Hello, and congrats! So, you want a Koh Samui wedding? Good stuff. With easy access to every Asian hub, and a convenient half-way point between Europe and Australia/NZ, Koh Samui makes an ideal destination wedding location. And have I mentioned it’s rather pretty?
This is the longest post on my entire website – so get comfy, get caffeinated, and let’s get going…
Planning your Koh Samui wedding?
Where to start your planning? Even the smallest, simplest Koh Samui wedding will soon have spreadsheets involved – so how can you minimise your time and stress? First, pick the venue. Then, for the many decisions that follow: keep it simple. Koh Samui makes a perfect wedding backdrop without even trying.
- Choose your wedding venue
- Choosing your wedding date
- Thailand wedding legalities
- Koh Samui wedding planners
- Your Koh Samui wedding day
- Your guests
- What to wear
- Extra Koh Samui tips
1. Choose your wedding venue
Koh Samui wedding resorts
*Please don’t involve elephants in your wedding – here’s why.
Family-friendly wedding venues
Melati, near Choeng Mon, has fantastic tropical gardens (acres) and an amazing view of Koh Phangan from the beach (plus separate adults and family pools). Sunsets are gorgeous – but that’s a trophy shared with many Samui resorts.
Anantara Bophut, in a prime spot on Bophut Beach, has just enjoyed a top-to-bottom renovation and is looking gooood. Unlike Melati and Napasai, your guests will be able to walk to dozens of bars and restaurants – it’s a really convenient location. An Anantara beach ceremony won’t be private, but you’ll have a thousand reasons not to care.
And Belmond Napasai? Plain and simple: it’s just heaven. More than anywhere on Samui, they get “five-star service, zero pretension, lots of class and even more fun” right every single time. I’m sure it’s hard work – but it never looks it.
If privacy is important
- Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
- Banyan Tree Samui
- Conrad Koh Samui
- InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort
Unlike resorts on bigger beaches (Bophut, Chaweng, etc), which can draw crowds of curious onlookers, these three resorts have “private as can be” beaches, where you only need to shoot the evil-eye to fellow guests.
For big weddings (200+ people): InterContinental offers a resort buy-out option. Four Seasons Resort has a second, extra-private beach, hidden from everyone but your party. (However, with a Four Seasons-sized wedding budget you could probably afford to have interlopers “taken care of”. Just kidding. Don’t kill people. It’s not nice).
Boutique resort weddings
Zazen is all about boutique and has a very different feel than those above – it’s perhaps Samui’s most romantic spot. For a small wedding, any of these resorts are absolute prize contenders.
- Nora Beach Resort & Spa
- Nora Buri Resort & Spa
- Peace Resort Samui
- Amari Koh Samui
- Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui
- New Star Beach Resort
I don’t mean machine pejoratively – on the contrary, if you’d rather let someone else do the crazy-making details dervish, simply stand back and leave your wedding in the capable hands of Samui’s most popular and consistent wedding resorts.
For a green wedding
I love Tongsai Bay. It makes me giggle. When has a front-desk staff of a top-notch hotel made you laugh? That’s their deal – happy excellence. But I love Tongsai – and Six Senses’s – eco efforts even more. Both have huge kitchen gardens and their beaches are accessible to non-guests only by a very determined kayak journey.
Unique Koh Samui wedding venues
Want a totally different wedding venue? Maybe, in your heart of hearts, you’re a low-key beach bum and don’t want any fuss or fanciness. Koh Samui can meet you on the route to rustic – but finding a venue will mean a little more work (especially if you’re planning from overseas).
Dozens of casual Samui beach restaurants would be ideal, but they don’t have any (English language) web presence, nor staff quite as fluent. If you’ll be on Koh Samui in advance of your wedding, try your luck at venue-hunting around the island’s small, independent beach restaurants and bungalows.
Or perhaps consider The Jungle Club (way up in the hills). Prefer something totally different? How about a boat? Junks, yachts, catamarans or large speedboats – all are possible. Get your Google on, or get a head start with The Koh Samui Guide.
Koh Samui resort wedding (pros and cons)
PRO – Price range
Compared to villa weddings, there’s a greater price range in Samui’s wedding resort offerings. You’ll find wonderful venue options at three-, four- and five-star resorts.
PRO – Goodies
Together with your wedding package, you might receive wedding goodies that include free hotel night/s, a choice of Thai or Western ceremony, flowers (bouquets and men’s boutonnières), dinner, wedding cake and champagne. Once again, please decline the option to include elephants in your ceremony.
PRO – Staff wedding planners
Koh Samui wedding resorts offering wedding packages all employ at least one (if not a team of) English-speaking wedding coordinators. Use them. They’ve got the hotel chefs in their back pockets and are your direct line to the GM/Food and Beverage Manager.
PRO + CON – Formulaic
Is this a pro, a con or a bit of both? Many Koh Samui resorts offer wedding packages – with limits on how much you can diverge from the script. The pro? They’ve done it before and will get it just right. The con? It’s perhaps harder to match the template with exactly what you have in your mind’s eye.
CON – Rules
Many resorts (true of Zazen amongst others) will allow you to book only a proportion of available guest rooms – so, unlike a villa, it can’t be “all yours”. Noise regulations kick in at certain hours to ensure everyone else gets a good night’s sleep.
Koh Samui wedding package prices
I spent far too long with a spreadsheet to give you a rough idea of package prices for Koh Samui weddings (current as of April 2017). It wasn’t much fun … but now I know all sorts about the per-hour cost of Polynesian dancers. (Why would you have Polynesian dancers at a Thai wedding? That I’m not sure).
These prices do not include your dinner/reception costs and exclude 17% tax and service. The price ranges stated below include the wedding package prices of approximately twenty Koh Samui resorts, but not at Samui’s highest end. Such properties rarely include pricing, invoking that detested adage “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”.
Western beach wedding
Bride and groom only (few or no guests) – THB 25,000 to THB 179,000 at the very high end. THB 40,000 seems pretty standard. In GBP that’s £575 to £4,100 with an island average of approx. £920.
Up to 50 guests – THB 71,000 to THB 300,000 (GBP £1,600 to £6,900).
Traditional Thai wedding
Bride and groom only (few or no guests) – THB 45,900 to THB 110,000. (GBP £1,000 to £2,500).
Up to 50 guests – THB 81,000 to THB 300,000 (GBP £1,800 to £6,900).
What do wedding packages include?
The prices may or may not include:
- Accommodation: One or more nights for the bride and groom
- Transportation: round-trip airport transfer for the bride and groom
- Ceremony: wedding celebrant and consultation (and/or Thai ceremony equivalent)
- Food: wedding cake and canapés
- Flowers: groom’s buttonhole, bride’s bouquet
- Hair and makeup for the bride
- Venue: use of venue, set-up and decoration
- Extras: spa treatments, sparkling wine, tree-planting, breakfast in bed, Thai cooking class for the bride and groom
Assume that the rates at the lower range include very little, and rates at the higher range include the whole shebang (for the ceremony and the cocktail portion only – not dinner/reception).
I was sad to see ‘baby elephant’ featured on the entertainment list of many Koh Samui resorts’ wedding options. Almost all of them offer adult elephants. I’ve seen an elephant being transported in a truck to a Koh Samui resort for a party. We were stuck in traffic behind it for 20-30 minutes and it was a very, very unhappy animal – rocking back and forth against its chains. Just a picture to compare to what you’ll see in the brochures…
What does the extra guest fee include?
Wedding package pricing structure varies from venue to venue. Some base rates include just 2 people, some include 20 or 40 … and some make spreadsheet math extra-annoying with a standard rate for 13 people. Added to this (if applicable), an extra, per-person guest fee may be levied. Per-person guest rates may or may not include:
- Ceremony: seating decoration, confetti
- Refreshments: sparkling wine, cocktails, canapés
- Children under 12 may or may not incur the per-person fee.
Extras and package add-ons?
Where you’re willing to spend money, there will be a resort happy to provide something pretty in return. Again, for an idea of Koh Samui prices:
- DJ (4 hours, including equipment): THB 20,000 – 35,000
- Fire dance show for (30 minutes): THB 9,000 – 21,000
- Fireworks (5-10 minutes): THB 15,000 – 55,000
- Thai dance performance (1 hour): THB 7,500 – 25,000
- Photography (2 hours): Approx. THB 14,000
- Photography (4 hours): THB 18,000 – 35,000
- Additional per hour: Approx. THB 6,000
Wedding beauty and flowers
- Bridesmaids’ bouquets: THB 1,000 – 2,500
- Bridal hair and makeup: THB 5,000 – 10,000
- Buttonhole: Approx. THB 350
Wedding legal fees: Approx. THB 5,400
Vow renewal packages: THB 25,000 – 59,000
Koh Samui villa weddings
Koh Samui villa weddings (pros and cons)
While The Koh Samui Guide navigates Samui beaches and accommodation from a holiday-maker’s point of view, I’ve reassessed what I know about the island’s private villas and popular resorts with weddings in mind.
PRO – Privacy
There are villas all over Samui, some of which can accommodate more people than I have Facebook friends. Some are tucked on or above very remote beaches – ones you could consider “basically” private. At these, unlike a resort wedding, you can definitely minimise your chance of an unknown crowd. If you head off the beach and into the hills, your wedding is guaranteed to be all your own; you get a great view and no passersby.
PRO – Family time
Booking a villa for a period of time before and after the wedding, and sharing the space with close friends and family, will mean more natural, quality time together than searching everyone down separate hotel rooms. (“What time did we say we were meeting for breakfast? Have you seen Sarah?”)
PRO – Small weddings
Buried in the small-print for many villa rentals are their event fees. Many villas use a standard clause, whereby there’s no extra event fee for guests up to 150% of the villa’s normal occupancy. So, a house that sleeps twelve would accommodate a wedding for eighteen guests without fees incurred.
Make sure this is the case before you set your heart on a specific spot, but – broadly – renting a villa makes great sense for a small wedding. You’ll avoid paying for the privilege of being there, leaving more of your budget for services and supplies you actually use.
PRO – Pool party
If you’d like the reception to become an all-night dance party that ends with everyone jumping in the pool, you should definitely book a villa. (Though consider your safety angle if children will be present – will you book full-time/certified child care? With due notice, reputable villa rental agencies can provide such staff though do check as to their First Aid/lifeguarding skills).
PRO + CON – Proximity
Villas’ lack of proximity (walking distance to restaurants/general amenities) is a nice perk when you want “desert island”, but less so when you want dessert. A resort will have more on-site and adjacent options to entertain your guests.
CON – Logistics
While a hotel has a supply chain and long experience with Murphy’s Law, a villa and its staff will be much smaller, with fewer resources to call on should a Plan B be required. A good question to ask – does the villa have a generator? Power cuts aren’t unheard of on Koh Samui. Which bathrooms will be most convenient for guests? Pay real attention to a wet-weather backup plan for a Koh Samui villa wedding.
CON – Accessibility
While accessible villas might exist on Samui (or might soon, as options increase each year), assume that most aren’t. If you’ll have elderly guests or guests in wheelchairs, resorts might be preferable. In many villas expect steep stairs or slopes, and slippery tiled surfaces. Many villas are built in Thai style, with lots of small buildings connected with walkways.
Koh Samui beach weddings
Private beach wedding on Koh Samui?
I admit it! If you got married last month on Bophut beach, I was among those watching not-very-surreptitiously from the sidelines. (Including a few dozen sun-seekers videotaping from their sun-beds). Koh Samui’s beaches make gorgeous, wonderful places to get married but photos don’t include the unwashed masses watching nearby.
No matter the picturesque promise, most Koh Samui weddings (on hotel or resort beaches) will not be private. Beaches are public domain and people are by nature very curious. Random tourist paparazzi might not bother you, but it’s something to consider if privacy matters.
While the ceremony site will be roped off, often with staff at the perimeter, if other people are around they will watch your beach wedding (I have!). They might even video it. Discuss with your fiancé-person whether this will bother you, or if you’ll only have eyes for each other. Resort brochures use canny photo-cropping, so bring your own scrutiny as you choose a venue. (More honest resorts’ marketing uses the word ‘intimate’ rather than ‘private’).
What’s the alternative? Check with your wedding coordinator about the beach’s accessibility – some are more remote than others. (See above for some recommendations) For guaranteed exclusivity, other options include renting a private villa in the hills or – hey there, big spender – buying out an entire resort.
2. Choose your wedding date
Koh Samui wedding weather
I say this on almost every page of this website: Koh Samui is a tropical island and it might rain. Let’s say it again: Koh Samui is a tropical island and it might rain. Repeat that out loud until you accept the givens of this climate: “it might rain”.
But guess what! Outside of Koh Samui’s rainy season, should the worst happen, the sun comes back quite quickly – all menace forgotten.
When is best for a Koh Samui wedding?
As you narrow your venue selection, ask about their wet weather backup plans. Wedding insurance? Apparently, there is such a thing!
Popular Koh Samui wedding months
Consider your guests
High vs not-as-high season? When choosing a date many months hence, take it easy on your guests! Consider their costs, with regards to high and not-so-high season accommodation rates.
Far enough in advance If asking guests to travel, you’ll want to give them sufficient notice – perhaps as much as 12 months, or even more. This way, they’ll be more likely to arrange their trip as their vacation for the year and will have the time to save for it.
Jetlag and when to schedule your wedding day
If applicable, be sure to remember that drowsy beast: jetlag. Allow for ample adjustment time, especially for guests flying from North or South America (as they’ll be the ones falling asleep in the afternoon and evening – during your reception).
Ideally, allow one day per hour that your timezone changes to recover from jetlag. For example, the UK is 7-8 hours different from Thailand, so you’d want a week to completely adjust before your wedding date.
3. Wedding legalities
Oh, you want a legal marriage? A good detail to remember! It may be easier to legally get married in your own country & leave the fun part for Koh Samui. Here are your two options:
(A) Legally get married in Thailand
To complete the legalities in Thailand, you’ll need to spend 3-5 days in Bangkok (with errands centred around your country’s embassy). There’s a checklist of steps and you’ll need to do a bit of running around or choose an agency/liaison to speed things up (as quickly as half a day in Bangkok). You’ll need your street smarts in hiring this help, as scams aren’t unknown. Rely on your Samui wedding planner’s help and advice to complete this step – it’s part of their service and they’ll be able to simplify exactly what you need to do.
(B) Legal stuff at home, celebrate in Thailand
Many couples choose to complete the ‘boring bit’ at home and head straight to Thailand to celebrate – perhaps with a token (non-legal) ceremony on the beach. Check with whoever will become your local wedding contact – whether through an agency or at a hotel: what documents do you need to bring from home? These will include things like birth certificates and documents relating to any previous marriages, if applicable.
4. Wedding planners & vendors
Koh Samui wedding planners
Are you planning a Koh Samui wedding from far away? What’s the maximum number of browser tabs you’ve had open at one time? I’ve heard manic things about wedding planning for the same city – let alone an island, country or continent you’ve maybe not even been to (or perhaps not as an inquisitive bride- or groom-to-be). Overwhelmed? That’s not why you chose beach casual!
Do you need an English-speaking wedding planner?
If you intend to trust your arrangements to an independent/outside planner, try to speak to the contenders by phone before making a selection. Even if it takes a little time-zone adjustment, you’ll have a much better idea of the best personality fit and can settle many questions you have straight away – saving dozens of back-and-forth emails. (A Skype monthly subscription to Thailand might be a good idea). Large resorts have English-speaking planners on staff, as do Koh Samui’s bigger villa rental agencies.
Koh Samui wedding planner services
- Skype consultations
- Venue and/or vendor selection
- Tour and tasting days
- Full wedding planning (start to finish)
- Wedding day (or week) coordination/concierge
Compare and get reviews and references
If you’re going to unleash OCD on any part of your Samui wedding plans, it’s when choosing the venue and the on-island personnel who’ll be helping you. Make a little comparison chart – which planner/planning company did you like best on the first impression? What do their references and online reviews have to say? How quick is their email response time? Don’t rush your judgment – with a wedding date many months away, you can take the time to get this decision right (and remember what I said above about payments up front).
Koh Samui wedding vendors
The golden rule: Never pay up-front. While a deposit is standard practice, the balance is paid after the wedding (or after you’ve received the service, i.e. photos). Suggestions (or insistence) to do otherwise should raise red flags – so make sure payment schedule is amongst your first questions with any wedding supplier.
Wedding flowers on Koh Samui?
Go for gold, little beauties. Thailand does flowers properly. Part of the planner or coordinator’s fee is your ease and convenience – should you seek a direct source of flowers in Thailand (e.g. wholesale), you may encounter a language barrier. If you’re after simple elegance, it’s easily accomplished with white frangipani and candles – or go as colourful as you like.
Live bands and music?
A few pubs host live music nights with expat musicians, and many resorts employ in-house bands. Traditional Thai instruments are a nice perk of your wedding location. DJs advertise around the island but, while you search for the perfect match, perhaps load up your iPod as a side project (just in case any long-term Thai expat missed ‘Blurred Lines’). On this small island, it’s likely to be a case of “do you know a guy…”.
5. Your wedding day
Wedding hair and makeup?
If you’re staying in a resort, they’ll have a hairdresser on site. However, I really recommend bringing your own hair products (and perhaps a few trusted tricks to combat frizz in humidity). If you plan to have your hair cut and/or highlighted in advance, get it done at home. Consider what tropical weather will mean for your makeup as well. All the more reason to keep it simple – a tan and some mascara.
Koh Samui wedding ceremony
What kind of ceremony?
Welcome to choose-your-own-wedding adventure. Whether secular or religious, Western, Chinese or Thai, (or any combination therein), the ceremony you want can be accommodated at virtually any location of your choosing. The only question is where you want to legally get married. To do so in Thailand will require a few days’ running around in Bangkok – details above.
Beach wedding? As I mentioned above, be sure to keep your privacy preferences in mind if you’re planning a Samui beach wedding. Or decide which bridesmaid’s duties involve ushering strangers’ small children out of your photos. (No really).
Time of day
For daytime weddings: Beware bright Samui sunshine. Advise your bridal party and groomsmen whether you’d like them to wear sunglasses or not. While sunglasses can date photos, it’s human cruelty to stick someone in direct sunlight without any for very long. Also, consider your guests – will you provide parasols or handheld fans? A note against daytime weddings – the light can be too bright for great photography.
Late afternoon/evening weddings: It’s hard to imagine Thailand’s tropical heat until you’re wearing dressy clothes, melting. As such, many Koh Samui weddings start later in the afternoon (4:30), if not around sunset – it’s just too hot otherwise! While you and your guests will be more comfortable when it’s a bit cooler, you MUST provide mosquito repellant (avoid DEET products as they bleach clothes).
Sunset weddings: Want a perfect Koh Samui sunset beach wedding? In accordance with the laws of the universe, some parts of the island would seemingly have better sunset views. Yet Koh Samui rather spoils you for choice. Choeng Mon and Chaweng beaches, though both have an easterly curve, offer beautiful light at sunset (if not a glowing ball of sun).
Koh Samui wedding reception
Fireworks. Fire dancers. … Shots of fireball? The reception will be a baby of your own creation – whether you’re growing the world’s fattest Pinterest board about menu card-stock, or just want the venue to do everything and you’ll show up and grin.
6. Your guests
Thailand Wedding Welcome Bag ideas
01. Welcome card + palm tree tissue paper
02. ‘Team Bride’ + ‘Team Groom’ tattoos
03. Palm tree bottle opener
04. Traveller’s Gin-Gins (ginger travel candy)
05. Neon ‘just in case’ plasters
07. Pineapple floating drink holder
08. ‘Zap-It’ mosquito bite relief device
09. Travel-size hand sanitiser
10. Customised wedding party sunglasses
11. SPF 15 lemon lip balm
12. Pocket-size SPF 30 sunscreen
13. Mosquito repellent wristbands
14. Canvas beach bag
15. Travel-size wet wipes
16. Tropical post-cards for colouring
17. Nuun rehydration tablets
18. Folding paper fan
19. ‘Hello You!’ hair tie gift-pack
20. Waterproof playing cards
21. Thai pocket dictionary
How to look after your guests
If you’re preparing a wedding website or sharing resources with your guests, don’t forget to link to my 5 most popular posts for first-time Thailand visitors:
- What to wear in Thailand?
- How to pack for Thailand
- The best mosquito repellent for Thailand
- 10 first-time mistakes to avoid in Thailand
- And, for families, the ultimate guide to Koh Samui with kids
7. What to wear
Koh Samui wedding dress code
What to wear to a Thai beach wedding?
I noticed I was being inundated with this question from wedding guests – and here’s the 3-part answer:
- What to wear to a wedding in Thailand?
- The best shoes for Thailand?
- What fabric is best for Thailand?
Much the same applies to your attire as bride and groom – silk, cotton and other natural fabrics will keep you cooler than synthetics.
What shoes are best for a Koh Samui wedding?
As explained in the ‘what to wear’ posts linked above (and here – what to know about your feet in Thailand), there’s plenty of room for error with your Samui wedding shoe choice. For your safety, know that many Koh Samui resorts and villas have plenty to trip over and often quite slippery surfaces. I’d absolutely avoid stilettos or any heel with a spike. Instead, save your ankles and choose a flat sandal or a wedge – a better choice for beach weddings, anyway.
Is there a dress code for weddings in Thailand?
No more than would usually be the case. Western weddings are a very different beast to Thai weddings and beach weddings are completely foreign. If you look as nice as you would for a wedding anywhere, you more than meet the dress code (but hide the cleavage away).
The exception is if any part of your wedding takes place within a Thai temple. In that case, standard Thai temple dress applies: shoulders and knees covered for both sexes (ideally ankles but do your best) and arrive in closed-toe footwear rather than flip-flops (ideally something that slips off rather than takes laces).
Can you get a custom-made wedding dress on Koh Samui?
There are dozens (if not hundreds) of tailors on Koh Samui. Would I recommend getting your wedding dress made on the island? Absolutely not. Read about my experience at a tailor in Thailand (hopefully the exception). Even if your experience was miles better than my own – why combine ‘high margin for error’ with ‘limited time available’? You don’t need the stress and the cost-saving won’t be significant.
8. Extra tips
What to bring from home?
Travel adapters and extra phone charge
UK to Thailand travel adapter: If you’re coming from the UK, note that you’ll need to bring travel adapters for Thailand. Perhaps my best suggestion of this entire post is to skip the one-plug-at-a-time adapters and bring a UK to Thailand multi-extension lead. Consider how many phones/laptops/iPads will be in constant use in your hotel room’s Wedding HQ – one or more of these per room will really help to stem the chaos. Best of all, it has a 1.5-metre cord, so you only have to crawl under hotel room furniture twice your entire trip (once to plug it in, and to retrieve it when you leave). Now that, my friends, is progress for mankind.
Portable phone charger: It’s really easy to use your phone in Thailand, but I massively recommend bringing extra juice – an external phone charger to keep with you when you’re out and about. I’ve been in the unenviable position of trying to phone relatives from a Koh Samui emergency room with a dead phone … so this is a recommendation born of a very much worst-case scenario! Also, don’t forget extra camera batteries and a million SD cards.
Champagne prices are exorbitant on Samui (US$100+/bottle), so if you can tuck a bottle or two in each of your suitcases (and your parents’, best friends’, etc) – you can import quite the party. Crucially, check the champagne in your luggage and don’t bring it as carry-on (even if bought from duty-free outside of Thailand). Odds are likely that a horrible man will take it away from you if you’re transferring at BKK. Don’t risk it!
Still not done! Don’t forget to get stupidly excited:
Not too tricky, right? Congratulations!
Sources: Belmond Napasai, Chaweng Regent, Infinity Resorts, Le Meridien Koh Samui, Manathai Koh Samui, Melati Resort, Renaissance Koh Samui, Samujana, Sandalwood Samui, Sareeraya, Sea Dance, ShaSa Resort, Silavadee Resort, Six Senses Samui, Tongsai Bay, Vana Belle, X2 Koh Samui, Zazen