Resort weddings in Asia
How to get married on the beach and say "I do" at a dream resort. Your guide to planning a destination resort wedding in Asia, tips, formalities, romantic locations from beach to desert palaces and more.
updated by staff reporters
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Amankila flower girl/ photo: hotel
DREAMING OF doing it on the beach, in a jungle, on a cliff overlooking the ocean or amongst tropical corals under the sea? We're talking about getting married, of course. Destination weddings are all the rage, and for pure wedded bliss, nothing can beat Asia's top romantic beach resorts. It's not a question of whether to do it, it's a question of where - the options are myriad. Here's a no-holds-barred guide to resort weddings in Asia from quiet Christian blessings to colourful Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist ceremonies to tame - but ball-and-chain legal - civil ceremonies.
First things first. Many resorts cater for weddings or blessings, as well as renewal of vow ceremonies, and in most cases your hotel will arrange everything - from flowers and traditional costumes to the actual ceremony, photography and wedding feast. Often staff will assist with legalities too, but you must ensure that all your own paperwork is in order.
If you'd rather avoid the hassle of trips to consulates and registry offices in a foreign country, you can always take care of the legal aspects of getting married in your home country, enjoying the romance and ceremony of a spectacular but non-legally binding resort wedding at the exotic location of your choice. However, if you want to go the whole hog, here's what you need to know:
Planning a romantic resort wedding in Asia
Ayana Resort Bali/ photo: hotel
For a marriage to be legal in Indonesia, the law requires two separate ceremonies: a religious ceremony (Christian - Protestant or Catholic - Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist), followed by a civil ceremony performed by a government registrar. Before the wedding, you must apply in person for a "certificate of non-impediment", issued by your country's embassy or consulate. (If you only have the religious ceremony, you will receive a church marriage certificate only.) Remember that a Balinese traditional ceremonial blessing, or a northern Thai-style Lanna blessing, is a blessing only, even though it is usually held in true wedding style.
Bali Weddings International (www.baliweddingsinternational.com), owned by an Australian married to an Indonesian, has been around for 15 years and will arrange every aspect of your wedding in Bali. Bali Wedding Bells (www.baliweddingbells.com) offers everything from wedding consultants and planning services to a variety of villas and hotels. You may also want to check out the informative site of Tirtha Bali (www.tirthabali.com), with details and photos of couples whose weddings were previously organised by the company. Bali Wedding Butler (www.baliweddingbutler.com) also offers a full range of wedding options.
Phuket, Thailand, is another dream wedding destination, with Thai Buddhist weddings particularly popular among foreign visitors. To be legally married, both partners have to visit their embassies in Bangkok at least a week before the wedding to sign declarations that both are free to marry.
Infinity pool at The St Regis Langkawi/ photo: hotel
(A marriage in Thailand cannot be registered without these forms, and overseas documents will not be accepted. If you have been married before, you may need proof that you are divorced - the same proof is needed in all other Asian countries. You'll also need, apart from your passport, your original birth certificate.)
Once signed and witnessed, the forms must be translated into Thai and taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok to be certified (use a local agency to assist with this process). The paperwork must then be taken to the local district office where the ceremony is going to take place (Phuket, for example), to arrange an appointment to register your marriage (the legal part of the marriage). Agents such as Bangkok Translation Office (e-mail: email@example.com) can help you with this. Once all is in order, you can have your religious wedding ceremony - traditional Thai, Buddhist or Christian.
Phuket Weddings (www.phuket-weddings.com) provides information on everything from sunset beach ceremonies to five-star hotel and beach resort weddings, while Phuket Discovery (www.phuket-discovery.com; click on "Wedding packages") will also help with legalities and paperwork (for a fee). Thailand Weddings (thailandweddings.com) does not only organise weddings, but has excellent information about different kinds of ceremonies in northern Thailand, legal requirements and more. Also see www.phuket.com for more useful information. In the UK, one company specialising in Thailand weddings is Thai2Gether (www.thai2gether.com). The company says it handles all legal matters and can coordinate resort bookings and arrangements. They have representatives in Thailand. The Amari hotel group has an informative Thai weddings website (www.weddings-thailand.com).
Bulgari Bali weddings/ photo: hotel
Both Muslim and civil marriages are legal in Malaysia, but first you have to sign a declaration that there are no legal obstacles to your marriage. You have to be in the country for seven days before you can give 21 days' notice of your intention to marry. You can get married at a registrar office, or during a religious ceremony where the church or temple official is an appointed assistant registrar.
Your marriage certificate has to be validated by the Malaysian Foreign Affairs Department, as well as your country's embassy, in order for it to be recognised back home. Documents needed include your birth certificate and a certified “certificate of single status”. All the documents must be originals and certified by the Malaysian embassy or High Commission in your home country. You will also need three colour passport photos.
A number of Malaysian resorts will assist with your wedding and marriage arrangements. Bridal consultant agency Wedding Concepts (http://wedding-concepts.com) has arranged destination weddings in the past.
India offers some breathtaking locations for resort weddings, whether it's at a historic palace in Jaipur (where there's lots and lots of sand), the backwaters of Kerala, or at a beach resort in Goa. Regal Weddings (www.regal-weddings.com) will facilitate Christian and Indian (Hindu, Gujerati, Sikh or other) ceremonies. Gold Aisle (www.goldenaisle.com) specialises in co-ordinating weddings for foreign nationals in Goa. Wedding Planner Goa (www.weddingplannersgoa.com) also caters for foreigners. Exotic Indian Weddings (www.exoticindianweddings.com) offers venue options and wedding planners to help you navigate ceremonies in India.
Neemrana Fort-Palace, India/ photo: hotel
If you want to marry in Goa, you need to arrive at least 15 days before the wedding, so that the paperwork (including a court hearing to get permission to marry) can be finalised. In addition to presenting your birth certificates, both parties have to get "no impediment for marriage" certificates from the local Death, Birth and Marriage Registration office. If one of you is divorced, you need proof of this too.
Foreigners wanting to get married in the Philippines need to get a "certificate of legal capacity" from their consulate or diplomatic representative. A marriage licence application can then be made at the local civil registrar office. Documents include any existing divorce decree (or a death certificate if one of the parties has been widowed). There is a 10-day waiting period before the marriage licence is issued. Once issued, it must be used within 120 days. The marriage must be solemnised by a priest, imam or member of the judiciary.
To marry in Singapore, both spouses-to-be must have been in the city state for 15 continuous days before being allowed to file a notice of marriage. (Foreign work permit holders need prior approval to marry from the Controller of Work Permits in the Ministry of Manpower.)
The stunning picture-postcard Maldives is an obvious resort wedding choice - but non-Muslims cannot get legally married there, although several resorts offer memorable non-binding ceremonies. Have your legally binding ceremony at home.
One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai/ photo: hotel
Getting legally married in Dubai can be complicated so it’s best for couples to consult with relevant embassies on whether a Dubai wedding will be legally recognised in their home countries. In any rate, it is always worth double-checking with your embassy in the country where you intend to get married.
Asian resort wedding costs
Worried about the cost and the practicalities of planning a long-distance wedding? Correspondent Theodore Ross, who tied the knot at a resort in Ubud, Bali, points out that while attending the wedding will be more expensive for your guests than if you held it at home, it will be cheaper for you. Less people will come and your currency will probably go further in an Asian location than at home. (He spent US$425 for everything, excluding the US$35 per head for the wedding meal.)
With the Internet at your fingertips, and the immediacy of e-mail, your wedding can be arranged from afar, especially if your resort is geared to destination weddings, or if you have a reliable wedding planner on the other end. Even so, you need to be cautious: Ross advises that you get everything in writing and pay as little money as possible upfront. Get itemised lists of everything, demand references and check up on them.
So, what are your options? Too many to seriously mention, but here are a few.
Destination marriages in the Maldives
Conrad Maldives beach/ photo: hotel
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (www.conradmaldives.com) is a spectacular twin-island setting with seas so blue you may end up spending more time caressing your Sony camera than your spouse-to-be. Water bungalows step right into azure lagoons rich with curious fish, and a romantic stilted above-water spa complex will take care of any post-nuptial aches. You can choose to have your ceremony in the “Chapel of Love” – a pavilion overlooking the lagoon, in “Ithaa” the world’s premier glass chapel under the sea, or among the corals, complete with an audience of fish. Also check out the intimate Angsana Resort and Spa Maldives (www.angsana.com), and the hideaway Gili Lankanfushi (www.gili-lankanfushi.com, formerly Soneva Gili by Six Senses) in the North Male atoll where an over-water chapel awaits followed by sunset dhoni cruises.
Consider the Beach House Iruveli Maldives (beachhousecollection.com/iruveli, formerly the Waldorf Astoria) with acres of shimmering white sand to leave honeymoon footprints in. Pick a 'beach blessing" a "love pavilion blessing" or a "castaway blessing" on a remote isle. Guests can pick a Maldivian ceremony too. These are not legally binding ceremonies.
Four Seasons Resorts (www.fourseasons.com) can handle several aspects of the wedding ceremony or blessing with the degree of options varying region by region depending on local legal requirements. In the Maldives check out the swish Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, with its bungalows, some over-water right above the cavorting marine life, and the second Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. Leave your footprints in powder-white sand.
Those content with a non legally-binding ceremony could consider a private-island affair courtesy of the One&Only Maldives Reethi Rah (www.oneandonlyresorts.com). With a rose-petal-strewn aisle along a white beach and a private, personalised candle-lit dinner under the stars, those legal worries may just fade away.
Banyan Tree Resorts (www.banyantree.com) offers wedding packages at its Maldives, Phuket, Bintan, Bangkok, Lijiang, and Seychelles properties. Exchange vows among the corals at the Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru looking out over some of the bluest waters in the world. The coral-fringed island offers sugar-white sand, luxury accommodation, and an unbeatably romantic location for a destination wedding to remember.
Malaysia resorts to get hitched at
The Datai Langkawi/ photo: hotel
In Langkawi, in a lush rainforest setting fronting an arcing bay, The Datai (http://www.thedatai.com/) offers intimate weddings, blessings or renewal of vows ceremonies. The hotel will arrange everything, from flowers, photography, table settings and the provision of a "tropical wedding cake", to flying in a pastor from mainland Malaysia. They can also provide witnesses and help with the filing of paperwork. This is a cosy and private cove with some of the best white sand on the island.
Another romantic option on Langkawi is the Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, formerly the Sheraton Perdana Resort (www.starwoodhotels.com), where there are indoor and outdoor locations for the vows, including a jetty with a covered gazebo and spectacular views of the Andaman Sea. You can also tie the knot in a white marquee or in a pavilion at the stunning, Moorish, Four Seasons Langkawi. Then let it all sink in at a candlelit table for two.
Opened April 2016 The St Regis Langkawi (www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis) adds fresh zest to the weddings mix. This is an unabashedly luxury retreat, offering what it likes to describe as 'bespoke weddings' with a 150-person ballroom, great sea views, an excellent spa, and wedding planning by the mile.
And so, to Sabah. In Kota Kinabalu, the Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa (www.shangri-la.com) offers a "Solemnisation Package", sensibly including the registrar office service, a civil marriage celebrant and photography services. The resort also advises couples on the necessary formalities to make the marriage legal.
Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort (www.shangri-la.com) offers ceremonies on the beach and similar services to its sister resort, Tanjung Aru. The Rasa Ria has its own slice of the Borneo jungle as its backdrop so orangutans may be quiet observers while you wed.
Weddings can also be arranged at the smaller Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort (www.sipadan-kapalai.com), although it might be a little more complicated for guests to get there. Divers will be extremely happy campers here though.
Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Sabah/ photo: hotel
Another popular Malaysian wedding destination is Pangkor Laut island in the Straits of Malacca, housing the acclaimed Pangkor Laut Resort (www.pangkorlautresort.com), where it is possible to exchange vows during a two-hour Catholic, Methodist or Anglican wedding ceremony cruise on a large luxury yacht (maximum 18 passengers). Sailing blissfully into this sunset doesn't come cheap though. For a less extravagant union, you can also choose to have the proceedings on the beach.
Tioman Island is rather exotic and a bit farther off the normal wedding radar. Berjaya Tioman Resort (www.berjayaresorts.com) caters for formal weddings in its ballroom, or more intimate and casual ceremonies on the beach.
Thailand rings and altars
Prefer to tie the knot in Thailand with a grand destination wedding? For style and elegance in the midst of the Bangkok bustle, look no further than The Peninsula Bangkok (bangkok.peninsula.com). The hotel offers a Thai wedding package, which includes a ceremony in a pavilion overlooking Chao Phraya River, traditional Thai wedding outfits, a "hae khan mark" (groom’s procession), musicians, dancers, dowry bowls and a whole lot more.
Other prime Bangkok choices could include the downtown remodelled Plaza Athénée Bangkok, a Royal Méridien Hotel (www.plazaatheneebangkok.com), on Wireless Road with its signature grand staircase sweeping up a spacious lobby. It will handle everything from wedding planning, dresses and stuff you never even thought about to engagement ceremoniies, the Big Day and themed events like perhaps a colourful Indian wedding. Also consider the central oasis of the plush marble-slathered resort-style Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok (www.kempinski.com/en/bangkok/), that can hold your wedding event indoors, outdoors in a garden setting, and even rustle up a Thai blessing or wedding ceremony.
The pioneering Aleenta group (AHMS www.ahmshotels.com) promises much romance and starlight for its Full Moon Weddings at all hotels in Thailand. At Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi, expect a chauffeured car or Harley-Davidson motorcycle transfer to the beach with two nights' stay for 20 adults (in 10 Beach Front Residences), with romantic ceremonies, loy krathong lanterns launched into the sea, a sunrise wedding breakfast, and more from Bt195,000. At the AKARYN Samui a full moon wedding deal at Bt82,000 up with a wedding coordinator, three-poung two-tier wedding cake, honeymoon set-up in-room, an hour's massage for the couple, and a lot more celebratory trimmings.
Planning a romantic Phuket wedding
Breezy deck at The Nai Harn, Phuket/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Keep an eye out on early 2016 entrant The Nai Harn (www.thenaiharn.com/wedding) at the romantic sunset tip of the island. It took over and completelly remodelled the former Royal Phuket Yacht Club to turn it into a rustic-chic all-white getaway with spectacular views over the bay. The hotel will arrange pre-wedding beachfront shoots, organise events on a 50m rooftop deck and wedding ceremonies, with the help of an event planning team.
At the Amanpuri (www.amanresorts.com), perched on a peninsula overlooking the Andaman Sea in Phuket, happy couples can have an informal Buddhist blessing involving up to five monks. Christian and non-religious blessings are also available. (The resort recommends that guests hold their civil ceremony in their home country.) Right next door and easier on the wallet, celebrate your love far from the madding crowd at the cheerful and welcoming Surin Phuket (http://www.thesurinphuket.com/), which offers Thai or Western-style wedding packages.
Arriving at night at the torch-lit JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa (www.marriott.com) with its extensive gardens and blissful infinity pool provides all the drama and romance needed for unforgettable nuptials. In addition to Christian-style weddings for up to 400 people, you can also have a Thai ceremony. The resort's wedding manager takes care of every detail. The JW Marriott enjoys a secluded location with acres of beach to leave your footprints in. The resort is active with conservation and environmental programmes. Get wed, and then head out to save some turtles, hug a tree, or simply splash out on a sumptuous spa treatment for two.
A Buddhist Thai wedding at the elegant Twinpalms (www.twinpalms-phuket.com) involves five monks and traditional blessings with holy water. You can also have a Western ceremony, or tailor-make your own, and there is a range of locations and options for the reception, from a private romantic lunch to a large themed barbecue. This is a chic little resort, just away from the beach but close to it. Or celebrate your love with a symbolic Buddhist ceremony at the Banyan Tree Phuket (www.banyantree.com).
JW Marriott Phuket/ photo: hotel
Trisara (www.trisara.com), a small, luxurious property with pool villas and suites facing the Andaman Sea, specialises in weddings and is happy to arrange traditional Buddhist ceremonies in private, romantic locations throughout the beachfront resort. If you choose the well-established and family-friendly Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket's (www.dusit.com) "special wedding", Buddhist prayers will be complimented by a "love tree planting ceremony". Your tree will then grow on the hotel grounds. This is a legal wedding, provided you make sure all the preceding paperwork is in order. Help with the greening of Phuket. The Dusit is a friendly, welcoming sort of place without snobbery or guile. A good spot to camp out with friends for some post-nuptial revelry and more.
Stylish tin-mine extravaganza Indigo Pearl Resort (www.indigo-pearl.com) offers Western-style or traditional Thai ceremonies (with five monks and a water blessing) that may be held in tropical gardens or in the resort’s restaurant, set in the middle of a small lake.
At Villa Royale (www.villaroyalephuket.com), ceremonies are conducted in a temple facade set in the garden. Opt for traditional Thai Buddhist or a Christian ceremony. Mom Tri’s Kitchen, known for both its food and wine selection, will do the catering for up to 70 guests. Other Phuket resorts offering wedding packages include the spread out and efficient Angsana Laguna Phuket (formerly the Sheraton Grande Laguna) (www.angsana.com/en/phuket/), the spacious Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa (www.hilton.com) which also houses a romantic, dedicated spa villa complex, the charming Andaman White Beach Resort (www.andamanwhitebeach.com) set on a private sweeping white-sand cove amidst tall rubber trees and rolling hills, old stalwart Le Meridien Phuket (www.lemeridien.com), and The Evason Phuket Resort & Six Senses Spa (www.sixsenses.com) which has an indulgently stylish waterfront area.
Banyan Tree Phuket villa/ photo: hotel
Krabi options include the elegant Layana Resort & Spa (www.layanaresort.com) and the hidden Rayavadee (www.rayavadee.com) set in the Krabi Marine National Park. The Rayavadee caters for smaller weddings and holds ceremonies in a candle-lit limestone cave with an ocean backdrop.
On the northern tip of Phi Phi Island you’ll find the beachfront Zeavola Resort (www.zeavola.com). This 48-villa hideaway offers Western and Thai ceremonies that include the planting of a love tree and the releasing of ceremonial fish. Thai couples will also enjoy a more traditional Buddhist praying ceremony and the pouring of holy water. Additional services such as hairdressing and make-up can also be arranged.
A one-and-a-half-hour drive north from Phuket brings you to the bucolic seaside resort of Khao Lak with the glittering Andaman Sea skirted by powder sand fronting spacious garden resorts like the 320-room Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort & Villas (www.pullmankhaolak.com/ - formerly the Le Meridien, which departed January 2014). It offers a main ballroom holding up to 720 theatre style, and five swimming pools. With over 522sq m of function space and a wedding coordinator on hand, you can have your various ceremonies followed by a themed tropical forest dinner or a beachside affair with candles. This getaway is versatile in its options and has the space for a range of wedding styles and venues.
Koh Samui, Pattaya - married on the beach
In Koh Samui, Tongsai Bay's (www.tongsaibay.co.th) traditional Thai wedding package also includes a "long drum" procession. Take note that the ceremony is a traditional Buddhist service: monks should not be asked to pose for photos (this is considered insulting). Revealing wedding gowns are out, too.
Conrad Koh Samui/ photo: hotel
If you really have to let it all hang out, choose the resort's Western wedding package (but the ceremony is a non-binding one). If you want a legal wedding, marriage registration can be arranged but you will have to get all the necessary documents translated and approved by your embassy and the Thai foreign affairs ministry yourself.
More Koh Samui options include the accessible and spacious Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui (www.centarahotelsresorts.com) and the modern and uber-cool boutique hotel The Library (www.thelibrary.name) with its timber boardwalk and blood red pool.
The Four Seasons is a smart option though the buggy rides are vertiginous and the Six Senses Hideaway Samui (www.sixsenses.com) does elaborate “Hideaway Weddings” with great views all around from its perch high up a headland. The Six Senses has a remarkable spa as well with the same wraparound Cinemascope views.
Newer and more lavish choices for a luxury wedding in Samui, include the distant cliff-top InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort (samui.intercontinental.com/) that also has beachfront pool villas. The hotel can host up to 200 people comfartably across 22 acres of splendid beachfront and manicured gardens, with sweeping views for those perfect photo opportunities. A long jetty stretches across the coral and rock to open blue sea. A new venue for 2016 weddings is the infinity pool setting where an altar is set up 'floating' on the pool. Also explore the vertiginous Conrad Koh Samui (conradhotels3.hilton.com). This is a luxury all-villa affair with space for 200 or intimate, small beach weddings with the ceremony atop a floating transparent chapel. Interesting. The views are terrific. The beach is narrow and not really swimmable but offers a romantic setting.
InterContinental Pattaya/ photo: hotel
In Pattaya get away from the hustle and bustle of the main strip to the splendid seclusion of the InterContinental Pattaya Resort (www.ihg.com/intercontinental).
This was formerly the Sheraton and rebranded 1 April 2016. The resort, which spills down a low hillside to an artificially sanded outcrop above a stone breakwater, has a ballroom and 7,338sq ft of function space.
For a fun location on a large beach strip, check out the thermed waterpark Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya (www.centarahotelsresorts.com).
Thailand romantic resorts, Hua Hin to Chiang Mai
The Anantara group (www.anantara.com) has a special wedding ceremony for all tastes. Enjoy nuptials on the beach, or celebrate with a contemporary indoor Asian ceremony, at Anantara Resort Hua Hin. Away from the coast, at the Anantara Resort Golden Triangle near the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, you can kick off your wedding with a choreographed elephant procession, or renew your vows overlooking the Mekong valley. A panorama of rice fields is your backdrop; Thai classical music and dancers complete the picture. In Chiang Mai, the Lanna-style buildings of the Dhara Dhevi (formerly by Mandarin Oriental, http://www.dharadhevi.com/) offer a magical wedding setting taking guests back in time. Couples can choose anything from a European-style white wedding to a Lanna nuptial ceremony.
The traditional Lanna-style Four Seasons Chiang Mai offers unions among its pavilions or in its tropical gardens, amid rice fields and with mountain views. On to royal family favourite Hua Hin. While lacking a top-class beach, this area still has some of Southeast Asia's most romantic hotels, including the colonial garden-setting Sofitel Centara Grand Resort & Villas Hua Hin (www.centarahotelsresorts.com) and the Evason Hideaway Hua Hin (www.sixsenses.com/hideaway-huahin). For a full, traditional Thai wedding with all the trimmings, the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin (www.huahin.regency.hyatt.com) has it all on tap.
Vietnam weddings by the sea
Mulia Bali's seafronting Unity Garden for weddings / photo: hotel
Farther afield, in Vietnam, the Evason Ana Mandara & Six Senses Spa at Nha Trang (www.sixsenses.com/hideaway-anamandara) offers a wedding package that includes a wedding planner, a ceremony on the beach or jetty, a sunset cruise, a seafood dinner, flower petals and more. You take away a wedding certificate framed in leather and wood. Sister property Six Senses Hideaway Ninh Van Bay (www.sixsenses.com) offers a similar package, but the ceremony takes place in the resort’s wedding chapel, set on a hill with views of the bay.
At La Veranda Grand Mercure Resort and Spa, on the southern Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, weddings are tailor-made to suit individual desires and can be anything from barefoot on the sand to grand and formal in the ballroom. Weddings are ceremonial only and civil marriage registration should be arranged separately.
Indonesia: Bali, and Bintan resort festivities
Amanresorts (www.amanresorts.com) has some stunning properties across a range of Asian destinations, and a reputation for hosting fabulous wedding and blessing ceremonies. Obviously nuptials in five-star bliss come at a price - but hey, what's money for a lifetime of sweet memories?
St Regis Bali chapel/ photo: hotel
The St Regis Bali Resort (www.stregis.com/bali) is a classy and grand venue for a tropical beach wedding. Ceremonies can be held at “Cloud Nine Chapel” on the beach, after which couples can escape to their own “Cloud Nine Honeymoon Villa”. There are dedicated event organisers to ensure a smooth running of festivities.
Just up the coast with great views of the seafront The Mulia Resort & Villas (www.themulia.com/mulia-bali/), an unabashed marble and art confection that hugely appeals to Chinese and Asian luxe sensitivities, launched its 2,000sq m beachfront Unity Garden in September 2016 with an alfresco lawn area and space for spectacular Bali weddings under the stars with a cliff-edge temple as a backdrop. The area can hold up to 1,000 persons. The hotel also offers two rather grand ballrooms and conference space for wedding receptions and more.
The Grand Hyatt Bali (www.bali.grand.hyatt.com) is a popular Bali wedding venue and hosts beach, garden and pool wedding parties. A favourite venue is the hotel's beachfront Salsa Bar, where you can celebrate 40 feet above the ground, with views of the Indian Ocean. The resort will provide Balinese flower girls if you so require. The Bali Hyatt (www.bali.spa.resort.hyatt.com) also has a number of wedding offerings, from “The Tuberose” to “The Orchid” and a lot more flower-themed packages in between. Packages include the wedding setting of your choice, and an English-speaking priest, as well as a menu of extras depending on the package that you choose.
At the spacious and evolving Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali (www.starwoodhotels.com/westin), a slew of facilities and add-ons await prospective couples hoping to tie the knot.
Spacious Grand Hyatt Bali/ photo: Verghese
The hotel, known better for its convention facilities, has broken the mould with crisp new rooms, a breezy seafront with restaurants and bars, a children’s pool and an inviting lagoon pool that catches the sun’s rays. A wedding specialist is on hand to walk couples through formalities. There is a range of venues. Pick a beachside location or opt for the Nusa Indah Hall. Newlyweds can strrrretch the celebrations with thoughtful throw-ins like a spa treatment, champagne breakfast and special romantic turndowns. Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua (formerly Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua, www.starwoodhotels.com) caters for receptions with up to 400 guests. Host a wedding cocktail party or enjoy a private candlelight dinner in the beachfront Laguna Gazebo overlooking the beach and ocean. The hotel will assist with all the planning, including legal registration of weddings.
The exclusive and ultra hip Bulgari Resort, Bali (www.bulgarihotels.com) offers a stunning location for ceremonies in four different settings: water, beach, bale, or pavilion. A wedding planner takes care of any special requests and you’ll get Bulgari-branded souvenirs to take away. This is a stylish cliff-edge location that will have guests on the edge of their seats on the Big Day.
The elegant and spacious Ayana Resort and spa (www.ayanaresort.com - formerly The Ritz-Carlton) in south of Jimbaran caters for weddings in a big way. With a veritable army of wedding and honeymoon planners, would-be couples can navigate through touchy - and touchy-feely - issues like choosing colour schemes, general decor, flowers and music.
Four Seasons Jimbaran, Bali/ photo: hotel
Say "I do" (or renew your vows) in the location of your choice; perhaps a glass-walled wedding pavilion with spectacular Indian Ocean views will do? The dedicated "wedding concierge" will ensure that everything - from the flowers to the ceremony itself - goes smoothly. The hotel recommends that you start planning your wedding three to six months ahead.
For more Jimbaran Bay wedding bliss, the InterContinental Bali Resort (www.bali.intercontinental.com) offers elegant, romantic indoor and outdoor marriage ceremonies. The resort will arrange legal formalities, as long as it receives the necessary personal documents of the wedding couple (copies of birth certificates and passports, letter of baptism, a divorce certificate if applicable, and four photos of the couple) at least a month before the ceremony. On offer is their 'Kamita Villa Wedding' including a three-night honeymoon stay at a special villa with club benefits. Get wed in a private villa with 40 guests, poolside wedding archways and professional photography.
The Four Seasons Bali at Sayan offers ceremonies that take place beside the Ayung River, with a backdrop of lush jungle. For a chapel wedding in an exotic setting, the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay has a "Balinese purification package" consisting of a cleansing ceremony and prayer and meditation session.
The charming Oberoi Bali (www.oberoihotels.com) will arrange a legal wedding, including church minister and civil ceremony. You can also choose to have a non-binding Balinese blessing ceremony. The hotel will also organise a religious renewal of vows ceremony with a church minister for couples who are already married or don’t need a legal marriage certificate. Afterwards, romance rules. A special touch is the large swimming pool covered with a blanket of tropical flowers and floating candles.
InterCon Bali beach beckons/ photo: hotel
The chic and modern Legian Beach Hotel (www.legianbeachbali.com) arranges colourful Balinese or international legally-binding wedding ceremonies, with two Balinese girls as bridesmaids. Choose from a Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist religious ceremony. The hotel will assist will all the paperwork and formalities. This is a good spot for an upbeat wedding in Seminyak. Close by, also on Legian beach, the beachfront Sofitel Seminyak Bali (www.sofitelbali.com) hosts non-binding Western-style or Balinese garden ceremonies. You do get a wedding certificate issued by the hotel, though.
Also check out the typically Balinese Pita Maha Resort & Spa and the grander Royal Pita Maha (www.pitamaha-bali.com) up in Ubud, and the sprawling Conrad Bali Resort & Spa (www.conradhotels.com) farther south in the Benoa area adjoining Nusa Dua. Conrad offers stunning views of the sea from an elevated lobby. A feather in its cap for those in search of a romantic Bali wedding is "Infinity", its dedicated weddings venue. This all-white, tented, futuristic venue with floor-to-ceiling glass panels and attractive water features, offers ample light, breeze and views. It is set in a 1,200sq m beachfront reserve. Later kick back in the all-new Conrad Suites.
Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa (www.ibahbali.com), in the foothills of Ubud, Bali, allows couples to exchange vows anywhere on the property. Walk through a sea of fresh frangipanis on your way to saying "I do". The hotel works with a professional wedding company, which takes care of legalities and documents.
Tirtha Bali Uluwatu chapel/ photo: hotel
The Maya Ubud Resort & Spa (www.mayaubud.com) will arrange paperwork, the religious ceremony and everything else to make your day memorable. Ubud Hanging Gardens (www.ubudhanginggardens.com), sitting above Ayung River, is suited to smaller weddings. Ceremonies may be held in the privacy of one of the villas, or atop a platform on the pool.
A setting high above a verdant valley and floating candles are all part of the deal at Alila Ubud (www.alilahotels.com) where ceremonies can be simple and contemporary, or traditional Balinese style. The secluded Kamandalu Resort & Spa (www.kamandaluresort.com) set in lush rice paddy fields above a burbling river is another Bali wedding venue to look at. The resort can conduct the ceremonies in the garden or at a private pool villa. Its 215sq m Bale Ketemu can hold up to 100 persons theatre style and is sometimes booked by wedding parties.
Closer to Singapore, a short hop by ferry, the sprawling Bintan Lagoon Resort (www.bintanlagoon.com/) with 300 hectares of beachfront gardens is pulling out all the stops to attract the wedding crowd. There's an 18-hole golf course for those who prefer greener distractions but those with marriage on their minds can pick from several locations including a Great Hall with a pillar-less space for up to 1,300, and the verdant, breezy, sea-fronting space. The hotel has Bintan wedding packages for 30 to 500 people - ranging from 'classic' to 'bohemian' or 'Indian' - starting at S$220 per person a night.
That romantic day in The Philippines
Goodbye Bali, hello Philippines, where tropical paradise El Nido Resorts in northern Palawan (www.elnidoresorts.com), with access to a host of small idyllic islands, spectacular diving sites and romantic beaches is more than happy to host your nuptials. Think private white sand beach, dramatic limestone hills as a backdrop, waters teeming with fish and coral life, and we haven't even got to the sunsets as yet.
Amorita luxe villa with pool/ photo: hotel
Another option, this time in Cebu (easily accessible from Hong Kong and other gateway cities) is Shangri-La's Mactan Island Resort (www.shangri-la.com), set on sprawling grounds with a private manmade beach. Ceremonies may be held in a glass pavilion or on the beach. If you have 1,000 friends, there is an air-conditioned marquee available that will accommodate them all. Another pick at the far southeastern corner of Mactan (Cebu), is the much hyped Plantation Bay Resort and Spa (plantationbay.com/). What sets this place apart from most is the fact that it's lagoon is entirely "artificial". Plantation Bay is an enormous sand-lined bathtub ringed by villas. Outlandish as this may sound, the effect is rather pleasing and the two-storey villas are attractive both in and out. A jetty leads out to the sea for romantic shots with a blue backdrop.
Just south of Cebu is the island of Bohol with more romance and adventure than you can shake a stick at. Fall in love, get married, try your luck at a sunset proposal. Our pick is the luxe Amorita Resort (www.amoritaresort.com/) by the One-Of Collection tucked away on secluded Panglao Island (and conveniently connected to the main Bohol Island by bridges). In 2017 this Bohol luxury beach resort brings guests "Love Amorita" - a romantic experience with the introduction of 16 Luxury Villas and two fresh Two-Bedroom Pool Villas for a candlelit "I do" or for families in need of some extra stretch room. The resort is sited on a low headland with grand views over the southern stretch of Alona Beach. Expect complimentary WiFi, paddleboards and kayaks for some salt-in-the-hair workouts. The resort's smorgasbord also includes 98 swish Suites, two sun-drenched pools and new twists on menus with some hard-to-find local Bohol fare.
Fridays Boracay does weddings on the beach/ photo: hotel
Located in the northwestern corner of Boracay, the private and unashamedly plush Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa (www.shangri-la.com/boracay) is secluded, swank, and small. Thatched villas creep down the rocky hillside to 350m of private beach. This is a perfect spot for a romantic Boracay resort wedding. Expect breezy views from the hillside looking over azure seas. This is a resort with a bit more luxe than spots along the main drag.
Or you could try an old favourite down on White Sand beach, Fridays (www.fridaysboracay.com/). The resort recommends evening beach weddings just before sunset between 4.30pm and 5.30pm. Fridays Boracay is a stunning wooden lodge construct that has grown and polished its design over the years.
It is fun and happening, if a tad past its peak, with great water sports options and fun stuff for kids and families too in case marriage was done and dusted a while back. The resort is at Station 1, a quiter ferry stop a bit away from the nightlife throb and parties farther south.
India, Rajasthan palaces
For a spectacularly dramatic destination wedding setting, you can't beat India. The Oberoi Amarvilas (www.oberoiamarvilas.com) does not encourage ceremonies at the hotel itself, but does arrange marriages and renewals of vows off-site at a temple beside the famous Taj Mahal, with the reception or banquet held at the hotel. The Amarvilas rooms overlook Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's monument to love and in some quarters, the spoiling bathtubs offer the same panorama. Other good choices are the Udaivilas in Udaipur (also from Oberoi) and the small, stunningly ornate Samode Palace Hotel (www.samode.com) which is a romantic Rajasthan gem of sorts and not too far from New Delhi by road.
Oberoi's Udaivilas, Udaipur/ photo: hotel
The Neemrana group of hotels (www.neemranahotels.com) offers anything from a grandiose ceremony in a palace setting or a more intimate affair on a candle-lit beach on the Ganges. A Neemrana wedding promises “rose petals showering from the sky” and “fireworks to celebrate with the cosmos”.
The palace hotel of Devi Garh, also in Rajasthan, (www.deviresorts.com/weddings.html) endeavours to create a “royal” experience when organising weddings within its premises. Ceremonies are performed by a local priest and topped off with fireworks, traditional music and folk dancing.
For more wedded bliss in India, try Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces (www.tajhotels.com), with plenty of opulent nuptial options. The Mediterranean-style Taj Exotica Goa, overlooking the Arabian Sea and set in 56 acres of gardens, will lead you to the altar with a Christian wedding and all the trimmings, from pre-wedding spa pampering to post-wedding champagne breakfast. Or choose the traditional Hindu wedding, complete with intricate mehendi (henna) application to the bride's hands and an ancient Vedic ceremony. The Leela Palaces & Resorts (www.theleela.com) caters for weddings, with the five-star Leela Kempinski Goa a popular beach choice. Another option in Goa is the Park Hyatt (www.goa.park.hyatt.com), which offers customised ceremonies, along with two nights’ accommodation at any of the Hyatt properties around the world.
Saying "I do" in China
Sanya on China's southern island of Hainan is not only a developing holiday destination, but its popularity as a hot wedding spot is increasing as well. The lovely coastline – palm-fringed, white sand, blue sea – and the fact that some of the larger hotels are pulling out all the stops to create a memorable occasion, certainly make Sanya a place to consider for your “special day”.
Sheraton Sanya/ photo: hotel
Options for a resort wedding in Sanya could include the Sanya Marriott Resort and Spa (www.marriott.com) on the pristine sands of Yalong Bay, or the spacious Sheraton Sanya Resort (www.sheraton.com/sanya) – “The Official Resort of Miss World” for three consecutive years – with several event spaces including a 1,250sq m ballroom. The Sanya Marriott boasts carefully manicured gardens fronting the sea and a romantic stretch of beach along with several F&B choices, a fine spa and a 830sq m ballroom.
The 511-room Sheraton offers brisk service, cool water features, and a large stretch of white sand with a broad range of accommodation for wedding guests. Yalong Bay easily rivals some of the best coves in Phuket without the clutter and clatter of the Thai resort and is well worth a look-in if a quiet escape is what you are after. The climate is quite agreeable for most of the year.
Still at Yalong Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya (www.ritzcarlton.com) offers a newly-built ocean-front chapel, a “romanceologist”, and a team of wedding planners for a day (or night) that can be tailor-made to suit the marrying couple’s every need. The hotel caters for both Western and Chinese-style weddings – for an authentic Chinese wedding, traditional dress is provided. Pre-wedding fun is also offered. Ritz-Carlton’s services extend from bridal showers for the ladies to “martini night” bachelor parties for the lads. Oh, and if you’re trying to find an auspicious spot to propose – on a headland nearby, Sanya’s well-known attraction, Luhuitou Park, immortalises the love story of a hunter and a fairy.
Hilton Sanya Resort & Spa (www.hiltonworldresorts.com) has a “Diamond Wedding” package available for prospective brides and grooms – the package is not set in stone of course and everything (from the flowers, photography and food) can be altered to suit particular requirements.
Wanda Vista Sanya greens face the sea/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The Hilton Sanya has vast banquet facilities for an indoor wedding, or a 3,000sq m beach lawn with uninterrupted sea views for those with a lust for the great outdoors. A wedding coordination team will take care of all the planning and arrangements before the couple arrives. A Diamond Wedding package starts from RM3,888 per table (minimum of 100 guests) and includes accommodation in a honeymoon suite, wedding location set-up, a six-pound cake, flowers, guest registration book and audiovisual equipment.
The ring-on-the-finger set can head to the Wanda Vista Resort Sanya (formerly the Kempinski Hotel Haitang Bay Sanya, www.wandahotels.com) for a beach wedding. Opt for the ballroom if you are squeamish about the weather, the spacious lawn that rolls right down to the sea, or the functioning lighthouse for a dramatic backdrop. AURA, the chic wedding chapel, has gone after a bureaucratic tangle with the city government that saw the chapel demolished. This has resulted in larger lawn space for bigger events and alfresco functions however. The hotel has a range of packages for beach weddings at over Rmb30,000 - with a night's stay in a two-bedroom deluxe pool villa, airport transfers, romantic dinner, and a whole lot of trimmings. This is a spacious hotel with proximity to golf and, of course, its own huge beach. Excellent breakfasts. Has to be. The chefs were German. The new Chinese management from the well-heeled and fast-expanding Wanda chain aims to keep the brand quality up there and the rebranding is expected to be completed by end 2016.
For something plush yet rustic, though not on the beach, get wed in a Chinese pagoda at Banyan Tree Lijiang under the shadow of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and explore the Old Town of Lijiang in southwest China.
Splash out with a Dubai wedding
If wedding dessert in the desert takes your fancy, Sun and Sandals Tours (www.sunandsandals.com) can arrange a lavish Dubai celebration. After a church ceremony, the wedding party may be whisked into the Arabian Desert to watch the sun go down over the infinite sands. Couples can choose to be blessed by a priest in a setting rich in Persian carpets, cushions and flame torches. Accommodation for the night is at a campsite modelled on a traditional Bedouin village, complete with modern luxuries.
Dubai is not short of top-drawer five-star resort hotels and many offer wedding services. The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai (www.ritzcarlton.com) has wedding planners on hand to organise tailor-made celebrations right from inception through to the big day. At One&Only Royal Mirage (www.oneandonlyresorts.com), a “celebration consultant” will work with couples to arrange every last detail from the type of ceremony to design of the cake.
Pullman Khao Lak beach/ photo: hotel
The Shangri-La Dubai (www.shangri-la.com) caters for casual, contemporary or classical weddings. International, Indian and Arabic packages are available and include an overnight stay for the couple in one of the hotel’s premium suites. Ceremonies may be held beside the pool or in the ballroom with views across the city and the Arabian Gulf.
Couples who choose the Park Hyatt Dubai (www.parkhyatt.com) for a wedding ceremony are entitled to a complimentary two-night stay at any of the Hyatt properties around the world on their first anniversary. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel (www.jumeirahbeachhotel.com) has indoor and outdoor options for ceremonies, from gardens and terraces to ballrooms and beachfronts with a view of the gleaming Burj Al Arab.
Yes, you can tie the knot in Singapore
With easy access from one of the world's best airports (Singapore's Changi) so no guests can complain, there's always The Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa (www.sofitel-singapore-sentosa.com), which emerged from the old Beaufort Sentosa in early 2016, offering all the exotic pleasures of a tropical seaside resort a stone's throw from the bustling Lion City. Singapore beach wedding? No problem. The hotel's wedding planner takes care of everything, whether you want an alfresco do for ten, or a ball for over 200. Yes, there's a beach, spa, solitude, walks and some excellent nosh. Or opt for the colonial chic all-white and very swish former barracks Capella Singapore (www.capellahotels.com/singapore/). It serves up ample lawns, sea views, and a charming ambience that will provide a lifetime of memories for any wedding couple.
Wedding planners at the Amara Sanctuary Resort (www.amarasanctuary.com) in Sentosa will work with couples to arrange every last detail. A glass pavilion in the heart of the resort is designed specifically for ceremonies (complete with Philippe Starck chairs for that touch of designer chic). There are several wedding packages available and the resort promises to make the planning as stress free as possible.
Other romantic locations in Asia
Banyan Tree Lijiang/ photo: hotel
The Amansara in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is an intimate 12-suite resort, where legally binding ceremonies can be arranged once a marriage has been registered with the Cambodian authorities. (This takes about three weeks.) In Sri Lanka, at Amangalla, (which lies within the old Dutch Fort of Galle), the ceremony can be held in an historic Anglican church or you can choose a civil ceremony in the resort’s garden pavilion. Or cruise across the Pacific to Bora Bora and the new Four Seasons. Across the Indian Ocean in the opposite direction is the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles (www.fourseasons.com) with tree-house villas, plunge pools, a jungle getaway for incurable romantics and wedding consultants to plan every detail.
What are you waiting for? Tie the knot.
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