Jack Ezon, the founder of Embark, a New York travel company specializing in destination weddings, said he planned more than a dozen cultural ceremonies last year, including one for 200 people in Marrakesh, Morocco, where the bride gave a traditional Moroccan henna party before the wedding and all the women received elaborate henna patterns painted on their hands and feet. He has another half dozen in the works for this year.
“Along with the growing interest that travelers have in living like a local, there’s a movement to get married like one,” Mr. Ezon said. “The ceremony may not be legally recognized back home, but it makes for a unique, tellable story that epitomizes an exotic locale.”
Wedding planners, too, say that more of their clients are requesting cultural wedding ceremonies.
Colin Cowie, who runs Colin Cowie Lifestyle, an event design and production company with offices in New York and Los Angeles, planned around 10 such events last year. The highlight was a 110-person wedding last November at Sabi Sands Game Reserve, in South Africa, where a sangoma (or healer) married the bride and groom. “It wasn’t the textbook destination wedding where you basically change the date and the place,” he said. “It was a ritual that reflected a sense of place.”
As was the case with Mr. Lane and Ms. Rubio, couples will often choose a locale because they have an affinity to the culture or destination.
Tristan Lee, who works at Apple, and Blair Healy, a graduate student in child psychology, got married in January in a solo ceremony at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, in Tanzania. A Maasai, William Ole Seki, who is regarded as a spiritual counselor and leader in his community, conducted the vows for the San Jose, Calif., couple, both 30.
“We both love Africa and heard about how the lodge offered these weddings,” Mr. Lee said. “We have been to tons of weddings together, and they all seemed the same. The idea of this stood out.”