Fairy-tale castles, seaside ceremonies, or extraordinary thrills—the dream wedding is more than an exchange of rings, but a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for a couple bound together, forever.
Theatrical and classy, nostalgia reigns in the grand ballroom as the well-heeled swing to the jazz of the 50s. There is an overflow of wine and sumptuous food in this wedding party; crystals fervently shining under the amber lights. An elegant charm lingers around the intricate ornaments, from the grand brocade of roses to the Art Deco aesthetic, ringing in the vibrant vintage era that creates a perfect backdrop for a dream wedding.
Brushed with illusions of clouds, the rooftop hall of St. Regis New York is heavenly baroque, with vaulted ceilings that set the vintage tone for the grand event. A spread of gold French Moselle chairs completes the banquet, chandeliers glimmer against the soft timbre of lights. The ceremony is solemn, but the soiree is ecstatic. This iconic location overlooks Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan and accommodates 220 guests (www.marriott.com). Grand brocades of flowers dress the ballroom of Claridge’s in London where the royals and rebels found their way, from Queen Victoria to the rock band U2. Lights illuminate the carpet as the entourage makes their exit, beckoned by the sound of tango coming from the reception. A glorious dance, a festive meal, and then, a royal repose. This Mayfair gem is almost two centuries old, but there are no grey hairs under its crown, only old-fashioned luxury the Brits are known for. The Ballroom can accommodate up to 400 guests. www.claridges.co.uk
The almost-effortless French charisma shines in Salon Vendôme in Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris a short walk from the Champs-Élysées. French interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, who masterfully designed the interiors of Savoy Hotel and Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, graced the atmosphere with gold-leaf details and vivid paintings of Parisian gardens. The draped windows offer the best view of the Eiffel at the backdrop. With a pre-function area that receives guests, the ballroom generously accommodates a crowd of 350 people. www.fourseasons.com
Hands decorated with henna, fingers laden with jewels, elegant dresses gorgeously crafted with fine threads and sequins draped from head to toe, this must be a Bollywood dream. The wedding banquet is surrounded by colourful drapes, with the familiar faces of friends and families, all dressed in the gorgeous saris and looking up with love and warmth – welcome to the big fat Indian wedding.
The manicured courtyard of The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur becomes the sweeping stage to the swankiest of Bollywood’s weddings. 200 guests are generously accommodated in front of the blush-coloured palace. Reception is served by Suryamahal. The crowd is invited to Lake Pichola, where photographic numbers are taken at sunset, and the royal couple can escape into a short boating trip before heading straight into the resort’s royal suite. www.oberoihotels.com
Rajasthani musicians take their cue as the mighty doors of Umaid Bhawan Palace swing open. Still home to the royal family, the majestic yellow sandstone fortress is a symphony of both exclusivity and extravagance. The ceremony is held under the amber-lit pavilion showcasing hints of European inspirations. Food is served in the swanky Risala.
The Sunken Lawn of Rambagh Palace, a sprawling stretch of lush botany and fountains, becomes a breath-taking venue to an outdoor wedding. Peacocks prance around and add colour to the crowd of 200. During the reception, Suvarna Mahal unleashes the many gastronomic palettes of royal India while traditional music engulfs the hotel’s historic walls. www.tajhotels.com
The soft sensation of snow has graceful magic, from the vision of the powdered landscapes to the opportunities of striking wedding photographs for the album. In this alpine paradise, quaint towns are set whimsically aglow by amber lamps and with the marvellous mountains as a backdrop, one cannot hesitate to make a promise of true love. All frost and cold are vanished by the powerful romance sealed on these wonderful white wedding destinations.
The Rothschilds’ refined taste is evident in the sexy Alpine cottage tucked amongst Megeve’s pines. During the snow season, Les Chalets du Mont d’Arbois , Megève, A Four Seasons Hotel transforms into a haven of white, making the moody textures of the chalet’s clubhouse prominent. The congenial gathering follows a reception at La Taverne du Mont d’Arbois for a feast, wrapped in the glorious simplicity of the Alps’ charm. www.fourseasons.com/megeve
Tucked between three Alpine passes, The Chedi Andermatt woos the winter romantics from its high-altitude perch. Nuptials are held in Gottard & Oberalp, two expansive rooms in wood and stone, creating a 250-seater hall that charms with the spirit of hygge while dressed in vibrant floral archs. Luncheons are made perfect in The Courtyard, where the glassy pools reflect the tepid beauty of the Alps. www.thechediandermatt.com
On brighter days, the summer terrace of Gstaad’s Le Grand Bellevue makes a grand celebration centrepiece, giving a peek of the alpines in the milieu. The expansive Garden Lounge, combined with the outdoor deck of Michelin-starred Leonards’ indulges 500 guests and surrounds with lush botany. The reception is a treat, serving decadent menu from Chef Francesco de Bartolomei’s best. bellevue-gstaad.ch
Dreams of a fairy-tale whimsy come to life at the sprawling courtyard, overlooking the grand turrets where kings and queens once resided. Just like in the movies, carriages make their way to the entrance, and the bride, like a princess, appears in a cloud of fresh white, captivating every onlookers’ heart, most notably her prince. At this moment, one may realize fairies aren’t real, but their ‘Happy Ever After’ is.
This mini castle, once home to the monarchs, still brims with a commanding air of passionate romance, from Castillo de Viñuelas’ Spanish-Gothic walls to its extensive courtyard, all within Mount Viñuelas, a meadow-oak forest north of Madrid. Out in the garden, the gazebo awaits for the sacred vows with the royal backdrop of the beautiful castle and its turrets standing proudly over the treetops. The new terrace accommodates a dazzling crowd of a thousand, offering a pleasurable view of the forest where graceful dears occasionally make their way. www.castillodevinuelas.es
The sparkling beauty of Lough Corrib and the nostalgic Victorian ambience of Ireland’s 800-year-old Ashford Castle tickles a sense of otherworldly charm. At daytime, the garden blooms with the colours of the fine bouquets, made festive with the woodland backdrop behind it. The Oak Hall sits at the heart of the castle, offering a magnanimous venue for an intimate reception, furnished with antique furniture and Irish cuisine. www.ashfordcastle.com
Surrounded by paintings in an elaborate Gothic ballroom, the wedding begins in the solemn, velvet-draped walls of the Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire. There is no requirement to don an 18th-century ballgown, but there might be a nudge to wear a fancy English hat as the royals do. When the glistening gold rings are exchanged, the crowd spurs a glorious commotion before proceeding to the hearty luncheon in The Great Hall. eastnorcastle.com
Myths of Southeast Asia
The kiss of the tropics marries the folklore of the orient, where celestial folk sets afoot on mortal grounds to spark an otherworldly romance, creating kings out of men. With nostalgic marvel, century-old traditions still exist inside replenished walls, still singing the same wistful tunes and never letting the candle of their culture wane.
The colonial palace of Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor has witnessed remarkable romances from its glassy windows, silently blessing couples since its inception in the early 1930s. Its garden, graciously accommodating a gathering of 250, is a reception favourite, where the lawn becomes gorgeously lit with the soft glow of many candles and white-dressed banquet setting. 15-minutes away from the Grand Dame, one can reach the Cambodian ruins, a magical backdrop for unforgettable wedding photography. www.raffles.com/siem-reap
Art and romance go together in Hotel des Arts Saigon MGallery, showcasing the nostalgia of the bygone era with a mix of modern-day Vietnamese sensibilities. Staffs in Ao Dai wait on the guests as the couple exchange their vows inside the exclusive, oriental-inspired walls of Le Ballroom. The reception continues on the 23rd floor where The Social Club restaurant is extended for private parties, indulging 100 guests with Saigon’s skyline paired with exceptional cuisine. www.hoteldesartssaigon.com
Laotian traditions marry the timeless French elegance in the century-old colonial backdrop of Sofitel Luang Prabang. The vibrant botanical garden becomes a whimsical setting to a daytime wedding, offering a glimpse of the Old Town. When the vows are taken, and the rings are in place, whisk away in the legendary Governor’s Residence. Friends and family can be treated to a boat ride at Mekong River for a countryside tour. www.sofitel-luangprabang.com
Waves ripple back and forth. Clouds spread across the heavens. There is sunlight and there is joy, evident in the blushing crowd gathered at the sandy shore. The world is made up of water, but there are certain places where weddings are made more wonderful, and very much memorable.
Atop the stone-brick stairs of The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort Bahamas stands the Cloister, a 14th-century arch that lends an otherworldly tone to the blissful blue landscape. Rows of chairs accommodating 250 guests is perched across the Versailles Gardens, suited with immaculate drapes and a bounty of flowers. The reception ends with Michelin-starred dining, featuring the glorious Bahamas cuisine by Master Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. www.fourseasons.com/oceanclub
Wedding songs ring at the sprawling outdoor deck of Laucala Island, an isolated Eden decked with 25 exclusive villas for a Hollywood-inspired privacy. When asked, a Fijian chief, dressed in his local garb, is ready to preside over the ceremony. After tossing the bouquet, both bride and groom get treated to a romantic revelry, from picturesque shoots on horseback to underwater photography for that lasting memory. www.laucala.com
From nuptials to honeymoon, Raffles Maldives Meradhoo enchants with its swoon-worthy beachside backdrop styled with local floral artists and by nature itself. The sunset ceremony ends with a candle-lit dinner under the stars, complemented with a Pol Roger Brut champagne. With rings in place, the grand getaway continues out in the sea of blue before resting in one of the overwater villas. www.raffles.com/maldives
There are no colossal buildings in sight, only the clear view of the rising sun from the mountain-draped edge. The light glimmers against the painted skin of the bare-faced locals, all dressed in their vivid ceremonial wear, harmonizing a song. Here, the party shrinks to a close group; the greater audience is the vast number of creatures stopping by to witness the romance of mankind.
A Bedouin tent is set up in Shamwari Private Game Reserve, benevolently welcoming 70 guests within its drapes. Instead of a limousine, the bride arrives in a game vehicle. A choir of locals begin the serenade during the walk to the aisle. When the bouquet is thrown, the party proceeds to Long Lee Manor where dinner awaits, a 3-course meal magnanimously set up with South Africa’s finest wines and flavours. www.shamwari.com
The party lands on the sun-bitten grounds of South Africa before proceeding to the woodland ceremony at the Lion Sands lodges in Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. The campfire, echoing the bright colours of the sunset, light up the bush grounds that temporarily becomes the altar. www.lionsands.com
Above the private realms of Ulusaba, the mountain-scape of Africa creates the most dramatic view against a ceremony for the special two. The entire game reserve is owned by Richard Branson, starring wooden pathways that slither through the hillside, guided by flaming torches that illuminate the evening nuptials. African drumbeats and the Shangaan choir harmonize the heartbeat of the wedding. After the sacred kiss, everyone can stand by the balcony, admiring the view of the wild game sprinting through the distance. www.virginlimitededition.com
Nothing is more down-to-earth than a convivial gathering of well-loved faces, all dressed in their best, coming together in the remarkable celebration of two souls joining as one. Surrounded by sprawling vineyards and served with the best wines, the rustic barnyard overflows with food, flowers, and pleasant laughter. At the sound of the quartet, all feet are set to dancing, capping the night with unforgettable joy.
The Blue Ridge Mountains overlook Pippin Hill Farm, gloriously strung with towering trees and lush vegetation. Wide acres of green lawns become the outdoor hall. Wedding weekends begin with rehearsal dinners. Bridal showers are endowed with scrumptious brunches. In the morning of the ceremony, the reception soaks in the cool sunlight where Bill Catena, Executive Chef of the in-house catering team, bestows a grand luncheon of mouth-watering, organic menu. www.pippinhillfarm.com
The oldest winemaker in New Zealand, 1851 Mission Estate lends its chapel for a dreamy wedding landscape set in the pastoral slope of Taradale Hill. All guests exit into the lawn where the white gazebo becomes a stage to the reception, accommodating a convivial crowd starting from 50. Gracefully picturesque, with trees in all kinds of green hues, the estate is a satisfaction to the modern traditionalists. The luncheon is from Chef Ricky Littleton, who indulges with a taste of Kiwi and hearty servings of Mission wines. missionestate.co.nz
The sun-drenched deck of Auberge du Soleil captures the bucolic beauty of a French garden, made more lush with the surrounding olive grove and the distant mountain vistas of the Sonoma Valley. Michelin-starred dining serves the reception with the finest, farm-to-table cuisine, all imbibed with the flavours of Provence. aubergeresorts.com
The atmosphere is balmy, the colours, earthy; there is sublime grace breathing through the cliffside as the bride and groom take their place. It doesn’t have to be grand; the entire place is surrounded by olive and lemon trees that share a whiff of their fragrance. A yacht glides on the blue coast of the Mediterranean. The feast may be on land, but the real party is on the sea’s sapphire surface.
Taormina looks picture-perfect against the balcony of Belmond Grand Hotel Timoteo, where dreamy weddings are hosted on the Aphrodite Terrace. The reception, graciously serving 250 convivial guests, serves the enchanting flavours of Sicily with blissful, local music. For the guests, there are opportunities to visit the rolling vineyard, the sun-kissed beaches, or escape from the crowd on a yacht. www.belmond.com
Whimsies of a glamorous French Riviera wedding becomes true in Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. Landscaped gardens set the swanky atmosphere for celebrity-inspired nuptials, before a merry upswing to the terrace for the reception, and the glorious view of the Antibes. Chef Olivier Gaïatto serves with his finest Southern French menu, with a selection of champagnes meant for the party.
The morning-drenched coast of Elounda, Crete becomes a silent spectator to an alfresco celebration arranged in the Blue Palace. The chapel of Saint Titus makes a sentimental venue for an intimate ceremony. After saying the vows, couples are to plant an olive tree, symbolizing eternal love and fertility. After indulging in local cuisine, revel in the island’s finest by taking private cruises around the gulf. bluepalacebeach.gr
Out-of-the-box I Do’s
Marriage, goes an adage, is life’s greatest adventure. Weddings, more so. Some couples are destined for the extraordinary. From the depths of the sea to the peak of the mountains, these destinations share a sheer level of thrill before saying, “I Do.”
Everything is sunk into the deep; Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas’ idea of a wedding adventure is a coral bed for an altar and the minister, a dive-certified expert. A snorkelling photographer dutifully takes the most important snapshots, but the kiss has to wait–faces are hindered with a pair of goggles and a scuba set. A motorboat back on the island, the couple is treated to a scrumptious dinner, all before basking into the spectacle of the Indian Ocean on a yacht. www.anantara.com
The historic Belton Chalet becomes the launchpad to a hot air balloon wedding, where there is no audience other than the snow-peaked mountains of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Vows are exchanged while traversing against gravity. The ceremonial toast is not to be forgotten–glasses and champagne are included in the trip. When the balloon lands, the newlyweds can head back to their cosy suite surrounded by the gorgeous forests of Montana. www.glacierparkcollection.com
Large chunks of blue glaciers swell against the snow-lit chapel set in Sweden’s Arctic Circle. The ceremony hall of the famous Ice Hotel is a cool way to tie the knot, but romance will not turn cold. Private baths and heated Swedish saunas are nearby. Indulge in the Ice Bar for freezing cocktails, but the true gift is a glimpse at the Northern Lights dancing in the night sky. www.icehotel.com ◼
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© This article was first published in Feb-Mar 2020 edition of World Travel Magazine.