Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Destination Wedding Locations: Switzerland

If you've skied all the domestic ski resorts and are looking for a little international flavor, check out the incredible slopes of Switzerland. And getting married here is easier than you think. From towns with glitzy nightlife and shopping like St. Moritz to ski resorts like Grindelwald, Switzerland offers a wide variety of things to do.

Wedding Logistics
Grindelwald and St. Moritz require no residency or waiting period. However, planners we interviewed suggested arriving three days early to get a marriage license and do any last-minute document processing. Start planning anywhere from three to six months ahead—you need that time to do the paperwork and fulfill the filing requirements. Switzerland recognizes only civil ceremonies.

Local Bridal Customs
The Swiss blend both French and German customs in their weddings. A horse-drawn carriage is a romantic way to get the ceremony, while a yodel choir is often the perfect musical accompaniment to a Swiss wedding.

Best Time to Go
Obviously, the skiing is the big attraction. The resorts have both high and low seasons in winter and summer. For example, December 18 through January 6 is high season at many hotels in St. Moritz. Meanwhile, low winter season is January 6 through February 5. In the summer, most of July is the low season, while August is high. This may be due to the fact that most Europeans take vacations in August.

Many airlines slash their air fares to Europe in the winter. This savings may far outweigh higher hotel prices. The cheapest destinations usually are London or Amsterdam. You can then get a connecting flight to Switzerland. One example: Singapore Airlines last year offered super-low winter fares from New York to Frankfurt—just $328 per person. Check with your travel agent for the latest deals.

Costs, Accommodations, and Getting Around
While the airfare to Switzerland is cheap(er) in the winter, once you get there you should expect to shell out the big bucks. Thanks to a weak dollar, Switzerland is quite expensive.
For example, even a simple wedding with flowers, cake, and photographer in Europe runs about $2000, according to our sources. In Switzerland, some of this cost is for the license—about $325 plus additional money for document translations.

In Grindelwald, rates at various hotels range from $129 to $592 per couple per night. Summer packages are more affordable, at $695 to $1835 per couple for seven nights.
A stay in St. Moritz isn't any less expensive. The Badrutt's Palace Hotel (082-2-11-01) runs an astounding $828 per night in the winter. Summer is $690. Meals are also expensive; expect a $26 tab for a continental breakfast, while dinner for two can top $150.

What Makes it Special
Grindelwald boasts some of the best powder in Europe, as well as a resort town with fifty restaurants. In the summer, check out the Alpine Cheese Excursion festival. Glacier Gorge and Blue Ice Cave are nearby, and the highest railway station in Europe is accessible via a Cogwheel Railway.

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