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Destination Weddings - Thailand

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 14 December 2014 | Views [1259]

Getting Married? Daydreaming about a Beach Wedding? Leaning towards Thailand but not sure where to start looking?

If you’ve never been there before, looking online can be overwhelming. To narrow it down the key things to think about are – how many people do you want to invite, what time of year do you want to get married, do you want your wedding and holiday on an island that’s quiet or packed with activities, thinking something basic or 5 star with a wedding planner and all the trimmings? The answer to these questions will narrow down which islands and which resorts would be suitable to cater to your needs.

My fiancé and I agreed that getting married while on holiday with your nearest and dearest was the way to go. Why spend $30,000+ on just one day that feels like you’re on fast-forward, and then it’s over and you realise that you haven’t had one full conversation with anybody? At least on holiday, you can savour how special the celebration is with all those special people for a whole week or more with the added excitement of being on holiday, far from all those thoughts of the daily grind.

We travelled around Thailand for a month and scouted out various possible options in seven beach locations:

Koh Tao

This tiny island is an absolute gem. It’s quiet and laid back and relatively undeveloped – but this will surely change soon. There are plenty of guesthouses and bungalows to choose from while never straying too far from the water. If you’ve entertained the idea of getting your PADI dive certificate, this is the place to do it.

The island is only accessible by boat from nearby island’s Koh Phangan & Koh Samui or from the mainland at Chumphon or Surat Thani. Large fancy resorts are few and far between here but there are still around 10-15 wedding options. Most of the resorts are very basic to the point of being decidedly average, and the beach is not private, but we found 4 that piqued our interest.

Jamahkiri – This is close to the fanciest option you’re going to get. It’s very clean and tidy, the rooms are fantastic and the view over the sparking turquoise ocean is sublime. They also have a full time wedding planner which is definitely a plus. This is a fantastic option if you want to be away from the main tourist beach and only want a small wedding, as you can’t sit more than 30 people comfortably. Downside: There is no beach connected to the resort, but you can swim off the cute jetty, or there is a little row boat that takes you to the nearby beach. The resort is also built on the side of a hill so there are a lot of stairs.

http://www.jamahkiri.com/wedding.php

Haad Tien - The beach around the corner from Jamahkiri is connected to this very modern resort. Manicured green grass and swaying palm trees surrounds fancy individual bungalows spreading along the length of the beach. This resort is a great option if you want an intimate wedding of 10 – 20 people. You can have the aisle set up on the grass in front of your bungalow and can dine on the sand under the stars. Downside: The beach is nice, but not amazing. You would need a scooter or taxi’s to get around as it’s further out from the main centre of Mae Haad. There isn’t much else around this area, especially if you want plenty of dining options.

If you would like to get married here, you would most likely need to go through these wedding planners - http://www.afairytaowedding.com/

http://www.haadtien.com/

Viewpoint – When we first arrived at Viewpoint and saw the calm still turquoise water surrounding a circular patch of grass decorated with pine trees, I thought WOW, what a perfect spot. Once again, it is a lovely location for an intimate wedding and the private pool villas are stunning. Downside: If you don’t book all of the rooms, your wedding wouldn’t be very private. The resort is built on a hill so it can be strenuous to get around and the road to get there has intense inclines & many potholes. Also, as the resort is surrounded by trees which give an authentic Thai feeling, it also means that it is damp and the mosquitos are abundant and relentless. There is no decent beach or shared pool.

(These guys also use the above wedding planners)

http://www.kohtaoviewpoint.com/

Charm Churee – This rustic resort not far from the main centre stretches on forever down and around the cliff side. The view is spectacular and the small private beach is picturesque. The rooms are literally pieces of wood built onto the rock side and they aren’t all completely enclosed so there is no air con – you are at one with nature! Downside: No air con and mosquitos are a hassle. It’s a huge workout trying to get around the steep pathways and stairs. You will only be allocated half of the tiny beach for your wedding so it is likely that you will have an audience of sunbathers close by.

http://charmchureevillaresort.kohtaohotel.net/gallery

Koh Phangan

This island is known for its famous Full Moon Party’s where youngsters cover themselves with highlighter body paint, drink endless cocktail buckets and dance until sunrise. If this is right up your alley then you will love it, but it’s not quite the image you get when you think of weddings! However, there are a handful of resorts far away from the party beaches of Haad Rin that are trying to create a reputation for tasteful weddings.

The island is only accessible by boat from nearby island’s Koh Tao & Koh Samui or from the mainland at Chumphon or Surat Thani. There are hundreds of guest houses to choose from in all different price ranges. We found two that we would consider wedding worthy. (There are a handful more options around but we didn’t have the time to view them).

Rasananda Anatara – This chain is well known for their 5 star quality resorts around Asia. In Koh Phangan it is fairly new and small in comparison to other destinations but the beach is beautiful, the area is quiet and laid back and the staff incredibly friendly. They have a very professional full time wedding planner and a private room for moving the party from the beach to continue the celebrations late into the night without disturbing other hotel guests. Also, every hotel room has a private pool (which may push it out of your price range for your guests). Downside: It can be very difficult to get too. We got stuck on our motorbike in the deep mud trying to get there via the inland road and 4 wheeled drive taxi’s charge a small fortune to go there, but they are in the middle of building a concrete road which will definitely ease the headache. You can get a small boat there from Haad Tien on calm days.

http://weddings.anantara.com/

Kupu Kupu – This hip resort is very new and eager to create a luxury reputation for themselves. They are currently building more rooms right on the water’s edge. The rooms are beautifully Thai enthused and the colour of the water is so spectacular you are constantly drawn to it. It also is the side of the island that enjoys the sunset and it’s not too far from the main port of Thong Sala. Downside: As they are very new, they don’t have much experience with weddings, however, this is good if you want to get heavily involved with the creative process and set up. Also, you would need to book most or all the rooms for it to be private as the wedding would be held around the main swimming pool or on the beach in front of it.

http://www.kupuphangan.com/wedding.php

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is known as the Couples Island as it is a haven for Weddings and Honeymoons. Your choice of venue here is abundant. There is an airport on the island which makes it very accessible and there are loads of activities to keep you occupied if you happen to get bored of lounging around in the sun drinking cocktails all day. It is a fairly large island as far as Thai islands go but most of the action is situated around Chaweng, or nearby Lamai & Bophut. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore, including tailors if it tickles your fancy to get some suits or outfits made. The prices are slightly higher here than other small islands but no doubt still cheaper than home. It’s easy to get around in crazy tuktuks (rows of bench seats on the back of an enclosed ute) that pick up anyone on the side of the road or you can rent scooters. Taxis can be costly, especially if you want to go to the other side of the island.

We exhausted ourselves looking at endless Venue options here, but unless you have a huge luxurious budget (if you do, check out Banyan Tree), these are our Top 3 picks:

Nora Beach Resort & Nora Buri Resort – This resort ticked most of the boxes for us and ultimately became our choice. We are all booked in for 26th January 2015! Both resorts are large with Nora Beach set up like a village with standard hotel rooms in a big block and incredible luxury villas spread out along the walkways and trees. The main pool and restaurant area at the beaches edge is family friendly. Nora Buri Resort is more of a romantic adult’s destination with a spectacular pool at the beach edge, luxurious private rooms stretching all the way up the hillside and another large two-tiered infinity pool at the top. At both resorts there are a variety of choices for the location of your ceremony and reception depending on the amount of guests, including next to the pool, on a private grass area overlooking the beach, or in various restaurants, bars or open walled rooms. There are endless decoration options and three full time very enthusiastic and experienced wedding planners to attend to your every need. Their photo portfolio is very impressive! The resorts are only minutes away from each other and are close to the main centre of Chaweng, but far enough way to be away from the noise. Downside: The beach isn’t the most picturesque on the island and at certain times of the year can be too rough to swim in.

http://www.noraweddings.com/

Sareeraya – Just around the corner from Nora, Sareeraya is smaller and has a beautiful Thai design to its décor, the beach is calmer and the sand whiter. It’s that bit closer to Chaweng for accessibility but still far enough from the main beach to have some relaxing privacy. Downside: It will be hard to have privacy from the other hotel guests for your wedding.

http://www.sareeraya.com/wedding/wedding%20samui.html

Faraway Villas – This is the only venue we saw that wasn’t a resort. It is run by a very professional couple who install great confidence that they know what they are doing. It is situated in Lipa Noi on the other side of the island so it is quiet and private and it gets spectacular sunsets which are perfect for those essential wedding photos. The venue has a decorated outdoor courtyard area right next to the beach for your Reception and the Ceremony can be held with the sand between your toes. There is also an indoor room for those unavoidable pesky rainy days. Downside: There’s not much on the other side of the island so you would have to pay for transport for your guests. Faraway does offer this service and the bonus is that it becomes a surprise location for your guests. There is a small resort next door and their guests may be curious about your celebration.

http://farawayweddings.com/

Krabi

Krabi is on the mainland and has its own airport. Most visitors usually avoid the main town and head out to either nearby Ao Nang, Tonsai or Railay Bay.  Ao Nang can be accessed by road so it has the most facilities, while Tonsai & Railay can only be accessed by boat from Krabi town or Ao Nang as they are cut off from road access by incredible limestone cliffs which are the major drawcard for the area. The scenery here is spectacular and definitely worth visiting. Unfortunately though, it is no secret and in the peak months, the beaches are crammed full of people soaking up the sun.  

There are various wedding locations around but we struggled to find any that would be private that doesn’t cost a fortune. There are a handful of resorts on smaller islands near Krabi but we didn’t have the time to investigate them in person. We did however check out gorgeous Railay Bay.

Railay Bay Resort – This resort is in a prime location and would be totally perfect if you managed to get the beach all to yourself! Surprisingly, it was the most affordable wedding option we found. Downside: The rooms aren’t particularly good value for money, lack of confidence in the wedding planner and the difficult accessibility and busyness of the small area completely made it a no-go for us.

http://www.railaybayresort.com/railay-wedding_package.php

Koh Phi Phi

Whenever you google Thailand and drool as you look at those delicious picture perfect beaches – the islands of Koh Phi Phi is most likely where that photo was taken. The scenery on this island is mind blowing – especially Maya Bay on Phi Phi Le , the uninhabitable island where Leonardo Dicaprio’s movie The Beach was filmed. Phi Phi Don, the larger island of the two has no roads, only labyrinth walkways packed full of anything a tourist could ever need – bars, restaurants, shops, tour agencys etc Most guesthouses are over top of bars with pounding music and sleep is unlikely here. Unfortunately the tiny island can’t support the amount of visitors it attracts and rubbish littering the pathways and the beach is unavoidable. Tourism is destroying its natural beauty and the locals seem unconcerned. The island is accessible by boat from Phuket, Krabi & at certain times of the year, Koh Lanta.

Many resorts offer the service of weddings, but like Krabi, it is very difficult to get privacy on the beach and a lot of places have a tacky feel to it. There is one gem which is very isolated on a part of the island that is only accessible by boat by Phi Phi Don’s ferry terminal, or by private boat from Phuket which you can book through the resort.

Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort – This chain of hotels have a fantastic reputation and the backdrop for a wedding at Phi Phi’s Resort is divine. There is nothing else except ocean, jungle, palm trees and mountains around this resort so you only share the beach with its guests and the wilderness. This large resort has basic to luxury styled bungalows set up in a village style; they hold weddings regularly and have a full time wedding planner. Downside: The rooms aren’t particularly good value for money, food costs around western prices and as there is literally no competition for them - more than a few days and you would get cabin fever & end up with an empty wallet. It may seem very difficult to get too for those guests that aren’t seasoned travellers and who have a weak stomach (the boat ride can be quite rough). Also, when the tide is out you can’t swim at the beach.

http://www.outrigger.com/hotels-resorts/thailand/phi-phi/outrigger-phi-phi-island-resort-and-spa/weddings/western-wedding-ceremony

Koh Lanta

This is the island you go too if you want a break from sharing a stretch of sand with hundreds of other bodies. It’s incredibly peaceful and laid back and you can entertain yourself by cruising around on your scooter visiting all the beaches on offer.  However, this is not the place to go too if you want lots of things to do or if you want to meet other backpackers. Saladan Village is the main hub with its row of shops, restaurants and the main port. Most people on a budget head to nearby Klong Dao or Long Beach, or if they want to splurge a little more, head down the west coast to Khlong Khong, Khlong Nin or Kan Tieng. There are tiny little communities clustered around each of these beaches, but other than that, there isn’t much around. You can get to the island by bus or boat from Krabi, Ao Nang & Phuket, and during the peak season, by boat from Koh Phi Phi.

There are a handful of lovely venue options here. Our Top 3:

Pimalai – First we visited the beach with its soft white sand and warm blue waters and thought to ourselves, this is quite nice. Then we went up to hill to the top restaurant and pool and we thought – this is incredible! The view stretching out over the bush and the ocean is spectacular. I could stare at the view all day and not get bored! Downside: You also have to use the hotels rigid colour schemes (purple and white) for your Big Day, the wedding planner didn’t evoke a lot of confidence and the rooms are quite pricey.

http://www.pimalai.com/wedding/

Crown Resort & Spa – This large resort has plenty of room options to choose from, 2 big pools and a small private rocky beach that you can use for your ceremony. The facilities here are fantastic, they have a great wet weather back up and the staff are very enthusiastic. The Hotel’s General Manager even came to introduce himself! Downside: The beach is pretty but it wasn’t quite the tropical scene we were after.

http://www.crownlanta.com/weddings.htm

Layana – This incredibly manicured resort on a beautiful stretch of sand is adults only which could be an absolute bonus, or make it an instant no go. They have a wonderful grass area right by the sand to enjoy your reception under the stars. Downside: There are rules on how many guests you can invite (30), how long you can stay (1 week) and how many hotel rooms your wedding party can have (5) as the hotel has a strict policy that the wedding doesn’t ruin the ambience for other hotel guests. Also, the price is getting close to astronomical.

http://layanaresort.com/

Phuket

What is the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Phuket? Sun, Sand, Cheap Shopping, Plenty of Australians – and unavoidably Lady Boys & Ping Pong Shows! Phuket is a large island connected to the main land by a bridge so it doesn’t feel much like an island at all. It has an international airport so is incredibly easy to get too. There are accommodations that cater to all budgets and it’s a very popular place to visit because of its easy accessibility and affordable prices. Patong is the place to go if you want to be in the centre of all the party action and crazy flashing neon lights. Karon & Kata Beach are good affordable alternatives that aren’t too far away but are more laid back. The beaches are covered in rows of sun loungers and umbrellas that you can rent for the day. There are many 5 star resorts nestled away in secluded areas if you want to escape the hype completely. 

There are plenty of resorts to choose from here for weddings and because of the size of the island, it was very difficult to visit too many. However, throughout our research, two stood out that had excellent reviews.

Katathani – This resort is humungous and has 6 swimming pools! They have a very professional full time wedding planner and a designated wedding room, ceremony and reception area – it’s all incredibly organised to the point of being almost too structured, if that’s possible?! Downside: Its huge size means the place is raging with people constantly. There’s no chance of getting married on the beach with one shred of privacy, and the designated ceremony grass area, although very pretty, doesn’t have much of a view as a bush cuts you off from the water and all the rows of umbrellas.

http://www.wedding.katathani.com/

The Surin – We absolutely loved this resort and struggled to choose between it and Nora in Koh Samui. The rooms are lovely, the beach is relatively private and stunning, and the wedding area is close to perfect. Phuket is the most accessible option and there is any activity you can imagine to keep your guests entertained, with the added bonus that this resort seems tucked away so you can enjoy seclusion at the same time. Downside: The overall price was much higher than most places as there is an additional venue hire cost on top of the wedding package. However, if your wedding party is small, the overall package is much more affordable. I also personally struggled with the seedy & tacky stigma attached to the island.

http://www.thesurinphuket.com/weddings.php?LinkIdentifier=ID&ItemID=280

Outrigger Laguna Phuket – We didn’t get to view this resort in the end but if you would like to get married in a gorgeous traditional white chapel over the water, look into Laguna Phuket as an option. Keep in mind though that it is confusing to get too and far from the main areas of the island and would only be a good location if you would like to stay in the same spot for relaxation.

http://lagunaphuketweddings.com/

Things to consider:

Before you rush to book your wedding in your dream location on the other side of the world – the reality is, not everyone will go. Most likely only a quarter of your invite list will. It’s a big ask expecting people to make your holiday wedding their priority when they have their own plans with children, houses, study etc Even if you would be prepared to go overseas for a loved one’s wedding, not everyone thinks the way you do. As long as you are prepared to not get angry at your favourites who can’t make it, then book away. The bonus is you don’t have to worry about how many people you invite, so no one gets upset that they weren’t on the list! Keep’s costs down too!

If you are not used to living in overly hot climates, then the islands around Thailand will always be warm. On the Gulf Coast around Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui the best weather is around June – October. March – June can get uncomfortably hot and November – February is the rainy season. On the islands around Phuket it is slightly different, the best weather is around November to March with April - May being the hottest months and September-October being the rainy season. Of course peak season prices and hordes of tourists come hand in hand with the best weather months. If you choose a month where it is likely to rain, make sure to check out wet weather back up plans at your venue.

The language barrier can be an issue if you are a stickler for details. If everything needs to be absolutely perfect, then pick somewhere with a full time wedding planner so that you are their complete focus – it’s a bonus if they’re from a western country.  However, if you want a traditional Thai wedding, then a local will have the insider knowledge you would want.

It can be difficult and expensive to get married legally in Thailand. Some resorts with wedding packages offer the service for a fee (and you would have to go to the registry office in Bangkok), but it may be less of a head ache to arrange the paperwork in your home country beforehand.

If you can visit the venues in person for peace of mind, all the better, but if that’s not feasible, look at as many photos as you can, ask the resort lots of questions and read reviews. Just keep an open mind when reading reviews as one person’s dream is another person’s nightmare and situations are constantly changing.

Wherever you choose for your special day, Thailand will deliver warm weather, beautiful beaches, fascinating culture, and plenty of relaxation, cheap bargains, mouth-watering cuisine, entertaining experiences and incredible memories. I hope that this article has given you a head start on making a tropical location decision, and I hope you both have a perfect romantic magical day to celebrate dedicating yourselves to spending the rest of your lives together.

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