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Nature At Its Best

Stone lions at entrances of buildings or houses, which act as auspicious guardians, always come in pairs.

They are usually placed apart, the male on the left side of the gate or door, and the female on the other.

But the pair at the entrance to the five-star Le Midi Hotel in Sitou of Nantou district in central Taiwan is not, taking all first time visitors by surprise.

Strangely, both the male and female lions are standing close to each other instead, leaning to the left side of the grand entrance.

A check with the hotel revealed that the lions, each weighing several tones, were originally placed apart at the entrance till a devastating earthquake in 1999 and Typhoon Toraji two years later. Both events nearly destroyed the 243-room hotel.

When the hotel’s new owners decided to renovate the hotel a few years later, they were surprised that the female stone lion from the right side had moved close to the male one on the left.

The new owners, believing it was the lions’ wish to be close together in the face of the two natural calamities, left them alone as the hotel went through a major make-over which turned it into the beautiful and elegant hotel it is today.

The hotel’s assistant public relations manager Mimic Chiu said: “It shows the power of love. The female lion, many of us believe, had moved towards the male one with some supernatural forces in the midst of the natural disasters.”

Today, the lions and their “love story” is the hotel’s greatest attraction. Lovers and even wedding couples in their suits and gowns pose for pictures in front of the two lions as a symbol of togetherness in adversity.

Taiwan, in the minds of many, evokes romance due largely to the volumes of romantic novels by Chiung Yao which were later made into movies and the many popular Mandarin love songs sung by Taiwanese singers like Teresa Teng, Tang Lan Hua and Liu Chia Chang since the 1970s.

And this pair of stone lions at the hotel in Sitou just adds to it, making Sitou, mainly a forest recreational area for lovers to holiday in and newly-wed couples to go for their honeymoons.

The natural habitat, the bamboo forests, tea plantations, camp sites, chalets and hotel resorts in the woods make holidays there tranquil, and most of all romantic.

Nantou district in Central Taiwan, is also popular for its mountain valleys and greenery. It is therefore an ideal location for holiday resorts, popular among honeymooners because of the cool weather there throughout the seasons.

Sun Moon Lake

The most famous resort there is the Sun Moon Lake which is Taiwan’s largest in-land lake. It is a beautiful alpine lake divided by the tiny Lalu island in the middle. The eastern portion is round like the sun and the western side is shaped like a crescent moon, hence its name.

The beauty of the place is created by the combination of mountains and water, making it a “honeymoon heaven” for the newly-weds. The lake’s 760m elevation from sea level gives the impression of a Chinese landscape painting, especially with the mist-laden water and clearly-defined levels of mountains.

Several five-star and four-star hotels, inns and chalets surround the lake with their rooms giving a breath-taking view. A visit to the lake cannot go without a stay in one of those hotels. Some of the more popular hotels include Hanbi lou, Fenisia Hotel and Hotel Del Lago.

Cingjing Farm

Another place of attraction for wedding couples and honeymooners in Nantou is Cingjing Farm, which is over 1,000m above sea level with abundant ecological environment. The fruit, flower and vegetable farms and tea plantations there were set up by the late General Chiang Kai-shek for retired soldiers from the Kuomintang army more than 50 years ago.

Today, the farm is turned into a cluster of holiday resorts, many with buildings and houses modeled after those in Europe, some even in Victorian and French architecture styles.

The place is so romantic and appealing to city girls from all over Taiwan that many who visited the farm chose to marry young men there in order to spend the rest of their lives to be among the flowers, greenery, sheep and cows together. It is today a popular place for couples to take their wedding photographs, and honeymooners on their first holidays together.

Hualian

Hualian district, also in central Taiwan, is well-known for the stretch of Taiwan’s North-south Highway which cut across mountains, giving travelers a breath-taking view of the beautiful scenery in the area. The drive through the mountainous region is a pleasant one with many stops especially set up for visitors to catch the most scenic view.

Taiwan’s most famous national park, Taroko Gorge, is also there. The 12-mile-long area with its side canyons, dating thousands of years in history, is a must-see for all visitors.

One of the latest development in tourism in central Taiwan is the sprouting up of hot spring bath resorts in the area, attracting thousands of loving couples.

The water from the springs at the resorts there, especially in the Lushan area, are all crystal clear, odourless and high in temperature, not found anywhere else in Taiwan.

The hot spring water are pumped into the guest rooms in some hotels for couples who want privacy, while others are in man-made, lake-like natural environment for those who prefer the outdoor. The variety of hot spring baths available in Nantou surprises you.

Guest Houses

A new trend in the hospitality industry in Taiwan is the emergence of country home-stay holiday guest houses or minshu in recent years. Many mansions and buildings with an interesting history have been turned into these guest houses which are like hostels or service apartments for tourists. Their numbers are growing rapidly, especially in Nantou. There are at least 100 registered ones there, with another 500 smaller ones not registered, according to one estimate.

These guest houses come in different sizes, from the smallest with no more than 10 guest rooms, to the big ones with close to 200 rooms.

A special feature of these guest houses is the history attached to the mansions or building housing them. Some were owned by Taiwanese who have lived there for ages. Many of them are still run by husband-and-wife teams who are owners of the mansions or buildings themselves. So expect very personal service during your stay there.

One owner, Mr Lin Shao-ming who runs Ming Cing Guest House there with his wife said: “Visitors who come here can feel at home and experience country-side living in Taiwan tending to fruit and vegetable farms here.”

Another special feature is that the guest houses often give visitors a feeling of being highly respected, like they are really the personal guests of the owners. This is especially popular with couples on honeymoon who want to be treated special.

Visitors are sometimes even given the choice of the colours of the pillow cases they prefer and asked if they wanted wet or dry bathrooms. Room décor styles are also available in some cases, just to give visitors variety instead of the standard rooms in hotels.

Wine and Dine

No holiday is complete without good food, and Taiwan has plenty to offer.

In Nantou, the most famous eating house is the Jin Dou Restaurant in Puli. It serves Chinese food with fresh ingredients farmed locally in Nantou. The dishes are either healthy, rustic take gourmet Chinese fare, or an epicurean twist on home cooked favourites, or both. But regardless of the influences, the food are good, hearty and fresh.

What was aptly named “meiren tui” or “beauty’s leg” is a large steak of succulent bak choy-like vegetable that resembles a chicken thigh more than vegetarian fare. This goes well with the pedigree glutinous rice (from one of their best harvests 2 years ago) glistening with oil from the succulent chicken and Taiwan sausage. The hot pot is a flavourful mix of fresh produce including mushrooms, summer vegetables and Chinese herbs.

Special dishes on its menu even includes a list cooked with different variety of flowers. The restaurant owner, Mr Wang Wen Zheng, said: “There is a great variety of flowers in this part of Taiwan, so we come up with the menu to be special, and we found that flowers do not only look pretty, but also taste good on the dining table.”

In another restaurant, Sun Link Sea, also in Nantou, one menu has its 12 dishes named after the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, all healthy food which provide cures for a variety of illnesses.

Besides the Chinese dishes, guest houses also provide a good variety of Western cuisine too, to go with their building architecture styles perhaps. So don’t be surprised to be served pizzas and steaks in Taiwan!

– See more at: http://wedding-travel.com/nature-at-its-best.aspx#sthash.jgVisojT.dpuf

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An Untouched Paradise

Indeed we did, as the driver took me and my partner through kilometres of unspoilt tropical terrain, virgin rain forests, padi fields accompanied by clusters of farm houses throughout our three-hour drive from Phuket airport.
I had not even heard of the name Si Kao, a county in southern Thailand’s Trang province, before the trip. A check with several guide books, including Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness guide on Thailand, gave little information on the place and the resort.

I was convinced, therefore, by the brochure’s promise that we would be exploring an undiscovered corner of Thailand. We were told too that a host of authentic natural and cultural wonders would await us in the next few days.

One possible reason for the lack of literature is the fact that the resort opened only in December 2008 as Anantara’s newest destination in Thailand. The brochure also claimed that the resort on the secluded Chang Lang Beach, just an hour’s drive from Krabi and about three hours from Pulau Langkawi in Malaysia by sea, is the country’s “best-kept secret”.

“Si Kao” in Thai means the colour white, and phonetically it also sounds like “sea cow”, a dolphin-like sea creature better known to the Thais as dugongs. They are spotted mainly in areas around the Andaman Sea near the county, hence its name.

There are a total of 138 deluxe rooms and 8 suites at the resort in Si Kao. Most face a stunning still view of the Andaman Sea and two rock-like islands, Koh Mook and Koh Meng, the resort’s landmarks.

A handwritten note to me from the resort general manager Mark Hehir read: “Discover 1,000 ways to do absolutely nothing here in paradise!”

How true. The resort’s programme for guests listed 1,001 things you can do, Mondays to Sundays, from a host of sporting activities such as yoga, kite flying and beach volleyball to arts and crafts, including batik painting, mask and necklace making to trips out at sea on kayak expeditions to the Emerald Cave and snorkeling at Anantara’s private day resort at Koh Kradan nearby.

The bubbly assistant director of sales at the resort, Piyawat Kaewsanit said the Anantara Si Kao property is ideal for honeymooners because the place is quiet and far away from the crowd.

Just to create the mood perhaps, we saw in one of the resort’s two pool suites, red flower petals formed two heart shapes overlapping each other on the silky white bed spread of the king-sized bed in the bedroom. And on the breakfast table at the Leelawadee restaurant where we ate earlier we even found watermelons cut into heart-shaped slices!

“We are also promoting the resort as a wedding venue where couples can exchange their vows at our beach or poolside apart from special packages for honeymooners,” added Miss Piyawat.

Trang’s town centre is at least 45 minutes away by the resort’s free shuttle bus. There were both early morning and evening trips there by courtesy of the resort that came with a guide as well.

The early morning trip leaves as early as 7 am for breakfast with Chinese dim sum and the famous barbeque pork at Chinese restaurants set up by the many Chinese inhabitants who have lived there since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The evening trip leaving at about 6.30 pm is for dinner and to visit the night market there.

Throughout the three days we spent at the resort, we played table-tennis and badminton, attended a yoga session, spent a day sea snorkeling at Koh Kradan where the sand is silky white and the sea crystal clean and clear, we also indulged ourselves in the Anantara’s signature massage and spa treatment.

For those who like fine dining, I strongly recommend the Acqua, where Australian-born award-winning chef Kelly Brennan created for us the best Italian seafood we ever had!

At the end of our stay, we took home too, the romantic story behind the two rock islands, Koh Mook and Koh Meng, which faced our room day and night.

Once upon a time, according to legends, there lived a beautiful princess called Mook (pearl in Thai language) and her love called Meng, a young and handsome common folk. But Mook’s royal parents objected to their relationship. Determined to be together, they eloped by sea and went on board a ship which encountered a storm. The ship capsized and the two rock islands appeared afterwards. People then named the bigger rock island Mook, as it looks like her lying down face up, and the smaller but longer islands in two parts, Meng. The tragic love story adds to the romantic ambience of this honeymooners destination.

Next, the resort’s driver drove us back to Phuket for a two-night stay at the Anantara Phuket Resort & Spa, another hide-away which is ideal for lovers and honeymooners.

Besides its secluded location, accommodation at the resort is made up of villas only, all with high walls and built on stilt-like structures above ground.

There are a total of 83 villas to be exact, each with its own private pool, allowing couples absolute comfort and privacy. However, only one, the Similian Suite comes with two bedrooms to accommodate up to two couples or families with children.

Also opened last year, it is located on Phuket’s north-east coast at the serene Mai Khao Beach, which is the area’s longest. It is also close to the green forests of Sirinath National Park.

The villa resort is just 15 minutes away from the airport and about three quarters of an hour’s drive from Phuket town, as well as the bustling beach of Patong further down south.

Like the resort in Si Kao, the environment is relatively untouched, offering the visitor a world away from the everyday. You can see Phuket through fresh eyes, not one crowded with Westerners and their bikini-clad babes drinking beers in road-side bars and local stalls selling anything from snacks and toiletries to souvenir T-shirts and beach wear.

The resort’s director of sales and marketing Narelle McDougall said its selling point would be its location, which is in Phuket and yet far away from the more crowded beaches in the south.

“So we thought it is an ideal destination for couples, especially honeymooners, whom we are targeting,” she added. Indeed, the high-standard of hospitality would make any newly-wed couple feel special immediately upon stepping into the reception area, a single-storey building built in contemporary Southern Thai Style.

The pretty and polite hostess who spoke perfect English introduced herself first before driving us to our villa just minutes away on an electric-driven buggy.

Like the resort in Si Kao, the gardens at this villa resort were designed by the renowned architect and landscape guru Bill Bensley.

Few would not be wowed by the interior of each of the villas. All feature an expansive bedroom, dressing room, indoor bathroom and of course, outdoor private pool separated from the bedroom by a wooden sliding door. Raise the curtains, slide the doors open and you can plunge straight into the meter-deep terrazzo tub pool.

There are plenty of other sporting facilities available at the resort, including a public pool with a sun deck, three tennis courts and a fitness studio. Water sports available at the private beach there include windsurfing, sailing and kayaking. Others facilities are a library, a spa, gift shop and boutique and the Turtle Club for children.

We found all the F&B outlets in the resort excellent, especially The Tree House, on top of its signature restaurant, La Sala. The Tree House, a bar, is so called because of the spiral staircase winding round an old Banyan tree leading to it.

The view from the lofty height is breathtaking with a good view of the villas in the compound as well as a glimpse of the Andaman Sea on a clear day.

For dinner on our second and last night there, we tried dining by design at our own villa with recommendations of mainly Thai dishes from the chief waiter at La Sala which also serves Italian and Sicilian specialities for their dine-in guests.

Later in the evening, two restaurant staff came and set up the dinner table complete with white table cloth for us at the appointed time, agreeing to return three hours later to pack up after we ate. We ended up having the most romantic, candle-lit dinner of our lives at the open air living sala by the pool in our villa all alone. The experience of the food and wine we had under the candlelight and the moon-lit sky and the conversations we shared during the meal will last us a long long time I am sure.

Need I say more? For romantics who like the sun and want to be alone with your special one, Anantara’s resort and spa in Si Kao and Phuket are the places to go.

– See more at: http://wedding-travel.com/an-untouched-paradise.aspx#sthash.G3t3sGsL.dpuf

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

venue NATIONAL PARKS BOARD www.nparks.gov.sg/weddings text SUMMER LEE

If not for a group of “public-spirited citizens”, affectionately dubbed by The Straits Times in 1859, who took it upon themselves to create a pleasure park for the people, we would not have today the 63.7-hectare green paradise called the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Almost every nook and cranny of the scrupulously tended Gardens looks fresh and new. But on the manicured lawns and among the halcyon modern sculptures, towering trees with ponderous limbs and chapped trunks have quietly thrived for more than a century.

Over the years, the Gardens has grown from its original 23-hectare tract to nearly triple the size. Much of its flora is cultivated but a 6-hectare virgin Rain Forest is virtually left untouched with 314 plant species – including herbs, fruit trees and shrubs – many of which rarely seen in Singapore.

Couples have always found this dear oasis in the heart of the bustling city a picturesque backdrop for pre-wedding portraits. It is also a centrally located and convenient place to hold weddings and solemnisations.

The Gardens is divided into three zones, namely the Tanglin Core, Central Core and Bukit Timah Core.

On the fringe of the Tanglin Core where the Gardens first sank its roots stands the newly renovated Main Gate, or Tanglin Gate, at the junction of Cluny Road and Napier Road. Inspired by the orangey-red trailing Bauhinia kockiana, a flower species originating from the Malay Peninsula and Borneo, the classic aluminium gate has been a favourite photo-taking backdrop for generations.

The Bandstand of Tanglin Core was among the earliest features established on the Gardens. Constructed in 1860, it embarked on a decades-long career hosting band performances. Today, it is surrounded by a necklace of yellow rain trees whose leaves lack much of the green chlorophyll found in regular trees. This is a rare mutant as only a few out of thousands of seeds produced by regular trees would engender the golden foliage.

Over in the Central Core and nestled within the National Orchid Garden – where the world’s largest display of tropical orchids can be found – is the Burkill Hall. It is a two-storey British colonial house designed in the classic “black-and-white” style.

Built in 1866 and completed two years later, it was home to two former Gardens directors, Isaac Henry Burkill and his son, Humphrey Morrison Burkill, who was born in the house. The Burkills oversaw this lush sanctuary until 1969. Today it is an aristocratic setting fronted by a kempt and fresh-smelling lawn ideal for romantic ceremonies.

From the balcony, the Burkill Hall provides a spectacular view of the orchid garden, Palm Valley, and the Rain Forest yonder. This is the only place in the Gardens where couples can hold their wedding functions.

The dining area on the second floor of the Burkill Hall was expanded last year to allow long tables and accommodate more guests from 100 to 140. With no pillars blocking the view, guests can enjoy the arresting vista of the surrounding woods. The VIP/bridal room and attached bathroom have also been renovated and furnished with antique furniture to provide a comfortable resting area for wedding couples and an exclusive space for VIP guests.

The Burkill Hall, a vestige of the British colonial days, has been named a Singapore monument of architectural and historical interest by the Preservation of Monuments Board.

Up north, in the Bukit Timah Core, the placid Eco-Lake is a wondrous scene for wedding photo shoots where wild birds roam. Also found across the Gardens are five bronze and stone sculptures representing love, life and laughter. Namely Girl on a Bicycle, Lady on a Hammock, Girl on a Swing, Swing Me Mama, and Joy, these evocative pieces of art add an instant vivid touch to pre-wedding shots.

To help couples move around the Gardens easily, chauffeured buggy services are available at an hourly rate of $20 for a four-seater buggy and $30 for an eight-seater ride. Tying the knot is a real walk in the park at this tropical wonderland.

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Italy Wedding

Planning to go overseas for your wedding photo shoot? Happy couple Samuel Wee, 31, and Lee Ling Ling, 30, shares with us their experience.
Ling Ling: We took our wedding photos in Tindari and Taormina, Sicily. The first photo shoot was done in Tindari. We even did a couple of shots during lunch en route to the Greek-Roman archaeological site of Tindari. It was a cosy restaurant with large cellars of wine. The food was great as well. We tasted many local produces including cheese, wine, antipasti…

The rest of the photo shoot was done at the archaeological site. There is a large church that is situated at the edge of the cliff called the Black Madonna of Tindari. The view from the church window is fantastic as it overlooks the sea.

Excluding our 2 wedding planners, we had an entourage of 2 other humans! Just my sister and 2-year old niece. 🙂 it was a small and simple affair. My niece even celebrated her birthday in Sicily.

W&T: Which service provider did you engage to do it?

Ling Ling: Olga from Guinone Wedding

W&T: What was the damage? (i.e. How much did it cost?)

Ling Ling: We customized the wedding to include a tour of Italy as well. It was 3 weeks of fun, sights and feasting. Can’t really recall the exact damage, but I must say it was worth every penny spent!

Ling Ling: Olga helped us manage the paperwork needed for the wedding, flowers, make up, air tickets, land transfers, accommodation and our meals for the three week trip.

W&T: How did you come up with the idea of holding your wedding overseas while holidaying? We understand that it was a small and intimate event – was it always in your personality to do something spontaneous and unconventional like this?

Ling Ling: It wasn’t really that spontaneous.  We did think of getting hitched overseas just because we thought it would be more intimate. We wanted the occasion to be just for the two of us. It was something different and definitely unique from those other run of-the-mill weddings.

W&T: What were the steps to planning and how long did it take for you to plan for the wedding? What were some of the difficulties you faced during the planning stage?

Ling Ling: We searched online for wedding planners that were based in Italy. There were a lot of to and fro emails to determine their package price and what the package covers. We were even contemplating not getting married overseas because the process involved was complicated and coupled with our inability to speak Italian.

Then, we were doing our shopping at Vivo and stumbled upon a wedding fair. Usually we don’t go to such fairs, but one of the booth had pictures of Rome on it. We decided  to visit the booth. And it was Olga’s booth. And thankfully she could help us with the solemnization process. We came across many companies offering wedding shoots in Italy, but not many have the experience or necessary contacts to hold a solemnization for foreigners in Italy.

We did have to go through a bit of planning with Olga. We took about 3months+ to work out the details. Since there weren’t many guests, that logistic part was a non-issue.

The first thing that needed to be sorted out was of course to inform our family members and friends on our plan to get married overseas. We definitely needed their blessings. Then somehow the other things like finding the wedding dresses and tailoring a suit just came along smoothly.  I had two dresses. One was bought off the rack and simple. It was easier to carry around as well.  Initially i didn’t want to get a wedding dress because I didn’t want to lug it around for three weeks. But Olga introduced me to La Vita Brides. We met her about two weeks before we flew off. And managed to get a dress without having to do any fitting!  I wore the white dress for the photoshoot and the simple purple dress for the solemnisation.

The most painful part was settling the paperwork involved to get married in Italy. As I am a M’sian citizen, I had to travel to KL to sort out the documentation and translation (to Italian) required. It involved multiple trips to various government agencies and embassy to prove my legal single status. My husband’s paperwork was so much simpler. Just a trip down to ROM and MFA was required.

When we at Taormina, we needed to do some pre-registration before the ceremony day. We had to go to the local city council office and then to the local police station to declare that we are actually present in Taormina. Thankfully, we had Sabrina (Olga’s business partner) who spoke the local Sicilian dialect. She managed to get the paper work sorted out within the day. What amazes me is that the forms and certificate is handwritten. The form/marriage contract was A3 in size. Our wedding certification had our named written in cursive writing. It is a very unique document.

We had a ball of a time with our photographer and videographer. I guess it is important to be able to have fun during your photo shoot.

W&T: What was the theme/concept for your wedding decorations at the venue? (We would also appreciate it if you could provide some pictures!)

Ling Ling: It was a simple wedding ceremony solemnised by a Mayor of Taormina. The venue was a old historical building that was already very uniquely decorated. It served as a town hall (a venue for marriages). Since it was very quaint and charming on its own, so we only had simple decorations of flower bouquet at the table.  The flowers matched my dress that was a light violet.

Our ring pillows wasn’t the typical one, we used the flower bouquet as our ring pillow.  We were told we are probably the first Singaporean couple to marry in Taormina. They even gave us a commemorative book on Taormina as a souvenir. Olga served as our translator. Sabrina and my sister was our witness.

After the ceremony, we had a cake cutting ceremony in a public square. With tourists as our witness. We popped a bottle of champagne and shared it with tourists and locals alike. As part of the local tradition, we gave out local sweets called confetti. It is almond encased with a hard white sugary shell. We offered it to tourists, even their local policemen. Guests are supposed to take the sweets (in Odd numbers) as a token of good luck and blessings to the couple.

W&T: What did you and your husband do after the wedding? Was the rest of the 3-week holiday like your honeymoon?

Ling Ling: After the wedding, we took more photos near the coast of Taormina. There was this small island called Isola Bella that was accessible via land at low tide. It was really fun, not to mention wet!

We then had a romantic candlelight dinner at the restaurant that had a sea view. It was a single private dinner table at the edge of the cliff and the food was simply great. Just two of us and the occasional waiter.

The days thereafter were just as fun and exciting. We visited other parts of Sicily such as Syracusa, Milazzo, Messina and Parlemo. Somewhere near Syracusa at a port town called Augusta, we had the best grilled swordfish ever! We even managed to catch a play at an ancient Roman Theatre in Syracusa.

The hilarious part of the trip was when we got lost on our way to Augusta. We actually arrived at a junction that had two signs pointing to our destination. One sign pointed left and another pointed right. What made it funnier was when we asked a local for directions. She said to go straight, and then we drove straight and ended at a t-junction. We couldn’t go straight any further. But somehow, we managed to get to our destination.

Then we took a ship to the volcanic island of Stromboli. It’s a beautiful island with black sand beaches. Black because of the volcanic ash and minerals. The beach and the sea is gorgeous. It would be another perfect venue to hold a wedding and photo shoot. The seafood is fantastic. We even climbed up the volcano in attempt to catch some eruptions. We started the climb at 6pm and reached the peak at 8plus. But alas, it was too cloudy and we didn’t managed to see any eruption.

We then sailed for Naples and spent a week in Tuscany. Places that we visited in Tuscany included Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano, Montepulciano (where they shoot the movie Twilight) and Cortona. We also visited Rome and Venice.

Olga and Sabrina was our tour guide throughout most of the trip. We ate where the locals ate and most of the menu was not in English. This is the best way to immerse yourself in their culture. We even attended a local pasta festival in Cortona, Tuscany. At this festival, the community comes together to cook and raise funds. There was dancing, live band and a fun fair. I won a pink pig soft toy.

Olga and Sabrina gave us a surprise wedding gift when we were at Tuscany. They took us on a boat to watch the sunset on one of the lakes on Tuscany, Lake Tresimeno. They dropped us off at Isola Maggiore, which is a tourist hotspot during summer. As it was not summer yet, the island was pretty much deserted. Besides the handful of island inhabitants, there were countless wild hares and peasants. I had a fun time trying to capture their photos. After touring the island, we got back onto the boat to enjoy our dinner while watching the sunset. We danced under the moonlight as well. It was very enjoyable as we had Olga, Sabrina as company, along with the three men who ran the boat cruise business. It was a very fun evening.

One thing that stood out from the trip is the food. Our only complaint is there is too much food! We ate like a local for most of our trip and didn’t had to worry about the costs as it was covered by our wedding package. Some notable delicacies include grilled swordfish at Sicily, Cornetto (pastry rolled into the cone with fresh cream inside), vongole (glorious clams), pasta, wine, seven layered Sicilian cake, cheese with marmalade, coffee and fresh tomatoes.

W&T:  Do you know of anyone who held their wedding overseas too? Do you think this is a trend that is starting to be popular with Singaporean couples?

Ling Ling: I know of a few. Most couples still prefer to hold a wedding locally because it’s easier to manage logistically and definitely cheaper. For those who did theirs overseas, it’s usually the solemnisation part, but the actual traditonal ceremony and dinner will usually be held in Singapore. Traditional parents are also opposed to the thought of their children getting married in a foreign land.

W&T: What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages to holding your wedding overseas?

Ling Ling: Advantages: A different environment and a different climate! Your wedding will be unique and look different from other local weddings. The photos also won’t be the typical fort canning, botanic gardens and shenton way/boat quay. If you are in a country like Europe, the weather is cooler and the couple will not be sweating and melting under their gowns and suits.

Disadvantages: Could be costly if the affair is going to be elaborate or involves flying relatives and friends. The paperwork involved can be quite tiring as you cannot really outsource this totally to your planner. Couples have to understand that the culture overseas is different from Singapore. For example, In Italy, offices and shops close in the afternoon especially in areas outside of Rome. So, if you need paperwork to be done, make sure there is ample time. Communication may be an issue in non-English speaking countries.

W&T: For couples who are thinking of holding their wedding overseas, what would be your best piece of advice to them?

Ling Ling: If you get the blessings from your parents to have it overseas, go for it. It is definitely more fun and thrilling. Get a planner, preferably someone familiar with the country your wedding is held. Better still get a local. Please also cater time for planning. A wedding overseas may take more time to plan and work out the official paperwork. Please also do your sums and have some buffer for additional things. Lastly, do remember that a wedding is just an event that marks the start of a lifelong marriage. All the best to your wedding!