“Gothic and baroque architecture, winding cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages– a city steeped in history and romance” - the Czech capital is not hard to sell as an attractive tourist destination. Now CzechTourism is going further – it is presenting Prague and its surroundings as an ideal wedding destination.
A centuries-old castle, a simple chapel, a horse drawn carriage, a wedding reception in an ancient hall, a violin serenade under your balcony or a flight in a balloon– for couples who like romance Prague and its surroundings have a lot to offer –moreover at an affordable price. Jitka Snoblova from CzechTourism says romantic weddings followed by a short honeymoon have become increasingly popular with foreign couples.
“There are various agencies that take care of the whole works. You just sign the contract and they take care of all the paper work for you. They have special packages that include period weddings, they arrange special requests like horse riding in the chateau’s park. Most of the castles and chateaux offer romantic weekends or nights so the newly-weds can stay and extend the fairy-tale experience at a luxury suite where they get service reserved for royalty and everything is prepared in the style or time period of their choice.”
The most popular wedding venues in Prague are the Old Town Hall for civil weddings, St Nicholas Church for religious ceremonies and the Prague Castle Gardens for outdoor ceremonies. Karlstejn Castle located not far from Prague, Konopiste with its 13 century fort and Hluboka with its famous Windsor-style chateau are likewise highly favoured wedding destinations. In fact there are now more foreign or mixed couples tying the knot in Hluboka than Czechs.
Hana’s fiancé is from Dubai and that’s where the couple plans to settle down. However after one look at the price list there Hana knew that if she wanted a dream princess–style wedding the Czech Republic was the place to get married.
“I tried several wedding dresses in Dubai and loved one particular model by a Spanish designer that cost the equivalent of 45 thousand crowns. Here I found an identical model for the price of just 16,500. In Dubai as soon as you mention marriage, the price of everything triples.”
Although Czech agencies are also making good money in the wedding business a sumptuous wedding in the Czech Republic still comes at a third of the price it would cost in London, Paris or Dubai. A wedding ceremony at Karlstejn castle costs between 9 and 20 thousand depending on the requirements, which may include a period wedding feast with fanfare, jesters, musicians and a knights’ tournament in honour of the bride and groom. At Hluboka Chateau the price is between 2 and 10 thousand. Wedding receptions are at around 1,500 per guest meaning that the price of a wedding for 50 guests would be at around 100,000 crowns.
A wedding at Karlstejn needs to be booked on average 3 months in advance, Hluboka chateau takes bookings 6 months in advance. But those who make a snap decision have a lot of other options to choose from. The Czech Republic is dotted with beautiful castles and chateaux and as the wedding business booms they are vying for clients. Martin Dobes who runs his own wedding agency says smaller, more out-of-the way places will often give you more value for your money than the tried and tested wedding venues most people go for.
“We find that the traditional wedding venues – which are fully booked for months in advance -often lack the motivation to come up with new things to improve on what they are offering. Meanwhile every year you get dozens of newly renovated chateaux and hotels entering the business and ready to go one better to get an edge over their rivals. Often they will produce a sumptuous wedding in beautiful surroundings for a fraction of the price it would cost elsewhere.”
Czech Tourism has run its “romantic weddings in the Czech Republic campaign” in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Poland. And it seems to have worked. According to statistics foreign nationals now account for one in ten marriages made in the Czech Republic and many already married couples come to renew their marriage vows and spend a romantic weekend being pampered at a Czech chateau. Jitka Snoblova from CzechTourism says people in Britain have been particularly receptive to the idea of a wedding in the Czech Republic.
“We have had a very good response from Britain because in Britain it is more difficult and far more expensive to arrange a wedding in a castle. So I think it is to our great advantage that in the Czech Republic we can offer everyone their dream wedding at a chateau or castle and the wedding does not cost them a fortune. So in the Czech Republic every woman can be a beautiful princess on her wedding day.”
While foreign couples come here for a taste of old-style romance, young Czechs are heading in the opposite direction. Most young people no longer favour the big weddings their parents had and getting married in the town where they grew up –or in the same chateau as all their friends – is not an exciting prospect. Consequently many Czechs looking for a suitable wedding destination look further afield, choosing an exotic location where they will also spend their honeymoon. Martin Dobes again:
“Czechs can now afford more than they could spend abroad in the past and a wedding abroad generally means fewer wedding guests. Keeping the wedding guest list down to a minimum means that the couple can really spend on the location and the experience and the wedding budget goes much further. “
In the past year alone 3,700 Czechs tied the knot abroad. And given the fact that last year brought the lowest number of marriages since 1918 wedding agencies are falling over themselves to win commissions and present attractive wedding day offers here in the Czech Republic. Many now offer adrenalin-packed non-traditional wedding ceremonies held underwater, at the top of a mountain, in a hot air balloon., on horseback or in the heart of the Vitkovice steelworks. One agency even caters to those who want a wedding on the beach but can’t afford the trip –promising a Hawaiian style wedding day on the banks of the Vltava river. As one agency says “we’re ready for anything –if you are” .
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