Sanctuaries of Splendour
Sweep your guests off their feet with a destination wedding like no other at one of these enchanting resorts
Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives
The jawdroppingly beautiful turquoise seas and palm-fringed islands of Maldives may seem like a far-flung dream, but truth is, this paradise on earth is just a direct four-hour flight away. Out of the 100 private island resorts that could potentially play host to your nuptials, Gili Lankanfushi stands out for a plethora of attractive reasons.
While Maldivian resorts are spread out far and wide from the international airport island, with some requiring inconvenient seaplane transfers, Gili Lankanfushi is a painless 20-minute doorstep-to-doorstep speedboat ride. Before you can get enough of lounging on the vessel’s loveseat and ooh-ing at the amazing seascape, you’ll find yourself arriving at the resort being welcomed warmly by waving white-clad staff. And that’s where the dream begins not just for you, but also your guests.
At this resort, which was formerly Soneva Gili, every experience is of a bespoke quality. Upon arrival, your dedicated butler, called Mr Friday here, is at the jetty to receive you, give you a quick buggy tour of the island, and escort you to your villa for an in-room check-in. Speaking of villas, there are only 45 of them – every single one overwater, two-storied and extremely large.
Whether you choose a Villa Suite (210sqm villas linked to the island by boardwalk), a Residence or Crusoe Residence (250sqm villas in secluded spots or standalone in the lagoon reached only by boat) or The Private Residence (a 1,400sqm standalone sanctuary with three bedrooms, a spa suite and two sundecks), the accommodation’s rustic eco-friendly furnishings, generous lounging areas and top-notch modcons set the stage for a truly once-in-a-lifetime stay.
The fact that all guest villas are located offshore means the island, which measures 200 metres in length and takes only 10 minutes to circle on foot, is not crammed with buildings and guests. Despite Gili Lankanfushi’s small size, you have many options in customising a full day of celebratory events as all venues and facilities are spaced out nicely. And it seems that each of them was created with privacy and intimacy in mind.
The big day could start with a dreamy morning solemnisation at the gorgeous glass-walled overwater chapel, which is the only one in Maldives. For a small-group lunch, enjoy a leisurely meal cooked with resort-grown greens at Leaf, a large wooden table set in the heart of the Organic Garden. For a larger gathering, indulge in an excellent buffet spread featuring live stations at the Overwater Grill, or a stylish wine-and-chocolate tasting feast in the air-conditioned comfort of the the Wine Cellar and Underground Chocolate Cave.
The afternoon could be spent chilling by the resort pool or at the Overwater Bar, cocktail in hand. Come dusk, hop onto the resort’s boat with your bridal party for a sunset champagne popping session at the floating pontoon.
For the dinner bash, host a Bedouin-inspired experience on the vast Palm Beach, where guests may stargaze on cushions on the sand as they wait for the lamb to roast in the ground. If you’re more inclined towards being marooned, the resort could turn its tiny One Palm Island into a magical venue for a barbecue dinner on the sand lit only by lanterns, candles and the stars above your heads.
For a slightly dressier event, request for a seafood-and-sake extravanganza at By The Sea, an elevated restaurant that serves scrumptious modern Japanese dishes. And reward your helpers with a private movie night at the hidden open-air Jungle Cinema, where cushioned deck chairs, a large projection screen, popcorn and wireless headphones wrap up an unforgettable day.
Even after your celebrations end, the romance does not. Intimate dining experiences at Horizon, a table dug into the beach, or 360°, a treetop venue nestled within lush foliage, are highly recommended. Don’t forget to arrange for sunrise or sunset dhoni cruises, and snorkelling or dive trips, as Gili Lankanfushi is situated in a prime marine life area despite its proximity to the airport.
Also, remember to sweeten your stay with a couple of pampering spa sessions at Meera Spa, which boasts overwater suites with glass floor panels, and a host of treatments, such as the muscle- and soul-soothing Bamboo Massage and Tibetan Singing Bowl Massage, and the seaweed-based Ocean Therapy, which detoxifies and nourishes skin.
Tirtha Uluwatu and Tirtha Luhur, Bali
The breathtaking cliff-side scenery and bright skies of Uluwatu, Bali, already set the scene for an unforgettable wedding. And providing brides- and grooms-to-be with peace of mind for their big day there, is one-stop wedding events specialist Tirtha Bridal, headed by a Japanese couple who are veteran planners on the island.
Whether you choose to hold your nuptials at either one of Tirtha’s two wedding venues, namely Tirtha Uluwatu and Tirtha Luhur, you can be sure even the pickiest of guests will be impressed. Tirtha Uluwatu is a sprawling 6,000-square-metre garden estate featuring 15 individual pavilions and over-water wedding chapels. Tirtha Luhur is a cosy three-bedroom private villa that allows for overnight stays, and includes indoor and outdoor dining venues, a two-tiered infinity pool, a bar and a relaxation gazebo.
For a lavish and unforgettable way to say “I do”, opt for the Aquamarine Water Wedding package at Tirtha Luhur. It features a bridal procession whereby flower girls clad in traditional Balinese attire will escort the bride to a ceremony on a floating altar set upon an infinity pool. For couples who envision their ceremony to be a picture of sheer romance, hold it at Tirtha Uluwatu, where a new gazebo built in the fashion of an intricate birdcage offer a most unique setting.
And don’t worry about running the whole show while you are there, as a wedding assistant will be assigned to each couple. Besides seeing to minute details such as wedding stationery and special dietary requirements of guests, the assistant also offers legal advice on tying the knot in a foreign land.
As with the many unforeseen circumstances that could happen overseas, couples who change their minds about their outfits can pick an alternative one at Tirtha’s on-site bridal boutique, which stocks over 500 rental gowns and tuxedos. If the Tirtha venues don’t meet your wedding’s requirements, the team is able to work out arrangements with its hotel partners, including Bulgari Hotel and Alila Villas Uluwatu.