Mauritius is a paradise island and thousands of people tie the knot here every day from all over the world. However, when it came to getting married here myself, I was surprised at quite how many difficulties and challenges there are. Certainly if like me, you want a little more than the wedding packages most hotels offer designed for a handful of guests (many of which are lovely, by the way, just not what I wanted). If you go down the hotel route, every place on the island will be able to give you a checklist and will be happy to cater for you as long as it’s less than 10 guests or so. The typical packages tend to include a ceremony followed by a celebration dinner. While the format is similar in most, I’ve seen some wildly different standards, from gorgeous to cringe-worthy, so do make sure you investigate all the options to get what best suits you.Since the big day, a surprisingly large number of beautiful brides-to-be have got in touch with a wide range of questions, so I figured it’s best to just try and compile everything into one simple list of tips. I’m still very happy to help where I can with individual questions, though, so just get in touch on email or on social media, or in the comments below. The below are my top ten tips for getting married in Mauritius: and I hope they are useful in making your special day as wonderful as it can be. They are largely for those coming from overseas to enjoy their ceremonies on the sand but wanting something larger than the typical wedding packages, or for those already based here – although they may be useful for others too!
I don’t want the list to seem negative because getting married here was one of the best decisions of my life (and I’m not including all the many, many more brilliant things about the island), I just want to give an honest list of tips to expect so you go in with your eyes open and be prepared and because I wish I had it before getting started.
Top tips for getting married in Mauritius
- Plan early: I know this might be an obvious one for any wedding, but if there is a downside of living in a tropical paradise it’s that people like to enjoy it as much as they can! So I’d add in a 50% buffer for Mauritian time for whatever plans your are needing. Also, if you are wanting guests to stay in the hotel venue (and you are planning around school holidays) rooms get booked up quickly and a year or more in advance.
- Be patient: Even with planning early you still need to be patient! Whether it’s musicians or caterers or large hotels, you simply can not expect to get replies or answers quickly. It can take even well-established hotel groups long periods of time to arrange meetings or send details. And while planning early is an absolute must, it can also means that your questions are pushed even further down the list as many suppliers will deal only with what they are up to in the coming weeks. Often you will have to wait for some downtime before they start to think far in advance. If you accept the need for patience from day one and don’t keep refreshing your inbox or watching your phone for a call back, you’ll have a greater chance of making it through without wrinkles!
- Be (politely!) pushy: OK, everyone has their own view on this. I’m British and you know, we don’t like to do this type of stuff. We queue, even for hours,and probably end up apologising for it somehow. But in Mauritius, I really think you need to be a little bit more proactive, so far as to say pushy (even though I hate that word!). And don’t just email and re-email, conversation is best over here so pick up the phone, get to know people as much as you can and build a relationship that you can count on.
- Don’t expect 1000s of venues: If you’re going with a hotel, this isn’t an issue as you’ll be well looked after. If not, finding venues can be a real challenge, as much of the best spots on the island are dominated by hotels or prime residencies, and those spots that aren’t are often difficult to find and book. Some great non-hotel options include the Ile Des Deux Cocos (although run by the Lux* Group) and getting married on the sea (with catamarans like JPH in the West). Alternatively, you can do what we did, which is work with a hotel for the venue, but not depend on them for all of the (scarily overpriced) add ons, food and drinks. We were lucky that our hotel agreed to do this with us, but not all will and it will often depend on things outside of your control (their existing bookings, for example). For us it was a lot more work because of the responsibility to source our own suppliers, but it gave us much more control on quality and could really let us design it to what we really wanted. I hated the idea of wedding option A, B or C (although in someways, so blissfully simple that is affords time for enjoying other things).
- Get to know your suppliers, one way or another: Things really started to change for us when we got to know our main players. Not just by name or after the confirmation of the booking, but after dozens of emails and conversations. That applies to all those helping us out on the accommodation side, the decorators, the furniture providers, the musicians, but it mainly applied to the main contacts at the hotel. The hotels here are busy and overworked, so you need to make yourself standout if you can. Mauritius is overloaded with tourism and so much so many of the good suppliers are so in demand they can sometimes be on auto-pilot, I guess like all of us at times. Use messages or Whatsapp, add them on Facebook (not too far, but be friendly). Just begin to develop those key relationships because you aren’t just one more of the 1.2 million people who come to this island every single year – you are coming to change your life forever and have the most special day of your life. It matters.
- Appoint suppliers slowly, get rid of them quickly! So it’s a bit of a rip off of the ‘hire slow, fire fast’ mantra for employment, but I found it just as critical for us in arranging the wedding. When you are finding your first suppliers, take your time, talk to them properly (if you’re abroad, ask for a Skype). They are worth their weight in gold. And likewise, if you have made a mistake hiring a person or organisation because you were desperate or because you thought they were right initially, don’t be afraid to cut the loses and go elsewhere – fast. This was a big learning for me, as we appointed some suppliers quite early on because we really wanted that ticked off the to do list. But in all honesty, they never really got our vision or shared our excitement, and agreeing to go our separate ways even just months before the day was a weight off my shoulders. If you sigh when you have to deal with them or pick up the phone, just shake hands politely and call it a day. You will thank me for this one!
- Watch out for the weather! You will read that weather in Mauritius largely falls in to summer and winter, which is true, but what that massively overlooks is the hugely significant mini-climates that rule the roost here. That means whatever the time of year you could get any type of weather. It is a tropical island, after all! So make sure you have a plan B, even if you have picked mid-summer for the heat or mid-winter for the cooler, supposedly more stable climates.
- Signed, sealed, delivered!: As well as the party planning, there is also the little issue of actually getting married and getting your paperwork in order. Again, if you’re with a hotel, they will have an option to help you with this process, which involves some back and forth with the various offices in Port Louis. If you’re going alone, as we did, be prepared for some bureaucracy with a capital B. Some weeks after submitting your documents by post, you will need to go and collect an approved a5 size ‘Memo’ from the central Civil Status Office in Port Louis, which is them giving you the green light. You will likely need to perform an affidavit before completion, which can take some hours. Following that, you will be given a local Civil Status Office based on the location of your wedding, where you will have to go and meet the person in charge and who will handle the ceremony. The legal process is very similar for most religious weddings, too. Don’t expect to get it done quickly and never go to official offices anywhere near lunchtime(!). Go when you’re not rushed and take time to grab some lunch or visit the waterfront and make a day out of it.
- Capturing the day: This might be harsh (sorry), but we met some really lovely people who were frankly terrible photographers. It’s not unique to this gorgeous island but there is definitely something about Mauritius that makes the type of cheesy wedding photos of a bygone era all the rage even in 2017. If that’s your bag, then go for it. If it’s not, be aware of any recommendations that you are given and do not accept them blindly. Ask for portfolios and see some of their work online or on their social media profiles. We were really happy with our photographers and videographers in the end as they totally understood our style and were so passionate in capturing the right moments. I’m more than happy to share the contacts if you’re interested.
- Lean on the hotels, but don’t be led blindly: Overall, the hotels here dominate the wedding scene for those coming from overseas, and even those who are already based here or with a network. We loved our hotel and our wedding planner and it gave us what we wanted. All I would say is be careful to let them lead you, but don’t be led blindly. It’s a hard, competitive industry and it’s fairly standard for prices to be inflated 200-500% which applies too when they offer to get in third parties (musicians, florists, photographers). You can be led down a path of cost and not value and it won’t necessarily give you what you want. So do your research about costs and prices of suppliers, reach out to some yourself and take on the challenge, so you pay what’s right and also so you really get what you want.
- Expect the unexpected! Yes, this a number 11 in the top 10 list. I’m just warming you up to keep on your toes and expect the unexpected. Getting married in Mauritius looks serene in the pictures and I really believe is one of the best places you could imagine for the big day – just don’t expect it to always be straightforward and most importantly enjoy the ride!
If I can help, please do get in touch and be sure to share you’re experiences of getting married so we can improve the list and keep supporting brides to get the best from their big day. Thanks for reading, please share and keep following (did you know that I also run The Unwrapped Series for non-Mauritian based travel experiences? Have a look!