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The Great Escape
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Acknowledge your vows in the presence of nature, on a cliff overlooking the vast expanse of an ocean or in an ancient structure, perhaps a castle, hidden faraway. Pack your bags to say “I do” at any one of these quaint venues; remember, the purest form of romance is experienced in the most beautiful of settings.

Guests loudly chattering, immediate family running about like headless chickens to get errands done, a music band performing to an unenthusiastic audience, an incessant queue to congratulate the bride and groom who are exhausted by continuously smiling for the camera - these are only a few scenes right out of a big fat Indian wedding. By the end of the 2-3 day ordeal, everybody including the bride and groom feel like they’ve won a battle; a 48 hour nonstop sleep, a day at a spa with massage and the works thrown in might just about combat the exhaustion. Cut to a different scene, of miles and miles of soft sand and cerulean ocean, selected guests, and the only sounds you can hear is the rustling of the waves and the chirping of the birds. Or the scene can be anything you want; an old French chateau overlooking an emerald pasture or a Balinese temple situated in the thick of a forest. A wedding ceremony is about following traditions, but in the bargain, we forget that it is also an extremely personal affair. What has to be memorable for the rest of your life comes to you only in spurts; some of it might even be selective amnesia! The term “destination-wedding” might throw you off instantly, considering it involves a big cost. But if you plan it well and in advance, who knows? You might even manage to spend lesser bucks than you would have in a traditional wedding.

Under the Tuscan Sun
The very thought of Tuscany conjures romantic images, of lush vineyards, olive groves, historic towns and beautiful villas. If you have a guest list fewer than 25, getting married in a Tuscan villa is your best bet. But why Tuscany, you might ask. Tuscany is known for its unique blend of culture, down-to-earth hospitality, unpretentiousness, breathtaking villas and of course, it’s much valued cuisine (look up ribollita and Chianti). Depending on your guest list and budget, you could either choose a villa accommodation for 2-3 days where the whole party can be put up or a daily reception villa that only facilitates the wedding ceremony. While you and your immediate family are busy preparing for the wedding, your guests can explore the cultural wonders of Tuscany and taste the local wines. Most villas come with in-house catering services or you also have the option of hiring a catering company of your choice. If your budget allows you, hire a local wedding planner to help you with the logistics and bureaucracy. Whatever the case may be, ensure that your venue booking is done at least 10 months in advance and that your paperwork is done at least 4 months prior to the date of the wedding; so if you are looking for a last minute happily-ever-after situation, then Tuscany is not an option for you.

Where: Villa Cristina, Villa dei Limoni, Castello Tenuta

Villa wedding: 5 questions to ask
• What time of the year?
• How many rooms do you need?
• What amenities are included?
• What is the break-up of costs?
• Can the villa facilitate both civil and religious weddings?

Island ‘I do’ in Andaman
You probably have a million islands to choose from, but Andaman is not just a cost effective but a practical destination for your big day. Just a short flight trip away, this cluster of islands is located off the eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal. Andaman is home to some of the dreamiest backdrops in the world, from turquoise waters and white sand beaches to tropical greenery unscathed by man. Every island here offers a different experience – if you love adventure, you can even have a unique underwater wedding amidst the beautiful coral gardens at the Redskin Island or mix and match romance and water adventure at Havelock. The best way to get married here is to tie up with a resort – everything from accommodation to food and décor will be a one stop shop; perhaps the bride and the groom can spend their wedding night at one of those overwater bungalows. Make the wedding ceremony a little dramatic: the bride and her parade can stylishly arrive at the service by canoe. Tying the knot in Andaman is relatively hassle-free – the paperwork is the same as any part of India but either the bride or the groom should have lived in Andaman for a minimum of 30 days.

Where: Munjoh Ocean Resort, Silver Sand, Fortune Resort Bay Island

Island insider tips
• Look for venues that suit your personality and ask for suggestions from the locals
• Consider the place for your bachelorette a few months ahead; you can meet your vendors and scout the island for a suitable venue
• Give the guests an actual taste of Andaman by including local flavours to your menu

Tie the knot in a Temple
While there is a sizeable chunk of couples who want to go the whole hog, quite a few prefer less drama in their weddings these days. For those who like to begin their love stories with all the tradition and rituals, but in an understated demeanour, nothing quite fits the bill like a temple. Any temple you pick is steeped in tradition; look nowhere beyond the beautiful sculptures and stone walls, they should be the backdrop for your ceremony. Some might argue that a temple any day has more character and the elusive old world charm that a hotel banquet hall lacks, and it is difficult to win that argument. If you think the temple round the corner from your house doesn’t make a statement (although that seems like a logical option) pick the more obvious ones like the Konark sun temple, Brihadeswara or Khajuraho – there is after all no dearth for temples in India. Your sacrosanct wedding ceremony can be followed by a formal reception dinner at a hotel to compensate for all the simplicity.
Where: Bodhi temple, shore temple (Mahabalipuram), Bhoganandishwara (Bangalore), temples in and around Kumbakonam

Why temple?
• No drama, less hassle
• No need for haggling with vendors
• Steeped in tradition
• Low costs

Royal Matrimony in Rajasthan
Now is the time to make the disclaimer – there is no room for budget here (think Liz hurley and Arun Nair). A palace wedding might take the “big fat” of the Indian wedding to a whole new level but nothing quite spells celebration like this desert state, with its innumerable palaces and rich heritage. The resplendent lakes and gardens and the regal palaces will be the perfect milieu for the Indian Fairytale wedding. Most palaces here have been converted to hotels – so you will be served by the best of butlers and royal chefs, all backed by brands like the Taj and Oberoi. This idyllic wedding destination is a treat for your guests too – panoramic views of the lakes and hills, bonfire nights, temple visits, sumptuous Rajasthani meals and of course, shopping! Most hotel palaces offer great wedding packages that take care of all the wedding functions end to end, from sangeeth to the main wedding ceremony. Couples can even indulge in customized spa treatments and avail of one of those luxurious rooms for their wedding night. With matrimonial bliss in any one of these palaces, you can dance and dine under the stars like the royals of the past did.

Where: Umaid Bhavan Palace (Jodhpur), Taj Lake Palace (Udaipur), Devi Garh (Udaipur), Jai Mahal Palace (Jaipur)

• Confirm the availability well in advance. Some of these hotels handpick weddings to be held in their venue
• You need to book a minimum number of rooms to have your wedding held in these places
• Average cost per night stay at any one of these palace hotels ranges from Rs 30000 -35000 a room (and more if you have the budget)

California Love

Okay! Another ceremony far from budget but if you are planning to honeymoon in the States why not host a wedding in the sunshine state? In terms of ambience, California has all the beautiful scenery you can think of – mountain ranges, sprawling vineyards, cliffside beaches and wild forests. Okay, your guest list could come down to a bare minimum, but that’s really alright if you and your guests get to cruise through Hollywood, bask in the sunshine at Venice beach or spot a movie star at Beverly Hills. But tying the knot in the US is not as easy as you think – your paperwork has to be intact and yet you might run the risk of your visa getting rejected. If you want to do a combination of outdoor and indoor, you could host your wedding at San Diego’s The Grand Del Mar that resembles a Tuscan villa with its Aria lawn and Moroccan pavilion. Keep your guests entertained with surfing lessons and beer and wine tasting – California is home to approximately 4000 wineries! To get married here, all you need to do is bring your mojo along with you; California has everything else to offer - pleasant weather, great vistas, cool vibe and a smiling sunshine!

Where: Newport beach, Redwood National Park, Hollywood/Beverly Hills, Napa/Sonoma Valley

More tips on Cal Weddings
• From fine wine to cheese, give your guests an authentic Californian experience by including local food on the menu
• If you want to get blessings, there are any number of temples (Iskon, Berkley & Venkateswara temple, Calabasas) and there is no dearth of chapels
• There are plenty of hotels that facilitate rooftop ceremonies – Andaz San Diego, Manchester Grand Hyatt, W San Diego Hotel
• Don’t forget to sample the chocolate covered frozen bananas from Balboa Island

Note: To cut down the paperwork, get a court wedding done to register your marriage. This would mean that you are literally flying out to the destination of your choice only to tie the knot!

7 Reasons to say “I do” Outside
• It’s just another vacay! You can leave your stress behind
• Increase good memories for equal or lesser bucks
• You get to (have to) be choosy with guests
• You get to spend a few days not just a few hours with your guests
• Neutral advantage: if you are from Chennai and your to-be hubby is from Bangalore, you don’t have to pick sides
• You get to begin your honeymoon pronto!
• The world is your oyster, really!

Guest List Gambling

Truth time: You can’t afford to have more than 50 guests (stretching it) for your destination wedding. Here’s how you play it:
• Start by how you know this person
• If it’s family (can you remember their last name?) or friend, will they make a difference to your wedding
• If it’s work, does this person sign your pay cheque?
• Do your parents insist someone come?
• Do you have close family and friends who can afford to fly themselves in an out? (Call them!)

Ps: If someone wants to be a part of your big day, they will no matter what. So don’t worry about offending people!

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