WEDDING DREAMS

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How the unique Thai touch makes many dream destination weddings come true – especially for Indian couples, an increasing number of whom are choosing the kingdom for their “big fat day”

There’s nothing in the world like an Indian wedding – that’s indisputable. Indians are known to spend more effort and put more money to ensure a wedding that will be remembered forever. They are grand, lavish, pompous, colorful, fun, and entertaining.  And nothing compares to it even more when the wedding is held in a destination like Thailand, which adds not only more romance – being a destination wedding – but also pride and prestige to the couple tying the knot.

Why are so many Indian weddings drawn to Thailand these days? Mickey Jain, who organizes Indian weddings in Thailand for a company called Beautiful Weddings, says, “Thailand is and will continue to be a preferred destination for Indian weddings because of its proximity to India, its unparalleled hospitality, and the value for money it offers.” That could be an understatement, but the fact is more and more weddings are being held in Thailand these days. Jain’s company alone organizes 20 to 25 events a year on average, and he’s already booked to organize between 10 and 17 weddings in Thailand from November this year to February 2017.

Thailand, of course has always been vocal about cornering the Indian wedding market. After all, the Indian wedding industry is now worth more than US$25 billion a year and since 2013 has been growing at 20 percent a year. Reports from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) indicate that the average spending for an Indian wedding in Thailand is THB10 million (about US$340,000), with an average of 200 to 500 guests attending. The average duration of each wedding is three to five nights, with approximately 600 rooms booked.

But again what makes Thailand the ideal place to tie the knot for Indian couples? The simple answer is that the kingdom has a lot to offer, beginning with its celebrated geographic diversity – from the mountains to the beaches and everything in between. Thailand, according to the book “Weddings and Celebrations in Thailand,” offers locations few other countries can in one convenient package. Its sophisticated tourism product and state-of the-art infrastructure ensures that no matter which corner of the country you choose for your wedding celebration, you can expect, and get, the best.

Of particular attraction to parents, from some countries in particular, might also be the fact that, in Thailand, it is often possible to do something really grand for rather less than something really less grand, elsewhere.

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VALUE FOR MONEY

“It still costs two to three times more to host a wedding in India than in Thailand,” says Satish Sehgal of the Thai-Indian Business Association once said. “Indian wedding expenses include airfares, hotel accommodation, food, transportation, hired yachts, and the actual wedding ceremony expenses for around 200 guests from overseas, plus priests and Indian chefs from India.”

Average budget for a middle class Indian wedding ceremony has been estimated to be US$34,000, while it is estimated that the upper-middle and rich classes spend upward of US$1 million. This doesn’t include cash and valuables given as part of a dowry.

While the value of the Thai baht is similar to the Indian rupee, prices of hotels in Thailand are 30-60 percent cheaper overall when comparing similar categories, according to Indian wedding experts, and the quality of hotels is among the best in the world. Hotels and resorts all over the country offer a variety of adaptable wedding packages, to suit all faiths, traditions, tastes and budget.

That is why an increasing number of couples from India and other countries are choosing to get married at a hotel or resort in Thailand.

Flights to Bangkok are only slightly more expensive than domestic flights in India and in some cases, just the same price. For example, Thailand is only a four-hour flight from Delhi and Mumbai. With more affordable travel, couples can invite more members of the family and friends to their to wedding and make the occasion an opportunity to enjoy not only the wedding but also a holiday in the sun.

Food and beverage are also 30-60 percent cheaper in general, and, “this means you get a ‘bigger bang’ for your bucks in Thailand,” to quote one Indian wedding writer.

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NO STONE UNTURNED

Every hotel, and especially the destination resorts, leave no stone unturned –to use a cliché – to ensure weddings held at their venue are unforgettable. In fact, ceremonies can be custom-designed around your religion and desires, and catered to small and large groups.

Usually, couples intending to marry bring their respective parents and friends as witnesses. Many Indian wedding groups have been coming to Thailand and these weddings are some of the most sought-after by the big resorts and hotels because of their large groups and high-spending power. Also, they are not a one-day affair. They can be very extravagant too.

An Indian wedding can last up to several days or weeks. It features a number of functions and locations with the “Mehndi (ring ceremony),” “Sangeet (pre-wedding event, usually a day before),” actual wedding (formal ceremonies, etc.), and reception (post wedding celebration). These are held on separate days, although sometimes people will combine wedding and reception on same day.

Attendees to Indian weddings in Thailand range between 50 and 1,000 people. Indeed, Indians constitute the biggest market for weddings in Thailand at the moment, followed by Japanese, Koreans, and Europeans.

While most big fat Indian weddings choose five-star Bangkok hotels such as Anantara Siam, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Millennium Hilton, Centara Grand Bangkok and Centara Grand Ladprao, or the Grand Hyatt Erawan, others opt for hotels in Chiang Mai, where you can have a similarly lavish wedding at the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai, Shangri-la Chiang Mai, and Le Meriden Chiang Mai. The northern hub of Chiang Mai, by the way, is also a favorite wedding destination of those who prefer the Lanna style ceremonies, mountains and elephants for their wedding.

For many people, getting married so close to the ocean is a dream come true. Thus many Indian weddings have been held in Hua Hin, Pattaya, Samui, Phuket, Krabi and other beach destinations.

In Hua Hin, popular Indian wedding options include the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, Putahracsa Hua Hin, and Radisson Hua Hin. In Phuket, the Centara Grand Phuket, The Racha Phuket, and Dewa Phuket, are among the most popular exotic wedding retreats for Indian couples these days; and in Krabi, the Holiday Inn Krabi is emerging to be a preferred choice for many Indian wedding planners.

Most hotels and resorts have their own departments to deal with weddings from beginning to end. In Bangkok alone, many hotels boast great wedding venues for couples to choose from, although they mostly prefer chains and brand names with at least 150 rooms in the 4- or 5-star category.

How lucrative is the wedding segment? Enough for hotels like the Plaza Athenee Bangkok to include a Wedding Gallery in its facilities’ expansion besides the now common wedding fairs and wedding showrooms. Even Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square, which holds more local- than foreign-booked wedding functions, has a dedicated team devoted to this (Twenty-five percent of the hotel’s function revenues come from wedding functions, the hotel’s director of catering and banqueting told us one time).

Also most hotels and resorts around the kingdom offer huge exclusive discounts on room bookings to wedding groups. In Phuket, these include JW Marriott, Dusit Laguna, Banyan Tree, and Le Meridien (Khao Lak). In Hua Hin, you can also check out Sheraton Hua Hin and Hilton Hua Hin. In Koh Samui, there is the Four Seasons Koh Samui, Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui, and Six Senses Samui, among the many properties with capability to handle fabulous tropical weddings.

You can also find budget wedding ceremonies that are not the least memorable. But it is always advisable to look up wedding organizers or travel service providers that are truly dependable.

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BEST WEDDING PLANNERS

Indeed, what sets a wedding in Thailand apart is more than just the setting and facilities that hotels and resorts can provide. Whether you choose to get married in the mountains of Chiang Mai in the north or with the Andaman Sea in the background in the south – a grand exotic dream wedding can be yours in Thailand.

Besides the advantages of well-developed facilities and services available in Thailand for organizing weddings, the parties and other ad hoc activities as well as the presence of wedding professionals who help make the wedding a success.

Weddings can be very stressful, but all those troublesome worries associated with wedding arrangements can simply be made to fade away in Thailand. Everything is provided and everybody can be accommodated, well before the event, “under one roof” so to speak. No need to worry about caterers, or the flowers, or indeed the weather as well as the many other things, which elsewhere have all got to be brought together and which can turn the run up to a wedding into an exercise in stress control.

Decorators and florists – some of the best in the business – are easy to find in Thailand, and can help create a perfect atmosphere for the big day. Bridal fashion?  Bangkok alone has more than enough shops to give you that necessary glamour and glitter for your very special day. For jewelry and accessories, companies such as Gem Gallery (www.gems-gallery/com/), and Maker Mends Thailand (sales@makermends.com) – just two of the many Thai specialists for engagement and wedding rings — ensure that the bride and the groom do not have to worry about finding the right items and accesories to suit their wedding theme. But even shopping malls such as OP Place and OP Gardens have dedicated shops that can easily fulfill requirements for bridal fashion, jewelry, accessories, and stuff.

And caterers like Indus Catering Services (www.indusbangkok.com) make sure the variety of food and beverage options for the various functions associated with an Indian wedding are well arranged.

“Thailand has massive potential as a wedding destination because of its people’s welcoming nature, its exotic culture, its outstanding resorts, and the value-for-money it offers,” says one hotel general manager in Pattaya. “It all depends on what you desire. There are many options available. Specialist wedding organizers can cater to all tastes and budgets.”

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