Destination ‘I Do’
Anantara Kihavah Villas, the Maldives
Close your eyes and imagine the picture postcard desert island: silky, bleached sand fringed with swaying palms, clear turquoise water and a sea of smiling faces welcoming you. It’s the signature Maldives experience that has made the archipelago the most popular luxury retreat for loved-up couples. At the new Kihavah all-villa resort, you’ll have a private pool, swinging day bed and a personal butler. Here you’re encouraged to write your own prescription for paradise, dine where and how you like, leave your shoes in your suitcase, hire a private boat or just recline in your hammock. With eco-principles in check, snorkelling and diving will uncover an subterranean world teeming with sharks, turtles and dolphins. If you don’t fancy getting wet, drink in the view from the underwater cellar, as you feast on a six-course dinner. Be prepared, for this bolthole is not your usual Maldivian rest-stop, the focus is on cutting-edge design, with iPads for reading the morning papers and the latest technology for energy conservation.
I do in the Maldives: So you’ve decided to do it at the Kihavah but the question remains, which beautiful setting to choose? Popular barefoot beach weddings come with a free Thai massage class, three-course candlelit dinner and an intimate wedding evening of Anantara rituals. Alternatively opt for a sunset yacht cruise wedding, including bridal hair and make-up, a five-course dinner prepared by your private chef and champagne breakfast. You can even exchange vows underwater, planting new coral in the seabed to mark your new life together.
Getting there: Fly Emirates (emirates.com) to Male from Dhs5,185 return. Book a villa from Dhs5,185 a night. Kihavah-maldives.anantara.com.
Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris
Arguably the most romantic city in the world, it’s easy to imagine strolling the banks of the Seine, sipping wine in the Bastille and stealing a kiss in the Place des Vosges, ah l’amour! Many Parisians skip town for cooler climes in the summer, so early autumn or late spring is the best time to book your Parisian wedding. The Four Seasons George V, off the Champs-Élysées, is a lovingly restored grande dame from the 18th century, with majestic proportions, gleaming marble floors, secret courtyards and stately rooms to impress your guests. As will the spectacular dining rooms, one of which houses Le Cinq, a two-starred Michelin restaurant. It also houses elegant drawing rooms that are ideal for afternoon tea and Le Bar for late night cocktails. For Dubai residents, the spa is unlike anything you’ve experienced, dressed in 18th century wall prints and flowing soft fabrics, with a pool surrounded by trompe l’oeil, you’ll be transported back in time as you relax with your bridesmaids before the big day.
I do in Paris: The Four Seasons has planning your wedding down to a fine art. Its specialists work with you to reserve your dates and coordinate details from the flowers to the table linens. The in-house pastry chef can create a customised wedding cake, while the Michelin-starred kitchen will create a unique menu. If you require transport, the hotel can arrange a vintage car, turn-of-the-century bus or even a horse drawn carriage.
Getting there: Fly Etihad (etihadairways.com) to Paris for Dhs5,618 return. Rooms from Dhs5,035 a night. Fourseasons.com.
La Mamounia, Marrakesh
The legendary elegance and seductive, old world charm of La Mamounia won’t fail to get you in the mood for love. Set in eight hectares of lush gardens, this exotic palace was constructed in the 18th century as a wedding gift from Morocco’s King Abdella to his son Prince Moulay Mamoun.Two hundred years later it was resurrected as a hotel, enduring several incarnations until its most recent US$180m facelift restoring it’s original glory. The new refit has also opened out 210 individually designed rooms and suites to accommodate your guests. Three restaurants, French, Italian and Moroccan, means you can get creative with your wedding menu, while the five stylish new bars give your guests plenty of entertainment during their stay. The heart of the drama is in the new 2,500-square-metre spa with its inky plunge pools set into a monochromatic zellij – a contemporary expression of traditional Morocco. There can be no better place, however, to stage your once-in-a-lifetime wedding than in the mature gardens filled with flowers and birdsong, amid 300-year-old olive trees and trickling fountains.
I do in Morocco: Create your ideal wedding with the La Mamounia team. If you have basic idea of what you want, you can leave them to tie up the details; everything from floral displays, bouquets, catering, entertainment, finishing touches such as themed cocktails and table styling. Tailormake your bridal package with fabulous extras including a Moroccan hammam, alfresco yoga sessions, a traditional tea ritual and a guided trip to explore the intricate souks of Marrakesh.
Getting there: Fly Emirates (emirates.com) from Dhs5,265 return. Rooms are priced from Dhs2,827 per night. Mamounia.com.
Mara Bushtops, Kenya
Set in the wilderness of Kenya’s Mara Siana on the borders of the Masai Mara, this luxury camp is in one of the world’s most astounding natural game reserves and is a setting you and your guests will remember forever. Sunken into the hillside, 12 deluxe tents have been designed to offer ultimate privacy. Your private decking opens out onto views of the Siana Hills, where you can lounge in your sunken hot tub with a chilled glass of bubbly, surrounded by flickering candlelight, the faint sounds of the African bush drifting in from the safari plains. With the biggest luxury tents in Africa you may be reluctant to set a newly married foot into the balmy night air, and for reclusive romantics your 24-hour butler and in-room dining means you don’t have to. Should you want to indulge in the safari experience, plan a summer wedding between July and September to coincide with the annual migration, where you’ll catch herds of wildebeest as they charge their way across the Mara River.
I do in Kenya: The hotel’s wedding planner can organise your documentation within a wedding package that includes a stay in the honeymoon tent, flowers, champagne and canapés every day of your stay. The ceremony can have a distinctly local flavour, with the help of a Masai tribe giving a special wedding performance. Other extras include a gorgeous wedding dinner on your verandah, a freshly baked wedding cake and floral arrangements for the entire bridal party.
Getting there: Fly Qatar (qatarairways.com) to Nairobi for approx Dhs1,915 return. Tents are from Dhs5,509 per night. Orion-hotels.net.