Top 10 tips for your destination wedding in Southeast Asia
(Or, more accurately: 14 things, in no particular order of importance, but the Internet just loooooves TOP TEN LISTS! so there you go)
I am often asked by brides and grooms for advice about planning for their destination wedding in Thailand, Bali, the Philippines and Vietnam. Here’s a rundown of my usual suggestions. Most are obvious, some, not so much. And all should be taken with a hefty grain of salt – these are just my opinions, not absolutes. (NOTE: If you don’t want a bunch of beach gawkers like in this picture, scroll down to #6 on the list)
1 – Bring sunscreen, then wear a sombrero/burqa combo and stay under a rock before your wedding day. OK, maybe not that extreme. Brides are usually pretty smart about this, but for some reason the fellas…. not so much. I’ve shot a fair few weddings with grooms and groomsmen who were pretty much burnt to a crisp from too much fun in the sun the few days leading up to the wedding. If you’re from Liverpool and its February and you’ve flown in for your wedding in Phuket, believe me, your skin will not react well to the Thai sunshine. Go for that overcooked look AFTER your wedding day.
2 – Tequlia. Mojitos. And other tropical beverages. Maybe with cute little umbrellas in them. Whatever it is, let the booze flow. This is the cardinal rule for any wedding, and doubly so if your guests have flown in from around the world and are expecting a big shindig. Think about it – everyone is on holiday, there are no babysitters to get back to, no work the next morning. People will want to party hard, party long, and they will need party fuel.
3 – BYOB – There may not be an exciting or affordable liquor selection at your destination, so ask your friends and family to all bring bottles of your favorite spirits with them from duty free. If you want Hendrick’s gin or Lagavulin single malt, bring it with you.
4 – Music. If you hire a local DJ, give him a very specific song list or guidelines. Better yet, bring an iPod pre-loaded with your songlists. Play the music you love. Its the one opportunity in your life to have a dance party playing all of your favorite songs. Make it happen.
5 – If your ceremony is on a beach, consider a beach-appropriate wedding dress. It doesn’t have to be a bikini wedding dress (does that exist?), but a heavy dress with a 9foot train won’t work well with sand. Consider something lightweight to keep you cool, and relatively short so you can move around without much fuss. If the groom is a “sweater”, i.e.: he who sweats just thinking about a sunny beach, consider attire without a jacket or tie. For the groom and groomsmen, no shoes or thongs/flip flops are usually appropriate for beach weddings.
6 – Consider a private venue. There are some fantastic resorts around Southeast Asia, and many are kindof affordable (at least compared to back home). But consider a private venue like a pool villa, where you and your guests will have complete control of everything, total privacy and the ability to party like rock stars until the sun comes up, without worrying about bothering other guests. Villas are especially popular in Thailand and Bail.
7 – Consider incorporating elements of the local culture into your wedding ceremony, reception, or activities. Marrying in Thailand? Its easy to arrange a visit from local monks for a Thai water blessing ceremony, a beautiful and memorable thing to do.
8 – Don’t get married in the rainy season. I’ve actually shot a few weddings where the couple was surprised and disappointed that it rained heavily on their wedding day. In Thailand. In June. It’s pretty much guaranteed that its going to rain during the monsoon or rainy season in Southeast Asia, so if you really don’t want a rainy day wedding, check the weather calendar.
9 – Get married in the rainy season. Ignore the above if you don’t particularly care if it rains on your wedding day, as you can save a ton of money by booking your venue during the rainy off-season. Some of the very best weddings I’ve photographed were in torrential rain. The most important element in good wedding photography isn’t the sunshine or the location, its the people. If you are the kind of people who can party down and enjoy a rainy day wedding, you should consider it.
10 – Get out of your resort. Whether you’re in Vietnam, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia or most anywhere else in Southeast Asia, you’re having your wedding in one of the most beautiful, culturally rich and friendly places on earth. Organize some activities outside of you resort to make sure your guests enjoy some of the great things the outside community has to offer.
11 – Work with a great wedding planner who understands what you want. Planning a destination wedding from halfway around the world can be especially challenging. Be sure to have someone on the ground who understands you and will get things done. Some who will be your eyes and ears on the ground while you plan from 10,000 miles away.
12 – Hire a fantastic wedding photographer. Obviously.
13- Speaking of photography, the midday sun in the tropics is hot and really harsh. Not a good time to take pictures. So don’t plan for portraits at 1PM. And try to plan your ceremony about an hour or two before sunset, not only for better photographs, but to make everyone a lot more comfortable as the day starts to cool off from afternoon into evening.
14- Don’t play Gangnam Style.