Prashanthi Ravindran is getting married to Nicolas Mathie in July 2013 at JW Marriott, Mai Khao, Phuket. She blogs about the challenges and joys of planning a fusion Destination Wedding
Nico and I met in Singapore five years ago. It was instant chemistry, chance encounters followed by an old fashioned courtship that led to us eventually falling in love. In July 2012, on our first trip to Europe together, he proposed in Paris, after a romantic night time cruise on the Seine on board the Bateaux mooches, on a bridge in front of the Notre Dame.
Culturally for me, no matter how prepared my parents were, me marrying into a different culture was a big step. Nico is Swiss/Serbian and I am Sri Lankan/Indian. We both come from traditional families, deeply routed in religion and culture; and so the challenges began, to strike the perfect balance of each of our own heritage and beliefs. And to plan a wedding that was suitable for both. We decided to have a two day celebration, with ceremonies and receptions representing both of our faiths and cultures.
Challenge #1– Which Country?
We were both sure that we wanted to have a destination wedding, a place neutral to us both that would provide the backdrop of our dreams, and elegant luxury, while still providing value for money.
We began to look around the region and settled on three choices– Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. We finally made a decision based on recommendations by friends. The ‘wedding planner’ to me was the key decision. He or she had to be someone who can create what I had always imagined my wedding to be. Word of mouth is really the best way to make a decision, and on my friend’s recommendation I contacted and appointed a planner from Bangkok, who specialized in Indian weddings. And then we set out to find the venue.
Challenge #2 – How do I pick a wedding planner?
I was lucky and chose a planner that was recommended to me. But if I was to have to look for the planner from scratch here are some tips:
– If you’re getting married in Thailand, there are many Bangkok based specialist wedding planners who are extremely professional and efficient. But if you hire a planner from Bangkok, expect most sourcing to also be done from Bangkok. This will include set-ups, décor etc. They are uncomfortable with, and sometimes unwilling to work with regional vendors for many reasons.
– If you want a highly specialized Indian wedding, you may have no choice but to fly everything in and hire the services of an experienced wedding planner from India. However if you are sure of the location, and you want to save money, you can consider the hotel’s in-house wedding planner or source one locally. I know there are a few amazing and very helpful planners (usually expats) in Phuket who have expertise in the area and produce spectacular weddings. You may have to give them lots of guidance with Indian elements though.
Challenge #3 – Which City?
In Thailand you have four main options– Bankok, Phuket, Hua Hin and Krabi. Bankok was too much of a city, Hua Hin added the complexity of car travel from Bankok which we felt would be difficult for our guests flying in from Europe. Krabi, I felt was not experienced enough. So we settled on Phuket. It has very good flight connectivity and lots of experience with Indian Weddings.
Challenge #4 – Which Hotel?
I relied very heavily on my wedding planner’s expertise to choose the venue, and finally we had four choices. With a guest list of 250, which is very small by Indian standards, but very large by Western, Villas and smaller hotels were out of question so we had to rely on the bigger resorts. Then the complexity of weather! July is monsoon season in Phuket and the weather is unpredictable. Therefore, we had to find a hotel with a ballroom that was big enough to accommodate 250 people. This brought down my choice of hotels. But luckily, the options that we had were pretty great. The whole experience of finding venues, doing the research, and finally choosing one took me 3-4 months.
Challenge #5– Food and soft drinks budget
My most important piece of advice to all brides and grooms-to-be is to have a realistic budget in mind when it comes to food. Then source a hotel that can actually provide for that budget. If your food budget is relatively low, 5* hotels are probably not the most cost effective choice. Make sure you ask your wedding planner to do the research for you on food prices to avoid disappointment at the end.
Challenge #6 – Big expenses that you may not think of when budgeting.
1. Hotel deposit – this could be up to 20% of your total F&B bill.
2. Décor – Could be expensive depending on your requirements.
3. Sound and Light– sometimes could be 50% to 70% of décor cost.
4. Entertainment – if you want anything specifically Indian, it will have to be flown in.
5. Photography and Videography –This is the most important aspect of your wedding, as long past the day itself the photography and videography is the only thing you have to relive the day. If you must spare expenses on everything else, do not compromise on this. But they do not always need to be sourced from India. Asia has a wealth of extremely talented suppliers, Malaysia especially has a vibrant industry which is differentiated and who understand our requirements.
6. Plan ahead! I would estimate at least one year of planning for a dream wedding. This also allows you to take advantage of early booking rates for flights for your vendors, and gives you more negotiating potential on service fees.
As a bride embarking on a new journey with no set idea in mind, WeddingSutra.com was a great inspiration to choose outfits, photography, videography and locations. I used it as my benchmark for how my wedding should be. A wedding worthy of being featured on WeddingSutra.com was the base from which I started my plans.
There’s lots of work to be done, but that is always the case a month before any wedding. But I know that with the support of my partner, my family and my capable wedding planner, everything is possible, and I will have the wedding of my dreams.