Anita & Richard's wedding, with Carter (left) a popular Samui based wedding Celebrant
With the soaring costs of weddings in UK, Europe and Australasia, tropical beach weddings on Koh Samui are becoming increasingly popular. It's a pity that we're losing some of our enthusiasm for hosting these events.
While we've hosted only five weddings to date and have another couple booked for 2009, we learned quickly that the attraction of guaranteed revenue from booking-out all our rooms to one party, usually for between three and six days, is tempered by being left with vacant rooms either side of the event. And coincidently, on each of the last three occasions, having to turn away enquiries for 14 days and more.
We seem to have less trouble filling our little hotel these days. At least half the rooms are reserved for many months in advance which reduces our ability to accept reservations for the entire hotel.
On balance, room revenue and food/wine sales, together with any commissions paid to us by other participating service providers doesn't always compensate for the inconvenience to other guests we've had to molify; staff overtime, hire of additional seating, linen service and items too numerous to list that come under the general heading : organizational hassle.
An early start: The florists work their magic
Lucy has had to become very selective in deciding which bookings to accept and has declined more than she has accepted, mainly from whom she calls 'Bridezillas'. Her decision, in the end, comes down to whom and when, and is highly subjective. Priority is given to friends and former guests, followed by smaller wedding parties, and those that can book low season dates well in advance.
Chair/table and linen hire. On this occasion, for 36 guests
Unfairly, prospective brides must also possess a hard-to-describe quality that puts them on the same wavelength as Lucy - she must be able to empathize with the bride-to-be, and it helps if they have some idea of what they want and don't want on their special day. Given the issues I've described, the least successful way of securing a wedding booking at Baan Bophut is to ask from the outset "How much discount for booking all your rooms?" And the most successful way? Being her big brother.
Jane and Arash's wedding, with Celebrant, Carter (again)
I've made this sound like it's all downside for us and it's not, of course. We love dressing-up: ourselves, our staff and the hotel to create a very special, memorable day for the bride & groom. If they can get through Lucy's selection process, the couple and their guests are on to an absolute winner.
A typical wedding at Baan Bophut for 35-40 guests that includes three/four course meal with wine, flowers, cake, celebrant (if you don't supply your own) fireworks, professional photographer and an open bar for, say six hours, totals about Thai Baht 175,000 (US$ 5,250, GBP 3,250 currently) at the top end. Room rent is obviously extra, as is an on-site hair and make-up stylist that costs a (very) little bit more, but most wedding parties value this convenience.
Savings can be made by limiting guest numbers, the menu choices, table wine, and free bar. But even at the top-end, our prices offer a much better deal compared to 'Western' wedding costs. Flight costs put some guests off, but if the wedding date can be fixed for far enough in advance, it's possible for guests to plan their annual holiday around the event.
Apart from passing Lucy's selection process, the weather is also a bit of a lottery. There is no time of the Koh Samui year when it can be guaranteed not to rain, and while we have no real alternative venue to the beach for a large number of gueststs, we've always managed so far.