A beach wedding in Goa is a dream for many couples planning a destination wedding in India. A former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India, Goa competes with the likes of Jaipur and Udaipur in the north and Kerala in the south.
Goa has a lot going for it compared to other destination wedding locations in India. Great weather for most of the year, a tourist-friendly state where English is spoken almost everywhere, direct international flights from the UK and the middle-east and easy access by short flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, plenty of hotel options right on the beach – from 5-star resorts to quaint boutique properties and yes, cheap liquor compared to other tourist destinations in India, thanks to lower taxes.
Over the years, beach weddings in Goa have grown from rustic hippie-culture affairs to elaborate events that run into several hundred thousand Rupees. At Aether, through our documentary wedding films and photography, over the years we have witnessed first-hand the issues that crop up. So, if you’ve decided to host your wedding ceremony and reception in Goa, here is our guide to ensure smooth sailing.
1. Choose a venue to match your vision
Goa has two primary options for venues. You need to decide on being in the tourist hotspots in North Goa or choose the quieter beaches of South Goa. The beaches in the north are crowded, shacks everywhere you look, bars and pubs for all budgets galore and plenty of options for water sports, flea markets and nightlife. In short, it can be considered the happening part of Goa. But is it a good beach wedding location?
There are very few star properties in the north. The oldest being the Taj Aguada which makes for a scenic location up on a hill, inside the precincts of an old Portuguese fort. There’s also the Marbela and Montego Bay at the extreme north of Goa in Morjim. Here you will find the beaches quieter and cleaner than in the touristy middle sections, but within striking distance of all the happening hotspots. These beach properties can also accommodate your guests in air-conditioned tents and can make for picturesque wedding venues, with little to no additional costs on décor.
South Goa, on the other hand, has many options for star resorts. These can not only host larger weddings with multiple venue choices within the resorts, but most are also attached to a beach, and so your wedding can be held by the beach or even on it (check for permissions, see tip below).
If a beach wedding is not what you are too particular about, you could also check out the Alila Diwa in Utorda. It’s close to the airport at Dabolim and is a quaint place that makes for a great venue for smaller intimate weddings.
Other than the Alila, the southern beaches are peppered with resorts like the Taj Exotica in Benaulim, the Zuri and the Kenilworth and the upper-end Leela. These properties are equipped to host large weddings of 500 and over.
Always check for a venue based on the number of guests you expect. It’s best to book a venue that can accommodate all your guests, instead of having guests scattered over multiple hotels. Makes for a fun time overall.
Wedding Wire has a whole list of wedding venues you could browse through. You can also filter that list to just wedding venues in Goa.
2. Decide on the time of year
Goa is great at any time of the year. However, the peak tourist season and destination wedding season is November to March. The weather is in the mid-twenties with nights getting cooler. Of course, being peak season means the prices of everything from venue to vendors will also peak. If you are looking to have your destination wedding on a budget, you could choose an off-peak time of year.
Goa receives generous rains between June and September and the landscape goes green and the beaches are quieter – even in the north. If you are prepared to weather the showers, perhaps even incorporate it in your events (how about a rain dance for the youngsters?), this could be a great time to plan your wedding in Goa on a budget. We’ve documented many fun weddings in August-September.
3. Give your guests plenty of time to make plans and bookings
Once you’ve decided on having a destination wedding, you owe it to your guests to let them know in advance, so they have ample time to plan their trip. Understand that some of your closest friends may not be able to make it for various reasons including work and budgets. Don’t be upset. It comes with the territory of destination weddings.
Give your guests at least 12 months’ notice so they can take advantage of lower airfares. Ask your venue to provide group booking rates so your guests can book at lower rates.
Some of your friends may not be able to afford the rates at your venue. Give your guests options of at least two, even three different budgets for accommodation. But make certain the hotels are comfortable and within 10 to 15 minutes from your main venue. This is where south Goa has better options from higher-priced resorts to comfortable serviced apartments.
Consider hiring a bus to bring guests to the main venue for the events. Factor the time it takes when planning your wedding events. Your goal should be to ensure everyone is having a great time and is comfortable.
4. Incorporate the venue’s aesthetics for décor
By having a destination wedding at a scenic beach location, you can save on the décor requirements. For a place like Goa, the beach can be a fabulous backdrop for your wedding. Resorts like the Park Hyatt and the Leela have quaint groves on the property. In the north, places like Marbela too have beach-front properties with beautiful tree cover. Closer to Panjim, the capital of Goa, the Prainha resort in Dona Paula makes for a quaint beach-side wedding under a coconut grove.
Use these elements in a big way in your wedding. You will save on the décor costs and also have a memorable wedding. The worst thing you could do is to have a beach-side wedding in Goa and then completely transform the place with thrusts, heavy décor and props that ruin the view and the environment.
5. Wedding Planner: To hire or not to hire
When planning a destination wedding in Goa, you could choose to do it yourself or hire a planner. If budgets permit, hire a wedding planner. Importantly someone with years of experience planning destination weddings in Goa. We have worked with some great planners and have always found that they add value and make the wedding flow smoother and keep guests happy.
Your wedding planner will assist you in selecting the right venue for your budget, the guest count and your taste in locations. Besides, the wedding planner can guide you in selecting your vendors and then coordinate with them while you are miles away. Finally, on the day, your planner will help your guests, ensure the smooth flow of events and be your single touch point in case of any requirements. In the absence of a planner, you or one of your guests will have to jump into this role and miss out on the enjoyment.
But is a wedding planner the only option? No. Most of the destination wedding venues in Goa have an in-house events coordinator. You can check with your venue if they provide this service. The co-ordinators can help you with vendor selections and take the job out of your hands during the events. However, by going with this route, you will have options limited to within the resort. For instance, if you’d like to use a location outside the resort for one of your events, you’d be on your own, as the venue coordinator will likely not help in this.
6. Make at least two trips before the wedding
When planning your wedding budget, plan for at least two trips to Goa. On your first trip, you will scout venues either on your own or with the help of a planner and book your chosen wedding venue. If you’re doing this on your own, plan for at least 4 to 5 days. Do your research online and call ahead to make appointments. Even then, you may only have time to scout venues and will have to make the booking after you get back home.
During your first trip, try to meet at least some of the key vendors like your photographer, the décor, catering, stylist. By the end of your first trip, you should decide on the venue and book the team for your wedding film and photographs.
Your next trip should be around 3 to 4 months before the wedding. That’s when you can check on the progress and confirm the rest of your vendors. Decide on transport between hotel and venue for all your guests, airport transfers, catering for all meals during the wedding festivities etc.
Finally, plan to arrive at least 4 to 5 days before the wedding. This will give you time to settle down and review any last-minute preparations. It will also let you meet your photographer and do some location couple shoots to take advantage of the venues. Your photographers will also want to do interviews for your wedding documentary film. This leaves you free to enjoy with guests during the wedding events.
7. Give guests a welcome kit
This is a destination wedding and probably the first trip to Goa or India, for some of your guests. As the host, it is your job to make them comfortable and give them the necessary information they will need for a comfortable stay.
One way to do this is by giving your guests a welcome kit. Leave it for them in their hotel rooms or hand it over personally at a welcome dinner event. The bag will contain:
- Wedding Essentials: The wedding event schedules, timings for all meals, hotel transfers
- Survival pack: sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc
- Local goodies: Goa is famous for its Cashew nuts. If liquor is appropriate, consider a bottle of good Cashew Feni – a local brew. Other options for the welcome kit could be Azulejos – charming hand-painted tiles that can make for a beautiful keepsake from the wedding. Coconut shell craft can also make for excellent Goan gift items for your guests in the Welcome Kit.
8. Select appropriate attire – for yourself and your guests
The weather in Goa remains in the twenties to thirties for most of the year. It rises to the mid-thirties in April-May. It rarely goes below 20 in the day, even in winter. Consider appropriate attire for yourself and your guests. If you have attire suggestions for the various events, let your guests know in advance – on your invitations, so they come prepared.
Whatever you do, do not consider a tux, sherwani or heavy gown if you are having a day wedding outdoors on a beach in Goa. It’s downright cruel for you and your guests. They’d be baking right through the ceremony.
Linen in white or pastels is ideal for beach weddings in the day. For evening events outdoors in the winter, you can consider kurtas, sherwanis, lenghas, suits and gowns.
In short, do your research and plan the attire. Since you are having a beach wedding in Goa, it’s not entirely inappropriate to have guests wearing smart casuals like shorts to your wedding events. It will make for comfortable guests and so happier guests.
9. Permissions for beach weddings, music after 10
When planning a destination beach wedding in Goa do consider certain laws that are important to you. If you plan to have your ceremony or reception on the beach, you will need prior permission from local authorities. Make certain your venue or planner will arrange this. Ask them to send you copies well in advance. Besides permits for beach weddings, also understand there are restrictions for the kind of décor you can put up on the beach. It’s a sensible law, and anything you do put up should be completely removable so that the beach is back to its original state. You need to be environmentally conscious, and everything should be fine.
Another important aspect from the legal angle is music after 10 pm. According to a judgement from the Supreme Court of India, use of loudspeakers outdoors, between 10 pm and 6 am is not permitted. So, when planning your events consider winding up by 10 pm. You can always take the party indoors if your resort has an indoor facility. Most starred resorts in South Goa have halls and discotheques you can hire to continue the party after 10 pm.
So please don’t pester your planner or venue staff to let the party go on outdoors. The last thing you want at your wedding is for the cops to come in and close it down for lack of permissions.
10. Enjoy – you will be on GST 😉
Goa used to be a Portuguese colony for 500 years. It’s quite unlike the rest of India. One of the remnants of the Portuguese era is GST. No, we are not talking of the new tax regime in India. We mean Goa Standard Time. Most local establishments will close in the afternoon for a short siesta. Further, your local vendors may appear laidback. This does not mean a lack of professionalism. It just means things move at a slower pace in Goa. So, don’t get frustrated. Do some mindfulness meditation and enjoy it. You will not get this pace once you get back to your busy life after your destination wedding.
So, there you have it – our ten tips for planning a destination beach wedding in Goa. If you have any queries, feel free to contact us. We have been documenting weddings in Goa and other destination locations across India since 2005. If you would like to book us for your wedding, do reach out using the form or email us. We’d love to tell your story.
We wish you a great destination beach wedding in Goa!