Make a wedding extra-special by taking over the whole resort
Turning up to a party in the same outfit as someone else is the ultimate social faux pas at the best of times, but when that outfit is a wedding dress, there’s more than just embarrassment at stake.
That’s why many upmarket resorts guarantee only one wedding a day, so the bride and groom know they will be firmly at the centre of attention.
But what about couples who want an even greater sense of exclusivity?
If they hate the thought of passing sunbathers en route to the altar or making toasts within earshot of other diners, or want to go to breakfast the next morning and know every guest at the table, booking an entire resort could be the solution.
Sounds expensive? Well, that extra attention certainly comes with a price tag attached, but with boutique properties and even large villas perfectly set up to cater for weddings, it might not be as unaffordable as they think.
It also depends on how many they’re planning to invite, and how far those guests are willing to go. Expecting 40 or 50 people to fly to Cyprus is realistic for most, but getting that same number to the Indian Ocean or Caribbean might be too much to ask.
So make sure they have a firm grasp on their numbers and budget before embarking on this road.
Keep it close
No matter what size the wedding party, there’s a venue to suit. Pick a villa or small hotel and it takes only a handful of guests to be at full capacity, while those with plenty of friends and family willing to travel to see them get hitched can opt for a more sizeable venue.
Villas are best reserved for those who don’t mind spending up to a week – often the minimum booking period – in each other’s company.
However, with sizes varying from just one or two bedroom hideaways to vast properties such as The Calalui Estate in Puerto Banús, Andalucia, a 750-hectare estate featured by CV Villas, which sleeps up to 20, space doesn’t have to be an issue.
The Spanish property also gets plus points for its convenience, located between Malaga and Gibraltar airports.
Any destination with regular and reasonably priced flights will maximise the number of guests able to attend, which is why specialists such as Planet Weddings and Ionian Weddings focus on Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Cyprus and the Greek islands.
For smaller parties, Planet Weddings managing director Mathilde Robert recommends the eight-room Vasilias Nikoklis Inn in Cyprus.
She says: “This has a private location, easy access to Paphos which has year-round flights from UK regional airports, and a variety of accommodation. The inn itself has eight bedrooms and is set in very pretty, verdant countryside.”
This is a family-run property with four-poster beds and lace covers, so make sure you sell it to those who want a traditional feel and the option to accommodate any extra guests half-an-hour away in Paphos.
However, Santorini remains Planet Weddings’ most popular destination, with new product added for next year.
Among its portfolio are the Dana Villas in Firostefani and Suites of the Gods in Megalochori which, at 30 and 21 rooms respectively, would suit those with a decent number of guests. As well as their size, they’ve also got stunning caldera views and top-notch local cuisine in their favour.
Over in Italy, the 17th-century Villa Catignano offers an even more rustic alternative, deep in the Chianti countryside, with accommodation for between 40 and 90 people.
A ceremony and reception starts at €1,700 on weekdays plus classic Italian catering from €80-a-head and a wedding coordinator for €800, all through Planet Weddings.
Getting away from it all
Farther afield, it’s even more important to seek out smaller venues, as getting close family and friends to shell out for a long-haul flight is one thing, but distant cousins and occasional acquaintances are quite another.
Luckily, some far-flung destinations are particularly well suited to this kind of ceremony.
Emma Boyle, destination expert at the Sri Lanka Collection, says: “Buyouts of small hotels are very popular in Sri Lanka because many boutique properties are set in spacious grounds but may have a maximum of 20 rooms. The largest of the hotels we represent has 17 rooms, which is entirely in keeping with the boutique hotel concept in Sri Lanka.”
Modest choices include 23 Palm, a three-bedroom villa near Galle, where guests can tie the knot in two acres of palm-shaded lawns with a sea view. The property is well equipped for events thanks to a kitchen and bar outside the villa. The owners also run an eight-bedroom hotel nearby for any overflow guests.
Just half-an-hour away, boutique hotel Kahanda Kanda is slightly larger, having opened its 10th suite this month. Ceremonies can take place in the Indonesian-inspired Dubu suite or the tropical gardens, with a traditional Buddhist ‘poruwa’ ceremony for those who want to embrace the local style.
Afterwards, the two open-sided pavilions make a picturesque choice for drinks and dinner; suites start at $320 a night.
Some of the Caribbean’s smaller resorts are just as easy to reserve, given enough notice and avoiding the peak winter season.
CV Villas has quiet options such as Villa Ohana in Tobago, accommodating up to eight surrounded by a peaceful koi pond with sea views over Trinidad.
Mullins Mill in Saint Peter, Barbados, sleeps 12 in bedrooms split between the main house, a converted 17th-century sugar mill and adjoining annexe, so the couple have privacy from their guests.
Kuoni’s pick is the 20-room, adult-only Keyonna Beach in Antigua, which has a variety of rooms so the bridal party can splash out on pricier beachfront pool cottages while friends on a budget get the lead-in category.
It’s the place for a real ‘sand between the toes’ ceremony, followed by a reception at the on-site beach restaurant.
Guests with children might prefer the brightly coloured beach huts of Compass Point Resort in the Bahamas, where even a basic ceremony, which starts at $940 through Bahamas Flavour, with accommodation and extras on top, is guaranteed to be beautiful.
Couples can say ‘I do’ either on Love Beach or under a gazebo at the tip of the resort pier, and the fact it’s just 10 minutes from Nassau airport means the journey is straightforward.
Blow the budget
While none of these options is exactly low-cost, they aren’t nearly as eye-watering stacked against the price of a UK wedding – nearly £21,000 last year, according to You & Your Wedding – and offer good value considering all the advantages a whole-resort buyout affords.
Yet there will be some clients keen to push the boat out even further, with a ceremony that’s off the charts in terms of extravagance.
Whether they’re footing the whole bill, or just have very well-heeled friends happy to pay their way even at the most luxurious resorts, there could be some serious commission to be made.
Caribtours recommends rolling the wedding and honeymoon into one in the Seychelles at the 32-room Indian Ocean Lodge on Praslin Island, set directly on Grand Anse beach, with a choice of either a beachfront gazebo or the soft, white sand itself as potential venues.
For couples with bigger budgets, Caribtours suggests the pricier Denis Private Island in the Seychelles, which has 25 unbelievably luxurious suites.
Image credit: Denis Island Wedding
Justifying the €408-a-night lead-in rate, though, is that couples are buying out not just a whole resort but a whole island, and it really doesn’t get much more exclusive than that.
And for a big, blowout affair – or any couple who can entice enough friends and family to fly to Saint Lucia – there is Cap Maison’s Exclusively Yours package.
Guaranteeing just one wedding every three weeks, the wedding planner can devote as much time as needed to planning the ceremony, with venues including Rock Maison, a wooden deck overlooking the Caribbean Sea, or the resort’s luxury 46-foot yacht.
Couples must book at least 40 rooms in summer or 45 in winter for three days or more, with prices from £16,000 a day. With those rates, it’s unsurprising the resort throws in extras such as a one-day private yacht charter, in-suite champagne breakfast and a welcome cocktail party.
How to sell
Book as far ahead as possible and outside peak season or school holidays, as hoteliers are more inclined to give a good rate if you’re offering guaranteed business at a quiet time of year than during a period when they risk turning away regular guests
Ask the expert
Jane Palikira, Ionian Weddings:
“Booking out a whole resort means couples get total exclusivity and can organise pre and post-wedding parties; guests have access to their rooms during the wedding so if they have small kids, they can go for a sleep; and, depending on the time of year, they may get a discount on the whole stay.”
Emma Stubbs, Kuoni:
“The main advantage is privacy. You can plan everything around what you want and not worry about what’s happening elsewhere at the hotel. Some brides don’t like the thought of seeing another bride on their wedding day, which can happen from time to time. Hotels will often require a non-refundable payment to guarantee rooms, so guests must be sure about booking.”
Wedding & Honeymoon news
Bride and groom stay free at Maritim Crystals Beach Hotel when booking a ceremony with 10 or more guests paying full adult price. Applicable for stays of seven-10 nights, from January 7, 2016. maritim.com
Sandals is set to unveil upgrades to two Jamaica resorts in December. The 66 rooms and suites at Sandals Montego Bay’s Beachfront Village will have ivory flooring, backlit mirrors and Carrara marble, while Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa is adding new furniture, outdoor bathtubs and coral-stone patios in butler and concierge-level suites. sellingsandals.co.uk
AMResorts will open Breathless Montego Bay Resort & Spa, its first adult-only Breathless resort in Jamaica, next year. It will be followed in 2017 by Breathless Playa del Carmen Resort & Spa and Dreams Villas Playa del Carmen in Mexico. amresorts.com
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