There are some places that feel like a long-lost friend the minute you meet. That’s precisely how it was for me the first time I headed to Thailand.
Growing up in Los Angeles (a city with a large Thai ex-pat population), I knew how good Thai hospitality (and food) is. But I was amazed how Thailand had so much in common with Hawaii, which made it seem instantly familiar. So, when my Hawaiian husband and I decided to elope, we zeroed in on Thailand.
Let’s back up a second because, yes, that’s right, we eloped. Weddings are a very personal choice, and eloping is not for everyone, but it was perfect for us. After an almost two-year engagement, both of us were deep in the throes of our respective entrepreneurial paths (me launching Salt & Wind Trips and he at a tech startup), so we hadn’t done an iota of wedding planning.
On a whim, we decided to elope, realizing that it’d likely be years before we tied the knot if we didn’t just do it.
After some research and planning, we turned the trip into a Wedding-moon as in, yes, a wedding immediately followed by a honeymoon. The idea was this sort of travel would allow us to get away for a few days (just the two of us) and tie the knot in one of the most intimate ways.
Our trip started in Bangkok, but all of the wedding and honeymoon details took place in Phuket. This meant we were able to do dress fittings and plan the wedding details while in the city, and then the whole team hopped the quick flight south to help us execute the wedding.
Here is a recap of our wedding day in Thailand. Though we eloped, we still used the team (a dress designer, event planner, and photographer) that you’d use for a larger wedding, so here are the resources I’d recommend if you’re planning a wedding — traditional or otherwise — in Thailand.
Morning: Traditional Thai Wedding
Yes, we decided on Thailand as a bit of a whim, but it was important to us that the day had a sense of place. For that reason, we wanted to weave in a bit of the Thai culture and do a version of a traditional Thai wedding ceremony. OF course, neither of us is of Thai heritage, so this part of the day was a total adventure for us both.
Truth be told, we were able to pull it all off so quickly because we worked with a dedicated team out of Thailand who pretty much handled every detail. Yes, that meant we let go of total control and let them make many decisions, but we worked together on the overall idea and themes.
The team — Khun Jai of RDM event planning, Khun A of Bridesmaid Thailand wedding dress design, and the team of Narz Photography — led the organization of every detail of the day and taught us all about Thai wedding customs such as the head garland and water ceremonies.
To start off the ceremony, my husband had to go through the khan maak procession, where he has to pass through a series of “gates” and use a “key” (usually fake or real money) to get permission to marry the bride.
It’s a really fun ceremony where everyone involved is teasing the groom and making him do all sorts of challenges (such as yelling the bride’s name out over and over again!) in order to gain access to the bride. After he passed through all the gates, he picked me up and walked me to the gazebo where we had our ceremony.
The whole area was decorated with intricate floral arrangements (including orchids, crown roses, and lotus blossoms), and I had a stunning origami-like lotus bouquet we even had flower garlands we wore around our necks.
My favorite part of this part of the day was the water ceremony wherein friends bless your marriage by pouring water on your hands out of a conch shell. For this ceremony, we wore traditional Thai wedding outfits (handmade by Khun A and the talented team at Bridesmaid Thailand), and I loved that my groom looked like a Hawaiian-style Yule Brenner out of the “King and I” (you know who I’m talking about fellow musical dorks)!
Afternoon: Intimate Western Wedding
While the morning was filled with all the details of the traditional Thai ceremony, the afternoon was a laidback Western-style wedding ceremony.
We had a super modern chic villa at Twin Palms Resort, so we spent a few hours just relaxing at our private pool between the two ceremonies. Clearly, we’re not ones for tons of tradition, so we decided to spend this time just the two of us (along with some snacks and a bottle of Champagne, of course).
After that, we changed into more Western-style clothes (also designed by the team at Bridesmaid Thailand) with this handmade wedding dress and a traditional tux for Chris.
I know a lot of people think it’s bad luck to get ready together and that the groom shouldn’t see the bride in her dress before the wedding, but we figured we’d already thrown the wedding playbook out when we decided to elope. Chris and I have been together nine years, and we’re best friends, so it felt only natural to share every moment of this special day.
To us, our favorite part of the day was the ceremony portion of the Western wedding because the backdrop was totally jaw-dropping and really intimate. We boated out to Phang Nga Bay on a yacht chartered with Andaman Cruises to exchange vows at sunset. If you haven’t seen it before, Phang Nga Bay is a perfect postcard.
Just a few miles northeast of Phuket, Phang Na Bay is made up of more than 100 islands with limestone sea mountains (aka karsts) that rise dramatically out of the water, so you’re surrounded by teal water, green cliffs, and blue skies.
As the afternoon wore on, the forecast worsened, but we crossed our fingers in hopes of a clear sunset. And, no joke, right as we dropped anchor, the weather cleared and, for the ceremony, it was clear as can be.
I cannot oversell this part of the day because it was super special. We were in the midst of one of the most serene places we’ve ever seen with not a soul around so we felt like the only people on earth while we exchanged our vows.
We were so wrapped up at the moment that we popped open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate and couldn’t have cared less when a full-on downpour began. Luckily, by then, the team of Narz Photography caught some photos.
People keep asking us if we’d do it again, and the answer is 1,000 times yes! Sure, we were bummed our family wasn’t there to witness it all, but we made up for that with a mini celebration with 40 of our nearest and dearest friends once we returned home.
Ultimately, we decided we wanted our wedding to just be about the two of us as a couple and, as such, our time in Thailand was a memory of just us. And the beauty of a destination wedding is that we plan to return there for anniversaries since it feels like we have this special corner of the world to call our own!
Sponsored Post: This trip to Thailand and this post were sponsored by Bangkok Airways and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. All content, ideas, and words are our own. Thanks for supporting these sponsors who allow us to keep Salt & Wind Travel up and running.