Weddings abroad: Travel Weekly's Agent Challenge

Weddings abroad: Travel Weekly's Agent Challenge

Meet Andrew and Sarah. They want to get married this coming winter. They don’t have exact dates but are prepared to be flexible.

They are a private couple and are happy if it’s just the two of them going abroad for the wedding. They’re in their early twenties and still in the early stages of their careers, so haven’t got a lot of cash to splash. They would like a honeymoon for a fortnight plus the wedding for £5,000.

And, of course, they’d like as much included as possible, both in terms of the details of their accommodation and the wedding. They won’t welcome extra costs.

But they’d still like their day to feel really special – so if the wedding is within a resort, they’d like it to be the only wedding that day. Any extra little touches that make the day special will gain extra points with our couple.

Andrew and Sarah are not specific in terms of where they would like to go, but they would like a beach and sun destination. And, if the wedding day can give a flavour of the destination where they are, so much the better.

Neither Andrew nor Sarah has been married before, and they are UK passport holders. They’re not religious but would like the wedding to be a legal ceremony, not just an informal blessing.


Agent one: Tina Lee

Current position: Branch manager, The Co-operative Travel, Bradway, Sheffield

Experience: Tina has been working in the industry for 26 years

Her choice: Sri Lanka in February

Hotel: Three-star Club Hotel Dolphin

Flights: Direct Virgin Atlantic flights departing from London

What’s included?

  • 14 nights’ all-inclusive deluxe seaview rooms at the hotel
  • A premier wedding package
  • A decorated wedding location
  • Bridal bouquet and buttonhole for the groom
  • A one-tier wedding cake and bottle of sparkling wine
  • A room upgrade (subject to availability) 
  • A gala dinne
  • Bridal hairdressing
  • Photos and a one-hour video
  • Drummers and Kandyan dancers
  • An elephant to greet the couple and an elephant ride after the service

Essential information: Andrew and Sarah need to be resident in Sri Lanka for five days prior to the wedding and need to hold valid UK passports, copies of which must be submitted at least 12 weeks in advance of departure along with birth certificates and affidavits advising of their single status. All originals have to be taken with them

Tina says: I have assumed that, as they are a young couple in their early 20s who are getting married without family and friends, they will want to visit somewhere unusual.

I also assumed it would probably be somewhere that they may not return to, so I discounted the Seychelles or the Caribbean. I’ve sold a wedding in Sri Lanka before to a couple marrying alone. They said despite having no friends or family with them their day was really memorable and the highlight was riding off into the sunset on an elephant as husband and wife.

The couple want somewhere that represents exceptional value for money, which rules out the more expensive resorts. I had a hotel in mind and read the reviews on and TripAdvisor.

I checked passport and health requirements and the weather on February in Sri Lanka means very little rainfall and plenty of sunshine, and an all-inclusive break with Virgin came in well under budget.

Cost: £4,134


Michaela Stagg, Thomas Cook, White Rose Shopping CentreAgent two: Micheala Stagg

Position: Sales consultant and wedding specialist at Thomas Cook, White Rose Shopping Centre, Leeds

Experience: Michaela has worked at Thomas Cook for 10 years, having first joined in February 1999, aged 17

Her choice: Two weeks’ all-inclusive in Jamaica in December

Hotel: Four-star-plus Couples Negril

Flights: Thomas Cook Airlines Manchester to Montego Bay – Premium seats on the outbound flight

What’s included?

  • Legal ceremony with minister or judge
  • One-tier wedding cake with sparkling wine
  • Celebration wedding dinner 
  • Half-hour massage for both bride and groom 
  • Bouquet and button hole 
  • Breakfast in bed for the morning after the wedding 
  • Personal wedding co-ordinator
  • Room upgrade in hotel (subject to availability)
  • Choice of wedding location (beach/gardens etc)

Essential information: Andrew and Sarah must pay a $200 fee in resort for their marriage certificate.

Michaela says: I chose this package because the clients save £400-£950 by marrying at the Couples Negril hotel as the wedding package is free apart from the marriage certificate fee. Negril is a laid-back resort and less built up than some of the other resorts.

It is also aimed at younger tourists and boasts beautiful beaches. This hotel only has two weddings per day, one early afternoon and one late afternoon so wedding couples would never see each other.

I have selected Premium seats on the flight from Manchester, as it was only an extra £55, when normally it starts from around £199.

I looked on for information on the resort and had a chat with a colleague at Thomas Cook Weddings about the optional extras available.

I also looked through Thomas Cook Tropical Shores/Weddings brochure for other information and used personal knowledge I have built up over the past 10 years working at Thomas Cook.

Cost: £4,136


Sara Short, Bath Travel Agent three: Sara Short

Position: Sales consultant and wedding specialist at Bath Travel for 12 years, based at the Titchfield branch in Hampshire

Experience: 24 years in the industry

Her choice: Bali in November

Hotel: A Palace Club Room in the Palace Wing of the four-star Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa. 
Flights: Malaysian Airlines from Heathrow via Kuala Lumpur
What’s included?

  • The Frangipani wedding in a little gazebo overlooking the sea on a private jetty
  • A candlelit dinner and champagne on the beach with their own waiter 
  • All licence fees and marriage certificate
  • Wedding co-ordinator in resort
  • Bouquet and buttonhole
  • 36 photos
  • Wedding cake
  • Balinese dancers in costume
  • Three musicians
  • Tropical fruit punch 
  • Decorated wedding location
  • Spa treatment

Essential information: The hotel won’t guarantee yours is the only wedding, but there will be never be more than two a day. A form of non-impediment costs £59 per person.

Sara says: I visited Bali 18 years ago and fell in love with the place and the people. I had clients that got married at this property in May 2008 and they said everything about their wedding was perfect.

Bali is full of cultural heritage and spiritual traditions, not to mention the treasure trove of shops and markets where haggling is so much fun. There is plenty of sightseeing, too. The Far East is such great value for money and you can benefit from upmarket properties and room upgrades.

My main information source was my client. You can’t beat personal experiences, although I also used the internet.

Cost: £4,649


Travel Weekly verdict

Interestingly, although the agents used the internet to read reviews, they used good old-fashioned word of mouth as inspiration for their choice.

Thomas Cook’s Michaela also consulted her brochures – who says old-fashioned service is dead? All three came up with great choices, although Tina Lee’s package, which included a greeting from an elephant, was probably the most original – and the cheapest by a smidgeon.


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