Bride & Joy
You've taken the plunge and sorted out the guest list
It’s official! You’re a wedded-couple-to-be, and you’ve got the sparkler on your finger (and the dent in his bank balance) to prove it. All of that time spent poring over wedding magazines has not been in vain. You’ve got very firm ideas about the frock, the flowers, the food and the favours – and don’t worry, no one needs to know about that scrapbook of ideas you’ve been compiling ever since your second date! But the question of “where” remains to be decided, jointly, of course. So while we may not be able to help convince your future in-laws it’s not OK to invite the woman they’ve had earmarked for their son since high school, we can at least help you choose the location of the European wedding of your dreams.
THE BRIEF: “I want to get married without the formality of four walls, but still need to be within reach of all the mod cons, such as electricity for my hairdryer.”
THE BUDGET: €3,000
THE SOLUTION: Located near the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana, Prague, the Vrtba Garden (pictured below) dates to 1720 and is built along the slope of Petrin Hill. The incline means there’s a view of Prague and its wedding-picture-perfect, spire-spiked skyline from the top. And, ensuring that your guests’ (there’s room for 200 of them) first impressions are as “Gasp! Ooohhh!” as the rest of the ceremony, they’ll enter through an ornate pavilion – beyond which lie terraces, a fountain and imposing statuary from the baroque period. The stairways are ideal for trailing gowns; just don’t overdo it on the toasting bubbles or you may come a cropper in your wedding heels.
FIRST DANCE SONG: I Build this Garden for Us, by Lenny Kravitz.
THE BRIEF: “Sweep me off my feet! I want to be carried away on the wings of love.”
THE BUDGET: €2,000
THE SOLUTION: Er, don’t know about the wings of love, but how about drifting gently skywards in the carriage of Vienna’s Riesenrad, or giant Ferris wheel? Built to mark the 50th anniversary of Emperor Franz Josef I’s ascension to the throne, it’s been standing for over 100 years. Film buffs will also like the connection to The Third Man. The wedding takes place in the luxurious Art Nouveau car, furnished to look like an old Viennese coffee house. The ceremony lasts an hour, completing when the carriage reaches its peak at 65m. The carriage can hold up to 12 people, and ceremony times are 4pm–6pm on weekdays and 10am–2pm on Saturdays. A budget of €2,000 will cover the basic package (booking and rental), as well as the cost of the Viennese registrar. You can also arrange Champagne receptions and other services.
FIRST DANCE SONG: You Spin Me Round, by Dead or Alive.
THE BRIEF: “Every young girl dreams of being a princess, with her own castle and handsome prince to boot. What a shame I had to kiss so many frogs before it could come true.”
THE BUDGET: €20,000
THE SOLUTION: Romance and Italy go virtually hand in hand, so if it’s fairytales you’re after look no further than a medieval castle in Florence – yours for a full or half day. There are various options for the ceremony (civil and protestant only) and reception. Choose from open-air, candlelit courtyards and garden terraces, with views over the Tuscan countryside. Smaller groups of about 60 can use the lodge, leading out onto the garden. And as if the setting itself were not romantic enough, legend has it that the castle is haunted by the ghost of a beautiful Italian girl called Bianca, who died of a broken heart and protects all those who love (mind she doesn’t upstage you if she makes an appearance).
FIRST DANCE SONG: Princess, by Elton John.
THE BRIEF: “Give me sun-kissed skin and sun-soaked surroundings, photos against a backdrop of blue sea and sky, but with loads of luxury separating us from the prospect of sand in uncomfortable places.”
THE BUDGET: €8,500
THE SOLUTION: With a choice of waterfront terrace or Polynesian pagoda – each of which can be transformed into an open-air church setting – Marbella’s El Oceano Beach Hotel smacks of laid-back luxury on the water’s edge. The on-site spa will ensure you get all the pampering you need, and that your wedding-day look is “glowing beach babe”, rather than salt-stiffened and sun-frizzled. Planning the reception is also an (ocean) breeze, with the restaurant creating anything from a buffet to a five-course extravaganza. With this budget you’ll be able to cater for about 50 guests, all of whom will be eligible for discounted rooms.
FIRST DANCE SONG: Sea of Love, by The Honeydrippers.
WED... like a celeb
Celebrities inspire us on just about every level – clothes, hair, what to eat, even what form of yoga to practice – so why wouldn’t we also take a leaf from their “where’s hot to get hitched” book? Just be sure not to take your cue from them when it comes to the small issue of relationship longevity – at least not without a watertight prenup. Heather and Paul, anyone?
But in happier times, Paul McCartney wed Linda Eastman at London’s Westminster Register Office, and a host of celebs, including Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton (pictured), have followed suit. Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella opted for the grandeur of Rome when he wed Luna Castellani; or you could tie the knot in Florence, as David Bowie and Iman did. They celebrated at the 16th-century Villa La Massa, which also has a small chapel in the grounds. Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria headed to Paris to say “I do” to Tony Parker, while celebrity make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury entertained Kate Moss and Jade Jagger at her 2006 wedding in Ibiza.
Top 5 reasons to marry abroad
1. The fact that it’s not local may minimise the interference you get from well-meaning mothers. “No, your friend Doris can NOT do the flowers!”
2. The legalities, language barriers and logistics of a wedding in another country will provide all the excuses you need to hire a wedding planner.
3. Your guests will likely be around for a few days, or even a week, so you can organise get-togethers before the wedding itself.
4. You’ll have a no-fail excuse for taking short breaks abroad in the months leading up to your wedding.
5. “Being somewhere completely different from the norm can really enhance the special quality of your wedding day, and give the two of you a place that you’ll have ample reason to return to, time and again,” says international wedding planner Karen Thornton-Brown of Weddingsabroad.com