When property and banking magnate Sudhir Ruparelia announced that he would spare no expense for his daughter’s lavish wedding last year, the news made headlines in most newspapers around the region.
The Uganda-based billionaire revealed early last year that he planned to spend as much as $2 million (Sh172 million) on his first daughter, Meera Ruparelia who will be getting married on Valentine’s Day this year to a businessman from a wealthy Kenyan family, Ravi Kotecha.
The said wedding is thought to be the most expensive in East Africa and will be a destination wedding both in Kampala and London.
Ms Catherine Masitsa Rozsa of Samantha Weddings tells of how Indian weddings are often high fliers with most communities competing to outdo each other, with the parents being the ones paying for the occasion.
Destination weddings have over the years gained popularity among the growing middle class with most breaking away from the traditional indoor weddings for a lavish outdoor wedding.
Many have dreamt of exchanging their vows in the most exotic destination, under the sun in the cool coastal breeze with palmtrees swaying and a magnificent backdrop to capture it all.
It’s probably one of the more expensive weddings to hold but one that will give your guests something to talk about for a long time.
“Destination weddings have now become the most sought-after in the country with Masai Mara and Beach weddings taking the lion’s share of these events,” says Ms Rozsa
Malindi, Lamu, and Watamu are the most preferred destinations for the beach weddings while African bush weddings are mostly in the Masai Mara.
The options are now numerous as hotels and holiday destinations open up their grounds to include various wedding packages.
Countries have also taken up the mandate to market themselves as a wedding destination of choice due to the growing demand for destination weddings.
Representatives from different countries are flocking wedding fairs to get part of the share, in Africa, South Africa has the highest number of destination wedding bookings.
“In Kenya, the trend is fast catching on among the middle class who prefer a luxurious but small private affair with a few friends and family outside the city,” says Ms Rozsa.
Those going for such a wedding will usually limit the numbers because they want the best for their guests. Most of the time, the guests will be transported to the wedding venue and accommodated full board for the duration of the event.
Naivasha is also said to be a growing wedding destination as it is a convenient location just an hour away from Nairobi and guests can opt to spend the night there or travel back without much hustle.
The engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton at a resort on Mt Kenya also drove many foreigners to book the location for their weddings.
The upper class has often held their flamboyant weddings with all the pomp and fair, spending up to Sh50million without batting an eyelid.
It is in 2010 that developed economies experienced the worst recession, but in countries such as the Maldives, Thailand, and Mauritius, the tourism sector was a major player in driving the economy due to booming international business for destination weddings.
“This was because celebrities held their extravagant but private wedding ceremonies in these countries away from the prying eyes of their fans who would have bashed them for spending luxuriously during the hard economic times,”
However, it is not easy when it comes to planning a destination wedding since there are a lot more that need to be factored in compared to a local wedding.
For example, in the case of the Kotecha and Ruparelia wedding, an engagement in Kampala had guests coming from around the globe. The wedding in London will have even more people travelling to the venue from all corners of the world.
The logistics of bring over 1000 guests together, arranging accommodation and all that cannot be easy at all.
Event organizers say that a lot more is to be considered when planning a destination wedding. First, the couple has to cater for most of the guests’ requirements such as transport, accommodation and meals for the few days leading to the wedding.
Zuri Events, a Nairobi-based wedding organizer say accommodation and travel arrangements are the most expensive, adding that is why destination weddings are often small and intimate affairs.
The budget and time aspects are the most important for them to pull it off. The destination and type of wedding also need to reflect the couples interests and personality. For those who love animals, a park could do while a wedding at a vineyard could reflect the couples love for wine.
Timing is also important when choosing a destination wedding as the high season will definitely dig a hole in the budget while a low season right before and after the peak season will save them a lot money.
“When a couple proposes a destination wedding, there are there options to consider, one is to pay for all the expenses and costs accrued in the wedding by the guests.
Another option is to partly pay for the expenses, this, the couple has to agree to either pay for the guests’ accommodation while they (guests) pay for transportation to and from the venue.
Third is where the guests incur all the cost of their trip to the destination. With a destination wedding, it is important to include activities for the guests for the days leading to and after the wedding.
This is because most guests will want to tour around before going back to their homes therefore killing two birds with one stone.
If the wedding is in a foreign country, it is important to check the local requirements stipulated in order to get married and have all that sorted way before the wedding day.
Many countries have a residency requirement which means you must reside in the country for a certain length of time before your ceremony.
France for example requires one to arrive at least 40 days before the wedding day.
Those opting for a destination wedding usually need like a year to get everything in place. If you are one of them, this is the time to start planning.
If your guests will be paying for part of their trip, let them know now so they can make travel and accommodation bookings early.