Thailand remain the top choice as world’s favourite travel destination for couples from around the globe, “a world’s destination wedding hub” indeed.
BY Percy Roxas
“Thailand is one of the most romantic destinations in the world,” says one hotel general manager (GM). And indeed, with hundreds of overseas couples tying the knot in Thailand every year, the kingdom has become one of the most popular romantic destinations — the veritable weddings and honeymoons hub of the world.
“Thailand’s wedding and honeymoon segment is absolutely huge and it is growing every year,” Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor for international marketing of the Tourism Authority of Thailand told the media without giving exact figures during the recent “Thailand Travel Mart Plus” in Bangkok.
But research shows that in 2011 alone, more than 8,000 people from India came to Thailand to attend about 40 weddings – averaging 200 guests per wedding, according to a CNN report. And it’s not just the Indians who come to Thailand for “big fat weddings.” Also that same year, around 600 couples from China chose the kingdom for their weddings, not to mention numerous others from Japan, Korea, and Europe (in that order), which trail those from India. More recently, a survey by Swedish travel agency Resia dubbed Thailand as the ‘No. 1 Destination for Swedish Dream Wedding in 2012.’ These confirm Thailand’s growing reputation as a “world wedding hub.”
Mrs. Juthaporn further confirms that there has been “a recent explosion of many new boutique-style properties, high quality individualized wedding service, and even outdoor properties are getting into the action with lavish weddings, engagements, and related parties.”
Let your love unfold at the idyllic White Room of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. The White Room is a unique wedding venue with sensually curved walkways, staircase, and display area to enhance the look and feel of your special day. What makes the White Room the perfect place to exchange “I Dos” is its architecture that is designed to flatter any event or wedding theme. To ensure that everything is perfect on your special day, the hotel has a dedicated Crowne Meeting Events Team that will be your single point of contact from planning until your big day.
The 911-sqm White Room has two levels private space and also boasts of its state-of-the-art facilities including wash, profile and disco lighting DMX desk, video projector, mixer effects cd amplifiers and speakers, motorized 3.5m wide retractable projection screen, and mood lighting. Complimentary high-speed internet access is also available so you can capture and easily share with friends the photos and videos of your wedding.
For more information and reservation, call 02-632-9000 or visit www.ihg.com/crowneplaza.
One of the most lavish destination weddings held in Thailand was in Phuket, where a couple from India splashed out half a million dollars on a multi-day wedding that included three days of celebration and activities before the actual ceremony, accommodation, airfares, yacht charters, food and transportation for all the guests. On the other end of the spectrum is a Chinese couple whose intimate wedding involved only themselves and witnesses.
Whether an intimate ceremony or a grand gala, a Thailand destination wedding promises to be memorable. Whether it is held in an ornate Buddhist temple, on a white sandy beach, on a balloon ride high above lush green forests, in a glittering ballroom of one of Bangkok’s major hotels, or underwater, extra efforts are taken by the venues to organize a once-in-a lifetime event that will be remembered by both the couple and their guests.
“From our guests, there is no limit to the imagination,” says a Phuket resort GM, “and so is our will to please.” In one recent destination wedding held in Phuket, a particular couple used a Sino-Portuguese mansion of a former governor in the heart of the island as a backdrop, instead of the usual beach setting. From our previous interviews, we know that some Phuket resort organizes about eight weddings in 20 months, targeting at least two weddings a month during the low season. Another recent wedding in Phuket involved 300 Indians from New Delhi and 800 Thai-Indians from Bangkok.
In general, couples marrying with a massive guest list, and which requires super-sized venue accommodation prefer – though not always — sprawling resorts with rooms in the hundreds. But smaller or boutique holiday villas are also emerging as choices for smaller, more intimate getaway weddings, like the V Villas in Hua Hin (02 309-3939, www.vvillashuahin.com), which is presently aggressively pursuing a major strategy to attract more wedding events. This Accor-managed resort is also favored for honeymoons with its romantic beachfront and famous dining under the stars.
Hua Hin is another top favorite for destination weddings. With several international five-star hotels and resorts – from Anantara to Hyatt, from Hilton to InterContinental – not to mention luxury boutique properties sprawling around the charming beach town, this is not surprising. All are equipped with the ability and capacity to organize and host dream weddings big and small.
A popular destination wedding and honeymoon venue here is Dusit Thani Hua Hin (032-524-009, www.dusitthanihuahin.dusit.com), with its Royal Dusit Hall available for big weddings of up to 1,100 guests. The ballroom offers a panoramic view of the Gulf of Thailand, enhancing the romantic mood of wedding events. The resort’s garden also makes for a perfect backdrop for weddings.
Another is Sheraton Hua Hin Resort & Spa (032-708-000, www.starwood.com/sheraton). Expansive ocean views, a pristine private oceanfront, exclusive dining venues, and flexible meeting facilities are just a few key components of a successful wedding at the Sheraton Hua Hin. The resort’s idyllic atmosphere makes it the perfect setting for a romantic dream wedding.
Since 2008, Sheraton Hua Hin Resort & Spa has been continuously exploring a great opportunity in Indian Wedding business. Each year, the resort host numerous Indian wedding ranging from a size of 100-500 people from many different communities such as Hindu, Sikh, Aryan, and Gujarati. The most recent wedding group at the resort is their 50th Indian Wedding.
Most of their clients come from India, U.K., Dubai, and Hong Kong. The resort is ready to welcome wedding events with their 525sqm. Grand Ballroom and spacious outdoor conference facilities such as the Oceanfront Lawn (1025 sq m), Island Lawn (570sqm), Luna Lanai Lawn (507sqm) and Chill Out Lawn (810sqm). The ceremonies and events taking place during the wedding include Pooja, Menhdi and Sangeet which can be arranged in the Grand Ballroom, the private nightclub – @BLACK — or set up as a sala in the swimming pool or on the seaside function lawns.
For Baraat, the resort can arrange different ideas for the groom such as elephant ride, vintage car, decorated buggy cars, tricycle, or horse. An Indian Chef is on standby at the resort to prepare traditional Indian food, and a team of dedicated chefs can prepare various cuisines such as Thai, Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, and International cuisines.
The wedding theme can be selected from some 100 different beautiful wedding set-up styles uploaded on online photo album for the couples to browse and select. Friendly onsite event specialists help plan a wedding that will certainly to be a resounding success.
Centara Grand Beach Resort & Spa Hua Hin also sets the stage for an exceptionally memorable Hua Hin wedding, which can be hosted along the beachfront pool, on the beach, in their giant topiary garden, or in the splendid Colonial Hall.
Here’s one destination wedding held at the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin (032 512-021/38, ext. 718, www.chr.com) — one of the classic hotels in Southeast Asia — and a leading preferred wedding destination for many, recently:
The couple has visited Hua Hin so many times and they love the place. Thus, when they were looking for a wedding location, Hua Hin was the obvious choice. “It is close to Bangkok, which made it easier for our guests to get to,” says Stuart. “Hua Hin is also a very relaxing place, a good location with great seafood. The Centara Grand Hua Hin was recommended to us by friends, and once we visited the hotel we knew it was right for us because it looked fantastic.”
Stuart said they relied heavily on the Centara Grand staff to help them in organizing the wedding. “Majority of the communication was done by e-mail, and they were extremely helpful in everything we requested,” Jongrak shares, “even making special arrangement for the cake to match something we had seen online and liked. Despite arranging everything this way, and us leaving some decisions to the last minute, everything went perfectly on the day. The staff went out of their way to make sure we had everything we required, from suggesting the jazz band, to matching the wedding cake we wanted.”
For their theme, Stuart and Jongrak chose white/pink flowers. Then, “we chose a garden setting for the wedding, which was perfect,” says Stuart. “The walk down the ‘aisle’ from the Elephant Bush and the first view of the bride were very special for me. Jongrak loved the flower arch at the reception and the photo locations around the hotel.” The two received lots of compliments about their wedding location, set-up, staff and the dinner buffet. “Everyone who went to the wedding said how wonderful the location was and how professional and helpful the staff were,” says Jongrak. “The hotel upgraded our room for the wedding night and it was laid-out perfectly inside, with towels folded into the shape of swans and flower petals on the bed. The whole wedding package, including spa massage, was perfect.” The two went to Phuket for their honeymoon.
By the way, there’s a special resort in Chiang Mai that is perfect for weddings and honeymoons: Sakuntara Eco Cascade Resort. Within their luxurious Lanna architecture, splendid private waterfalls, and beautiful natural surroundings, they can create a truly unforgettable wedding ceremony. The distinctive atmosphere and setting is perfect for a romantic getaway, and enjoyable for both the couple and their guests.
But in fact, couples don’t have to go far from Bangkok to realize a lavish dream wedding. Bangkok alone boasts several venues to fully satisfy the requirements for even the most demanding wedding couples. Lavish weddings – destination or otherwise — have been hosted by Shangri-La Bangkok, The Peninsula Bangkok, Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, and Millenniun Hilton Bangkok. Dusit Thani Bangkok, an institution in events and social functions regularly hosts nuptial events for both local and foreign visitors in the capital.
One city of these hotels even claim to average 150 weddings a year upwards, says some of our sources, especially during the wedding season of November-January. The hotels also offer many value-added items such as free nights stay for the couple, standard flower décor, spa treatment, and honeymoon package, etc.
One consistently popular choice in the capital is the Four Seasons Bangkok (02 126-8866; www.fourseasons.com). Four Seasons Bangkok is a hands-down favorite of many couples both local and from overseas, including just recently, two Filipino couples and an Indian couple. The hotel offers also offers specialized wedding packages depending on minimum spending.
Following is a real wedding held at Four Seasons Bangkok recently:
“Soon after we got engaged in New York, we began putting together ideas by perusing wedding blogs and magazines,” says Ria. “Given that many of our guests would be coming from Asia, we knew that we wanted to have a destination wedding in the area, in a place that was fun and exotic. My sister-in-law recommended Thailand, because she had lived there for several years as a teenager. Caloy and I had never been to Thailand before, but after hearing her describe the culture and welcoming nature of its residents, we knew that Thailand would fit the bill. Plus, tying the knot in a never-before seen place seemed like a wonderful adventure for us.”
“It quickly became clear that Bangkok would be the perfect destination city for our wedding, not only because of the exhilarating energy, but also because of the hospitality and the delicious food,” adds Caloy. “Plus, something new always seems to be found on every corner, whether you’re at a hawker stall, temple, or market. And since we were getting married shortly before New Year’s Eve, we knew that this vibrant city would be in full swing…perfect for celebrating our big day! “
After selecting Bangkok, the couple said it was very easy for them to decide on having their reception at the Four Seasons Bangkok. “The packages they offer for weddings are amazing, and very flexible to almost any desire!,” echo the couple. “Plus, the hotel staff were so accommodating. The hotel itself has a lot of charm—with just enough style to really make you feel like you’re in Bangkok (as opposed to any random city in the world).”
Planning a destination wedding from halfway around the world was certainly challenging, but the couple were blessed to have a Bangkok expert, the bride’s sister-in-law Carmina, her (very) patient Mom, and wedding coordinator Annie Lim, who visited Bangkok no less than three times before the couple arrived in December. “Needless to say, our wedding would have never happened without them,” says Ria.
In the digital age, it’s so easy to swap great ideas with other couples planning their weddings all over the world. Caloy and Ria spent a lot of time pulling ideas together, until they were able to create a ‘mood board’ for the big day. “We were lucky to have the support of the Four Seasons event planning staff, who worked with our “team” to execute our requests,” they say. “No request was too extreme, or too difficult; the support we received from the Four Seasons team was really beyond expectations. In the end, we really felt as though we were receiving the best kind of surprise on our wedding day.”
The couple received compliments on every single aspect of their wedding. “Many of our guests stated that they had never had so much fun at a wedding, which made us so happy,” Ria says. “After all, our goal was to make our guests as happy as we were.”
For their wedding theme, the two chose the color of eggplant, lavender, blush, and silver. “We had a number of inspirations for our theme, but it can be loosely defined as: night market / lounge,” says Ria.
“We wanted our wedding to feel like a real party, rather than a formal event where our guests would be expected to sit in the same spot all evening. So, we set up the ballroom with a number of different seating arrangements: conventional round dining tables, cozy sofas and chairs, cocktail tables, and leather ottomans. These were scattered around the ballroom, and our guests could choose to sit where they wished. They definitely enjoyed being able to move around and mingle!”
“To fit the theme, the menu was comprised of the best Thai food the Four Seasons kitchen had to offer, served in bite-sized portions. Caloy and I love food, so it was very important for our wedding to be defined by the quality of food served. Our friends and family are still raving about the food at our wedding, which makes us very happy! “
While the couple worked with a wedding planner from the Philippines (Annie Lim) to ensure perfection for the big day, they also made the most of local Bangkok talent, especially the photographer, Sikarin “Fon” Thanachaiary, and videographers, Spell Studio. “They were incredibly professional, and produced world-class work,” Caloy says. “Finally, our band the Unicorn Girls and DJ Sunju kept us dancing till the early morning hours.”
“In addition to being with our friends and family, experiencing Bangkok for the first time together was an incredibly memorable part of our wedding,” the couple says. “There was so much to see, taste, smell—we only wish that we had more time to spend in this beautiful city.”
Following the wedding, the couple spent New Year’s Eve in Bangkok with their immediate families and then drove to Hua Hin. “We were finally able to unwind and get some alone time! It was a perfect choice, given the ease of getting there from Bangkok, and the wonderful resort Putahracsa,” says Ria.
There has also been a veritable explosion of wedding packages offered by many hotels and resorts around the kingdom to attract more and more planners of a destination wedding. For example, a couple can enjoy a wonderful themed wedding at Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya (038 301-234, ext. 4174) – the first themed hotel in Thailand — for prices starting at Bt940 net per person for cocktail, Bt1,300 net per person for buffet dinner and Bt13,550 net per table for Chinese dinner. In fact, there’s even a special offer is available for those whose wedding budgets start at only Bt120,,000 net, all-inclusive and promising an unforgettable event overseen by a professional wedding organizer.
“Wedding packages really help in controlling the budget and also provides various wedding ideas and themes to the couple,” says the wedding event manager at Royal Cliff Pattaya. “Royal Cliff’s packages are expertly tailored to include every couples’ needs, taking nationality, budget, and personal experiences into account.”
Even for those marrying in Bangkok, similar wedding packages are available. For one, Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Center at CentralWorld, has a series of wedding packages available until end of the year for its various venues that provide options ranging from the intimate and chic M23 events space through to mega events in the convention center, with spending amounts that start from Bt250,000 on food and beverage. Another Centara Grand, this one in Ladprao (o2-541-1234, ext. 4210; firstname.lastname@example.org)), has a “Wedding Dream Come True” package available until end of October, at prices starting at Bt 190,000 net inclusive of a host of benefits and perks. It even includes a honeymoon stay for two nights at one of the many Centara properties in Thailand
Needless to say, tailor-made services can be easily availed of and even outside the hotels’ wedding organizers – couples can still enjoy the services of professional wedding merchants: hair and makeup stylists, personal wedding assistants, creative floral artists, a team of dedicated staff on hand for the sole purpose of making any one’s big day perfect. Many resorts and hotels in Thailand will provide help in setting up your wedding. But of course, do your research beforehand to find a resort right for you.
“At the end of the day, each couple has their own ideas for their wedding, from the number of guests, venue, theme, and season,” says Caloy and Ria. “For us Bangkok was the ideal location because of the sheer level of options available for nearly any style. We would recommend finding a great hotel (with an equally great wedding planning staff), which can make planning a destination wedding very smooth. It also helps to have some familiarity with the area and customs, to prevent any stress and heartache. But no matter what, I’m certain that any couple would be happy to get married in Bangkok.”
“Give yourselves plenty of time to arrange everything but also trust the staff,” adds Stuart and Jongrak. “They did not let us down even though we left a lot to the last minute. Thailand is a great place to get married. Give your self plenty of time to arrange the legal side of it and then enjoy your big day.”
Venues: Hotels in beach destinations such as Phuket and Hua Hin have spectacular beachfront, gardens, and poolside venues that make for surreal settings and fantastic photographs. Hotels in Bangkok each have their own personality: large ballrooms, each one better than the other!
Decor: Flowers in Thailand are amazing, Beautiful blooms as well as exquisite designs, garlands, and arrangements all part of the wedding!
Entertainment options: Numerous. Thai performers and even international performers are readily available in Thailand itself.
F&B: Thailand’s amazing food and menu favorites can be adjusted to your tastes if you don’t like spicy food. International menus are available from all 5-star hotels.
Hospitality: The warmth and helpful attitude of locals as well as the support you will receiver is fantastic.
Things to do: Thailand has a myriad of tourist attractions, activities, shopping, and much more to keep your guests busy.
Cost: A beach wedding is not as expensive as you think. Hotel rooms as well as banquet rates are quite reasonable even for a 5-star property.