Sometimes your traditional venue just won’t cut it. Charlotte Cullinan finds unusual wedding locations to please the most demanding of brides and grooms-to-be.
On a ski slope
While many brides arrive in a classic car, those holding winter nuptials at the W Verbier can enter on a sled pulled by huskies before exchanging vows on the side of a snow-covered mountain.
While the ski hotel offers a variety of indoor and outdoor reception venues, it works with local events management specialist Kando Events to arrange unique ceremonies on the slopes. The Kando team aims to find the perfect winter wonderland location for each couple, with many seating guests on mountainside snow benches covered in furs. They can also arrange for parties to be flown by helicopter to intimate ceremonies on glaciers.
Kando will help clients choose outfits that work for their chosen activities, including those who want to ski, and can arrange symbolic and legal Swiss ceremonies.
Book it: Commissionable prices are available from Kando Events on request. The W Verbier’s Say Yes reception package is £161pp, in addition to accommodation costs.
For a spectacular wedding location, propose the middle of the South African Bush, in Sir Richard Branson’s private game reserve, Ulusaba. Guests can expect to spot all the big five game animals during their stay, and at a recent wedding a pride of lions and their cubs passed by just as the couple took their vows. Customers can choose the perfect spot for their religious or secular ceremony when they arrive.
General manager Karl Langdon suggests: “They could exchange their vows under the romantic canopy of a marula tree, surrounded by flaming bamboo torches, and announced by the beat of African drums. Few settings evoke a more perfectly romantic atmosphere than listening to the animals while sipping champagne and watching the sun go down.”
The site can accommodate a maximum of 42 guests if hired exclusively, and can also arrange stag and hen party activities. Extra touches for weddings include performances from a local marimba band on xylophones or traditional gumboot dancers.
Book it: The three-night Pure Romance package starts at £4,482 for two people, including full-board accommodation.
Many couples are keen to say “I do” in front of a crowd, but how about inviting 20,000 deep reef and pelagic fish? For guests with a passion for diving, suggest heading to the Bahamas to hold an underwater ceremony in the Ruins Lagoon at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
Guests can watch from outside the 2.7 million-gallon tank, while the ceremony is held by an approved officiant who is a certified diver. It acts as blessing to the marriage with a range of options for a full ceremony on dry land.
Associate director of weddings Jena Conway says: “The entire process is tailor made to fit the bride and groom’s needs.” To guarantee a totally unique wedding album, her team arranges an hour of underwater photography and videography. Couples must be certified divers and provide their own tanks and equipment.
Book it: Kuoni offers a seven-night stay from £3,997pp, staying in a terrace room at the Beach at Atlantis, on a room-only basis on selected dates in February 2018. This includes Heathrow flights, group transfers and the Simply Love wedding package. Guests can upgrade to the bespoke underwater ceremony on request.
Arizona’s Tanque Verde Ranch offers an ideal backdrop for stand-out wedding pictures, as newlyweds can don cowboy boots for photos on horseback among the desert cacti.
Funway Holidays’ product destination manager Malcolm Davies says the old time cattle and guest ranch has an inspiring location: “The 60,000-acre ranch is situated adjacent to Saguaro national park and Coronado national forest, which makes for some pretty breathtaking desert landscapes.”
Davies recommends taking vows on the outdoor balcony, explaining: “It overlooks the mountain and Arizona desert, making it an ideal setting for a picturesque ceremony. And the wedding party can dance the night away beneath the stars, complete with a giant telescope for stargazing.”
Book it: Weddings are booked and arranged directly with the ranch’s onsite wedding planners, with an average ceremony and reception starting at £9,890. Funway Holidays offers seven nights at the ranch from £2,180pp including flights, meals and activities, departing February 6, 2018.
Under the Northern Lights Crafted on the edge of a frozen lake, the Northern Lights Snow Chapel in Lapland boasts an intricately carved ice altar, and some exceptionally well chilled champagne. Couples can arrive at the chapel in a reindeer sleigh before enjoying their ceremony surrounded by flickering candles.
Weddings take place at the chapel from the beginning of December until the end of March. Perfect Weddings Abroad’s marketing and customer engagement manager Melissa Lowe explains: “Lapland is the perfect destination if customers are looking for a unique setting that offers something different to the traditional summer wedding, with guaranteed snow and a winter wonderland setting. It’s something with the wow-factor that guests are unlikely to forget.”
To maximise chances of spotting the Northern Lights, recommend a stay in one of the nearby Northern Lights Ranch’s Sky View Cabins, which have glass ceilings.
Book it: Packages for a ceremony in the chapel start at £3,199.
A wedding in the middle of the ocean will give couples a dramatic location, but for an added twist direct clients towards Celebrity Cruises, which offers the only ships with real grass lawns. All Solstice-class ships have half an acre of pristine grass on their top deck Lawn Clubs, which can be turned into open-air venues for weddings at sea.
An event manager can help customers choose and customise their package, before the day is run by an onboard wedding co-ordinator, with ceremonies led by the captain. UK and Ireland sales director Claire Stirrup says:
“Getting married in luxury aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship in a choice of exotic locations around the world is the perfect option for couples looking for a hassle-free yet romance-filled wedding.” Earlier this month, the line announced that same-sex marriages held onboard can now be legally recognised after a vote in Malta, where most of the line’s ships are registered.
Book it:The Nuptials at Sea ceremony package starts from $2,995.