So you are ready to tie the knot with your loved one, congratulations! Heard about all the stunning celebrity weddings but thought too out-of-reach?
You can too play with the idea to have your wedding in Bali! This island offers something for everyone and every budget.
Why have a wedding in Bali?
The many girl’s Dream Wedding with all imaginable extras and an extravagant set up is still available at an affordable price here!
Luxury villas with stunning cliff top views over the ocean, lush evergreen rice fields in the backdrop or a beachfront wedding right on white sand, you name it – try finding that in the West or any larger Asian cosmopolitan city without going bankrupt!
Most couples ask themselves ,“Where and how do we start organizing a wedding in Bali”, and I have been asked so many of these questions from travellers, so I hope to share some insights that will help you plan your Bali dream wedding.
So let’s start right at the beginning.
1. How you can plan your wedding
You should organize it yourself if: you are willing to take a huge amount of time and patience to get things done the way you want to, and doing all the research yourself. And if you are familiar with the destination, its culture and language.
You should hire a wedding planner if: you have limited time and don’t want to take care of the nitty gritty details. And if you are willing to put the planning into the hands of people whose job is to be your eyes and ears on the ground and make you happy.
See a Wedding planner like your Personal Assistant – their job is to make your dream come true. It should be someone you can trust, who understands your ideas and knows what you are looking for and that same person should be there for you on the special day.
2. Hiring a Wedding Planner
Once you’ve set your mind to find out more about hiring a wedding planner, these are all you need to know:
2-i) What does a wedding planner do in a nutshell?
A wedding planner ideally functions as your contact person for all aspects of your stay and wedding in Bali, your go-to person, your confidante.
He or she can book your accommodation, take care of transportation for your guests and even plan your hen night or some fun activities around your wedding day.
And of course the wedding planner is present at the wedding to ensure that all goes smoothly.
2-ii) How the wedding planner will help you to choose your perfect wedding location
If you meet in Bali, the wedding planner will take you to a selection of venues depending on your specific wishes: a stunning cliff top property, a wedding on the beach or in a tropical jungle with the sound of the wild river in the background, or (often underrated) with a view over the unique Ubud rice fields.
Since your planner knows the area best, he or she should be able to present you with at least 5 to 7 options for you to visit (beware of wedding planners who push you towards one particular property – a wedding planner should be unbiased and give you options) .
2-iii) Advantages of a destination based wedding planner versus one based in your home country
Generally speaking, your destination based wedding planner knows the destination best.
A destination based wedding planner knows how to deal with suppliers in Bali, which can be tricky – not all suppliers speak perfect English or have easy access to emails (not to mention that it is not always easy to get timely answers. “Urgent” and “ASAP” have different meanings in different countries).
A destination based wedding planner can negotiate face to face with suppliers. A lot of negotiations are still done in person here in Indonesia. Someone based abroad would never have the same access and possibility of getting into the nitty gritty details with a supplier unless he has previously worked in Bali and has all the necessary contacts and network and ideally speaks the language.
2-iv) How to find a good and reliable wedding planner?
Check out the website of the event management company and reputable should have one.
Check out the Facebook page of the wedding planner and check if they are present on other online platforms too. Check out their profiles to begin the search.
The best is to go by a personal recommendation, of course. Maybe ask in your circle of friends who they used for their wedding abroad.
Check out blogs and forums for unbiased reviews and feedback.
Visit international wedding exhibitions if you happen to live in a larger city such as Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Sydney, Jakarta, Singapore. Wedding exhibitions are a great way to get inspirations and meet suppliers and wedding planners.
2-v) How to communicate with your wedding planner
If possible, meet with your wedding planner in person to get to know him/her. It is important for you and your partner to feel in good hands and that you are able to connect with your planner. Look around until you have found the right match.
If a meeting in person is not possible, usually a Skype meeting (with the camera on!) is a very good alternative. Facial expressions help you to connect and figure out if you click
3. Pre-preparation: What you need to know and do before you start your wedding preparations
3-i) What administrative tasks need to be done when getting married in Bali?
Let your wedding planner inform you, as such details depend on your and your partner’s nationalities.
Every legal wedding in Indonesia needs a religious component and the couple must follow one of the 5 big religions that Indonesia recognises: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist.
Catholic couples are required to get married in a chapel or church by law.
By law catholic weddings need to take place in a chapel and luckily Bali has many beautiful ones to choose from in most locations
Sometimes for this reason it might be easier to get married legally at home and have a symbolic blessing ceremony in Bali instead. Many resorts in Bali regardless of being based in Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Uluwatu or Ubud have chapels and are very experienced in hosting weddings.
Contact the consulate or embassy in your country to find out about the papers needed for a wedding in Bali if you wish to organise the paper-work yourself. Theoretically the papers can be obtained through the Civil Ministry in Denpasar, but being abroad, this task might test your patience. Paperwork is one of the main reasons why wedding couples choose to work with agencies to avoid those administrative burdens.
I would recommend wedding planners start the administrative process 4 months prior to the wedding. And if you decide to start the process yourself, you might give yourself even a little bit more time, due to a lack of experience with local authorities.
Note: Nothing stops you from arranging your own wedding administrative paperwork, just know that nobody will be there to help if you don’t have papers on time, you do not get answers to your mails on time, cannot communicate properly in the Indonesian language.
It is an “adventurous” journey, not impossible to do of course, but a lot of hassle which from my experience the majority of clients try to avoid if they can. If you have a restricted budget, I would suggest you save on other items, but not on the most vital (the papers to get legally married in Bali) and it saves you time to concentrate on more exciting details of your wedding.
3-ii) Is there a recommended wedding season in Bali?
I highly recommend getting married in the dry season: the months of May until October are the best if you are keen of having an outdoor wedding. Some big hotels offer ballroom wedding reception space as well, that takes one big worry out of the planning if you prefer to get married in the wet months.
You think hiring a “rain stopper” to prevent rain at your wedding is not possible, but in Bali it is!
A rainstopper in prayer to ensure your wedding remains dry
Another way to avoid rain on your wedding day is hiring a traditional priest called ‘pemangku’. The Balinese believe that a rain stopper makes the clouds go away and/or makes it not rain if he performs a small ceremony on the property that you are getting married at.
The priest can only operate within his area of power and some of them are even willing to give back 50% of the money paid if the ceremony doesn’t work! This is very Bali!
They clearly did not invest in a rainstopper performing his “magic”
3-iii) What about same sex marriages as symbolic ceremonies?
It is not possible to get same sex marriages legalized in Bali until this date.
Same sex marriages are unfortunately not yet legal in Indonesia, so I recommend going for a symbolic blessing instead, which can be just as romantic, just without the legal power.
I therefore recommend a symbolic blessing ceremony, but remember, those hold no legal power and are therefore also recommended for couples that are already married in their home country.
With a symbolic ceremony, the couple has much more freedom in the vows and the way the ceremony is conducted. The celebrant can be a friend or family member of the couple or your event manager can source a locally based celebrant (of a religion of your choice) who is certified and experienced in such ceremonies
Although most “classic” hotels are still a little conservative and discreet when it comes to publically promoting same sex blessings, as they still fear it might “offend” their other guests (which probably does happen a lot less than they think), but from my experience, most are open and happily perform them with the same professionalism as they do traditional marriages when we approach them on behalf of our clients.
4. The wedding preparation
4-i) A realistic budget
A realistic minimum budget for a wedding of 50 to 60 people including food & beverages is 15,000 to 20,000 USD. Make sure you include flights and also pre and post wedding accommodation in your calculations.
Having said that, if you privatise a hotel for your wedding party, costs are much higher, though most wedding planners will negotiate a lot with the hotels, which may soon realize that one wedding is often followed by another, once the couple recommends the property.
4-ii) The lead time for wedding organization
The ideal time frame for planning a wedding is hard to decide – better ask yourself how much time you can spare to spend planning?
Generally four to five months before the wedding date, the bride should start the actual planning of the Big Day with the event planner. The wedding venue, the dress, the shoes and also the colors have most likely been decided on at this point.
Most of the brides I have met started thinking about the colors and the style up to one year before the wedding day.
The first items most of them begin with are the wedding invites or the ‘save the dates’ cards that need to be send out to guests. Those usually set the mode. I often ask my clients to send me a soft copy of the invites so I have a better understanding of what they have in mind.
4-iii) How to make the right choice for the wedding location
It’s all about the vision and the budget here, really! What do you have in mind? These are 2 important things to find out first.
But on the other hand, I personally approach this topic from a different angle:
I like to find out from the couple what made them chose Bali as a holiday destination in the first place and what and which areas they like most in Bali and then decide which properties to show them.
When searching for the perfect venue, also the couples’ religion should be taken into consideration.
Catholic couples must get married in a chapel or church, this automatically would steer their venue choices towards one of Bali’s amazing wedding chapels or – if the couple is adamant on having a private villa for the rest of the night – the planner can book the church closest to their venue and after the religious ceremony all guests continue the celebrations at the villa where the dinner reception takes place.
A good wedding planner should present you a choice of venues, but be open to idea and locations. There are amazing locations which couples have not previously thought about (forest, rice fields, along a river in the jungle).
4-iv) The vendors – Hairdressers, Make-up artists
Most wedding planners work together with some amazing hairdressers and make-up artists that they trust with all their clients: A lot of Western and internationally trained local artists have settled in Bali by now.
Let the professionals do the job of bringing the best out of you
4-v) How to go about choosing the right hairdressers and Make-up artists
It’s not a bad idea to go with your planner’s recommendations, because they have already worked with a network of good partners and know who to trust. However, I also recommend that you visit the salon and stop by for a trial to see if you get along with them and like their style. In the end it is your choice, but the wedding planner is there to present you reliable options. Don’t let a wedding planner “bully” you into his preferred choice.
If you would rather bring in your own artist, let your wedding planner know. If your hair and make-up artist is flying in from abroad don’t forget to get them the right visa to legally work here (this would be a business visa) – the last thing you want it for the artist to get held up by immigration.
Ask your wedding planner for recommendations for make-up artists, they surely have worked with them before. If you have a particular look in mind, bring photos along with you.
4-vi) How to identify a great photographer, videographer or drone operator? Tips for perfect wedding photos?
Check out their websites, Google them
Let your wedding planner organise a meeting. It’s all about your vision and style – each photographer is different and you need to feel comfortable in front of the camera and the images should reflect your personality after all!
Make sure you get a copy of all images in the end and make it clear how much editing you want done.
If you book your hotels directly, it might also be a good idea to ask the Event Manager there if they can recommend a good supplier, as they have often good contacts, because photoshoots take place at the resorts quite frequently or they have seen the work done at past weddings.
Drone Flights/Aerial Shots
The areal shots can be added: this means a small drone (it looks like a miniature helicopter with a camera attached) is then flying over the terrain or the wedding venue taking amazing wide angle shots. I recommend avoiding flying the drone at the time of the ceremony because the engines but are quite noisy.
Such shots are then inserted into the actual wedding video; sometimes only 10 seconds of the entire drone flight are used, but the videos that I have seen have the absolute WOW factor – not exactly cheap additions though!
4-vii) Lighting and stage solutions
Vision One (one of the most popular lighting and stage solutions in Bali, they helped set up the stages etc in KuDeTa and Potato Head Club for their big party)
4-viii) Florists to make the venue blossom
One of the main jobs of a wedding planner is to work with the bride to create that special look of the dining tables and the ceremony with the help of their trusted florist.
Luckily, a lot of the flowers that would cost you a fortune in your country are actually local in Bali, so I don’t find that finding beautiful flowers in bigger quantities and decorating the venue with them are actually something to worry about.
For brides who like to have something more extravagant, most florists specializing in weddings can import flowers. Just watch out for the costs – having your flowers delivered from Paris won’t be cheap!
My recommendation: start collecting photos of flowers and table set ups that you like. When it comes to this planning stage, show it all to your wedding planner in order for her/him to check availability of the flowers you want.
4-ix) Tips on Food & Beverage catering
Best is to let your wedding planner set up food tastings with more than just one company.
4-x) Let the party begin – Bands/DJs
Where to start! Bali has reached an international music level: Jazz, Pop, electronic music, you name it – the international music & concert scene has definitely arrived in Bali!
The amount of bands, international and resident DJs, solo artists, dancers and even drag queen performances are sheer impossible to list here. Rest assured, there is something for everyone. You will find the perfect wedding entertainment to suit your style!
4-xi) The Creatives – Graphic designers/aesthetic vendors and what I recommend
This is an area that needs a bit of work here in Bali.
Graphic design is something that I recommend getting done in your home city, may it be Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore, Perth or elsewhere. Most brides want their stationary to match the invites, so best to let the same graphic designer take care of that aspect.
I recommend designing the menus and name cards before coming to Bali and maybe just get the printing done on the island – that saves you a few bucks for sure!
Have your stationary designed in your home country or city, but consider printing in Bali, because it costs less on the island
4-xii) Invitees gift ideas
Gift ideas for guests are usually discussed in advance. Often, the couple brings over little special little gifts from their home country or the event manager can source items
Everything handcrafted is usually easy to get in Bali and a lot cheaper too!
Custom-made fans are a nice idea
Personalised candles or other hand-sized items that guests can easily carry back on the plane are welcome.
Careful with wooden items, as customs in certain countries might not allow you to bring them back. If in doubt, ask your wedding planner.
4-xiii) Plan B if it rains on the day of your wedding
A rain plan is always good to have, although Bali is still pretty reliable when it comes to the dry and rainy season.
There is a solution to every challenge and a marquee leaves you and your invitees in the dry
Your Event Manager should be on weather watch the week before the wedding.
Marquees and tents can be ordered of course, but the final decision lies with the client as this usually means spending an extra few hundred dollars at least, depending on the area that needs to be covered. Latest three to five days in advance, the final decision should be made to ensure a smooth running of the event and set-up.
4- xiv) The Rehearsal – the day before
The rehearsal should be done on the day before the wedding, ideally at the same time the ceremony takes place the next day. This way the light and position of the sun at the time of the ceremony can be tested, which will give you an idea of the temperature your guests will have the next day and the tide can be checked too.
All members of the bridal party should be present. The timing of the music to walk down the aisle and the distance to the ceremony area are the most important things to check.
Setting up the ceremony and reception area are topics that usually have been discussed in lengths with all suppliers involved beforehand. Floor plans, table layouts, seating charts and the positioning of other items should be clearly marked and ideally the event manger only oversees the set up on the day itself. A site inspection with the suppliers in case of uncertainty of space comes in handy here!
Gentlemen,a word of caution, choose your future wife wisely. At the rehearsal you still have time to run. For this poor man it was too late (Source www.reddit.com)
5. Wedding Day: What to keep in mind
5-i) The coordination
This is the specialty of every event manager: Keeping calm and staying focused no matter what:
The day is finally here! The family has arrived, the catering team is onsite, the florist is setting up, the best man can’t find his speech, the bride needs a pin for her dress – we are everywhere, helping out where we can, calming nervous brides, while rolling out the big plan!
I have helped writing speeches 2 hours before the ceremony and was trusted with tasks that you usually would only tell your best friend about, but after all, planning and coordinating such a big event brings you so much closer to your planner!
Just remember, wedding planners are here to help. It is YOUR wedding.
5-ii) The purpose of the run sheet
A water tight run sheet is the best insurance for a successful wedding day.
Every detail, every move behind the scenes should be noted on there. Every event organiser has their own recipe here: Some prefer to make two run sheets, one ‘simpler’ version for the client and another one with notes for every supplier to give an overview of all activities that are going on.
The run sheet should be created in coordination with and approved by the client at the end and the following should all be noted down to the minute:
But do keep in mind – this is just a piece of paper: if guests arrive late or the bride decides to take half an hour longer before going out for the ceremony: Its’ okay! Event managers are experts in improvising 🙂
5-iii) Dealing with the unexpected (challenges that can occur and how to overcome them)
Planners of destination weddings usually hardly ever have to deal with unexpected guests, due to the flights and accommodation needing to be booked in advance. So what do we have to worry about ?’
People peeping through the hedge or by-standers on the beach.
Since all beaches are public in Bali, there is not much you can do apart from speaking to the local banjar ( Banjar is a Balinese term for a community place to run social activity and ceremonies) and getting extra security.
A good relationship with the local chief of the village is always good and can solve such issues within minutes. Private security guards can be hired for such purposes as well.
The event manager is responsible to leave the venue in the same condition it was before the event. However, most venues require an extra security deposit from the client in case the property gets damaged during the stay of the client.
Make sure to read the terms & conditions of the venue or the villa in case you are having your wedding at a hotel or private property on arrival and contact the villa manager, the management company or in case of a hotel, the hotel Event Manager (if they don’t have one, address yourself to the Hotel Manager) in case of damage.
Left behind personal items
Your event manager should feel responsible for collecting personal items such as phones and handbags and he/she should ensure they’re in a safe place where guests can see and collect them later on. But it is always good to remind your guests to take care of their own property to avoid confusion.
Items such as wedding gifts and cards from the wishing well can also become responsibility of the planner, so make sure this point is discussed beforehand. The planner should make sure all cards and gifts are delivered safely to the bridal suite after the event and someone from your bridal party should be there to collect or store such items immediately.
And your wedding planner will also help you in getting your “lost” invitees safely to their room when they had a few too many glasses of the bubbly.