Battle of the Exotic Weddings: Bali vs. Thailand

A post-wedding stroll on the beach at the InterContinental Bali

A post-wedding stroll on the beach at the InterContinental Bali

For couples who love to travel as much as they love each other, Bali and Thailand are a pair of irresistibly exotic  wedding  locations. Both have lots going for them, not the least of which are romantic resorts adept at combining local traditions with deep-dish luxury. If you’re torn between the two locations, we’ll help you decide by detailing the wedding territory, including the romantic offerings at a pair of resorts, one on Bali’s Jimbaran Bay, the other on the Thai island of Koh Samui.

Bali Basics

With its green rice terraces, dramatic beaches, Hindu temples, madcap flowers, and boldly painted fishing boats, Indonesia’s most popular vacation island lures visitors looking for surf (Bali is a mecca for Australian boardriders) and spirituality. If downtime by the pool doesn’t take up too much of your days, you can see much of the island in a week’s stay.

The world's most romantic table for two, at the InterContinental Bali

The world’s most romantic table for two, at the InterContinental Bali

Getting There

It will take a day to recover from jet lag—with a stop in Honolulu or Singapore, flights from LAX take as much as 23 hours—but true travelers say this dreamscape is worth it.

Big Screen Moment

The “Love” portion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” wasn’t just set on Bali, it was filmed here, too. Fans still flock to the streets of Ubud, the island’s artisan’s hub, to recapture the romance.

Celeb Sitings

Models seem to have a soft spot for the island; Jerry Hall “married” Mick Jagger here in 1990, and Australian supermodel Jennifer Hawkins and her fiancé followed suit in a legal ceremony in 2013. Ashton Kutcher, David Beckham, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley James, and Jason Mraz have all been spotted seeing the sites.

Iconic Bali Wedding  Resort

The first luxury hotel to be built on Jimbaran Bay, the island’s most upscale beach resort area, the InterContinental Bali got the early-bird’s pick of location and commands an unmatched beach site. Together with Instagram-worthy sunsets—some say the best on the island—the property is known for its vast and meandering gardens, which might have been built with weddings in mind. There are spaces large enough for 2,500 guests and secluded spots ideal for just a handful of friends and family. Paths can be strewn with rose petals, Balinese lanterns can illuminate the altar, and fire dancers can entertain during the cocktail hour. The staff is happy to arrange anything from an English-speaking officiant to flower girls and umbrella boys in Balinese costume to a one-of-a-kind wedding cake.

Wedding reception fantasy: Twilight on the beach at the InterContinental Bali

Wedding reception fantasy: Twilight on the beach at the InterContinental Bali

Thailand Basics

Famed for its sophisticated cuisine and some of the world’s most welcoming people, this Southeast Asian nation has been an adventurer’s haven for generations. Beyond the traffic of Bangkok lie dozens of beaches and islands famous for their calm waters and anything-goes parties; Koh Samui, with its bamboo villages, turquoise sea, and world-class resorts, is one of the most popular. Most visitors sample at least a few different spots by plane or ferry.

Wedding couple at Thailand's InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Samui

A newlywed couple at Thailand’s InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Samui

Getting There

Bangkok is an 18-hour nonstop from LAX; getting to the outlying islands doesn’t add more than a couple of hours.

Big Screen Moment

A young American vagabond played by Leonardo DiCaprio finds an imperfect Eden in “The Beach,” a cinematically spectacular movie filmed on the Thai island of Koh Samui.

Celeb Sitings

Thailand is a big enough country to cater to the whims of such disparate celebs as Beyonce and Jay Z, Kate Moss, and the entire Khardashian family. Koh Samui is favored by privacy-seekers like Kevin Spacey, Harrison Ford, and Mick Jagger, who certainly gets around these parts.

Iconic Thai Wedding Spot

Its dramatic clifftop perch on the island of Koh Samui gives the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam an end-of-the-world feeling that works well for weddings; most of the island’s nightlife is a considerable drive, so you and your guests will be making your own fun. Of which there’s plenty to be had: restaurants both on-site and a short walk down the beach; the chic neon-lit Air Bar; and one of the country’s top spas. Any children in the wedding party will be jazzed by the kids activities (beach soccer, cooking classes); smart Family Rooms are equipped with bunk beds, toys, and all the trimmings. Those limestone cliffs are the go-to spot for ceremonies; with a baby elephant escort, a traditional drum parade, and blessing by Buddhist monks—plus hot air lanterns and fireworks—you’ve got the makings for one unforgettable gathering.

An otherworldly wedding reception at the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam

An exotic wedding reception at Thailand’s InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam

The Winner

It depends. If you want your group to unpack their bags and dig in for a week, bite-size Bali is for you. Your pals can head out for day trips around one of the world’s most culturally intriguing islands and be back at Jimbaran Bay for dinner. If you’ve got a gang with a strong sense of wanderlust—and if you two would like a bit of alone time—Thailand, with its wealth of busy cities, lounge-worthy beaches, and elephant rides through the jungle, would be a thrill. After a few days of celebrating together on Koh Samui, everyone moves on for new adventures. Leaving you two alone at the end of the world.

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