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Istanbul weddings more and more foreign couples

Stephanie, from Scotland, and her northern Irish husband Henry had their wedding in the historic Sultan Ahmet Square in Istanbul, the sporting and social center of Constantinople hundreds of years ago.  Having previously lived in Turkey's capital Ankara, before moving to their current home in Dubai, they chose Istanbul for their wedding celebration because "they had fallen in love with Turkey."  There has recently been a boom in the number of foreign couples who choose to have their wedding in Turkey, Basaran Ulusoy, chairman of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB) told the Anadolu Agency (AA).  "Turkey's increasing international fame and the progress of its brand image have helped the country host more weddings for foreign couples," he says. "The interest in Turkish dramas in many different countries also contributed to the country's reputation," he adds. This is especially true for Middle Eastern countries. This year, over 3,000 foreign couples decided to say "yes" to a life together in various cities all across Turkey, mostly in Istanbul, says Ulusoy.

Gulsat Sat, Deputy General Manager of weddingplanning agency Cremano Wedding, tells AA that nowadays more and more couples are searching for an unforgettable wedding that tells a "fascinating tale". 

"Turkey, which has a wide cultural and historical heritage, offers really nice venues for weddings, many of them by the magnificent Bosporus."

Turkish photographer Serkan, who works for photo company Photo-Latte, recalls an American couple who had been absolutely fascinated by the Bosporus River.

He remembers taking pictures of their wedding in a stylish hotel in Ortakoy, a quaint neighborhood in the Besiktas district of Istanbul, near the River.

The bride, Sonia, and the groom, Charles, two American soldiers had met during the U.S. war in Afghanistan. They decided to get married in Istanbul. There were no guests, no friends, no relatives invited - only the two newlyweds and their witnesses... who worked at the hotel. 

"Our wedding was perfect, from my bouquet of flowers, to the arrangement on the table," says Sonia. "Getting married in another country was exciting and it was everything I hoped it would be."

The wedding cost them less than $10,000, which Sonia says is cheaper than a what it would have cost in the U.S.

The price/quality ratio constitutes an argument of choice to attract even the most luxurious matrimonial events.

Of the before-mentioned 3,000 foreign weddings, a little over 500 were extravagant ceremonies that contributed significantly to the country's tourism revenue, according to the chairman of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies

The wedding of Stephanie and Henry, which was held on the terrace of the luxury Four Seasons hotel in Sultan Ahmet overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia was one of these extravaganzas.

"For the quality of the venue, the service, and the experience, we thought it was money well spent. Awedding in either the UK or Istanbul doesn't come cheap; however, Istanbul brings far better value for your money."

In May 2011, Lakshmi Mittal, business tycoon and one of the richest people in the world, hosted an Indian wedding for his niece.

The wedding took place at Istanbul's lavish Ciragan Palace, a venue of unparalleled beauty near the Bosporus, the only palace hotel in Turkey stresses its sales director Guclen Aksu.

"For hundreds of years, the palace served the sultans; and this fact encourages couples to have their weddingat the palace," says Aksu, adding over 500 couples held their wedding celebration at Ciragan in the last five years. 

Couples, mainly from Middle Eastern countries but also from Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Europe come to Istanbul for their weddings and they completely feel at home, Aksu claims.

Gulsat Sat, from Cremano Wedding, estimates that, on average, Indians and Arabs spend around $200,000 to $500,000 while that number varies between $50,000 and $150,000 for Europeans whose weddings generally have less guests. 

Weddings of foreign couples in Turkey, however, are not restricted to Istanbul. Many are also celebrated in the southern parts of the country including Antalya and Bodrum.

Richard and Karly, from Hertfordshire, England, for example, are planning to get married this year in the resort town of Kalkan on Turkey's southwestern coast, an alternative to the "expensive" celebrations in England. It will cost them less than $25,000.

"We are extremely excited about our big day and are looking forward to introducing our family and friends to this beautiful place in Turkey."  

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