From a restored Ottoman palace to a 600-acre estate, here are 25 places to tie the knot in 2012
Whether you’re eloping to a secret hideaway or inviting everyone you know, Rishna Shah has scouted the top 25 places to tie the knot in this year
AN INTIMATE AFFAIR—150 GUESTS OR LESS
ALCHYMIST GRAND HOTEL & SPA PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Setting: Overlooking the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this property has four beautifully-restored 16th-century houses.
Logistics: Book out the entire hotel (the 47 rooms can accommodate 100 guests) for privacy. Start with a mehndi at the Aquarius Restaurant. The Hunting Gallery, with its red walls, works well for the sangeet. For the pheras, open up the Crystal Ballroom’s terrace garden.
You'll love this: In-house wedding planner can arrange for a vintage Rolls-Royce for the groom’s grand entry.
Add a local tradition: Czech custom dictates the couple should eat soup from one spoon to symbolise cooperation.
Return gift: Hand-cut Czech crystal tableware, which can be personalised with guests’ initials
Setting: Just a 20-minute helicopter ride from Dublin, this 600-acre estate is surrounded by rolling countryside and has its own lake, grotto and gardens.
Logistics: The groom can arrive in a horse-drawn carriage, with the procession winding through the Gold Drawing Room, Library, Rotunda and finally the State Room, where the main event can be held. Furnished with 18th-century candelabras, the opulent main Ballroom is large enough for a sit-down reception.
You'll love this: Replace the shehnai with an Irish harpist.
Add a local tradition: Irish guests stand in two parallel lines and link hands to form an arch, under which the bride and groom run for good luck.
Return gift: A gardening set to grow your own shamrock—Ireland’s iconic clover.
W RETREAT & SPA, MALDIVES
Setting: Boasting powder sand beaches, this retreat is the wedding spot for water babies.
Logistics: Invite 120 of your dear ones and book out the entire resort. Have your pheras lit with tikki torches on the Fire beach, or on a coral terrace over the clear blue water (not for the lehenga-obsessed). For ultimate seclusion, escape to Gaatafushi, the W’s very own deserted island.
You'll love this: A butler draws newly-weds a bubble bath on the wedding night, and delivers a champagne breakfast in bed the morning after.
Add a local tradition: A Maldivian traditional drum band, or Bodu Beru, can be organised for the baraat.
Return gift: A ‘thank you’ message in a bottle from the newly-weds, and a wedding picture in a coral photo frame.
THE MARGI, ATHENS
Setting: You’ll find this boutique hotel on the banks of the Vouliagmeni River, known as the Athenian Riviera, a great retreat from the bustle of the capital.
Logistics: The Malabar restaurant opens out onto the pool and makes a great cocktail venue on the eve of the big day. Gather the baraat on a patio decorated with olive trees and Moroccan lamps, then proceed to the J-Hall, where you can conduct the main ceremony.
You'll love this: The hotel offers the couple a complimentary room to celebrate their first anniversary.
Add a local tradition: Greek brides carry a lump of sugar to symbolise a sweet married life, or a sprig of ivy to represent endless love.
Return gift: Pouches of pretty candy-coated almonds, known in Greek as koufeta.
LA MAMOUNIA, MARRAKECH
Setting: Surrounded by eight hectares of gardens, this art deco property in the heart of Morocco’s most romantic city is culturally iconic—and visually majestic.
Logistics: Hold a festive lunch and mehndi at Le Marocain restaurant: you’ll feel like you’re in a scene from the Arabian Nights. At sunset, unwind with a hookah in a traditional tent on the terrace. The Grand Salon is an impressive space for the pheras, and has an adjacent foyer to welcome the baraat.
You'll love this: The hotel has a dazzling array of entertainment, from belly dancers to traditional zither players.
Add a local tradition: Moroccan wedding guests throw dates and raisins at the newlyweds, to represent a fruitful union.
Return gift: Miniature hookahs, since smoking is a national pastime in Morocco.
SOFITEL LEGEND METROPOLE HANOI, VIETNAM
Setting: This magnificent French colonial-style structure is in the heart of the city and is one of Hanoi’s most iconic buildings.
Logistics: Start the festivities by gathering at L’Orangerie, a European-style glass house, for the mehndi. The sangeet can be held at banquet rooms Thang Long Hall or Le Veranda, and the Sofitel’s event planner can build a mandap at Le Balcon, the rooftop garden.
You'll love this: If you’ve got Indian-food addicts in your fold, the Sofitel will fly in an Indian chef from its new Mumbai hotel.
Add a local tradition: Hold a tea ceremony, when couples serve tea to their parents and receive blessings in return.
Return gift: Traditional Vietnamese lacquer paintings.
THE FORTRESS RESORT & SPA, GALLE, SRI LANKA
Setting: With Dutch and Portuguese influences, this fortress makes an elegant location for a wedding.
Logistics: Invite guests for a tea-tasting at the T Lounge, where over 30 varieties are on offer. Throw a cocktail party at Sea Lounge and a dinner at the Wine3, their fine-dining restaurant. There’s a wedding pavilion on-site, or you can pick a spot along the coast for a relaxed ceremony.
You'll love this: Invite a troupe of Sri Lankan Kandyan folk dancers to lay on a performance for your guests.
Add a local tradition: Smash open a coconut to chase away evil spirits.
Return gift: The excellent ayurvedic bath products from the Fortress’ spa.
ONE&ONLY PALMILLA, LOS CABOS, MEXICO
Setting: Looking out over the Sea of Cortez, this stylish sanctuary has its very own Mexican-style chapel in which to tie the knot.
Logistics: Fancy a straw hut mandap, or an open-air wedding on the beach? The events team can handle both, as well as a sunny reception at the Agua Pool, followed by a sit-down Mexican dinner.
You'll love this: Take the hotel’s 50ft Azimut yacht and zip in for the ceremony.
Add a local tradition: During weddings, Mayans place four candles at the altar to represent the cardinal points—north, south, east and west—of the shaadi mandap.
Return gift: A bottle of refined tequila, as a memento of the Mexican spirit.
COMFORT IN NUMBERS—150-500 GUESTS
Setting: This contemporary boutique hotel offers dreamy views of the Andaman Sea.
Logistics: The Thai-themed Mabe Suite is secluded so you can hold a puja here, while the Tongkah Hall is large enough to throw a gala dinner. If the nuptials are being held at sunset, opt for the floating mandap.
You'll love this: The décor is by Australian florist Michael Pritchard, who has years of experience with Indian weddings in Bali.
Add a local tradition: A holy string, or Mongkol, is draped around the couple’s heads to connect them.
Return gift: Table linen sets in colourful Thai silk.
THE LEELA PALACE UDAIPUR
Setting: This dramatic property sits on the banks of Udaipur’s supremely romantic Lake Pichola, with the stunning Aravali Hills in the background.
Logistics: The best spot to get married is the Outer Rang Manch—a central courtyard of the hotel surrounded by water. Host a Rajasthani lunch in the Guava restaurant, overlooking the lake, or book the Mewar and Marwar Hall for events in the evening, when temperatures dip. There’s also an ESPA spa, where the bride and her guests can book pre-wedding treatments.
You'll love this: There’s an ancient Shiva temple on the property, where newly-weds can seek blessings.
Add a local tradition: Rajput grooms ride an elephant to their wedding; The Leela has organised several.
Return gift: Monogrammed Rajasthani razais.
SHERATON HUA HIN RESORT & SPA,THAILAND
Setting: Nestled in the Gulf of Siam, this beachfront paradise has a 560-metre lagoon-style pool that meanders through the property.
Logistics: The Grand Ballroom is perfect for a Bollywood-style sangeet, followed by an encore at @Black, the resort’s nightclub. The best place for the baraat is the tropical garden leading up to the beach—the groom can approach in a vintage Mercedes, on horseback or on a quaint little tricycle rickshaw decorated with flowers.
You'll love this: Thai dancers, fire shows or even a mini floating market can be recreated along the lagoon at the resort. You can also set up a nail art booth and spa stations at the mehndi.
Add a local tradition: In rural Thailand, the newlyweds’ bed is decorated with rice, sesame seeds and coins as tokens of good luck and fertility.
Return gift: A hand-carved wooden Buddha.
PALAIS COBURG, VIENNA
Setting: This 19th-century neoclassical palace, which once housed the German royals of the House of Coburg-Gotha, oozes grandeur and is conveniently located in the city’s main shopping area.
Logistics: Although it only has 35 suites, this hotel has several salons grand enough for the fanciest festivities. Think gold leaf, marble columns, silk brocade walls and inlaid floors. For the wedding procession and main ceremony, block out The Mirrored Hall, The Yellow Salon, The Veranda and Bastion Garden.
You'll love this: For a dash of contemporary chic, host the after-party at the Dom Perignon Lounge, designed by Philippe Starck.
Add a local tradition: In the country where it originated, the waltz is a popular choice for the couple’s first dance.
Return gift: Crystal trinkets from Austria’s own Swarovski.
FOUR SEASONS RESORT HUALALAI AT HISTORIC KA’UPULEHU,HAWAII
Setting: The grainy sands of the Big Island’s Kona-Kohala beach make an idyllic spot for a barefoot wedding.
Logistics: Host the sangeet around the Hoku Theater, which is set against a backdrop of giant volcanic rocks. Hold the main ceremony on the sands of the Palm Grove, with Waiakauhi Beach in the background—it’s where Megan Fox got married.
You'll love this: Lay on a Polynesian luau featuring Tahitian hula, Tahitian dancers and Samoan fire knife dancers.
Add a local tradition: In Hawaii a lava rock (symbolising a lifetime commitment) is left at the ceremony site as an offering to mark the new union.
Return gift: A travel-sized chessboard carved from local kao wood.
VILLA LA MASSA,FLORENCE
Setting: Brimming with antique furniture, this Medici villa stands on the banks of the Arno River.
Logistics: Hold the sangeet at Il Verrocchio restaurant, which serves Tuscan speciality cuisine under an impressive vaulted ceiling. For the wedding ceremony, the Limonaia Room offers jaw-dropping views of the surrounding landscape. End the evening with alfresco cocktails in the manicured hotel gardens.
You'll love this: Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton have all dropped by, and David Bowie and Iman got married at the villa.
Add a local tradition: Italian grooms carry a piece of iron in their pocket for good luck and protection from evil spirits.
Return gift: A bottle of olive oil or Chianti wine, both of which are produced locally.
AYANA RESORT AND SPA,BALI
Setting: Overlooking Jimbaran Bay, this swish hideout offers six wedding venues spread out along the coastline.
Logistics: If you want a white wedding, there are two contemporary glass chapels to choose from—the Tresna and the Astina. The cliff-edged Champa Garden, designed by Indian architect Karan Grover, works well for the reception, and the Rock Bar, which plays house and lounge tracks, is is perfect for post-wedding revelry.
You'll love this If you’re dead beat after the wedding, you can drive around in the hotel’s ‘Just Married’ golf buggy.
Add a local tradition: Get a Balinese Hindu priest to perform a blessing ceremony, similar to Indian Kodava customs.
Return gift: Matching his and hers straw slippers.
PARK HYATT DUBAI
Setting: With its landscaped gardens and plentiful palm trees, this resort offers a luxurious taste of Arabia.
Logistics: The Creek Ballroom can hold up to 500 guests and is attached to the Marina garden, a great spot for cocktails and canapés. The tented rooftop bar, The Terrace, with its marina view, makes for a great pre-function venue, while you can hold the nuptials in the Fountain Garden.
You'll love this: Block off an entire wing for your guests so you won’t bump into anyone who’s not in your party.
Add a local tradition: The hotel’s wedding planner can organise a zaffa, or Arabic musical procession of bendir drums, horns and belly dancers to be a part of your baraat.
Return gift: A box of dates or baklava fresh from Park Hyatt Dubai’s patisserie.
A BIG FAT WEDDING—500 OR MORE GUESTS
SHANGRI-LA’S TANJUNG ARU RESORT AND SPA, MALAYSIA
Setting: This serene hideaway in the northern tip of Borneo overlooks the South China Sea, and oozes exotic Asian romance.
Logistics: With 492 rooms, you won’t have to worry about accommodation. Get married under a floral mandap in the nearby gardens, but beware—monkeys and orang-utans may crash the party. For the sangeet, add a traditional Sumazau couples’ dance for guests. It’s a favourite at Malaysian weddings.
You'll love this: Recover from jet lag at Chi, The Spa at Shangri-La. The Pulau Bayu Retreat treatment uses local ingredients like cocoa, pearls and herbs, and is particularly recommended for brides-to-be.
Add a local tradition: It is a Malaysian wedding custom for each guest to receive a decorated hard-boiled egg as a symbol of fertility.
Return gift: Hand-made rattan baskets with guests’ initials woven in—a typical Malaysian souvenir.
THE WESTIN PALACE,MADRID
Setting: A prominent feature of Madrid’s skyline for the past century, the Westin Palace was constructed in 1912 for King Alfonso XIII. Its proximity to museums and historic monuments makes it ideal for guests to comfortably go for sightseeing expeditions between functions.
Logistics: There are several opulent banquet halls to choose from at the hotel, but the most opulent one is the Neptuna, with its views of the Fountain of Neptune. The Julio Camba and Cortes rooms are great for smaller gatherings like the mehndi or sangeet. The hotel’s impressive stained-glass dome also works as a good meeting point for a welcome drink when guests check in.
You'll love this: The hotel’s concierge can arrange for a flamenco teacher to coach the couple for a feisty dance performance at the sangeet.
Add a local tradition: Spanish weddings are marked by an exchange of 13 gold coins from the groom to the bride, marking his ability to provide for her.
Return gift: A jar of Spain’s subtle variety of saffron.
CIRAGAN PALACE KEMPINSKI,ISTANBUL
Setting: This lovingly-restored Ottoman Palace is situated on the banks of the Bosphorus.
Logistics: With 15 function rooms to choose from, there’s enough room to accommodate your entire family’s address book. The terrace can fit in over 1,000 people, while the baroque ballroom can hold 900 guests for a sit-down dinner.
You'll love this: The groom can travel over water on a traditional sultan boat, an ornate vessel with a covered pavilion—or fly into the palace helipad.
Add a local tradition: It is customary that the bride take a Turkish bath, or hammam, before she gets married. She can dip into the palace’s marble version that dates back to 1869.
Return gift: A hamper of local treats like Turkish Delight, coffee and antique coffee cups.
VAUX LE VICOMTE,FRANCE
Setting: Built in the mid-17th-century, this idyllic baroque château is surrounded by a rectangular moat—and is less than an hour’s drive from Paris.
Logistics: Industrialist Lakshmi Mittal chose to create a mandap for his daughter’s wedding in the estate’s well-groomed gardens. Make your event just as memorable with a lawn lit with over 1,000 candles and a fireworks display.
You'll love this: It’s not just the groom that gets a horse-drawn carriage; at this hotel, all the guests get a ride too.
Add a local tradition: As the couple leaves the wedding ceremony, laurel leaves are scattered in their path for good luck.
Return gift: Ganache-filled Ladurée macaroons.
INTERCONTINENTAL MAURITIUS RESORT BALACLAVA FORT
Setting: This retreat outside Port Louis is close to the picturesque Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens.
Logistics: Set up the mandap on the resort’s private island, where the groom can sail in on a catamaran. Although the islet isn’t large enough to accommodate more than 500 people, there are other beach options that can cater to over 1,000 guests, and a ballroom that can seat 450.
You'll love this: Each of the hotel’s 210 rooms is sea facing, so you won’t have to deal with any guest complaints.
Add a local tradition: A colourful Mauritian folk dance called sega is a regular feature at weddings.
Return gift: A bottle of locally-infused spice rum.
TAJ FALAKNUMA HYDERABAD
Setting: Perched on Kohi-Tur hill with glimpses of the Charminar in the distance, the former palace of Nizam Mehboob Ali Pasha was converted into a royal guest house after his death.
Logistics: The glass-domed Gol Bungalow, with its stunning views of the city, makes a great setting for a mandap. The dining room has seating for 101 guests, five Belgian crystal chandeliers and royal silverware, making for a princely dining experience.
You'll love this: A royal procession can be arranged with 130 soldiers, nine horses, four camels, a band and nagada announcing the groom’s arrival.
Add a local tradition: Brides pray to goddess Gauri and perform Gauri puja on the wedding day.
Return gift: Luggage tags made of local bidriware—silver and brass inlay work.
HÔTEL HERMITAGE,MONTE CARLO
Setting: This Belle Époque palace overlooks Monaco harbour and a winter garden.
Logistics: Draw inspiration from the Kajal Fabiani-Gaurav Assomull wedding and book the lavish Salle Belle Époque for the mehndi. For a sangeet under the stars, pick the Salon Eiffel’s scenic roof terrace.
You'll love this: If the groom doesn’t want to come in on horseback there are plenty of other faster options—like renting an Aston Martin à la James Bond.
Add a local tradition: After the ceremony, Monegasque royalty walk over to the Sainte Dévote chapel, where the bride rests her bouquet in honour of Monaco’s patron saint.
Return gift: Champagne brewed at Monaco’s own brewery, the Brasserie de Monaco.
Setting: An iconic hotel on the Las Vegas strip, the 1,000ft Bellagio fountains provide an eye-catching welcome for your wedding guests.
Logistics: With a staggering 3,933 rooms, there’s no limit to the scale of your festivities. Similarly, the facilities at the Grand, Tower and Bellagio Ballrooms are all elephant-friendly, should you wish to incorporate one into the baraat.
You'll love this: You can book Cirque du Soleil to perform at one of your events.
Add a local tradition: A limo ride can be arranged to pick up a late-night marriage licence. And there’s always the Bellagio wedding chapels if you want a last-minute marriage.
Return gift: Poker chips—appropriate for the city that thrives on big game.
BANYAN TREE MACAU
Setting: Inspired by Chinese architecture, this expansive hotel leaves a memorable mark on the dreamy Cotai horizon.
Logistics: Host a water wedding at this urban resort, with a floating mandap built on the pool. The ballroom is large enough for an indoor reception or a sangeet, with a pre-function lobby area for cocktails.
You'll love this: Escape from the stresses of executing the wedding and book the Spa Suite. It comes with its own treatment room, ideal for indulging in the warm sesame oil-based Royal Banyan massage.
Add a local tradition: The Chinese believe that firecrackers scare off evil spirits. Set them off after the ceremony.
Return gift: Porcelain teacups and assorted teas, to represent two of China’s finest exports.
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