There is little in life that we love more than a destination wedding – a chance to get away, explore a new corner of the world, chill with our favourite people, and celebrate love. To learn more about what makes destination weddings work and the often overlooked element that couples really need to be paying attention to, we talked to Anna Robinson.
Anna is the founder of Melbourne-based Take Us to Thailand, an event planning firm that focuses on events in Thailand and places an emphasis on great drinks, great food, beautiful venues and amazing accommodation for all (they even offer an accommodation booking service) – ensuring that everyone has an enjoyable and memorable time.
So, what’s the secret to an amazing destination wedding? Read on to find out!
Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you came to set up Take us To Thailand?
It’s nothing that I ever thought I would be doing. I studied commerce and arts and was working for a start-up hedge fund, but had worked part-time in catering and event coordination in university.
I was asked to be a bridesmaid for a great friend and help plan her wedding for her. She and her partner were both living in London and are Australian and wanted to have the wedding halfway between the two. So, Thailand was chosen because it’s warm year-round, has delicious food and friendly people.
The couple hadn’t actually been to Thailand before, but because my grandparents had worked as doctors in Malaysia from the 1970s to the 90s, I had been to Thailand a couple of times when visiting them. I suggested Koh Samui to my friend, and that’s how we ended up there.
Some of her friends got engaged during the week of that wedding. We were asked to do that wedding a year later, and of course, everything had to be different. We did welcome drinks, recovery barbecues, and everything from flowers to guest accommodation to airport pickups to photography and videography and entertainment to managing dietary requirements.
Once we had done two weddings, very different ones working with different nationalities and sourcing accommodation and setups, people’s mums started getting in touch, calling and saying ‘oh, our daughter’s marrying a British guy, they want to get married in Thailand, can you help us with all that?’.
And from there we started to talk to vendors and began to see the gap we could fill. Once we put up the website, we had 22 weddings to do.
You’re based in Melbourne but manage events in Thailand. Why did you decide to work like that, and how has that benefited your clients?
It’s definitely a benefit to our clients in that we live in Melbourne, but we’re very much international in terms of our work. A lot of our clients are based in Australia or the UK and don’t even go to Thailand in the lead-up to their weddings. It’s much more likely that we’ll see them at home whether that’s in Melbourne or Sydney or during one of our annual trips to London.
As well, when we’re in Thailand, every meal and experience is an opportunity to grow our knowledge and our portfolio of recommendations. So every day, three meals a day and every night we’re checking out somewhere new. Every moment is an opportunity to investigate new places and learn their standards.
We’re in a very strong position to work on the time zone of our clients and to the professional standards that they’re expecting.
What’s the one often overlooked element you think every couple should incorporate into their weddings?
They overlook the importance of considering the group. They often think they’re doing the guests a favour by believing guests will want to do their own thing. Whereas, guests, when they’re invited to a destination event are really thrilled when there are options provided because they’re really only coming because of the wedding.
We really focus on the group holiday as much as the wedding day itself. The wedding day should flow and be fantastic and seamless for everyone, but if the guests don’t feel relaxed and comfortable while they’re there, then the whole point of bringing them to Thailand is lost.
What does it take to keep a group happy?
We start off quite early on in the wedding week with welcome drinks so that people can see who’s there. Then we also plan a golf day or a boat day or any other excursions. We end the week with post-wedding recovery events. This all lets the guests really experience where they are.
A lot of the content of the speeches at our weddings are “what a fantastic time,” and often, unexpectedly. I find that often weddings are very traditional, and sometimes people’s parents feel put out that their children have chosen to marry someone from the other side of the world, and more so then to have the wedding in Thailand, potentially a place that they’ve never been. When they get there and realise that this is great value for money and especially when they’re at villas and they find that the staff is fantastic, they feel like it’s a first-class trip.
What do you think is the biggest factor that can make or break a group’s experience?
I think a happy group comes from excellent accommodation primarily because that’s where they spend most of their time. I think a big problem, especially with Australians going to Thailand, is that they believe they won’t be in their room much and won’t need to spend much, but Thailand is not Europe. They won’t be out sightseeing all day.
Thailand is a place where you go to enjoy the hospitality and the food and massages and drinks around the pool. When people spend a bit more on accommodation, they realise that the trip is much better than what they expected and start to relax.
What are a few things couples should keep in mind when choosing a venue?
They need to know what their back-up plan for rain is (whether that’s a covered base or a marquee) which is very important given that Thailand has a tropical climate, and to ensure there is plenty of power so that the DJ can play and the lights can stay lit.
Also, things like accommodation for guests. Not everyone is going to be on the same budget, and some people might not want to stay at the same place as everyone else.
And finally, transport and how to get guests to and from the event.
What is the most common misconception you’ve come across about getting married in Thailand?
That they can get a beautiful villa, a hundred people, drinks and food until 3 AM, two elephants, a band, a photographer and videographer for all under $10,000!
Basically, the belief that what was is on offer in Thailand is world-class quality for cheap. You can find exceptional quality in Thailand for a reasonable price, but most people don’t realise that the costs can creep up and they need to be mindful of that in advance.
These are resort islands too. They’re not New York or London. Couples really need to trial suppliers. You don’t want to accidentally end up with Ladyboy style make-up or a cheapy celebrant – it’s important to get advice, so you only work with good suppliers.
What do you feel makes Thailand so special as a wedding destination?
Year-round warm weather; amazing and flavoursome food; the wellness culture; and an outstanding service culture, with warm, helpful and kind people. It’s also wonderful for children with calm beaches. Thai people are so gorgeous with children – childcare is never a problem at a Thai wedding.
The location is a key reason too because a lot of couples are engaging in relationships across different cultures and nationalities and Thailand is a very neutral location – halfway between places like Australia and the UK or America.
And its a place of intrigue. A lot of couples who are both American or Canadian love it because it’s a place where they can take their guests on an adventure.
You’ve planned weddings all over Thailand. Are there any spots that you find particularly special?
Koh Samui. It was the spot of our very first wedding!
I really like The View villa. I love the way the architect merged the natural elements and modern living.
Koh Samui is so family-friendly, and international groups love it because it still has that original village feel. In Taling Ngam, where The View is, there are great little restaurants on the beach. You can still go to the local boxing gym or a local restaurant. In Samui, you don’t feel like you’re in a little resort compound.
Phuket is a great location too, because it’s so accessible.
Chiang Mai is delightful with the fresh air and beautiful greenery. The food there is so different from what you’d get in the southern islands.
Are there any local customs that you love seeing couples embrace?
The thing I think is most important is that people are true to themselves. People are already enjoying so much of Thailand with a wedding there. The venue is Thai, and the staff are Thai, the food is Thai. There is a lot of delightful Thai culture involved in the day.
That said, from Thai culture, the water blessing ceremony would be our favourite local tradition. It’s where the couple holds hands and friends and family pour water from a shell over the couple’s hands to join them together.
You have over 15 years of experience arranging events in Thailand. Do you have a fondest memory?
We’re very lucky because we see people at such a happy time. Recently, we had a couple – two men – that had been together for many years. They had a beautiful ceremony overlooking the water, and they explained in their ceremony that they never thought this moment would come, where they’d be able to celebrate their love with their family and friends. It was so divine that they were enjoying it so much.
The best moments are really seeing groups who are so happy for the couple.
What about the craziest moment?
Not so much a crazy moment, but certainly a stressful moment is trying to get everyone on the bus at the end of the night because they all want to stay! It gets quite stressful trying to get 100 drunken people to go back to their villas.
Main image by Anne Sophie.