The most obvious reason foreigners get married in Thailand is the stunning, otherworldly beauty of its beaches; but a host of other factors conspire to make the kingdom a preferred destination weddings location
A friend was asked why he enjoys photographing weddings in Thailand. His reply has always been the same: “In Thailand, I’ll never get a Bridezilla.” The comment is half joke and half serious. To simply call Thailand laidback would be letting it off light. In Thailand “sabai-sabai” is more than just a catchphrase. It is almost a way of life (think Hakuna Matata from the “Lion King”). So, crazy, control-freak brides will never quite find a fit in the “Land of Smiles.” But for the sane majority of couples out there looking for beauty, value, and a place that will loom as long and large in the mind as the love felt for one another, Thailand is the perfect place.
Destination Weddings is a big market for Thailand. From India alone, around 200 couples come to Thailand to get married each year. The “big fat Indian wedding” market is said to be worth an estimated THB550-million a year for the kingdom. Add to that the numbers from the U.K., Europe, not to mention Russia and China, and the number swells up further, making the country the Destination Wedding capital of the world indeed!
The most obvious reason foreigners come to Thailand to get married is the stunning, otherworldly beauty of its beaches. But there are other reasons as well. The southern region of the kingdom are flanked, both on the east and on the west, by bodies of water that give guests their pick of numerous beach options.
You have the picturesque Andaman Sea — featured in films, swimsuit shoots, calendars, and postcards for almost as long as people have had film. This is where the first exotic images that lured foreigners to Thailand first came from. The jutting rock formations that burst out from the sea in violently straight lines, juxtaposed with the calm, clear deep-blues and greens of the ocean waters are the stuff of imagination. It’s no wonder the land facing the Andaman Sea is also the playground to Asia’s wealthy elite and home to some of the most luxurious properties in the region, and possibly the world.
On this side of Thailand you want to go all-out to get the most breathtaking views and top-level service. There’s so many popular destinations around the Andaman, i.e., in Krabi: Phulay Bay,A Ritz Carlton Reserve, Centara Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Sofitel Phookeethra Golf & Spa Resort, and Dusit Thani Krabi; and in Phuket: the Angsana, Banyan Tree Phuket, Dusit Laguna, Amanpuri, and many others (See our separate feature on Top Wedding Venues for more) – all ideal for perfect weddings.
Over to the Gulf of Thailand, there are also many islands with white sand beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and similarly gorgeous geography. The beaches on the side of the Gulf are beautiful in their own right and present some of the best destination wedding values in Thailand in terms of cost.
Here it’s possible to stretch your baht a bit further. Gulf side locations are intimate and fun. Islands like Samet give couples an intimate spot to marry that’s right around the bend from some rocking nightlife. There are also some amazing resorts in Koh Chang well as the emerging smaller islands of Kood and Mak near it, not to mention beach resorts in the mainland Rayong, Trat, and Chantaburi.
Needless to say, Koh Samui – farther on the southern part of the Gulf — has a number of five-star resorts that are perfect for destination weddings. Names such as Conrad Samui, InterContinental Ban Taling Ngam, Four Seasons Samui, Sheraton Samui, and Tongsai Bay, among others, not to mention the many new boutique properties that are proliferating on the island lately, are perfect, not only for weddings but also for honeymoons.
For those looking for wedding locations close to Bangkok, there is Hua Hin, Cha Am, Kanchanaburi, and Pattaya, in addition to the emerging as new wedding destination hotspots we have already mentioned.
Pattaya is a clear top favorite of wedding couples not only because of its easy accessibility from the capital, but also because of the exemplary facilities and services at resorts such as Dusit Thani Pattaya, the Royal Cliff group, Hilton Pattaya, Pattaya Marriott, Sheraton Pattaya, Amari Pattaya, among others. Here, there is no dearth of options for every wedding taste and budget indeed.
Hua Hin and Cha-Am are also popular for weddings and honeymoons, thanks to resorts such as Hilton Hua Hin, Sheraton Hua Hin, InterContinental Hua HIn, Centara Grand Hua Hin, Anantara Hua Hin, Dusit Thani Hua Hin, V Villas and Putahracsa resorts, among others — all vying for a chunk of the coveted Destination Weddings’ pie.
And we haven’t even mentioned Chiang Mai yet, another popular destination wedding favorite, especially for those who want traditional Thai-style or Lanna-type wedding ceremonies.
The ones we have mentioned are just but a few, of course, because there are several others that can offer stunning wedding ceremonies at a fraction of the price that some major resorts charge, which brings us to the next reason foreigners choose Thailand as their wedding spot: the amazing value.
I’m hesitant to use the word cheap as that would convey thoughts of shoddy quality or low-grade service, and many of the places we’ll talk about later are far from cheap. But in Thailand the money goes farther for what you pay for indeed. You might pay the same as a standard room back in Europe or the U.S., but the quality of the room is going to be double or triple at the same dollar cost back home.
How much does a wedding in Thailand cost? It really depends on many factors. But here’s an insight from www.weddingsinthailand.com: “The average cost of a wedding in the U.K. or Australia is around 20,000GBP (37,000AUD)…in contrast, a wedding in Thailand with 30 guests can cost only 6500GBP (11,000AUD).
Most hotels and resorts offer attractive packages, which couples can choose from depending on the kind of wedding they want.For example, Amari Pattaya (Tel: 038 418 418; email:email@example.com), which has both indoor and outdoor areas as well as a nearby beach to set up and decorate for any kind of weddings, offers several packages, like “A Love Story” for 100-199 persons, “Time to Romance” for 200-299 persons, and “Forever You” for 300 persons or more, where the bride and groom also get complimentary suite accommodation at the Ocean Tower during the party night among other benefits. Price ranges from THB 990 to THB 1,390 THB per person or THB 11,900 to THB 13,900 per table dependng on the sixe of guests.
Along with the great rates that practically all hotels specializing in wedding events, couples can factor in some of the world’s most famous service and hospitality, which adds more value to the deals.
The first or second story any visitor to Thailand will probably tell once back home will be of a friendship made with a local; maybe a staff member who went above and beyond to help one get settled or find one’s way around; a driver who went out of his way to make the trip better; or even a random stranger who becomes a life-long friend after the trip.
Couples from all walks of life can find a comfortable spot to marry in Thailand, whether in a budget bungalow with a few of your mates, or a beyond five-star resort with spa treatments for guests, the finest champagne, and Kanye West emceeing your reception.
And did we mention that the kingdom is arguably home to some of the best wedding planners (and service providers) money can buy? In Krabi, for example, is a professional wedding planner from Krabi Specialisten (Tel: 075 638 097-8; www.krabi-spesialisten.com), Ingeborg Fallet Kristensen, who is an expert in organizing and creating the perfect wedding in and around the beaches of the South Andaman coast. Since 2003, Inge has arranged over 350 weddings, and among her famous specialties is arranging special magical moments.
Suffice it to say that service to ensure a perfect wedding can be tailored and easily availed of in Thaialnd. Even outside the hotel wedding organizers, couples can still enjoy the services of professional wedding merchants: hair and makeup stylists, personal wedding assistants, creative floral artists, live bands, a team of dedicated staff on hand for the sole purpose of making any one’s big day perfect. Many resorts and hotels provide help in setting up your wedding.
More than anything else, Thai people are known for their hospitality and this shines all the more during a wedding.
Why surround yourself with surly staff members dripping with attitude and contempt when you can have people — like Thais — truly as happy to have you there, as you are to be there?
The final reason foreigners choose Thailand for weddings has to do with memories. Thailand is a place that lives long and large in the mind. This isn’t a place where people usually do big, stuffy weddings though you certainly can and in fact, many big fat Indian weddings have been held here recently with as many as more than 400 guests! A typical Western-style wedding in Thailand will range in size anywhere from 10-60 or so guests although hotels can easily serve 100s, and they do.
Usually the guests are traveling in from outside of the country and from some distance. While this might sound like a negative, it’s actually a positive for most couples. This weeds out the oddball distant relatives and loose friends of the family. When a destination requires commitment, you get only your closest friends and family. Since some travel was required, the wedding party will take a few days or a week together at the resort, treating it as a holiday or vacation. They’ll spend time bonding, playing games, and just celebrating the lives of the two people whose big day they all came to share.
Rather than just having a quick day to catch up with friends and family, the couple now has a vacation together with those who matter most to them. They have the time to talk to everyone and relax a bit. With a wedding like this you have the freedom to make the day more than just a rapid blur of excitement.
It’s these factors and a few other hard-to-convey intangibles that make Thailand a dream-wedding destination in my mind. I’ve seen couples from their early 20s all the way up into the 50s getting married here. Some are wild events that would make the exploits of “Hangover 2” seem childlike in comparison, and others are truly elegant, dignified affairs featuring celebrities and heads of state.
But all of the Thailand weddings we’ve witnessed beautifully captured and reflected the spirit of the couples getting married. And we know that each wedding will create a truly unforgettable memory not only for the bride and groom but also for their guests!