Malaysian couples plan more intimate post-pandemic domestic destination weddings


Malaysia has many idyllic islands and beaches where newlyweds will be able to spend their honeymoon. — Tourism Malaysia

When Timothy Wong’s longtime girlfriend said yes to his marriage proposal, he knew he wanted to give her the wedding of a lifetime. Yvette Lee, his significant other, has stood by him through thick and thin – and Wong wants to celebrate their everlasting union at a memorable location.

The couple toyed with the idea of doing a destination wedding, but hosting a ceremony abroad would markedly exceed their budget. They finally decided on Cameron Highlands in Pahang.

“You get the sense that you are in a different country without actually travelling overseas,” Wong said in an interview, adding that this would make planning transportation and accommodation for guests much easier.

Interestingly, sartorial choice also has something to do with the location. The couple thought Cameron Highlands’ cool climate would make slipping into their wedding attire much more comfortable.

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Weddings looked very different last year amid the virus outbreak, according to a recent wedding study. — PRAPOTH PANCHUEA/UnsplashWeddings looked very different last year amid the virus outbreak, according to a recent wedding study. — PRAPOTH PANCHUEA/UnsplashUnfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and derailed all plans.

“For now, Cameron Highlands is off the table. Planning a wedding during this time has been a nightmare,” Wong revealed.

Wong and Lee managed to register their marriage in October last year, during the recovery movement control order phase. But the wedding ceremony, which has been put on hold, will likely be held in the couple’s home state in Selangor where most of their family members and friends live.

Wong is still hopeful for a destination wedding. However, he concedes that planning an interstate wedding is just not feasible during these uncertain times.

He added that the many restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus would make it near impossible to travel to another destination for a wedding ceremony.

“We might do an intimate wedding anniversary celebration in Cameron Highlands with some close family members and friends in the future... perhaps,” he said.

Splendid destination

Destination weddings offer couples and their guests quality time to bond together in a new locale. Over the past decade or so, the destination wedding industry has been on the rise thanks to couples who wish to break away from the traditional “hometown wedding”.

It can be a costly affair for couples and a lucrative one for stakeholders. The average estimated baseline cost of a destination wedding is around US$35,000 (RM148,382).

The aforementioned figure excludes extra expenses such as importing key vendors, additional activities for guests, door gifts and travel costs for the couple and their immediate families.

In comparison, the average cost of weddings in Malaysia is between RM50,000 and RM200,000.

Instead of splurging on an overseas wedding, a growing number of Malaysian couples – such as Wong and Lee – opt to have a domestic destination wedding ceremony. Popular venues include beachside hotels in places like Pulau Pangkor or cool hillside resorts such as those in Cameron Highlands.

Those who love the cool highlands are spoilt for choice with the many refreshing destinations in the country. — Tourism MalaysiaThose who love the cool highlands are spoilt for choice with the many refreshing destinations in the country. — Tourism Malaysia

In recent years, Tourism Malaysia has also stepped up efforts to encourage the destination wedding market in Malaysia.

“Malaysia has a huge touristic appeal due to its scenic locations, rich cultural and heritage and exotic cuisine,” Tourism Malaysia said.

The government agency highlighted that the country provides “a natural, exotic and a heavenly abode for the would-be-couple to tie the knot”.

“Malaysia has quite a few themes to offer when it comes to weddings – city weddings, resort weddings, beach weddings and hillside weddings.

“The exotic islands that dot the landscape of Malaysia for those small intimate ceremonies, linger forever in the minds of guests. Add to that the list of availability of over 200 golf courses and cool highland wedding themes,” Tourism Malaysia said in a statement.

Before the pandemic, the agency promoted the country as a top-of-mind wedding destination to couples in India. It launched an aggressive campaign with the tagline “Love in India, Marry in Malaysia” in 2019 to court Indian couples.

Malaysian High Commissioner to India Datuk Hidayat Abdul Hamid, during the launch of the campaign, said that Malaysia has huge potential as a wedding destination.

“Malaysia is a value-for-money destination. For example, Langkawi – a duty-free island that offers cheaper rates of beverages compared with the mainland. At the same time, room rates are quite affordable on the island too.

“Besides that, there are plenty of beautiful venues with state-of-the-art facilities that can make a wedding a memorable experience. Gorgeous beaches, cities, highlands and million-year-old rainforests can lend a perfect backdrop to your big day,” he said.

Everything that Hidayat mentioned are perks that couples in Malaysia would be able to experience, too, when they plan for a domestic destination wedding.

Malaysia has many idyllic islands and beaches where newlyweds will be able to spend their honeymoon. — Tourism MalaysiaMalaysia has many idyllic islands and beaches where newlyweds will be able to spend their honeymoon. — Tourism Malaysia

More intimate

The pandemic has put a damper on many things, including the destination wedding scene. Weddings looked very different last year amid the virus outbreak, according to The Knot 2020 Real Weddings (Covid-19 Edition) Study.

“While the vast majority of weddings (96%) had to be modified in some capacity due to Covid-19, the good news is that for nearly 93% of engaged couples, the pandemic didn’t cancel their wedding celebrations altogether.

“While hometown weddings and smaller guest counts were popular adjustments, couples still forged ahead with semi-formal affairs that embraced romantic, fun and elegant notes, consistent with what we’ve seen in previous years,” the study said.

Before Covid-19, Tourism Malaysia heavily promoted the country to couples in India as a to wedding destination. — AMISH THAKKAR/UnsplashBefore Covid-19, Tourism Malaysia heavily promoted the country to couples in India as a to wedding destination. — AMISH THAKKAR/Unsplash

The survey was conducted by wedding planning company and website The Knot Worldwide that has a presence in the United States, Britain, China, India and Spain.

The Knot Worldwide chief executive officer Timothy Chi said that weddings will be on the comeback after the pandemic forced delays in couples tying the knot.

Chi, however, noted that couples would need to fork out more money in light of stricter health and hygiene measures during travel arrangements and hotel stays. But the cost would be worth it to bring guests safely together amid the pandemic.

“There’s not really a better way to re-enter post-Covid-19 times than with a huge celebration bringing your closest friends and families together,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Another interesting finding from the survey is that receptions would be smaller and more intimate in the near future.

Newlywed Wong cheekily suggested that this trend could help boost the demand for destination weddings after the pandemic.

“I think people are a bit more hesitant about travelling to another state for a wedding. So, destination weddings can be used as a reason to cut down on long guest lists,” he said.

Wong added that couples can have a smaller budget too as it means transporting only a select few family members and friends to a secluded beach or a hillside resort within Malaysia for their ceremony.

For now, though, Wong just wants to hold a wedding reception for his wife regardless of the location.

“Right now, we are just hoping to do a small celebration with loved ones,” he concluded.

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