Beach weddings are the ultimate event. From sea breezes, minimal decorating (the ocean speaks for itself) and casual footwear (we’re talking barefoot – there is no place for shoes in the sand) to free-flowing Gin & Tonics and fully-clothed (or not) escapades into the water, they’re the dream. And they’re only growing in popularity.
So, just how does one pull off such an event? Well, learning to make the dream a reality, we talked to Barbara Bowen owner of Baan Leelawadee in Koh Samui about her own beach wedding.
Image Courtesy of Barbara Bowen
Why did you choose to have your wedding in Koh Samui at Baan Leelawadee?
It’s such a magical place with such an amazing location! The villa sits on a horseshoe bay directly across from the Big Buddha, so it has a really good vibe and a great feeling to it. And this being in front of my villa was a very special feeling, of course.
Did you have to go to outside vendors at all?
Since you don’t live in Samui, how did you organise things like food?
The villa staff did a lot of the organisation! For example, they did a lot of trials – tastings all of the Thai tapas and drinks. For the initial reception, we had tried many, many different tapas with a beautiful presentation.
If you can talk to the villas about the food beforehand, you can have a tasting extravaganza at the villa during your visit. The villa chefs can help arrange the wine as well as the food.
How many times did you go back and forth to the villa to fully prepare for the wedding?
Once for us because we owned the villa and therefore had our venue already.
For anyone else, twice. Once to find the venue and then once to get everything organised. You can do a lot of preparation before you go! You should do price negotiations for flowers and for hair and things like that. Google or Pinterest almost everything you need before you get there, including food!
There is sometimes a limitation in terms of how many guests you can have at villas. How did it work out for you?
Well, if you consider that you’re having people fly in from all over the world, you’re not expecting to have a huge number of people, so it was perfect. We had a smaller group, and together the eight villas in the Dhevatra Residence, where Baan Leelawadee is, can sleep upwards of 100 guests.
This meant people could gravitate to their own smaller groups. Each group had their own chefs and they could have their own time within the villa rather than having to behave in a herd-like manner.
And especially, if you come a long way, you’re not coming for 24hrs – you’re coming for a week or so. So, from that point of view, renting out so many of the villas in the Dhevatra Residence for our guests worked perfectly and all together we ended up being about fifty something people, so it was a lovely number – big enough to have a lot of fun, small enough to get to hang out and talk to everyone.
How long in advance did you send out invites?
We did save the dates about seven months prior. And then we filled in more details around about three months later.
We had booked the dates well in advance. We just wanted to give more information about what we were doing when we gave the update. For example, we had a huge BBQ the night before the wedding, and the following day we had hired Thai boats to go snorkelling. The villa chefs prepared picnics for everyone and cold drinks. It was a three-day fiesta.
What did your guests do when you weren’t hosting them specifically for the wedding activities?
Most of them went from villa to villa catching up with one another, going into the Fisherman’s Village and enjoying the street markets. No one was bored. Everyone seemed quite happy to explore and be spoilt by the villa staff.
Would you do it the same way again?
I don’t intend to get married again, but I would do it this way again. It wasn’t a wedding out of your typical bridal magazine. It had a lot more attention to detail. It was much more individual.
So, besides the fact that your villa is there, why have a wedding in Koh Samui?
Well, they say the Earth has good energy lines. And apparently, one of the good energy lines is just along Bophut Bay. When everyone comes there, they always end up feeling very happy, very peaceful, very in harmony with themselves. So, there is a magic in Koh Samui – very good energy. Each day you’re there you feel happier and more peaceful. Somehow, I’m a businesswoman, but I feel that energy. It feels really good.
What else is remarkable about having a wedding in Samui?
Wonderful food, wonderful weather, beautiful location, and great service! It’s a great location for families to meet up, especially for those with families in Northern Europe and Southeast Asia. And in a situation where you have luxury villas, family units can be based in units together. Dhevatra Residence is wonderful for that too, so not just Leelawadee, but the villas in the residence can host groups and families. Groups that are travelling from around the world all have their own space and their base.
Is there anything that didn’t go particularly to plan that you’d recommend to others before they plan their beach wedding?
Everything did go to plan! But, there was one detail that I must confess I had overlooked. I had not checked the tide tables! So, it was purely by good luck that we didn’t have a high tide for our wedding. Otherwise, the guests would have been standing on top of our chairs! So, one recommendation – if you’re having a wedding on the beach, check the tide tables!
That would have been one thing that could have gone dreadfully wrong!