A short hop to heaven
For those who want a tropical-themed wedding, Hong Kong may not be the best location. Luckily, paradise is just a short plane ride away.
From an underwater wedding to a ceremony officiated by a Buddhist monk, far-flung exoticism is yours to take if you say 'I do' at a luxury resort on the sunny shores of Bali, Thailand or the Maldives.
Located next to the white sand beaches of Jimbaran Bay, Karma Jimbaran has 40 luxury pool villas. Inspired by a traditional Balinese garden compound design, each villa has two or three pavilions, a central courtyard, a pool and sun decks.
The Tropical Wedding package at Karma Jimbaran (US$2,212, excluding legal arrangements and documentation) comprises a celebrant, Balinese traditional instrumental group or background music, a make-up room and two nights in a luxury villa.
'A dream wedding with a view is a common reason why couples choose to have their wedding at a tropical destination,' says marketing manager Ricky Utomo, who believes Bali draws couples because of its versatility.
'Bali is world-renowned for its beautiful nature - there is something for everyone. Either you decide to have your wedding with a spectacular ocean view on a cliff's edge or by the beach. You can also have a rice field view, a valley view or even a river view - Bali has it all.'
The Mulia, Mulia Resort & Villas
Framed by the coastline of Nusa Dua, the Mulia, Mulia Resort & Villas offers a plethora of dining experiences, from the Mulia Resort's Cafe all-day brasserie to the Mediterranean restaurant Soleil.
The resort also houses three chapels for couples to get hitched, with seating for up to 250 guests. Each chapel delivers a different view. Eternity is surrounded by a lake, while Harmony boasts an ocean view and Unity is by the beach.
Rainata Tjoa, director of communications, says destination weddings are not synonymous with 'small and simple' any more. 'Tropical beach weddings have become bigger and more luxurious,' she says, adding that couples should plan their wedding logistics well in advance, including flights and accommodation.
W Retreat Koh Samui
Located on the north shore of Samui island, W Retreat Koh Samui is the first W Hotel in Southeast Asia. It features 73 private villas, complete with private pools, outdoor showers and 46-inch plasma TVs.
The Wonderlust package (HK$73,000) includes a wedding ceremony on a private beach or in the Great Room, 300 photos saved on DVD and 22 photos in a custom-made album, and three hours of pre- or post-ceremony spa treatment.
Couples can choose between a Western-style celebrant or a Buddhist monk. Matai Gilroy, director of sales and marketing for the resort, advises couples who want a tropical-themed wedding to pay attention to the design of the dress.
'You probably don't want this situation to happen - the bride wearing a five-metre-long train and walking on the beach with the wind blowing all over her dress,' she says.
'Weather is also one of the main concerns as sometimes the wedding date is in the rainy season, so a Plan B is needed in terms of location and decoration.'
The Pavilions, Phuket
A member of Relais and Chateaux, The Pavilions, Phuket, contains 49 private pool villas with ocean and hillside views.
The resort's Thai wedding package includes a wedding blessing and prayer conducted by Buddhist monks, live traditional Thai khim music played during the ceremony, a hot-air lantern ceremony symbolising good fortune, and traditional Thai-style neck garlands for the bride and groom.
'Phuket is unique, not just for ease of access, great weather and stunning beaches, but also for combining all of that with the famous Thai hospitality and friendliness.
'Good vibes are key to creating a stress-free and convivial atmosphere, and something about Phuket puts guests at ease,' says Guido Phillips, director of marketing.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
Opened in 1995, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru is characterised by its conical thatched-roof villas, which are inspired by the Asian village concept.
Besides providing a sanctuary for guests, the resort makes a point of protecting the environment with the Banyan Tree Marine Lab, which preserves the hotel's surrounding marine life and coral reef.
The resort's Underwater Wedding package (US$2,000, plus 10 per cent service charge and 6 per cent goods and services tax) encompasses an underwater wedding ceremony with photographer, a sunset cruise with canapes and wine and one-hour sailing on a catamaran with a personal guide.
'The wedding size dictates what resorts are appropriate to house the guests and host the wedding-related events,' says the resort's country head, Kenneth Law.
'Also, ease of access is a key factor in picking a location, especially for guests coming from a distance.
Tropical weddings also offer the opportunity for guests to have a mini-holiday of sorts while celebrating with the soon-to-be-married couple.'
Constance Moofushi Resort
Tucked away on the Maldives' South Ari Atoll, Constance Moofushi Resort has 110 land and water villas surrounded by woodland, sandbanks and lagoons. The Perfect Wedding package (3,980 rufiyaa, HK$2,000) includes entertainment from a Maldivian ceremonial cultural band, a 150-minute spa ritual for two, blessing ceremony with floral decoration of your choice and a romantic champagne dinner on a private island.
'Being surrounded by stunning views of the turquoise lagoon, the sandy white beaches, the beautiful climate and the wonderful people ... all these contribute to make the Maldives a very exotic locale for a splendid wedding,' says sales co-ordinator Sylvabelle Angeline.
'A tree-planting ceremony is included in the wedding package so that the couple can commemorate their special day on Moofushi Island and see how it has grown when they next return.'