Monday, December 23, 2013

Tools of the trade

Over the years of planning weddings for clients who are overseas, we’ve developed an ingenious system which makes a complicated process a whole lot simpler.  Our client tool is an online facility to which our clients gain access once they have booked and paid their deposit.  When you’re in, you can browse all our options, from flowers, through hairstyles, menus to entertainment, cake, wine…
There are photo galleries from which you can put together a scrapbook of your favourites, and areas in which you can make special notes (“I HATE roses!”), and record important information (“nut allergy!”).  In short, you can plan your whole wedding remotely from your living room.  As your wedding day draws close, your wedding planner will let you know when you must decide on your final selections and submit them to us.

Here in the office, our planners log on to our end of the system and download all the information you have entered.  They complete a detailed quotation of costs, and a full program showing the movements of the day’s events, which they in turn upload to the tool for you to see at your end.  The planners will take all the information you have entered and sort it into the appropriate order forms, documents and notes that they will need to communicate with our suppliers, and for themselves on the wedding day.

There are some finer details that are not covered by the tool options so there’s also lots of personal contact between you and your planner via email.  We’re in the office Monday to Saturday and we try to reply to emails within 48 hours – if we’re super-busy we’ll let you know that a response will be with you as soon as we can manage, we have to give priority to the weddings that are closest.  

We’ve been told many times that the client tool has done wonders for our clients’ confidence in our service and has greatly helped in allowing people to vividly visualize their wedding, despite it being in a completely different country.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Making it Legal.

All weddings in Thailand are symbolic – the registration/legalization of a marriage is always separate to the religious ceremony, which for Thai people is normally Buddhist.  If you are coming to Thailand for your wedding, you can either legalize the marriage at home before or after your trip, or you can make it legal while you are in Thailand.  
Our weddings follow the same structure whether they are made legal on the day or not and all of our couples receive a certificate that contains their vows, to sign immediately after the ceremony.  This certificate is purely a keepsake, it is not legally binding.  If a couple go through the Thai legalization process, then a “Balat” (registrar) will attend and take signatures in his book at the same point as the certificate signing.  He will then also present 2 more certificates which are the legal Thai marriage certificates.  

Shane and Sarah with the Samui Balat and their 2 Thai marriage certificates

Faraway simply arrange wedding ceremonies – however we offer a legal service to assist couples who want to go through the formalities in Thailand, by making the process a little simpler.  For a foreign person to legally marry in Thailand, their embassy must release a stamped Affirmation of Freedom to Marry.  If your country does not have an embassy in Bangkok then it may not be possible for you to marry here.  There are also certain policies or regulations in some countries that may disallow marriage in Thailand.  Most of our clients are British, Irish, Australian or New Zealanders and we know that the process is pretty straight forward for them.  If you are from another country then you should first of all contact your embassy to find out if it’s possible for you to marry here, and what you are required to do.

Our legal representative in Bangkok takes care of everything on the Thai side of things.  She cannot enter your embassy or apply for your Affirmations on your behalf but will meet with you outside your embassy in Bangkok, make sure she has all the correct paperwork and will take it from there.  The appointment at your embassy must be at least 6 working days before your wedding.  This detail is the one which can catch people out as embassies are closed weekends and bank holidays, meaning an earlier arrival in Bangkok is needed.    The good news is that you only need to be in Bangkok for one day – we recommend arriving the day before your appointment to be safe, as most embassies only have morning appointments. But you can book your onward journey anytime from that evening.

Once your paperwork has been processed, our legal rep will have the affirmations translated into Thai and then submit everything to the Thai Ministry of Foreign affairs. Once they return the completed paperwork, this is sent to our office on Koh Samui. Faraway then passes the details to the local registrar or Balat. The details will be taken down in the register and also entered on to the national computer system.  The Balat will be booked and he will bring the register and certificates to the wedding.  After the signing we will take one of the 2 Thai certificates and have it sent to Bangkok for translation into English, and these will be posted directly to you.  The 2 Thai certificates are the only ones that will ever be produced – you cannot obtain more copies at a later date.  However, the translations can be reproduced unlimited times should you need this legal documentation in the future.  

Most of our weddings in 2013 were not made legal in Thailand.  Sometimes, couples get legally married in secret before the wedding and prefer to give the impression that the wedding is in fact a legal one which is easily done as the wedding itself looks and feels exactly the same.

Nathan and Karina with their 2 witnesses, signing the Faraway keepsake certificate after their ceremony

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Get with the Program.

Our clients are often surprised by the start time of our ceremonies – for those used to getting to the church for midday or 2pm, our guest arrival at 4:30 could seem like the day is over before it begins!  But there is method to the madness – in fact, our program structure has evolved over the years, taking various elements into account to make the winning formula for a tropical beach wedding.

First and most importantly of all – the hot, hot heat.  It’s hard to imagine from home what the heat and humidity is like here and it is not to be underestimated.  Consider that your guests will come smartly dressed, and that they’ll be out in the sun from the minute they get off the air-conditioned minibus… it’s a celebration, so there’ll be plenty of booze thrown in too.  Your guests (and our staff) would be like a group of wilting daisies before long if they were to arrive at 2pm!  Starting later in the afternoon means the sun is lower and less intense and the temperature is a more bearable.  

If people turn to wilting daisies in the sun, what about the daisies themselves?!  We have seen that setting up in the full heat of the day can be a disaster.  No bride wants to walk onto a beach decorated with limp, droopy flowers – our later start means everything stays fresh and looking fabulous.

Photography is such a major factor for couples that it plays a big part in the timing of the day.  As much as the sun is hot, it is also dazzlingly bright and this is problematic for photographers.  Too much light means over-exposed photos, so the 5pm ceremony start is necessary.  There are 4 hours of photography included in our packages, and we don’t believe in forcing our clients to spend extra so we’ll do our best to keep all major events within this coverage time.  A 5pm ceremony means sufficient time for a photo session before sunset.  As standard, we schedule the fire lantern release, first dance and cake cutting before dinner so that these key moments are captured on camera.  Of course, if you prefer for these things to take place after dinner you have the freedom to move them but remember to think about the photography – additional hours are an option if you do want to (literally) buy yourselves more time!  

If you choose to splash out on fireworks, these will be launched before dinner.  There are strict regulations on fireworks on Lipa Noi beach and we have special agreements with our neighboring resorts and local residents, whom we would never want to upset. 
Sunset is earlier in the later part of the year, so we will schedule our November and December weddings to begin an hour earlier, so there’s still enough time to fit everything in before light is lost. 

If you are having a Buddhist blessing, this will take place at 4pm.  Normally, in a Thai wedding, the monks’ blessing is early in the morning – however, as this would mean an excruciatingly long day for you and also because the monks must be back at the temple before sunset, we have ours just before the beach ceremony.  Due to the heat at that time, the Buddhist blessing takes place under the wooden sala and not on the beach.  

For all of our weddings at Faraway Villa, midnight is home time – again because of our agreement with the locals.  People often ask where they can go afterwards to continue the party but in our experience, the sun and sea air, the fun and food, the drink and the dancing will have people snoozing on the minibus before they even get back to the resort!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Creating Colours with Beautiful Blooms

Having been in this business for several years, we know only too well what a huge part flowers play in a wedding – they are the decorative focal point,  dictating the colour theme and the overall “look” of the event.  Unfortunately, being located on a tropical island does have its drawbacks and we’re faced with various restrictions that mean we can’t simply say “yes” to every request, however much we’d like to.

Local Flowers – Part of the Package

Most of the flowers we get from within Thailand are from the mainland, meaning absolutely everything is imported – even what we refer to as “local flowers”.  Our supplier, based in Bangkok source their flowers from farms all around the country… and this is where we encounter our first problem.  The flowers we order on one day can be quite different to those we order a different day.  Let’s use an orange rose for an example – on Monday the “orange roses” might arrive and be soft, pale and peachy.  On Thursday, the “orange roses” we receive are bright, vibrant and carroty!  As you can imagine, it’s a big headache for us – the last thing we want to do is promise our clients something that we cannot guarantee.  For this reason we are always as honest as we can be – we just can’t promise to get that dream palette totally spot on, or exactly matched to the shade and tone of your bridesmaids dresses.  

To get around this, first of all we need your understanding – please know we’ll always do our best!  You will be better set for success if you can try to go for more general colours – red, yellow, purple are all easy enough, it’s when we start talking about peach, lavender, cerise that we start to worry.  Introducing more colours into the palette is also a safer approach as you are not totally dependent on getting shades spot on – for example, lots of different purple and pink flowers are more likely to compliment each other than one shade of purple and one shade of pink.  Likewise, a multi-coloured selection means that 2 clashing colours won’t offend – some of our favourite themes have been the ones with lots of different colours and flower types.   Another great example is coral, we get LOTS of requests for this theme and each time we have to explain that we can only creat a coral “look” by using a mixture of pink and orange flowers.  White fillers will always help to soften any palette and give the effect of blending colours together.  

To check out the flowers that come as part of our packages and get an idea about the palettes you could create see our Local Thai Flowers Board on Pinterest:

Special Flowers – At Your Request

We don’t actively encourage our clients to choose special flowers as your budget is a large part of our concern, but we can import specialty flowers and flowers not native to Thailand at additional cost.  So if there are flowers that you simply love and want to have there on your day, then let us know and we can find a price on request.  For special flowers, we always advise for use only in bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces, and not on display stands or the ceremony arch/canopy.  This is simply to keep your costs down as an enormous number of flowers are needed for the general decoration.  

You can see some of the popular choices for special flowers here:

Orchids – common Thai orchids come in various shades of purple, white and green.  There is a “pink” orchid, although this is a very purply pink so we choose to avoid it for a pink theme.  These are avaialable all year round though may vary in size and colour intensity.  Some orchids we classify as “Special Flowers” – the Phalaenopsis, Vanda, Cymbidium and Cattleya varieties are popular choices but cost a little extra as they require skillful farming.  They are also only available at certain times of the year, so check with your wedding planner before getting set on having them.

Lotus – Available all year round in pink or white and look fabulous either closed or open with folded leaves.

Roses – Local and imported roses are available all year round in red, pink, white, yellow and orange.  Thai roses are smaller and colours are cruder; the import roses being fuller, larger and more subtle in shade. 


Frangipanis – these are the one exception to all other flowers.  Frangipani flowers are not farmed so can’t be ordered in bulk.  If these flowers are needed, our staff hand-pick them on the morning of the wedding.  Frangipanis – or “leelawadees”, as they are called in Thailand – are very sensitive to the wind and rain, so after a storm it can be impossible to find flowers still on the tree.  They also do not last well in the sun and start to turn brown quickly.  For these reasons, we can’t use frangipanis for general decoration or centrepieces.  If you would like them in your bouquet or boutonniere then we always do our best to deliver, but a back-up plan should always be in place in case of a downpour in the night.  

Tropical Flowers - We believe in THAI BEACH WEDDINGS and would always encourage our clients to embrace the “Thai” and the “Beach” by going for local, tropical flowers with a vibrant colour theme to match.  Sexy pink, Birds-of-Paradise, Torch Ginger… even the names sound exotic and adventurous!  They are always available, they are not expensive and you certainly wouldn’t get them at a wedding at home. 

A note on Blues – Quite simply, Blue is very difficult for us.  We will not use flowers which have been dyed as we don’t feel the results are up to scratch and there’s a risk of staining THE DRESS – which is a BIG no-no!  The only blue flower that we can source is the blue hydrangea and these are currently (a pretty pricey) 300 THB a stem.

DIY colour theme – With all the above in mind, you may be left thinking that your ideal colour theme is unachievable.  However, there’s various things you can do to make your theme work:

·         Bridesmaids and Groomsmen – inject your signature colours through dresses, shoes, ties, pocket-squares or shirts.

·         Guests – have you considered a dress code?!

·         Ribbon – can be used for chair decorations, you can use 2 or 3 colours to make a mix.

·         Linens – savvy brides have brought their own coloured napkins, table runners and chair  sashes to incorporate colours into the reception area

·         Stationery – although we provide printed drink and dinner menus, some clients have opted to have their own printed to match their wedding theme

·         Cocktails – search for recipes that create a drink to match the setting.