The recession might have dulled the nation's passion for spending, but there's no indication yet that the tough times have dampened enthusiasm for marriage.
Unlike regular holidays, city breaks and weekends away, the business of getting wed and having a honeymoon is pretty impervious to the financial downturn. Couples have either planned their nuptials for 2009 and 2010 ages ago or they have saved their money and are now ready to book, whatever the financial climate.
But here's the rub: people want a bargain.
Cosmos Dream Wedding product manager Alison Pritchard believes now is a golden period for selling in this sector. She said: "More than ever, couples are realising it's cheaper to marry overseas.
This niche market is in some ways recession proof as couples have been planning the occasion, in some cases, for several years and will not be inclined to postpone or wait for the economic climate to change."
But the Aldi effect - expecting the same level of quality but for a lot less strain on the purse - is kicking in. And the operators are responding. The result is that some once-in-a-lifetime packages that couples might previously have thought way out of their budget are now distinctly possible.
Useful links and tips on our weddings abroad page, in association with Sandals
Sri Lanka - an incredibly popular place to say 'I Do' (in fact, it's Kuoni's number one wedding destination) - has now become miles more affordable. Cosmos says the national carrier SriLankan Airlines is doing some excellent offers, allowing the operator to slash prices by up to 50%.
Couples travelling this May and June will get lead-in prices of £1,095 per person for seven nights with the second person travelling free. Accommodation is either the three diamond plus Hotel Serendib on a half-board basis or the three diamond plus Hotel Club Dolphin in Negombo which is all-inclusive.
Said Pritchard: "I'd say that's surprisingly affordable. It's the perfect destination for weddings, in that the paperwork is easily arranged. This will be especially advantageous for couples wanting to travel with an extended family, especially when this destination would have been out of their reach financially."
All that said, if the downturn isn't affecting the pysche of the wedding couple, that's not to say it isn't taking its toll on their guests. However, while couples might have booked a long-haul wedding destination a year ago, their guests are now faced with pay freezes, unemployment and job uncertainty. This may, in turn, be influencing the bride and groom's choice of location.
Said Pritchard: "Obviously in times of recession some couples planning to marry abroad now have to look at the more affordable option of short rather than long haul if they want guests to attend.
"Even if the couple are still able to choose the more expensive long-haul option, their choice might now be dictated by the fact that their friends and family who they want to attend would only be able to attend if the wedding were to take place in a short-haul destination where it could be combined with the precious annual holiday.
First Choice and Thomson long-haul general manager Shona Swain has seen a rise in popularity of short haul over long haul for weddings and honeymoons. She said: "Cyprus is the most popular destination overall for us, with Greece and Italy becoming more popular over the Caribbean and Indian Ocean destinations."
The operator currently offers couples the opportunity to marry in Cyprus in winter for just £99. This includes planning and administration, the wedding cake and a carnation bouquet and buttonhole.
Virgin Holidays wedding product manager Nikki Mortimer said there's money to be saved by marrying in the Caribbean at the moment. She explained: "We offer a number of free weddings for guests in the Caribbean, making it a really affordable way to get married.We have 64 free wedding packages available for guests staying in Caribbean hotels.
"Weddings out there have become increasingly popular. Brides to be are aware of how easily a budget can become uncontrollable and a Caribbean all-inclusive option helps stay within the agreed pot, giving peace of mind and one less thing to worry about."
First Choice offers 14 nights at the four sun Holiday Village Aliathon in Cyprus on an all-inclusive basis from £1,355 per person. The price is based on two adults sharing
and a departure on June 24 from Birmingham or Gatwick. Weddings are held in the picturesque landscape gardens or the hotel’s own chapel. The resort also has a huge freeform swimming pool, a choice of restaurants and bars and a spa. There is also a wide range of sports and activities on offer. Winter lead-in rates for the ceremony start at £99. (Tel: 0871 200 4455)
Cosmos offers seven nights’ half-board at the four-star Feeling Hotel Luise in Riva Del Garda, at the north end of Italy’s Lake Garda, from £629 per person plus a wedding ceremony in the town hall in the town’s main square priced at £969. Wedding price includes organisation and assistance by the on-site wedding co-ordinator, wedding ceremony, marriage licence and certificate, registry fees, the bride’s bouquet, the groom’s buttonhole, wedding cake and sparkling wine. A basket of petals, wedding photographer, aperitif in St Mark’s Square, gondola or Rolls-Royce transfers are available as an optional extra. (Tel: 0871 622 4254)
Planet Holidays offers seven nights in May at the three-star Tsilivi Beach hotel in Zante for £619 per person on an all-inclusive basis. The price includes flights and private taxi transfers. There is no additional cost to have the marriage ceremony by the hotel pool or garden, but couples must pay for additional decorations such as flowers and
the wedding arch. (Tel: 0871 871 2234)
More from this week's weddings special...
- Weddings abroad: Expert tips to help you sell more
- Weddings abroad: Travel Weekly's Agent Challenge
- Weddings abroad: Market update and trends for 2009/10
- Find out how you can win a £25,000 wedding with Princess Cruises and Travel Weekly...
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