At a time when tourism is at the centre of Cyprus’ economic recovery, developing the sector into new territory is vital to attract large numbers of tourists. It seems however that wedding tourism has already begun to flourish.
According to an article published in The Guardian online yesterday, thousands of couples from the Middle East are choosing the island for their nuptials, as mixed religion marriages are not allowed back home but civil ceremonies carried out in Cyprus are recognised by law.
Figures presented by paper show a dramatic increase of couples wedding on the island in the last 30 years.
In 1980, 61 Lebanese brides and 78 Lebanese grooms were married in Cyprus, as well as 98 Israeli grooms and 99 Israeli brides, while in 2013 there were 2,131 Israeli weddings, 581 Lebanese ones, and 35 Syrian unions.
“Some municipalities, such as tourist-friendly Livadia village in Larnaca, report even more startling figures; last year, of the 1,000 or so weddings it recorded, 350 were Lebanese, 425 were Israeli, and 20 were Syrian.”
According to The Guardian, Cyprus's appeal for unconventional Middle Eastern lovers is simple: in Israel and Lebanon, non-religious weddings are a practical impossibility, but both countries recognise civil marriages conducted abroad.
"Once the war in Lebanon ended in the early 1990s, mixed marriages between the various communities and religions started increasing gradually in Cyprus," said Maisy Khoury, a Cypriot wedding planner with Lebanese heritage.
"For the past 10 years it's been a rising trend."
Dan Cristal, a wedding celebrant from Tel Aviv described a similar tendency, albeit with different causes. In the 1990s, the USSR allowed its Jewish citizens to immigrate to Israel. "A lot of these new arrivals weren't recognised as proper Jews by the rabbinical institutions," Cristal told The Guardian.
"It was difficult for them to marry in Israel, so they chose to wed abroad." Today, parties from opposing nations fly into the coastal city of Larnaca peacefully.
"The Lebanon flight arrives at 7.30am; the Israeli one at 8am," Dutch-born wedding planner Dinah Martens who runs her own company, Cyprus Celebrations told The Guardian. "They get picked up in the same minibus."
The attraction of Cyprus is that marriages can be completed in a single day.
“What's more, no one asks after a bride or groom's denominations, and either side can seek a divorce, in contrast to many of the couples' home countries, where only husbands are permitted to file.”
Martens said ongoing conflicts have stymied some plans. "I had my last Syrian in November. It's hard to get documents with the war."
Yet she continues to take bookings from Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere, The Guardian said.
"My favourites are the difficult ones," she admits, describing an Iranian-American marriage booked in for later that week. "The more complicated, the more I love it."