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Surviving the Asian Marry-Go-Round

Photograph for TIME by Mariko Jesse and Tim McConville


For their nuptials last August, former Hong Kong residents Lucy and Taz Shaikh wanted an Asian venue with high romance--a sultry sunset, perhaps, or a lapping sea. In the end, the couple, both Britons, chose a secluded resort in Krabi, Thailand to handle their wedding ceremony, as well as a less expensive hotel to put up their 50 guests. "It was gorgeous," recalls Lucy, 36, by phone from London, where the couple now lives. "The ceremony took us to a beach, from a beach to a cave and then on to another beach for champagne. There were flowers everywhere."

Hotels are popular for wedding banquets in Asia, and many will also arrange garden-side ceremonies with local traditional touches. (Some tour operators offer entire wedding packages: airfare, hotel and ceremony inclusive.) In Thailand, many hotel-organized weddings include a procession of Thai dancers, live local music, floral decorations and blessings from a village elder or Buddhist monk--a consideration also for couples planning to renew their vows. The swank Regent Resort in Chiang Mai offers such services for $1,200 and up, plus $50 for the registration and translation of legal documents. The Shaikhs paid the Dusit Rayavadee Resort $3,500 for their ceremony and extra for food, champagne and the videographer.

In some Asian countries, foreigners looking to marry can find a wedding organizer to help. In Indonesia, that task often falls to Australian Katrina Simorangkir, who averages 35 weddings a month through her company Bali Weddings International. She typically charges $550 to help couples meet the legal requirements of marriage. (Too bad Jerry Hall didn't get in touch before her ill-fated 1990 Balinese ceremony with Mick Jagger.) Simorangkir bills couples extra for services like selecting bridal costumes and scouting out wedding venues--usually a lush, landscaped hotel garden. "There is a minority who likes to get married on beaches," she says. "But we discourage that unless they choose a private beach. The last thing you want at your wedding is someone yelling out, 'Hey, do you want a carving?'"

Bali was, in fact, the Shaikhs' first choice until they were told Indonesia requires foreigners planning to marry to be of the same religion (Simorangkir says there are exceptions). This was a problem, since Taz is Muslim and Lucy Protestant--though both are non-practicing. "We could have just lied about our religions," says Lucy. "But we thought with our parents sitting there, it didn't seem appropriate."

The couple also ruled out marrying in Hong Kong, where they were both working at the time. And no wonder. Small, sterile marriage registries, where weddings are typically held, churn out a beaming set of newlyweds every 15 minutes. Those with little time to spare will appreciate the efficiency of such civil weddings. Those desiring ceremonial grandeur and a sense of Asian ambiance, however, might opt to precede a walk down the aisle with a trip to the airport.


February 15, 1999

Trend Spotting
The sound of Japanese wedding bells is ringing in profits for Las Vegas

Web Crawling
The legal requirements in a number of favorite marriage spots, including Bali, Fiji, Thailand and Nevada

Short Cuts
The Knot, a popular online pre-wedding pitstop, has released its list of nuptial trends for 1999

Want to make your wedding truly unforgettable? Consider Turtle Island, winner of two PATA gold awards

What is your idea of the perfect wedding?

Main Feature
Those desiring ceremonial grandeur and a sense of Asian ambiance might opt to precede a walk down the aisle with a trip to the airport

ASIANOW Travel Home | TIME Asia home



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