One Bride’s Experience of Eloping in Thailand
If you are planning on saying ‘I do’ this year, why not say ‘I don’t’ to the cold and misery of New York City, and instead get hitched in an exotic locale? For Ariel and Jeremiah, that was the perfect plan last January when they tied the knot on the beach at Khao Lak, Thailand. I had the pleasure of photographing their nuptials, and in today’s blog, I have some fantastic destination wedding planning tips from the bride herself.
Ariel is the daughter of a friend and colleague of mine who runs the NYC-based event planning firm, Hold Your Hand Events. I have had the pleasure of working with both Ariel and her mother, Vicki, on countless events, so I was thrilled to be selected as Ariel’s wedding photographer. When I was originally booked in spring or summer of the year prior, the wedding was going to be held at Greenpoint Lofts and had a guest count of over 200. You know, a typical NYC wedding.
But plans changed. Planning a wedding is a bit like taking on a thankless second job that costs an exorbitant amount of money. After going back and forth with various vendors and still trying to keep the budget in check, Ariel and Jeremiah realized that it would cost less if they simply eloped in Thailand rather than staging a huge wedding in New York. And thus, the couple posed the idea of taking me with them to Thailand.
I, of course, was completely on board. I’ll be writing a second article with details of the destination wedding from the photographer’s point of view, but for today’s post, let’s hear some tips from the bride herself (my questions/Ariel’s answers).
Destination Wedding Planning Tips:
Thoughts Before the Wedding
What was the original plan for your wedding?
Our original plan was to have a 250 guest wedding in Brooklyn, NY.
What are the legal details of getting married in Thailand? Would a couple also have to get married in the US for the marriage to be legal?
It is possible to legally marry in Thailand; it’s just a much more tedious process. You have to go a make an appointment at the consulate in Bangkok to receive a form, then have that form translated and filed with a local civil registry office, this process can be costly, and could take days. I would suggest couples marry in the states as we did, and then use the time during your stay to enjoy each other, be pampered, and work on your tan!
Will you have to file any specific paperwork in either Thailand or the US for your marriage certificate?
If a couple opts to do it all in Thailand yes you’d have to follow the aforementioned instructions and hen follow your states guidelines for filing the documents. I found all that information on the US Embassy and Consulate in Thailand website.
Why did you decide to go to Thailand (vs. Bali, etc.) for the wedding?
We got engaged in January of 2017 in Belize, and it was a whirlwind of planning the second we came back from our engagement, that I was completely overwhelmed by. I love planning and organizing other brides big day, but I’d never envisioned one of my own. My husband is a chef, and I am an event planner, knowing the ins and outs of the industry sorta ruined it for us, especially when we started really looking at our costs. We realized we couldn’t comfortably afford the wedding we wanted. We love traveling, so eloping was a no brainer. When thinking of eloping abroad I knew I wanted a warmer climate, what really helped narrow it down was the currency exchange rate for the dollar against the Thai baht. I wanted a dream wedding, but I didn’t want to struggle to pay for it.
How did you select your wedding venue?
I did a quick Google search of all the five-star accommodations with a spa in Thailand. The Sarojin was one of five. I looked at the photos they advertised of their wedding options and saw an elephant, and a waterfall. It was a no brainer!
What was the most important factor in selecting your venue?
I wanted the accommodations to be as nice as the wedding package, and I didn’t want a large resort. The larger the resort the less you can control the onlookers, I really wanted the whole experience to feel like it was just us two. Also The Sarojin offered the elephant.
Is your wedding part of a package? If so, what is included?
Yes! They had two packages available, we opted for the larger package. This included steaming our wedding garments, a one tier cake of our choice, bouquet and boutonnière, a photographer… (I’ll look it up and send you this one)
How did you find your main vendors?
The only vendor we booked personally was you, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with you on many weddings, my first memory of you is laying down on the middle of the cobblestone street to get the perfect pedestrian free photo of your couple, I have been completely in love with your work since. For our wedding the Sarojin handled everything else!
Are you bringing anything with you for the wedding (candles, props, Bible, etc.)?
I bought these just married signs one for us to hold, the other to tie on the elephant, for photos after the ceremony, and two hand fans. My wedding dress was purchased with an air conditioned Brooklyn venue in mind, not a beach.
How did you find your dress?
I am curvy, my dress size is a 16, and my bra size is a DD. I found it very challenging to find a dress the accentuated my shape. Most of the mainstream bridal companies only cater to smaller sizes there isn’t much diversity in the type of dress you will find for a larger size. One of my bridesmaids helped me research boutique bridal shops that offer more size diversity the only one we found in NYC was Pantora bridal in Brooklyn, NY. And the experience blew me away they are wonderful.
How are you transporting your dress and any special items to Thailand?
Vacuum sealed bags, and determination! I didn’t want anything to get lost in transport so I jammed packed my carry on with all our wedding essentials!
Any big fears about having a wedding so far away?
How/when will you be telling your friends/family that you got married in Thailand?
After it’s all said and done we will make formal announcement cards to be sent out, and post on our social media forums, we also have a website: www.swainky.com
What is your plan for the honeymoon?
We are a bit ankered down by our amount of bags so we will stay at our wedding location for a while and just transfer to one other hotel in Phuket City.
Destination Wedding Planning Tips:
Thoughts After the Wedding
Did anything not go as planned?
Tons! It rained, my flat iron broke, and I forgot the sign for the elephant, and we almost didn’t make it to Thailand at all because I messed up our flight times. They use military time. And never fly Air China! (Editor note: I completely agree; Air China is the worst airline ever.) Spend the extra dollars and fly Emirates! For that long of a flight invest in your comfort!
What was your favorite part of the wedding?
The waterfall dinner that we added to our package.
Was there anything you would have changed or done differently for the wedding?
No, it was completely magical.
Have any advice for anyone planning an international wedding?
To allow your wedding venue do the planning, it was such a relief to literally just show up and enjoy it all. Invest more money on the things that you value, we wanted our family to truly experience our big day after the fact so we opted to bring our photographer as opposed to using the photographer they provide and potential being unhappy with the product. We purchased our own champagne at the duty free store during our travel it’s much cheaper, and you can be sure of your product this way.
Have any advice for anyone planning to elope?
Do your research and triple check your information! Remind yourself why your doing it throughout your process with weddings in general it’s so easy to get guilted by family and friends, pushed to make decisions based on them. You and the person you marry are the only opinions that matter.
What about you? Are you planning a destination wedding? Which exotic locales are you and your betrothed headed to? I’ll have more details on Ariel and Jeremiah’s Thailand wedding next week, but in the meantime, drop me a line if you have any questions or want to chat about your upcoming destination wedding.
Ceremony Venue: The Sarojin
Ariel and Jeremiah’s wedding package:
- The Sarojin wedding ceremony (Thai or Western, celebrant, venue hire and set up, luck chains, frangipani and orchid floral decorations)
- Our personal wedding planner for all your tailored requests
- A bridal bouquet
- A groom corsage
- An elegant one tiered wedding cake
- A bottle of sparkling wine
- Steaming for bride dress and groom suit
- A private a la carte breakfast with sparkling wine for bride & groom the next morning
- Room upgrade from Garden Residence to Spa Suite subject to availability exist at time of booking for bride & groom
- 4 hours of photography with 100 images (Ariel instead substituted a videographer)
- The elephant and the waterfall private dining experience are add-ons to the package
- Prices begin at 91,200 THB (as of Jan 2019)
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website — www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com