By KALINA VARBANOVA AND TERRY BOYD
It’s (finally) summer – that romantic season of summer honeymoons and the start of new lives.
Have you ever dreamed of a wedding like something out of a movie? In a royal palace on the sea among beautiful gardens? We can’t guarantee you a happy ending, but we can certainly suggest a fantasy beginning in a place that might at first seem unlikely. But Bulgaria has taken its natural advantages – mountains, beaches, palaces and spas – and turned them into a huge wedding destination.
You can even get married at a famous movie studio in Sofia that has hosted Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Nicholas Cage and other Hollywood A-Listers.
The bottom line is, this fairytale is quite real and affordable, and you don’t need to be an aristocrat or from a royal family to get married like one.
Take a romantic journey to the northern Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and you’ll find some of Europe’s most stunning (and affordable) settings for a wedding ranging from palaces to yachts.
We promised you “a wedding like something out of a movie,” right? Okay, this is kind of crazy (in a good way) and is going to cost you a couple of Levs.
You can go “Hollywood” in Sofia at Nu Boyana Film Studios where a number of “Hollywood” movies were shot including “The Expendables” series with Sylvester Stallone, “Hellboy” and “London Has Fallen.”
Boyana Events uses the studio sets and other facilities as sets for big corporate events for clients such as Porsche and L’Oreal; for fashion shows and, yes, weddings. Using the studio sets, you can get married in “London,” “New York,” “Ancient Rome,” or, fittingly, a Bulgarian Village. (See the video above.)
This appears to be a growing part of the studio revenue stream. Each wedding is produced on custom basis, but you can contact the events division here for prices and details.
All we can say is, “Think big!” Well, that and save up ….
This expansive palace and gardens is a favorite place for weddings by the sea for people from all over the world. Couples from Bulgaria, the United States, Switzerland, Australia, Romania, Slovakia, Great Britain, Bali, Singapore, Dubai, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Venezuela and Spain have gotten hitched in this romantic palace on the sea coast, according to the Culture Activities Department.
Balchik’s Palace – “Dvoretsa” in Bulgarian – was built in 1924 by Queen Maria of Romania at a time when the region of Southern Dobrudzha region of Bulgaria was part of Romania.
She fell in love with Balchik and it was the perfect place for her palace. The palace is a unique blend of East and West, with both a church and a minaret, the result of the queen’s poli-religious Bahá’í beliefs. So everyone should feel welcome here.
The Balchik Botanical Garden was established in 1940. The 16-acre grounds have 2,000 plant species … built and run by botanic specialists from Sofia University.
The castle and the other buildings are unique in their architecture, with Balkan and Oriental motifs, so unique that several directors have used Balchik Palace for movie settings including “Godfather” legend Francis Ford Coppola.
The fee is 5,000 Lev. or about 2,550 euros.
The best way to book a wedding here might be through local hotels. For example, the White Rock Castle can handle the whole affair including a spa visit.
Just outside the Black Sea resort of Varna, the complex used to be a royal summer residence for Alexander Battenberg and tsars Ferdinand and Boris III, the monarchs who ruled Bulgaria after the liberation of the country from the Ottomans.
So, we’re talking about a very regal setting for a marriage.
Euxinograd is open to the public including the historical center of the park with its greenhouses, the palace, the sundial (a gift from Queen Victoria to Tsar Ferdinand), the chapel St. Dimitar and even a winery.
The ruins of the ancient Kastritsi fortress are in the northeastern part of the park.
More than 200 different plant species from the Mediterranean, Asia and South America including palm trees are in the French-designed garden.
Two exquisite bridges – one made of metal, the other made of cement imitating the trunk of a felled tree – give the finishing touch to the park architecture.
Today Euxinograd is a government residence. At the edge of the estate, famous (and delicious) Euxinograd wine, cognac, and rakija are bottled.
The complex offers all sorts of accommodations and amenities. There are a restaurant and a barbecue as well as facilities for sports such as table tennis, tennis, basketball, volleyball, fitness, bowling, water skiing and surfing.
There’s a funny story about Euxinograd. Surrounded by gardens and nature, foxes wander onto the Euxinograd grounds. Last year, they targeted Bulgarian officials enjoying their summer vacation, making off with sandals and shoes from outside the bungalows. The members of Parliament were furious that little foxes stole their sandals.
A word to the wise … keep your shoes and sandals inside.
• The ancient town of Nessebar on the sea between the resort towns of Burgas and Varna is popular with Bulgarians. It’s just south of Sunny Beach.
• The details:
As you might have guessed, in a country where you can get married in a palace, an entire industry has grown up to help you do just that.
• Pertito Wedding Agency has coordinated 300 weddings in eight years. Those include couples from 20 countries including
Greece, Serbia, Romania, Canada, the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Spain, France, Italy, Scotland, England, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Australia, Philippines, Russia, India, China, Ukraine, Lebanon, Poland, Netherlands, Iran, and Finland.
They provide everything from multi-lingual DJs to photographers, caterers, and artists to do hair and makeup.
• Lighthouse Golf & Spa in Varna has wedding packages. They can arrange everything from the pre-wedding cocktail parties to post-wedding dinners. And then, you get to play golf next to the Black Sea.
• There are certain legal requirements for foreigners to get married in Bulgaria. Check out this website for the formalities.