Weddings: My big fat family wedding

Weddings: My big fat family wedding

Image credit: Beaches Resorts

Couples with kids need more than just romance from their wedding abroad, writes Katie McGonagle

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Young, carefree couples are spoilt for choice when tying the knot abroad – if they dream of a sun-kissed ceremony on the beach or a fairytale castle in the hills, they’re bound to find somewhere in the world that will make it a reality. Throw kids into the equation, however, and things get rather more complicated.

There are plenty of hotels offering drop-dead-gorgeous wedding venues, and plenty offering fun family holidays, but finding hotels that do both is more of a challenge. Yet for couples who already have kids – either together, or from previous relationships – it’s only logical to combine their nuptials with a memorable family holiday.

Destination weddings site has seen a 17% jump over the past five years in the number of couples with children or stepchildren getting married abroad, meaning couples with kids now account for 40% of its clients.

Here we highlight some venues that will keep little ones entertained while making sure the bride and groom get the wedding they want.

Pick the right...destination

White wedding

The dividing line between romantic and family destinations is getting blurrier, as traditionally couple-focused Indian Ocean and Caribbean resorts throw open their doors to families, and short-haul favourites get a fresh wave of upmarket properties able to accommodate weddings.

Mauritius is at the forefront of this Indian Ocean trend, since the Maldives can’t host weddings for non-residents (although it’s popular for renewal of vows).

Travel 2 product manager Michael Creighton says: “Mauritius is an ideal destination for a wedding with kids. Most of the hotels cater for weddings of all sizes, from just the couple to large groups, and they have fantastic kids’ clubs so adults can escape to peace and quiet if they wish. We have seen an increase in bookings for couples getting married or going on honeymoon and wanting to take their children with them.”

On the short-haul side, the likes of Sani Resort in Greece, with its varied accommodation and picturesque marina, stylish D-Resort Gocek in Turkey, or the soon-to-open Olympic Lagoon Paphos in Cyprus get big ticks in both the weddings and family boxes.

Olympic Lagoon is especially good for kids of different ages, with teen facilities to match those for younger kids.

Beaches aren’t the only option for a picture-perfect ceremony. Transun’s Swedish Lapland programme might be more associated with Father Christmas, but the pristine snow in Karesuando also makes an ideal setting for a white wedding.

Fun elements, such as arriving by snowmobile or reindeer sleigh, bring the ceremony to life for little ones, and the northern lights provide the ultimate wedding entertainment.

Venue options include an ice chapel, homely Lappish kota or timber-built church. Weddings start at £8,600 and require at least eight people, with flights available from several UK airports between November and March.

Pick the right...accommodation

This isn’t the time to squeeze into a family room, as newlyweds will appreciate their own space come the wedding night. Sort out any complicating factors now – if the bride and groom really don’t want to see each other on the morning of the wedding, or if they’re bringing kids from different marriages who would prefer separate rooms, planning ahead is key.

Danny Waine, director of Perfect Weddings Abroad, says: “Around 90% of the weddings we organise have at least one child within the wedding party, and over 40% of those are actually a child of the bride and groom. It’s most common in couples who are divorced and remarrying, and can often be bringing three to five children between them.

“This is a challenge for agents because finding suitable rooms isn’t easy, so places like Generations Riviera Maya and Azul Fives by Karisma in Mexico, with two and three-bedroom suites, are ideal.”

That might ring alarm bells for clients on a budget, but work it out per person and a suite might not be any pricier than a standard stay. If Only recommends Heritage the Villas in Mauritius, where two-bedroom villas start at £1,415 each based on four sharing for a week including flights, taxes and private transfers.

There are also three and four-bedroom villas, all with access to facilities at the neighbouring Heritage properties and, with a classic wedding package starting at £380 – to include the ceremony, legalities, gifts, candlelit dinner and champagne breakfast for the couple – clients won’t get stung on the wedding cost either.

Many resorts also offer a basic wedding package free with certain room categories or minimum duration: Funway Holidays highlights two resorts from its Barbados brochure, Sea Breeze Beach Hotel and Crystal Cove by Elegant Resorts, where stays of seven or 10 nights respectively in an oceanview room earn guests a complimentary wedding package.

Similarly, Beaches resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos offer a free Beautiful Beginnings wedding with stays of six nights-plus, while Windjammer Landing Resort & Spa in Saint Lucia provides $1,000 credit – enough to cover its Tropical Bliss wedding – for 10-plus nights in a two-bedroom Hibiscus Jacuzzi suite or two bedroom pool villa.

Pick the right...board basis

King Evelthon, Cyprus

All-inclusive goes hand-in-hand with family holidays, and it’s no different when that holiday includes a wedding. The board basis not only means parents can manage their wedding and holiday budget in one but also keeps costs down for guests joining the celebrations.

Olympic Holidays weddings and honeymoons executive Fanoulla Spyrou says: “All-inclusive family hotels are making themselves more and more attractive to the wedding market, with all meals, drinks and endless ice-creams for the kids paid upfront. The higher cost of the holiday package may well be offset by paying less for the hotel’s wedding venue.”

Among Spyrou’s top picks are King Evelthon Beach Hotel & Resort in Paphos, the only new-build in Cyprus last year. It combines contemporary decor with a beachfront setting – great for the wedding album – while its array of Greek, Mexican, Italian and international restaurants should satisfy the tastes of the whole wedding party.

Varied dining is especially important for the resort-based breaks of the Caribbean, where the only surefire way to keep kids content is a family-orientated property with lots of inclusions.

AMResorts’ family brands Dreams, Now and Sunscape Resorts & Spas all offer Unlimited Luxury packages (called Unlimited Fun at Sunscape) which cover everything from barefoot beach grills to fine French dining; while Beaches resorts boast up to 15 eateries including fun ’50s-style diners and teppanyaki restaurants where the chefs cook right at the table.

Pick the right...kid's activities

The bride and groom deserve to be centre of attention at their wedding, but the easiest way to guarantee that is by making sure the kids have enough to do, leaving parents free to enjoy time to themselves.

Beaches resorts have a list of activities as long as your arm, not least its daily Kids’ Camps, plus a nanny service available from $10 an hour so parents can enjoy a romantic meal for less than it would cost to hire a babysitter back home.

Likewise, AMResorts Explorers’ Club and Core Zone Teens’ Club cater for three to 17-year-olds, with nightly social events as well as the usual sports and games.

Youngsters will be so worn out by the array of activities at St James’s Club Morgan Bay in Saint Lucia that parents are practically guaranteed some quiet time: from kids’ yoga and junior chef sessions to lessons in tennis, sailing and stand-up paddleboarding, there will be no problem filling a week or more, which is the length of stay required (in a beachfront category room or higher) for the resort’s free Classic Wedding package.

If parents would rather not spend their whole time in resort, it’s worth looking at what’s available in classic family destinations, with the bonus that these are bound to be popular with friends and family planning to attend the ceremony.

Hayes & Jarvis recommends Florida for its flexible accommodation to suit different budgets, no end of child-friendly activities, and pretty venues.

They include the lakeside Paradise Cove, which has the white sandy beaches and swaying palms of the Caribbean, but is within easy reach of Disney and Universal theme parks and a host of well-priced hotels.

Kids Club - St James Club, Morgan Bay

Sample Product

Olympic Holidays offers a week’s all-inclusive at King Evelthon Beach Hotel & Resort in Cyprus from £3,850 for a family of four in the May half-term. The price includes flights and water-park entrance, but the €850 wedding fee is payable in resort.

The bride and groom also get a champagne breakfast, candlelit dinner, couple’s massage and wedding cake, with further arrangements available through Olympic Holidays’ wedding co-ordinator for an administration fee of £239.

Seven nights’ all-inclusive at St James’s Club Morgan Bay in Saint Lucia starts at £4,620 with Kuoni, based on a family suite shared between four, including flights and transfers in August. A Classic Wedding is $720, or free for all inclusive stays in a beachfront category or higher.

Hayes & Jarvis offers a 12-night room-only stay at Sheraton Vistana Villages in Orlando from £2,899 for a family of four, including car hire and Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick, departing November 4. A wedding package at the nearby Paradise Cove starts at £969 for up to 10 guests.


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