Getting married abroad: How we tied the knot on a Turkish love boat…

Sarah Tooze



Captain Ali shimmies behind the wheel of the wooden gulet as it sails out of Kalkan harbour. He’s dancing along to a traditional Turkish tune. It’s not the soft piano music I planned for my wedding day but I go with it. I’m in Turkey after all, marrying my Turkish groom Umut.

Weddings here are a reason for all the villagers to celebrate – 1,000 guests at a Turkish wedding is not unheard of. We’re bucking the Turkish and UK trend for large weddings by having a simple – and affordable – wedding on a gulet, Emir, which holds 13 people. Only close friends and family have been invited. But it doesn’t stop the locals from turning out.

Sarah Tooze and husband get married on a Turkish gulet boat

Mates for life: Sarah and her husband Umut on the gulet

They line the harbour restaurants and the beach, waving and cheering. Boats moored in the harbour sound their horns. ‘Do you feel like the Queen?’ my mum jokes as I wave back. We sail past the lighthouse and signal to Captain Ali to drop anchor. The sun has just set, turning the sky surrounding nearby Snake and Mouse Islands a mix of dusky pink, orange and yellow (the islands are so-called because of their shapes). The music stops. It’s time to say our vows.

The ceremony is a short one (around five minutes), conducted in Turkish. The registrar states that he has searched our papers and there is no legal reason not to marry. It’s hardly romantic, so our translator Kader improvises and also says a more ‘English’ version, asking Umut: ‘Do you take Sarah as your wife, in sickness and in health, in good day and bad day?’ Just as we have exchanged rings the call to prayer from the mosque echoes around the bay. ‘Good timing!’ laughs one friend.

Later, when we are moored in Frank Bay, Captain Ali spears a large fish, but keeps it for himself. Instead we tuck into barbecued kofte, chicken, bulgur, salad and mezes. It’s the opposite of a formal threecourse meal at a UK wedding and a fraction of the cost. After the barbecue, there’s just time to lie down at the front of the boat and gaze at the stars before the music cranks up again and everyone is on their feet dancing. When we return to Kalkan we receive a royal welcome.

Diners by the harbour stand and clap, fountain sparklers are lit and a waiter rushes over with a rose. ‘Congratulations,’ calls a waitress at another restaurant. We finish at the Club Mojito bar, where the staff are equally enthusiastic with more sparklers and a congratulations message on the TV screen. At 2am we head to our hotel – the Oasis, which is a short walk from the town centre.

Our honeymoon is as minimalist as our wedding – only three nights – although we do stay in the penthouse, with Jacuzzi and rooftop views of the Taurus mountains and Kalkan bay. When I request a late checkout at no extra charge, Volkan the receptionist smiles and says: ‘Of course, you are our “Turkish” bride.’

It might have been a small wedding but it felt like a big celebration.

Travel facts: Plan your own Turkish love boat holiday

Anatolian Sky Holidays
(, 0844 273 3586) has seven nights at the Oasis Hotel
in Kalkan from £555 per person, based on two sharing a standard room and
travelling in May 2014. The price includes return flights from Gatwick,
transfers and accommodation on bed and breakfast basis. 

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