Getting married abroad continues to be big business and, while some other travel sectors are struggling, specialists report the overseas weddings market is booming.
According to Mintel, 16% of British couples are now opting for an overseas wedding, and the market is worth an estimated £333 million a year, up 43% since 2003.
Planet Holidays, which offers weddings in Greece, Cyprus, Gozo and Mauritius has seen a 50% increase in business over the past six months.
Managing director Mathilde Robert said: "The recession is only going to fuel this demand as people will be looking for better value, which they can get overseas."
Robert said weddings or receptions on a catamaran or yacht, sailed by a skipper and crew, are proving popular this year.
Useful links and tips on our weddings abroad page, in association with Sandals
"Couples find these venues more private," she said. "More couples are also asking for villa weddings or tavernas by the beach."
In line with other industry sectors, there is a trend towards later booking, according to Danny Waine, marketing director of Perfect Weddings and Honeymoons.
Kuoni and Almond Resorts are also reporting more enquiries about weddings abroad. A Kuoni spokeswoman said: "Weddings in the UK are considered expensive but weddings abroad are great value, especially when you want to combine your honeymoon as well."
Kuoni has launched a wedding information guide for agents and their clients, giving an overview of products and services it offers.
Kuoni said Sri Lanka is still the most popular wedding destination, Italy is second, while US weddings are also doing well.
For the first time, Kuoni has included honeymoon packages in its weddings brochure for 2009.
Almond Resorts, meanwhile, is looking to double its weddings business this year.
Vice-president sales and marketing for UK and Ireland Peter Hopwood said: "In this time of economic volatility, agents should also steer customers looking to tie the knot abroad towards all-inclusives, which offer great value for money."
Prices start at £1,803 for 10 nights at the Almond Beach Club and Spa, Barbados, including the Weddings in Heaven package.
Cosmos Dream Weddings has added weddings in Jamaica this year at a choice of seven properties including the four-star Couples Ocho Rios, the Riu Tropical Bay, Sunset Jamaica Grande and the Gran Bahia Principe. Packages start from £209 at either of the Couples properties.
Its Florida options have also been expanded to include the Hard Rock Cafe (£995 per couple) and Cocoa Beach on Florida's Space Coast (£465 per couple).
For agents who want to dynamically package, Greek chain Aldemar Hotels has launched affordable wedding packages at its eight hotels in Crete, Rhodes and the west Peloponnese, with packages starting at €1,100.
Hoseasons, meanwhile, is reporting a sharp rise in the number of bookings from budget-conscious newlyweds, booking a shorter honeymoon, which the UK specialist is calling a 'mini moon'.
Some properties in its Autograph Collection, such as Bluewood Lodges in the Cotswolds, are reporting a 50% increase in honeymoon bookings for 2009.
For the ultimate in barefoot luxury Star Clippers is offering sunset wedding blessings on its tall ships, conducted by the ship's captain, in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and French Polynesia.
Prices for a seven-night sailing start from £975 per person including meals, accommodation and port calls, but not flights.
Weddings abroad are selling better than ever, according to Kuoni’s 2009 Long Haul report. One nod towards the recession, however, is that the report notes that couples are booking their big day and honeymoon much closer to departure time.
Kuoni says Sri Lanka is holding its number one wedding destination spot in 2009, thanks to its wide variety of places to marry plus heaps of sightseeing to do, with the US and Thailand in second and third place.
Meanwhile, Virgin Holidays wedding product manager Nikki Mortimer said: “‘Wedding moons’ are on the rise, with couples getting married in one location then whizzing off for a honeymoon somewhere else. Popular combinations include: Florida and the Caribbean, Hong Kong and Australia and California and New York.
Our 2009 brochure includes new wedding options with a touch of exotic glamour: the Cook Islands, Zanzibar and the Grenadines. We also have lots of unusual ceremonies for couples bucking the trend – Sydney Opera House, an underwater chapel in the Maldives, and hot air balloons in Walt Disney World.”
Cosmos Dream Wedding product manager Alison Pritchard added: “The Dominican Republic is performing just as well as last year for us as, obviously, in times of recession this is probably the most competitively priced Caribbean wedding destination.
"Mexico, however, is the leading weddings destination for Cosmos in 2009 among both short haul and long haul. The Moon Palace is the most popular choice, as always, followed by Dreams Cancun and Riu Caribe.
“The fact we have huge capacity this summer and therefore very competitive pricing, is making Mexico the top choice, along with free packages at fantastic hotels.”
More from this week's weddings special...
- Weddings abroad: Expert tips to help you sell more
- Weddings abroad: Budget destinations and packages
- Weddings abroad: Travel Weekly's Agent Challenge
- Fancy winning a £25,000 wedding with Princess Cruises? Find out how...
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