Destination Weddings in the Czech Republic
With the fall of communism in 1989, Prague and the Czech Republic have quickly become beloved travel destinations. Although many destination weddings take place in Prague, there are locations and venues throughout the country ranging from Cervena L'hota in the Czech Moravian highlands, to the Loket Castle just west of Karlovy Vary, to the medieval town and UNESCO heritage site of Krumlov.
The legalities of getting married in the Czech Republic are slightly cumbersome, but certainly not as difficult as getting married in France or Spain. A number of companies have sprung up in the last decade to help get through the Czech red tape, but it is also a process one can do on one's own. Make sure you give yourself enough time, as your papers need to be filed two weeks prior to your wedding day. Since laws and regulations change, check the Czech consulate's website in your country, for the most up-to-date rules.
Over the last decade and a half, Prague has become so cosmopolitan that most people catering to the tourist industry will speak English. Once you are out of the capital, you will still find people who speak English, especially in the tourist hot spots, but English is much less common in smaller towns.
Whether you choose a Prague wedding or one in the countryside, the Czech Republic lends itself marvelously to a destination wedding. The country's main airport is in Prague, but Ryan Air and other discount airlines have started service into Brno. Two hours southeast of Prague, Brno can be the gateway to Southern Bohemia and Moravia.
Your guests will enjoy spending time in Golden Prague, the City of 1000 Spires, but don't miss the opportunity to explore other parts of the country. Consider renting a van or bus to chauffer your guests around the countryside. Day trips to Ceske Budejovice (home of the original Budweiser beer), Cesky Krumlov, Plzen (Pilsner Urquell), Telc (another UNESCO World Heritage Site), Tabor and Kutna Hora, among others, are all possibilities.
The Czechs take their spas seriously. The two main spa towns, Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne are particularly beautiful. The Bride and her Maids might enjoy a few days of pampering prior to the wedding, while staying at the Grand Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary. Or perhaps the bride and groom would enjoy relaxing for a few days at the Hotel Esplanade Spa and Golf Resort in Marianske Lazne, following all the excitement of the wedding.
One of the joys of a destination wedding is incorporating local customs into your ceremony and reception. Some of the traditions might not be so practical. For example, your hotel may frown upon planting a tree for the bride...but other traditions are certainly do-able and fun. In the past, friends of the bride traditionally wove a rosemary wreath for her the night before the wedding. Modern brides might acknowledge the custom by incorporating a sprig or two of rosemary in the bridal bouquet. During the reception, a plate should be broken in front of the bride and groom which they sweep up together, symbolizing their new partnership and working relationship in life. The couple might jointly eat a bowl of soup, with one spoon, while covered with a large towel, to symbolize trust. Traditionally, the single women at the wedding would dance in a circle around the bride, taking her veil off and replacing it with a more matronly hat. A variation on that might just be to have the guests dance in a circle around the bride and groom. In place of rice or bird seed, Czech guests will throw peas at the departing couple in order to ensure a fertile union.
Treat your guests to the sights, sounds and tastes of a wedding they might never experience again. Why not hire a group of traditional dancers to perform folk dances? This might be a good break after the wedding ceremony and before the reception. A polka band, even for an hour or two, would be fun. You never know, Great Aunt Millie might just dust off those dancing shoes and show the younger generations how to dance. Traditional foods might include a suckling pig or roast boar (complete with apple in mouth), chlebicheks (small sandwiches), goulash and dumplings, and Moravian wine and beer straight from Plzen.
Give your guests a wedding favor which will spark memories of a wonderful trip and wedding. A number of local products would work well as a meaningful favor. Crystal, garnets, marionette puppets and the herbal liquor Becherovka are uniquely Czech. You can also send your guests home with a box of cookies, perhaps Oplatke from Marianske Lazne.
Your guests will go home with nothing but fond memories of their time in the Czech lands. You will have participated in centuries-old traditions, and started one of your oww... ten years from now you may be planning an anniversary celebration in the Czech Republic!