Ever more foreign couples wedding in Istanbul
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
This file photo shows a Moroccan-Belgian couple in Turkey for their wedding ceremony. There has been a boom in the number of couples coming to Turkey’s biggest city to tie the knot, both in budget and luxury weddings.Istanbul may not sound like the likeliest place a Scottish woman and an Irishman to tie the knot in. Having previously lived in Turkey’s capital Ankara, before moving to their current home in Dubai, Stephanie and Henry chose Istanbul for their wedding celebration because “they had fallen in love with Turkey.”
“We couldn’t think of anywhere better for a wedding than by the Bosphorus in Istanbul,” Stephanie said about their wedding in the historic Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, the sporting and social center of Byzantine Constantinople hundreds of years ago.
There has recently been a boom in the number of foreign couples, especially from Middle Eastern countries, who choose to have their wedding in Turkey, Başaran Ulusoy, chairman of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) told the Anadolu Agency.
“Turkey’s increasing international fame and the progress of its brand image have helped the country host more weddings for foreign couples,” he says. “The interest in Turkish dramas in many different countries has also contributed to the country’s reputation.”
This year, over 3,000 foreign couples decided to say “yes” to a life together in various cities all across Turkey, mostly in Istanbul, says Ulusoy.
Gülşat Şat, Deputy General Manager of wedding planning agency Cremano Wedding, says nowadays an increasing amount of couples are searching for an unforgettable wedding that tells a “fascinating tale.”
“Turkey, which has wide cultural and historical heritage, offers very nice venues for weddings, many of them by the magnificent Bosphorus,” she said.
Turkish photographer Serkan, who works for photo company Photo-Latte, recalls an American couple who had been absolutely fascinated by the Bosporus Straight.
He remembers taking pictures of their wedding in a stylish hotel in Ortaköy, a quaint neighborhood in the Besiktas district of Istanbul, near the straight.
The bride, Sonia, and the groom, Charles, two American soldiers had met during the war in Afghanistan. They decided to get married in Istanbul. There were no guests, no friends, no relatives invited – only the two newlyweds and their witnesses, who worked at the hotel.
“Our wedding was perfect, from my bouquet of flowers, to the arrangement on the table,” says Sonia. “Getting married in another country was exciting and it was everything I hoped it would be.”
The wedding cost them less than $10,000, which Sonia says is cheaper than what it would have cost in the U.S.
Of the 3,000 foreign weddings, a little over 500 were extravagant ceremonies that contributed significantly to the country’s tourism revenue, according to the TÜRSAB chairman.
Stephanie and Henry’s wedding, which was held on the terrace of a luxury hotel overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia was one of these more extravagant ones.
“For the quality of the venue, the service and the experience, we thought it was money well spent. A wedding in either the U.K. or Istanbul doesn’t come cheap; however, Istanbul brings far better value for your money,” she said.
In May 2011, Lakshmi Mittal, business tycoon and one of the richest people in the world, hosted an Indian wedding for his niece.
The wedding took place at Istanbul’s lavish Çırağan Palace, a venue of unparalleled beauty near the Bosphorus, the only palace-hotel in Turkey, stresses its sales director Güçlen Aksu.
“For hundreds of years, the palace served the sultans; and this fact encourages couples to have their wedding at the palace,” says Aksu, adding over 500 couples held their wedding celebration at Cırağan over the last five years.
Couples, mainly from Middle Eastern countries, but also from Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Europe come to Istanbul for their weddings and they completely feel at home, Aksu claims.
Şat estimates that, on average, Indian and Arab couples spend around $200,000 to $500,000, while that number varies between $50,000 and $150,000 for Europeans, whose weddings generally have less guests.
Foreign couples’ weddings in Turkey, however, are not restricted to Istanbul. Many are also celebrated in the southern parts of the country including Antalya and Bodrum.
Richard and Karly, from Hertfordshire, England, for example, are planning to get married this year in the resort town of Kalkan on Turkey’s southwestern coast, an alternative to the “expensive” celebrations in England. It will cost them less than $25,000.
“We are extremely excited about our big day and are looking forward to introducing our family and friends to this beautiful place in Turkey,” the couple said.