Serendipity worked her fate as Ben and Robbie simultaneously swiped left on the dating app Tinder. Upon their first meeting, they got on blissfully well and shared a host of similar interests, including RuPaul’s Drag Race. A couple of months later, Ben invited Robbie to join him and his family for their Christmas celebrations in Bali. Their mutual love for travel was cemented, and they’ve since travelled to Thailand, Turkey, Santorini, Lanzarote, Amsterdam, Maldives and, more recently, North America.
During their anniversary stay at the Andronis Concept Hotel, a beautifully contemporary resort perched high on the cliffs above the southern Aegean Sea, Robbie surprised Ben and popped the question as the sun created a kaleidoscope of colours setting over the horizon. This was the beginning of their wedding journey.
Ben, the self-confessed planner of the couple, is the COO of a tech company that supports various global charities; he’s super organised, which won him the task of planning their destination wedding. Ben loves to spoil his family and friends and wanted a beach-inspired destination resort that could accommodate various celebrations throughout the wedding week. They surveyed their wedding guests to see how many would attend an Asia-based ceremony and celebration. Thrilled with the response and knowing how much they loved Thailand, they searched for a large venue that could accommodate up to 70-guests. Villa Kalyana in Koh Samui ticked all of the boxes for the best venue, exacting organisation and attention to detail.
Most of the wedding guests had never travelled long-haul and were thrilled at the prospect of travelling to Thailand. With agreement from all, Ben and Robbie booked a multi-destination 18-day trip to Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Bangkok. Ben arranged flights, ferries, accommodation, and transfers for his guests and arranged a payment plan for them.
The two boys had separate stag dos; Ben was surprised with a trip to Madrid and Robbie to Ibiza. They planned to marry in May 2020. The pandemic hit, and by March, they realised the severity of the situation and were forced to postpone the wedding. It was challenging to navigate 70 guests, change Kalyana’s dates, and re-book suppliers. The lockdowns seemed to go on forever. On the date of their original wedding, their friends surprised them with Thai food delivery and full moon party clothing at their home. They celebrated on Zoom with buckets of rum and their closest friends.
Another year of pandemic came and went, and this time, their flights were cancelled, and Thailand was refusing entry to all tourists. More disappointment and another change of dates, this time to February 2022.
Ben and Robbie tied the knot on New Year’s Eve in a local registry office in England. They celebrated at Lichfield’s premium social playground, 55 Wade Street, a gin emporium and kitchen. Finally, the Thailand wedding planning schedule was resumed, and with just two weeks to go, they were given the go-ahead. The team at Kalyana expertly navigated all of the new rules, regulations and strict entry rules, not to mention the wedding planning. The private villa’s general manager, Rebecca Allen, turned water into gold and sand into magic; she’s a true alchemist and a worker of miracles.
With the sadness and frustrations of the pandemic, many of the wedding guests had foregone milestone birthday parties. Ben and Robbie arranged a beach-side barbeque, DJ and karaoke evening to celebrate all of the forgotten birthday celebrations. The guests were delighted, if not a little emotional, about finally being together in Thailand. Halfway through the week, Heaven Bar, a floating party boat, was arranged as another surprise for the guests. There was a DJ, endless UV face paint and fancy-dress outfits, the perfect ingredients for a successful party despite the rain.
The guests had truly bonded within the first couple of days. The atmosphere on the wedding day was nothing short of fizzing excitement and happiness. The wedding ceremony between Ben and Robbie took place on the perfectly manicured lawns in front of the Gulf of Thailand. But Ben, being Ben, couldn’t resist a few twists and surprises. Because they were already married, the couple asked their life-and-soul-of-the-party best friend Neil to be the ‘celebrant’. Much to the audience’s delight, he donned white robes and a rainbow sash.
As part of typical wedding proceedings, Neil asked the audience if anyone had any objections. The larger-than-life local drag queen Chaiwat Pooriphat performed ‘It should have been me’ by Yvonne Fair. Chaiwat brought the house down with laughter and made the ceremony memorable and truly legendary. Following the ceremony, Ben and Robbie had a traditional Thai water ceremony and deliciously fresh cocktails and canapes before their wedding breakfast. A beach fire show, saxophonist and DJ completed their long-awaited day. Entertainment went on into the evening, and a clear night sky filled with stars. Perfection. So much so that they want to repeat it for their tenth wedding anniversary.
Katie Hollamby is a well-travelled public relations specialist turned writer for various international publications, tourism boards and ethical brands. Originally from the UK, she’s worked around the world, lived in and explored North America, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Maldives and now Thailand. She’s passionate about the welfare of animals and sustainability. For more adventures, you can follow her on Instagram @thekatybooks.