tie the knot, the next question is where to go.
The Mamma Mia effect is still very much alive, leaving lots of couples dreaming of a Greek Island wedding. Greece spoils you for choice with its roughly 6,000 idyllic islands, with endless sands and dramatic cliffs surrounded by aquamarine seas. As brides today favour the smaller islands for a more intimate wedding of no more than 20 guests, pearls like Amorgos and Kefalonia are now more fashionable than party islands like Mykonos or Phapos.
The island country of Cyprus, located in the eastern Mediterranean, is locally known as Aphrodite’s Isle. Where better to get married than where legend holds the goddess of love rose from the waves? There is sunshine nearly year round, English is widely spoken and it is very reasonably priced. Options for all budgets range from exclusive boutique hotels to family friendly all-inclusive properties. Pritoras’s Fig Tree Bay and Green Bay Beach are among the choicest areas.
The allure of the sun-drenched Caribbean is very popular with North American couples. There are thousands of islands to choose from, with miles of golden sandy beaches and clear blue water.
Getting married in the Caribbean also means your guests can enjoy laid back group activities like catamaran cruises or dinners on the beach. “Most of our clients want a location and a resort where their guests can have unlimited access to meals included in the cost; they seem concerned with keeping the costs down for their guests so places like Dominican Republic and Jamaica, which have a lot of all inclusive resorts, are very popular,” explained Sandra Aaron from Mindless Sophistication Events, a wedding planning service.
Bali is the top destination for weddings in Indonesia. The island has a moderate, warm climate, tropical jungles and stunning Indian Ocean views.
“A good number of small, bespoke wedding chapels have sprung up on the island in recent years too, but most importantly, there are lots of agents on the ground who handle all the marriage paperwork” explained Jonathan Goh from Wedding Acts, a wedding planning service based in Singapore. “The couple just needs to arrive a couple of days before the wedding.”
The legalities in Thailand are not as easy as Bali, but most couples choose this destination for its beautiful beaches, delicious food and the warm local hospitality. Most wedding ceremonies here will offer the choice of a Buddhist blessing, lantern lighting ceremony and perhaps hiring a baby elephant (a controversial practice we do not condone).
Phuket and Koh Samui are the more popular destinations, but smaller islands too are coming into vogue. “With air travel these days, you can bring 50 people to Thailand at a reasonable price and stay in Thailand’s most luxurious resort, at a price that is probably half what it would cost to get married in Europe or Sydney,” boasted Anthony Lark, General Manager of Trisara resort in Phuket.
The variety of this country is what makes it stand apart. Some couples opt for a game reserve in the heart of the South African bush or a stylish vineyard setting, but most cannot resist the lure of the beaches that lap the country's coastline from Cape Town all the way round to Durban.
“It's where we got married three years ago and I think it offers all that you get from a beach wedding in the Caribbean, but also has so much more on offer for the honeymoon and the guests -- be it a bush safari or the colourful culture and night life in Cape Town,” Kelly said.
Many couples are opting for more far-flung and exotic destinations, like Cambodia and Vietnam, Stephanie Chai from weddingguideasia.com said. Khmer ceremonies in Cambodia can add a different dimension to nuptials, while in China, resorts in Ringha, in the Yunnan Province, are offering Tibetan ceremonies too.