In the last couple of years, Budapest has become one of the most popular European travel destinations. Almost every week, the city is featured in articles by The Guardian, Huffington Post, the Daily Telegraph, Lonely Planet or Condé Nast Traveller, just to mention a few. In these articles, you can usually read about the thermal baths and the ruin pubs, but did you know that Budapest is also a very popular city for destination weddings? We asked Dóra Helmeczi, one of the most successful wedding planners in Budapest about this exciting face of Budapest.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. When and how did you come up with the idea of starting Budapest Wedding?
I moved to London when I was 25 and soon got a job at the London office of the Hungarian Tourism Board, where my responsibilities included providing people with general information about Budapest and Hungary. It was during that time when Hungary joined the EU (in 2004) and low cost airlines started their daily operations to Budapest. Due to these cheap flights, more and more couples, youngsters and families could afford to travel to Budapest, and when they returned to the UK, I received phone calls almost every day from newly engaged couples. They wanted to know if it was legally possible for them to get married in Budapest because they simply fell in love with places, such as the Basilica, the Matthias Church or with the view from the Fisherman’s Bastion. To be honest, at the time I did not know anybody who could organize weddings in Hungary, so I thought if one day I decided to move back home I would become a wedding planner for foreigners. Four years later, it all became a reality, and I started to work on making my dream come true. It wasn’t easy though as not many service providers, such as hotels and caterers, believed in the idea, but due to very hard work and diligence, Budapest Wedding is now one of the biggest agencies on the market. I must tell you that I am so proud of the fact that I didn’t give up just because nobody could see the opportunity in this business idea.
How many weddings do you have per year?
At first, when I moved back to Hungary and started working on the project, I needed a full time job, so I could only do a few weddings per year and it really was just like a hobby or a second shift for me. Since 2013, Budapest Wedding has become my primary job, which means I can do between 25 and 30 weddings each year. In the future, I would like to extend the network, have full time employees, so that we could do even more types of weddings from the very intimate ones to the most luxurious weddings. There are more and more couples coming for photo shoots or proposals as well, which I happily organize, too.
Dóra Helmeczi (middle) with one of the many happy couples she’s worked with over the years. Photo and featured image: Kondella Misi Photography
Perfect view over the Parliament. Photo: Tamás Lékó Photography
Romantic picture by the Vajdahunyad Castle. Photo: Lang Peter Photography
What is the structure of your services? Do you have specific packages or the weddings are fully customized?
Although it seems all weddings are the same, I must say they are all different. And that is why I can never get bored with my job. When couples get in touch with me, I try to find out what they really need as well as what their dreams are. Then I always make sure that I prepare a fully customized plan, which we can start working with.
What is included in your services?
As long as couples don’t ask me to turn the National Gallery into Buckingham Palace, they can basically ask anything from full preparation to partial planning, whether they want me to hold their hands from the beginning till the end or they just need help with only one element of their wedding. I also work with excellent professional photographers and videographers because I understand the importance of being able to capture the couples’ most special moments of their wedding day. After all, it is a day that you want to remember for the rest of your life. I work with the team of Fivestar Weddings and I’ve recently started a new partnership with Infinitum Weddings, an international wedding service that also films in Budapest. I have also built good relationships with travel agencies and tour operators, therefore, I can help the couples’ guests with their travel arrangements, hotel bookings and sightseeing trips as well. They always come for a long, extended weekend, so sometimes, the guests need suggestions for their entire stay.
What is the main asset of Budapest? What makes this city so popular among couples?
Budapest is still one of the cheapest European wedding destinations but I always tell couples to choose Budapest not only because I know they would fall in love with the city, but also because they can get the most out of the budget that they are willing to spend on their special day. The view is also a bonus and actually almost the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, a wedding in Budapest offers a different experience than you would find in the case of other destination weddings, such as beach weddings, weddings in chateaux or in trendy cities like Istanbul or Barcelona: in Hungary, it is actually possible to use special venues and locations, such as museums, but also the St Stephen Basilica or the Matthias Church can definitely take people’s breath away.
The Buda Castle is one of the most popular locations for photo shoots. Photo: Kardos Zsolt Photography
Happy couple in the Buda Castle. Photo: Tamás Lákó Photography
What is the nationality of the couples you work with?
They are coming from all over the world, so there is no specific country that I would highlight.
What are the most popular wedding locations in the city?
Couples usually like venues with a view combined with both indoor and outdoor options, big ballrooms or museums, but nowadays there are more and more demand on ruin pubs as well. If they can afford to throw a bigger party then Savoy Terrace or the Lions’ Court are the typical places that they are considering. However, even the Hungarian State Opera House is available if needed.
Places like the Savoy Terrace, the Lions’ Court and the Opera House seem to be very expensive and luxurious wedding venues, aren’t they?
Yes, these locations are not the cheapest ones but if a couple wants a truly magical day, then these are up for grabs.
We know that all weddings are special but have you had a favorite one over the years?
Yes, I have. It was the wedding of a Persian–Swiss couple in 2013, held up on the Savoy Terrace, followed by a party in the Lion’s Court. The next day we organized a Danube sightseeing trip during sunset with gypsy musicians, which was a real Hungarian experience. Everybody just loved it, including the partners we worked with. This year I have more than just one favorite wedding: I am organizing two bigger events on the Savoy Terrace with a party in the National Gallery, and another one in the Museum of Ethnography with the Hungarian State Folk Dancers. Also, there is another wedding with a British celebrity that I’m very excited about.
Breathtaking locations. Photo: Kondella Misi Photography
What are your future plans?
In the next two years we have a lot of things to focus on. Towards the end of the wedding season, together with the Hungarian Tourism Board and the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, we would like to organize an exclusive study trip for international wedding planners, bloggers and chief editors of wedding magazines to promote Budapest and Hungary as a potential wedding destination. The next biggest step is to extend the network of Budapest Wedding. I already have a UK-based representative and would like to have a few more in other countries, including the US and Russia for sure, but the United Arab Emirates and India are on the wish list, too.