Thursday, July 18, 2013

For our very special day we wanted something a bit unusual, so after some research, we decided to get married in Thailand. We had a lot of questions and concerns regarding the procedure of this, but at least, we thought that a wedding in Thailand would be way cheaper than some other places.
I didn't have something very specific in mind, so I started my little project by checking each and every one of the wedding hotels in Thailand, specifically in the regions of Phuket, Koh Samui and Phi Phi. My main goal was to set an idea of how I wanted my wedding to look like and most of all, the budget.

I started emailing some of the hotels that offered wedding packages to start comparing prices. My original idea was to have a Catholic ceremony at the beach where at the end we would sign for our civil marriage certificate and finally a nice reception, just like we do it in Mexico.
Arranging for a religious and civil marriage for a couple of foreigners in Thailand, proved to be a rather difficult task.

First, for Catholics, it has been recently banned any beach ceremonies, now all of them have to be held inside of a church. So, I was forced to start checking my options and came to realize that there was only one in Phuket and another one Koh Samui. This would have been ok if it was not for the fact that, even if I went through all the church's paperwork requirements, there was still no guarantee that a priest would actually make them valid and officiate the ceremony.

Second, to get an official marriage certificate we would need to have a letter from our Embassies which in turn would have to be translated in Thai and of course pay for those services. Also, we would need to look for the secretary ourselves and pay his fee. Some hotels offered the whole service for the amount of a thousand USD, which we were not willing to pay as well.

We felt very disappointed and, since we were doing everything from outside Thailand, we thought the best was to start checking for a non religious and only symbolic wedding ceremony. As I kept looking through the websites I realized that the myth of having a cheap wedding in Thailand is not completely true. The fanciest hotels will keep being fancy regardless of the country they are in. Offering outrageous wedding packages fees in a place you know that the life style is way cheaper than in US or Canada, for example.

The wedding packages vary in price from 49,000 to 100,000 bahts (US$1600 to US$3200) depending on the type of package and hotel. But most of this packages had a catch, the fees displayed where for only 2 guests (the bride and the groom) and every extra guest had to be paid separately.
As for the reception, it would cost the same as the ceremony or double depending on the food selected and the amount of guests. We noticed that, as a rule, the Thai menu was always cheaper over the Western one.

I gave up on fancy and instead focused on finding a reliable agency that would do everything for me. One of the first results that came up in Google was (also known as, an agency run by Thai people and based in Phuket.

At first I was very skeptical about this agency, as it seemed too cheap and too good to be true. I remember spending hours at their website taking a look at every package and photo, trying to convince myself that this was the correct one.
Everything was included: make-up & hairdressing, photographer, decorations at the beach, minister, bouquet, an elephant ride, souvenirs and transportation. They could even arrange the dinner reception and wedding gown for me if I wanted.
This seemed like the perfect wedding dream.

I wanted to check if this was a normal standard for Thai agencies so I kept looking but they were either too expensive (if run by foreigners and settled outside of Thailand) or wouldn't answer me at all.

All the time, I was very afraid that we would either get scammed or that it would look awful, unlike the pictures that could have been Photoshopped. Therefore, I decided to contact all the people who had recently had a wedding organized by the phuket-discovery agency and send them a message asking their opinion about the service.

It took a few days to get a reply, and most of them didn't, but with the few answers I got I felt more at ease. Everyone have had a great experience and recommended the agency 100%.
I sent a lot of emails to the manager before arriving to Thailand to ensure I had all my doubts resolved and settling on only giving a 10% of the total amount to have the date reserved.

The matter of the reception was still pending and I was not convinced of having a table set at the beach merely because I didn't want tourists gossiping around at my dinner party. This had been also a major concern for the ceremony. But, the agency manager assured me that it would be held at a beach called Bang Tao, which is almost at the outskirts of Phuket, making it a great place for the wedding as no tourists are around.

In my research for the ceremony I got to a hotel called Twin Palms Phuket. It looked like a very fancy hotel and the wedding packages' fees confirmed it, specially the "Elephant fee". The more affordable choice was to only hold the dinner reception at the hotel.
I had seen in their brochure the hotel had this beautiful Thai Sala that seemed the perfect size for my small group of guests. It was not easy to get to my budget, as I had to cut down some of the decorations and alcohol consumption, but the events manager of the hotel was very helpful and we managed to get the price closer to my budget.
Also, I realized that for this kind of place, decorations are not needed at all. The place is beautiful and with the Thai food I asked for the dinner, the environment seemed perfect for a beach dinner. In this hotel, I have to say, communication came easier as the replies where faster and we even had a few Skype sessions.
Separating the two components of the wedding ended up being the best option for us. Not only did we saved money but also we had the fun experience of the beach combined with a nice more formal dinner at a hotel.

When the wedding day arrived, everything went smoothly. I remember still feeling uneasy about the staff getting to my hotel on time or if what I had chosen would actually look as good as I thought. All my paranoia was dissipated the moment the photographer and the make-up artist arrived to my hotel room and took charge of the event. Step by step, our beach ceremony was perfectly organized and the staff was so professional that we felt like we got more than what we had paid for.

When the ceremony came to an end, we were escorted, in the same luxury van that had picked us up, to the Twin Palms hotel where we would have the dinner. Regardless of the agency having no contact with the hotel for this event, we were taken there free of charge.
As for the dinner reception, I was so proud of myself for having chosen that Thai Sala. It had perfect location within the hotel, and at night, there was nobody but us. The service was excellent and the food delicious.

It had not been easy to find everything for our perfect wedding, but at the end we were very happy of all the time spent organizing it. And most of all, we have managed to do it for a very low budget.