Adding authentic touches to a ceremony can make a wedding stand out. Debbie Ward rounds up entertainment, accessories and blessings that make for memorable nuptials.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in brides and grooms wanting to embrace the local Caribbean culture as part of their wedding celebrations… by having a traditional Caribbean-themed menu for their dinner reception, or by hiring island performers, a steel pan music band or limbo dancers as part of their wedding entertainment,” says Sandals Resorts’ weddings brand manager Olivia Knight.
And at Beaches Resorts, traditional sand ceremonies are possible. She adds: “The bride and groom select colours of sand that they feel represent them both and combine these to symbolise two lives becoming one.”
Eden Rock in the Dominican Republic offers merengue musicians while Barbados’s Elegant Resorts suggests wedding parties visit the island’s lively Oistins Fish Fry.
In St Lucia, Calabash Cove co-owner Konrad Wagner says: “A special bonfire on the beach the night before the wedding is proving a very popular addition. It can be arranged with rum punch or champagne and is also ideal for a beach proposal.”
Book it: At Sandals, steel drum bands cost from $400 per hour, a fire dancer from $500 for 15 minutes, depending on resort, and an acrobat $300 in Barbados.
Calabash Cove’s Lovers’ Cove wedding package costs $1,500. A beach bonfire costs from $150, a steel pan player $250 and a small band $450 an hour.
In Greece, couples traditionally wear Stefanas – decorated crowns connected by a ribbon and swapped between their heads three times. Later, a taverna reception is a popular choice, often with Greek dancers.
“Ensuring local touches are part of the ceremony, and reception is top of the list for many couples. It’s this detail that creates memories bespoke to the couple,” says Olympic Holidays’ weddings executive Fanoulla Spyrou.
Santorini is the top choice for Planet Weddings couples and some opt for bouzouki and lira musicians to accompany their arrival and departure. The operator also offers harpists in Italy and guitarists in Portugal.
Planet Weddings managing director Mathilde Robert says that while sunshine and great value often prompt overseas weddings, “local finishing touches will ensure their photographs stand out and that the memories for the family and guests last longer than the wedding day itself”.
Book it: Olympic Holidays wedding ceremonies cost from €1,600. It recommends the Dennis Taverna on Zante with menus from €25 per head. Keepsake Stefanas range from €30 to €300 a pair. A horse-drawn carriage costs from €100.
Planet Weddings Cyprus nuptials cost from £1,200, and a Cypriot barbecue menu costs from €34pp at Atlantida Beach Tavern, Paphos. Musical duos for Greece ceremonies cost from €325 and dancers €350 an hour; €325 in Cyprus.
Wedding ceremonies in Bali typically include accompaniment by traditionally dressed local girls.
Balinese rindik and flute music can be played. “For an extra cost, you can have a Balinese Hindu priest perform a religious ceremony to pray that rain is held or moved away during the wedding ceremony,” says Samantha Berry from Kuoni’s weddings team.
Buddhist ceremonies with chanting monks are offered through several hotels for weddings in Thailand, as are Thai Long Drum parades and water blessing ceremonies.
Romantic overwater resort Song Saa in Cambodia can arrange Buddhist blessings – ideal for vow renewals or a honeymoon highlight, says Premier Holidays’ Indochina product manager Nikki Hain.
“During the blessing, the monks chant to drive away negative energies before performing a positive water blessing, and the lead monk ties a little red string bracelet around the couple’s wrists,” she explains. “Red holds tremendous significance in the teachings of Buddhism, and represents fearlessness, courage and bravery.”
Book it: Premier Holidays offers an eight-night B&B package at Song Saa from £3,269pp in a jungle villa with private pool, including transfers, flights and complimentary UK airport lounge access. The monk blessing costs around £150.
At Ngoma Safari Lodge in Botswana, newlyweds are given craft rings made in the village from woven palm leaves. They are also serenaded at dinner with traditional songs and can opt for a barbecue under the stars.
In South Africa, at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, traditional song and dance are incorporated into weddings. General manager Llane Langdon says: “During the ceremony, which usually takes place against the backdrop of the African plains, couples can mark their union the traditional African way by tying their wrists together with dried grass. A favourite way to complete the vows is with a performance from our very own Ulusaba Choir, who perform traditional Shangaan wedding songs from the local predominant tribe.”
A bush braai barbeque reception can include guests joining in the Shangaan “Expression of Joy” dance.
Book it: Featured by Virgin Limited Edition, a three-day Ulusaba wedding package starts from £43,890 based on up to 20 guests sharing the Safari Lodge, including twice-daily game drives, the ceremony, wedding dinner and choir. Dancers cost an extra £218.
In the Cook Islands, local drummers, singers, ukulele players or dance troupes can perform at the wedding ceremony or celebration, and the wedding party can wear traditional
ei flower garlands. For a really fancy entrance, a Cook Islands warrior paddles the couple to their beach ceremony in a decorated canoe. They may also choose to plant an uto (baby coconut palm) together.
In Sri Lanka, a traditional Poruwa ceremony includes the lighting of candles and accompaniment by local Sri Lankan drummers and dancers.
Book it: Kuoni offers the Poruwa wedding at Trinco Blu by Cinnamon, on Sri Lanka’s east coast from £971 per couple. Kandyan dancers and drummers cost a further £289.
British-Asian clients might be interested in the multi-day Indian-style Dulha and Dulhan weddings that Funway Holidays has begun offering in Mexico in partnership with AMResorts.
The festivities include the groom’s baraat wedding procession and the pre-nuptial sangeet and mehndi receptions with bride’s henna painting ritual.
Book it: The Dulha and Dulhan package costs from £5,860 for up to 50 guests and is available at selected Dreams, Secrets and Now resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
For honeymoons in Italy, Kirker Holidays’ marketing manager Patrick Millar suggests unspoilt Puglia.
“You will enjoy authentic, historic towns and villages, beautiful sandy beaches and quirky hotels, including an ‘albergo di uso’, where guests stay in one of the rooms scattered through the traditional stone buildings of Locorotondo, a whitewashed village built in a spiral shape.”
Book it: A seven-night tailor-made Puglia itinerary with four-star B&B accommodation including an albergo di uso, cave hotel and beach stay, costs from £1,494pp with Kirker, including flights, car hire and a cooking class with dinner.spoilt Puglia.