From the Cedars to the coast: Lebanese wedding venues that impress

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July 20, 2013 By Brooke Anderson

BEIRUT: Lebanon might be a small country, but there is no shortage of wedding venues for couples to celebrate their nuptials in style. Whether exchanging vows as the sun sets on the Mediterranean Sea, escaping the crowded coast in favor of a remote mountain location, celebrating at an old family village that carries sentimental significance, or going for quirky at an offbeat location.

“There are good places to get married all over Lebanon. There’s so much different scenery,” says Asma Andraos, co-founder of the event planning service Stree. She has been in the business for 12 years and has planned weddings at a range of venues, including derelict buildings.

“We’ve become experts at putting together weddings,” she adds, pointing to Lebanon’s renowned food and hospitality sector and the country’s penchant for big parties.

As soon as winter comes to an end, the beach resorts that line Lebanon’s coast are alive with the sights, sounds and smells of wedding festivities. Among the most popular are Edde Sands, a luxury resort in Jbeil that should be booked well in advance; Ocean Blue, also in Jbeil; San Stephano resort in Batroun; Les Talus in Jounieh; and Jardin de Vie, which offers a panoramic view of the sea and Byblos’ historic ruins, all set amid tall green trees. In Beirut, longtime favorites include the St. Georges Yacht Club and the Riviera Hotel.

Although beach weddings are no doubt scenic, events planner Aya El Kara, who runs event planners Essence-Ciel, says she prefers to do indoor weddings, where it is easier to control the sound and lighting.

Nevertheless, she says most Lebanese choose to celebrate outdoors – no matter the heat or humidity – so they can have an elaborate fireworks display at the end of the night. Another advantage of beach weddings compared to those in residential areas is that the music and festivities can go on all night.

But when it comes to weddings scheduled for July or August, the peak of Lebanon’s humid summer, many couples opt to celebrate in the more temperate climate of the mountains.

This can be anywhere from the Mount Lebanon villages overlooking Beirut, to the Cedars in the north. Wineries – such as Kefraya, Massaya and Ksara – and quaint villages in the Bekaa Valley are also popular, as are the lush green forests of the south’s hilly region. In the Chouf, conveniently close to Beirut, favorite wedding venues include Chateau Montagne, the Mir Amin Palace Hotel and the summer retreat of Eco Village.

For couples looking for a traditional setting with all the amenities that will accommodate a large party of family and friends, Arnaoon Village is a great option. The Ottoman village dates back more than 300 years and sits atop a hill overlooking the historic Msaylha Fortress near Batroun in the north. Some of the big old houses, complete with logs and chimneys, have been restored and are now used for special events.

“The location and landscape is special because it’s already an authentic village,” says said Rita Faddoul, director of sales and marketing at Arnaoon Village.

“The whole village is restored, and people who get married in Arnaoon feel like they’re getting married in their home village.” She adds that the bride and groom will often spend the entire day beforehand getting ready for their big day in the old houses, just as they would at home.

However, with the country’s deteriorating security situation, wedding planners told The Daily Star there were fewer weddings these days, while the country’s economic woes meant more couples were asking for lower budget options.

For Andraos, the most crucial part of finding the right wedding venue for her clients is making it personal, which she believes is best done when it’s at an old family home. If the couple is having their wedding at a place that’s “overdone,” which she says is the case 50 percent of the time, she tries to do something different for them.

Yet even after all her years in the events planning business, her clients surprise her with their creative selection for a wedding venue. The most unusual: a steel factory near Karantina – something even the most seasoned planner wouldn’t have dreamed up.

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