Scenic weddings

1. Castle Weddings in France

Every princess deserves her castle. The elegant châteaux in France with their exquisite architecture and captivating history are perfect to make your special day a royal extravaganza. These venues also offer all-inclusive packages – accommodation, food, drink, music, and photography to make your special day the grand occasion that it is. The best part? These chateaux are big enough to accommodate the entire wedding party, so no one misses out on the fun and royal treatment!

Options:

A. Château De Challain is situated in the little village of Challain-la-Potherie in France. The palace is located one hour away from Nantes Atlantique International Airport.

Their all-inclusive packages begin from around €6,900 (Dh30,000). To accommodate different needs, the Château Challain boasts of 72-acres of gardens and a chapel too. Fireworks, acrobats, and magic shows are just a few of the entertainments that one can expect to hire if the melody of the harp is not enough.

Challain-la-Potherie is a quaint scenic village situated near the scenic Loire River Valley. Its Gothic Revival Era architecture buildings leave the village with unique buildings for photoshoots. Famously known for its wine, Challain-la-Potherie also has many vineyards and orchards for a soothing, romantic stroll.

Check out: Once done exploring the château, also visit the Loire River Valley for some scenic views. Explore the many vineyards and Orchards and embrace the country experience. Architecture enthusiasts may especially appreciate this Challain-la-Potherie, for it is filled with monuments from the Gothic architecture revival era, like the Windmill-Le Moulin du Rat built from 1796 to 1827. There is also the Cours Des Aulnays or fortified manor of the Court of Aulnays built in the 16th Century, which is just 300 metres away from the Camino De Santiago, or ‘Pilgrims Way’.

B. Chateau Du Grand-Luce: Named in tribute to the Age of Enlightenment (‘Grand Luce’) Chateau Du Grand-Luce is the hidden gem in the Loire River Valley, South of Paris. It is about one hour away from Tours Val de Loire International Airport.

The only building to have survived the French revolution, it has hosted many great thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot; and many precious Louvre artifacts during WWII.

With packages starting from €5,000 (Dh20,000), the Château’s 17 unique rooms and suites provide the couple and their guests with accommodation, and access to their gardens, grounds, spas, pool, Orangerie, and ballroom.

The Loire River Valley looks straight out of a storybook. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a perfect spot for romantic escapes. Relax in the many gardens and fruit orchards that line the rivers of the ‘Garden of France.’ Tour the area to explore the 300+ chateaux, each with its own unique history and style.

Also check out: The château also boasts two hair salons, and three bakeries to indulge your sweet tooth. Explore the Sancerre vineyards for picnics and wine tastings. Go biking through the Bercé forest and fields, or antiquing in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir. Soak in the beaches of Normandy, have a cultural experience at the historic town of Amboise (Leonardo Da Vinci’s residence), and of course, you can always run away to the city of love – Paris, which is 55 minutes by train.

What to keep in mind:

• The law requires at least one of the partners to reside in the town of the venue for a minimum of 40 days prior to the wedding, (Those who own land in France are exempt from this rule.)

• High seasons are during holidays and April to October – although the weather is beautiful for outdoor weddings throughout the year, indoor weddings are just as beautiful because it is, after all, a picture-perfect palace!

2. Evergreen English Weddings

Plant parents looking to say “I do” in a venue filled with foliage? Gardens and courtyard weddings are the way to go.

A. Helmingham Hall Gardens: One hour away from Norwich Airport, Helmingham Hall Gardens is an attraction for those who want a traditional countryside wedding.

With packages starting at €650, get ready to have an exclusive wedding, as Helmingham Gardens hosts only a limited number of weddings every year.

Situated on the east coast of England, Suffolk county is home to many castles at Framlingham and Orford, and pretty medieval towns. You can discover places by cycle, or on a leisurely walk. Suffolk also has scenic coastal areas, perfect for those wanting to spend time by the beach.

As Helmingham Gardens does not offer accommodation, the Hillbrow Farm Bed and Breakfast, and The Railway Inn Westerfield are two hotels nearby.

Also check out: Thirty minutes away from Helmingham is Stowmarket – a great place for river walks. There is also the Museum of East Anglian Life – a tribute to Suffolk’s agricultural past. Something more trendy is the John Peel Centre, a creative arts destination. Further away, there is Needham Market. Great for walkers and cyclists.

B. The Talhenbont Hall Estate is a small family business located in the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. Two hours away from Manchester International Airport, this cosy but elegant estate is perfect for an intimate wedding away from the city.

Packages for this 16th-century estate overlooking the River Dwyfach start at €4,000. Talhenbont also has self-catering accommodation in cottages for up to 42 guests, making it the perfect setting for a small wedding.

The Llyn Peninsula has plenty of scenic routes for hiking or camping. Studded with coves, churches, beaches, and even forts, there is much to enjoy. The region is also a drive away from the delightful Snowdonia mountains – perfect for a hike and/or a picnic.

Also check out: Two miles away is the stunning beach town of Criccieth. Hafan Pwllheli has access to the waters of Anglesey and Cardigan Bay. For golfers, the Pwllheli Golf Club offers a course with fabulous views of Cardigan Bay.

For a cultural experience, visit Neuadd Dwyfor, a local arts centre with touring productions, and Oriel Plas Glyn-Y-Weddw Arts Centre has changing exhibitions and a lovely tea-room.

What to keep in mind:

• If both you and your partner are not from the UK, outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you need to apply for a marriage visitor visa which is valid for up to 6 months.

3. Library Weddings in the USA

Start a new chapter in your life in company of your fictional and nonfictional friends. As cheesy as that might sound, these heritage libraries will definitely wow the bookworm in you.

A. George Peabody Library in Baltimore: Say “I do” with over 300,000 volumes of books as witness at this century-old library. Barely 20 minutes away from Baltimore/Washington International Airport by car, it is also accessible by a ‘Super Shuttle’ service, the Light Rail, MARC, and Amtrak trains.

The George Peabody Library is a very unique venue for your wedding. There is really no need to spend on decorations, the Reading Room has beautiful fairy light rows hanging atop to bring the whole room to life, along with grand pillars of white and gold that will surround your venue on the day. Prices start from $5000.

The biggest bonus? The event collections also help support the library’s collections, so this is a win for everyone!

For accommodation check out the numerous hotels such as Hotel Indigo Baltimore Downtown, an IHG Hotel, Hotel Revival Baltimore and Radisson Hotel Baltimore Downtown-Inner Harbour.

Also check out: Baltimore’s Washington Monument which came before the Washington Monument we know today in Washington D.C. (which is nearby!), Literary enthusiasts can visit the home of writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe’s footsteps, visiting his home, grave, statue, favourite pub, and more. Try out the Baltimore Water Taxi or appreciate the ever-changing graffiti in Grafitti Alley behind the Motor House Creative Incubator.

B. Boston Public Library: Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library is just 15 minutes away from Boston Logan International Airport. Boston is perfect for those who love city life. Don’t forget to enjoy the sights of the Prudential Center and John Hancock Tower – highlights of the beautiful skyline. Boston thrives on the arts, music, and theatre. Explore the many parks that constitute Boston’s priced ‘Emerald Necklace’, or embark on a 15-minute Swan boat cruise.

Choose from the various areas in this spacious library, or shift the wedding outside to the courtyard with a beautiful fountain. Prices start from $4,400. The Fairmont Copley Hotel is within walking distance from the Library. There is also Hilton Hotel, Westin Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Boston on Boylston Street.

Also check out: Trendy boutiques in Newbury Street or a pleasant stroll along Commonwealth Avenue. Go kayaking in Charles River, or have a relaxing time by the water.

What to keep in mind: Marriage in the US requires a marriage license.

Adventure weddings

1. Safari Wedding in South Africa

The southernmost country in the African continent, South Africa boasts of varied topography, and cultural diversity. It is especially famous for its safaris, of which there are plenty. Take your vows around the majestic animals with an unconventional Safari wedding, making it an unforgettable experience.

A. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is home to over 200 animal species, including the Big 5, cheetahs and wild dogs. Look up at the sky as you listen to the local choir on your wedding day and be sure to spot exotic birds, since almost 5 per cent of the world’s bird species have nested in this region.

The reserve is set in the Southern section of the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. Kruger National Park has a high density of wild animals. Mountains, bush plains, and tropical landscapes are all a part of this region.

A wedding here can be a magical affair during sunset near the watering hole, or in any of their unique lodges. Sabi Sabi is a one-hour flight from O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) directly to the Sabi Sabi airstrip. Alternatively, one can fly via Skukuza Airport, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (Nelspruit), or drive down in a scenic five-hour chauffeured or self-drive from Johannesburg. Wedding packages from ZAR17,000.

B. The Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge: All 4,450 acres of this stunning property is happy to fulfil your safari wedding wishes. Exchange your promises of love underneath the ancient Tamboti tree, on the Marico Riverbank, or even overlooking a water hole. Walk down the aisle holding a unique bouquet of local, seasonal flowers, after unwinding with their pampering treatments to help you destress.

The Madikwe Game Reserve is home to the hard-to-spot wild dog, a species that is currently on the brink of extinction. There are also the big 5 animals, along with giraffes, cheetahs, and spotted and brown hyenas. From ZAR40,000.

What to keep in mind:

• Spring (September to November) and Summer (December to February) is when the bush is lush and thick at this time the reserve has many new-born animals.

• Autumn (March to May) and Winter (June to August) is when the water is less, and the bush is dry. Animals frequent the water holes more often.

• It is recommended that guests consult their physician/travel clinic regarding easily administered malaria prophylaxis before embarking on any safari travel to South Africa.

2. Under the Sea in the Maldives

If the calming sound of the waves, the azure water and white sand is what you want for your wedding venue, then the underwater matrimonies in the Maldives are the perfect venues for you.

A. Anantara Kihavah: Situated on the Baa Atoll in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this white sand island is also considered the World’s most instagrammable hotel. There are 80 beach and over-water pool villas and residences, along with the Maldives only over-water observatory.

Go for a relaxing stroll or bike your way around the island, or take a cruise to explore the oceans. Choose from the many restaurants on the island or better yet, have an underwater dining experience where you can explore the world’s first underwater wine cellar. Go stargazing, or let the stars watch a film with you!

Just 35 minutes away by seaplane from Male International Airport. Anantara Kihavah, packages start at Dh33,486 and include a Coral adoption program along with the exchange of rings and signing of the wedding certificate.

Also check out: Snorkelling, parasailing, and kayaking are some of the water sports on the island. You can also go fishing and island hopping. Try Slumber Guru for the perfect end to your night. Marine enthusiasts can try out Dolphin Discovery and Turtle Quest. Additionally, you can also visit Hanifaru Bay nearby, where Manta Rays congregate during May-November to feed on plankton.

B. The Residence Maldives is yet another beautiful island for an underwater wedding. Surrounded by the wonders of the Indian Ocean, it is located in the southern Maldives in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, also known as the Northern Huvadhoo Atoll.

Home to abundant marine life, it is a natural sanctuary for dolphins, reef sharks, octopuses, and turtles.

Complete with a spa, infinity pool and a Dive centre, guests can participate in a variety of water sports, or just unwind. Packages for an underwater wedding begin at $2000 and include planting a coconut palm ceremony, and Maldivian Bodu Beru drummers to escort you down the aisle.

Also check out: The resort’s snorkelling safari to take in the colourful array of fish, or sign up for a Maldivian cooking class for a gastronomic adventure.

Keep in mind:

• Marriage in the Maldives is not legally binding, which means another ceremony before or after your ceremonial wedding in the Maldives is mandatory.

• Purchase coral reef-friendly sunblock only!

3. Break the Ice in Alaska 

Experience the warmth of your love atop one of the 100,000 graceful and cold Alaskan glaciers. The perfect adventure wedding to ensure that your special day will indeed be the ice-breaking conversation amongst your friends and family.

A. Alaska Weddings: Based in the capital city of Juneau, Alaska Weddings have been offering Helicopter Glacier Weddings since 2003. Proclaim your love at heights of 1800 feet to 3500 feet. Board the thrilling A star helicopter ride that allows you to take in the beautiful sights of Alaska, moments before you touch down into your wedding venue – almost 3500 feet of snow with a breath-taking backdrop to seal your love for eternity.

Once you arrive at Juneau International Airport, the glaciers are just a few minutes away. With packages starting from $2500, Alaska Weddings will provide you with special boots to help walk on ice, along with a drink to pop open high up as a married couple. Based on your package, you can land on the easily accessible Mendenhall Glacier or the more secluded Herbert Glacier, and if you fall in love with the place, you can extend your time here.

Juneau is a mountain town and coastal community too. Originally called Dzantik’i Héeni or “Base of the Flounder’s River”, it was used as a Native fishing ground for thousands of years before being developed into the city it is today. Apart from viewing the majestic glaciers, Juneau has plenty to do. Enjoy great seafood, or fish for your own! Be a part of Juneau’s thriving arts and culture scene and try out the many outdoor activities they conduct.

Juneau has plenty of hotels and B&Bs, and Alaska weddings will be happy to provide transportation to and from.

Also check out: If you haven’t had your fill of glaciers, there are enough and more around the area to explore. Glaciers also offer opportunities to go dog sledding or hiking. Make sure you find their Events Calendar to personalize your own fun time.

B. Knik River Lodge: Your experience with Alaska helicopter tours begins with the Knik River Lodge. One scenic flight away is the Knik River Valley, where the awe-inspiring Knik Glacier awaits. Since all their pilots are ordained, you can also opt for them to officiate your wedding.

An hour away from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International, choose from their packages starting at $650 per person for one hour and one landing to create the perfect adventure wedding, complete with rich chocolate-coated juicy strawberries to celebrate your love on top of the world!

The gorgeous Knik glacier is a secluded spot with no road access. Located in the Chugach Mountains, it is one of the largest glaciers in Southcentral Alaska. Sci-fi fans may also recognize the Knik glacier from its appearance in Star Trek VI. Around here is also scenic Lake George, across which one can spot Colony and Cataract Glacier. On your thrilling flight lookout for bears, moose, and Dall sheep.

The small town of Palmer is known as Alaska’s Agricultural hub. It is known for its many local events, such as the open-air market called ‘Friday Fling.’ Palmer has numerous hiking trails, and during winters don’t miss the Snow Safari.

Also check out: Apart from glacier helicopter tours, one may also choose to explore the glacier while fat-tire biking, glacier dog sledding, or through glacier treks, there is also a jet boat tour just down the road. Go on a farm tour to discover the Matanuska Susitna Valley and their world record-sized cabbages. There is also a Reindeer and Musk Ox Farm in Palmer – a 20-minute drive from the lodge.

What to keep in mind:

• The Alaskan high season runs from late May to early September. July being the peak period.

• Winter weddings are less popular for the extreme temperature, but it also provides beautiful snowy backdrops for your wedding photos.

• It is important to bring your own marriage license.

Straight From the Screen Weddings

Let’s face it, the most beautiful weddings we’ve seen are on screen, and more often than not, we base our weddings off of them! So why not look up some beautiful venues where these heart-piercing, tear-jerking scenes actually occurred? From the reel, for you, in real.

1. Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India (2 States)

Although Krish (Arjun Kapoor) and Ananya (Alia Bhatt) may have been star-crossed lovers staring into each other’s eyes in the wedding scene of the Bollywood movie 2 States, your eyes are bound to slip away into the backdrop for a moment at least.

Overlooking the Bay of Bengal is The Shore Temple in Tamil Nadu’s Mahabalipuram. Since 1984, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If not in the temple, Mahabalipuram’s clean beaches and luxury resorts allow for a beautiful beach wedding in the state of heritage and history.

One hour away from Chennai International Airport, The Shore Temple was artfully crafted with granite dating from the 8th Century AD. It is one of the oldest temples in South India. Filled with magnificent sculptures, the temple is proof of the architectural prowess of the region.

Mahabalipuram is located just an hour away from the State’s capital, Chennai. Rooted in culture, the Indian Dance Festival dedicated to the artful dance forms of India showcased here during the month of December is a sight to behold. Enjoy its pristine beaches and local cuisine, and feel right at home with the hospitality.

A. Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay offers a luxury ballroom or a pretty outdoor wedding with the Bay of Bengal backdrop. They also offer personalized catering. Prices are available on request and vary according to the number of guests, meal options, and rooms.

B. Ideal Beach Resort also offers a grand hall for an indoor wedding or a well-maintained lawn with a view of the Bay of Bengal for an outdoor wedding. They have beautiful rooms and suites to retire into at the end of a joyful day. Their prices are available on request and vary according to the number of guests, meal options, and rooms.

Also check out: Dakshina Chitra Heritage Museum is a museum of art, architecture, lifestyle, and craft, making it a must-visit. There are many historical monuments and caves for archaeology enthusiasts. Most importantly, don’t leave until you’ve eaten at least one meal on a banana leaf.

What to keep in mind:

• The best time to be married here is between November to March, although you may find surprise visits from the rain.

• If you wish to be married in the Shore Temple itself, you have to obtain special permission from the Archaeological Survey of India for a traditional South Indian wedding.

2. Niagara Falls, USA/ Canada – The Office

Although released back in 2009, every time you watch the two-part episode ‘Niagara’ from the sixth season of The Office, there will be tears. After a wait that seemed too long, Jim (John Krasinski) finally unites with his soul mate, Pam (Jenna Fischer). The scene creates a deep desire to unite with your beloved upon the magical Maid of the Mist boat ride too, with the overpowering Niagara Falls as your witness. This is a perfect destination for a simple elopement wedding – just like the Halpert’s!

Being right on the USA and Canada border, you can choose which side you wish to marry from, though Jim and Pam got married from the USA side. The 30-minute ride takes you as close as possible to this magnificent waterfall, allowing you to experience its beauty, and absorb its mystical power as you say ‘I Do!’

No matter how hot the weather is, be assured that the ‘Honeymoon Capital of the World’ will keep you cool throughout your wedding thanks to the force of the falls. Board the Maid of the Mist (USA) or the Niagara City Cruise (Canada) and declare your love with a beautiful rainbow overhead.

A. A 16-minute drive away from the Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG) the Hilton Niagara Falls/ Fallsview Hotel & Suites in Canada have packages beginning at Dh1,000 (500 CAD).

B. If you wish to stick to The Office venues, 30 minutes away from Buffalo Niagara International

Airport lookout for the Red Coach Inn, where the hotel scenes were shot. Although the Inn has undergone a major remodel now, you can still find the rooms intact, along with the Honeymoon Suite. Their packages start at Dh500 ($125).

Also check out: The Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant in Canada, where you can share a romantic meal overlooking the falls. Witness over 2000 butterflies at the Butterfly Conservatory, and go on the White Water Walk to explore more of the Niagara gorge. 

What to keep in mind:

• The Maid of the Mist runs from early April to October, based on the ice conditions in the river.

• You cannot have a private ceremony as the Maid of the Mist does not allow reservations.

• Not all captains can officiate the ceremony, so do bring a licensed wedding official.

• Marriage in the US side requires a license from the New York State, and Marriage in the Canada side requires a license from Ontario.

3.  Savoca, Italy – The Godfather

Although the film was set in the Sicilian town of Corleone, director Francis Ford Coppola actually decided to shoot the film in the more rural areas of Sicily because Corleone had been too modernized by then.

And so we find the quaint little village – Savoca, where a beautiful wedding takes place between Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and the beautiful Sicilian woman he falls in love with – Apollonia Vitelli (Simonetta Stefanelli). Right after their wedding at the church of San Nicolò, the couple can be seen walking through the village following a band playing the Sicilian Tarantella,  which can be made possible for your special day too!

A medieval hilltop village on the Ionian Coast in Sicily, Savoca is at around 300 metres above sea level. One of Italy’s most beautiful villages and is simply perfect for a quaint, classic wedding between partners who share a love for The Godfather, the rustic charm of Italy, and each other! Filled with lush vegetation- citrus groves, olive groves, and vineyards- good food is a guarantee. Walk beside your loved one beneath the clear blue skies, this village with a great view will be a treat to explore on foot.

A. Resort Borgo San Rocca: An hour away from Catania-Fontanarossa Airport, the Resort Borgo San Rocca is a great place to stay, just a 10-minute walk away from the centre. They also have a bridal suite, and a luxurious venue to conduct a wedding. Prices are available on request and vary from room to season. 

B. Luxury Wedding Sicily can make your ‘Godfather Wedding’ dream come true. All their packages help you choose a venue, hire a celebrant, along with photography, music, and a wedding planner. Packages start from Dh30,000 (€6,700).

Also check out: Fans of The Godfather may be familiar with Bar Vitelli where the couple first falls in love. Bar Vitell is in Palazzo Trimarchi, an 18th-century palace built in the Sicilian Neoclassical style. Close by, there is also a square that allows for a great view of the village. Here is a steel sculpture of Francis Ford Coppola, created by artist Nino Ucchino. Don’t forget to put coins into the Talking Donkey sculpture right beside for some hilarious Donkey noises. There are many more historic monuments and churches to explore in Savoca.

What to keep in mind:

• Late April/May is Springtime, you will be surrounded by flowers and clear blue skies. July and August tend to be very hot, and October and November are perfect for romantic vineyard retreats.

• While there are not many legal procedures in Italy, making it a stress-free destination, rules may vary for each nationality.

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