– By Dominique Mosbergen
On the evening of April 20, 2019, I along with dozens of guests arrived at the stunning Jinmao Mountain Lodge, located at the base of the towering Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China’s Yunnan province. Our happy faces were illuminated by the technicolour sunset — like a watercolour painting, the clear blue sky was awash with strokes of pinks, purples and blood-orange red. We swooned over the setting and socialised while sipping craft cocktails. DJs — friends of the couple — played their sets against the backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the Jade Dragon massif.
The guests, numbering 125 in total and hailing from 11 countries, had gathered in Lijiang for the weekend to celebrate the dreamy nuptials of Krystal and Chervin. The wedding had been meticulously planned by the couple with the help of the Blue Sky Escapes team. There had been, the couple told me, multiple events to plan, including two dinners and two cocktail receptions; as well as pre-wedding bespoke adventures for all attending guests and private trips for over 20 groups. The logistical challenges were certainly mammoth but no detail, small or large, went overlooked.
Wanting to ensure that every guest got the opportunity to discover the time-locked wonders of Yunnan on their own, the couple had offered all their guests a variety of explorations, ranging from multi-day journeys to half-day excursions; which we could choose to experience before the wedding festivities kicked off. Blue Sky Escapes crafted all these journeys, providing 24/7 support and regular trip updates to guests, as well as help to acquire visas and handling other logistical matters.
Special care packages, for instance, were put together for guests on private journeys. Group trips were designed in such a way that people travelling alone or in smaller groups could meet and befriend like-minded guests. My husband and I joined a bicycle tour of the rustic village of Baisha, and our group was comprised of a hotchpotch of the couple’s friends. Most of us didn’t know each other before the bike adventure began, but by the end of it, the beginnings of friendships had taken root — connections that were strengthened over the course of the wedding weekend itself.
Thanks to Blue Sky Escapes’ partnerships in the region, the couple also enjoyed perks like favourable room and event rates at some of the area’s top luxury properties including Amandayan, InterContinental Lijiang Ancient Town Resort in the old town of Lijiang, as well as Jinmao Mountain Lodge.
Luckily for us, these benefits were extended to all the guests. We stayed at the Anyu Dayan Hotel, an idyllic property with thoughtful touches and exemplary service in the heart of Lijiang Old Town.
We were also treated to a bevy of exclusive and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The couple’s cocktail reception on the second day of their two-day fête, for instance, took place at Wenchang Palace, the oldest palace in Lijiang. The palace is typically only open to the public until 5 pm, but thanks to a relationship forged with the local township government, the couple was granted permission to use the venue till after sunset. Local Blue Sky Escapes guides were also on hand to show guests around the palace and share their insights into the history and culture of the region.
Amandayan similarly allowed the couple to convert the teahouse on their property into an after-party space. Guests ended up drinking and dancing in the teahouse till the early hours of the morning.
Blue Sky Escapes, which worked closely with the couple’s Shanghai-based wedding planner, also organised a series of experiences for guests to introduce us to the culture of Yunnan — one of China’s most diverse regions boasting more than two dozen ethnic groups, including the Naxi minority.
During the cocktail reception at Wenchang Palace, Lijiang’s oldest Naxi shaman, together with his son and protégé, provided a private demonstration of the dying art of dongba calligraphy. Dongba, a type of pictographic script, is the world’s last living hieroglyphic writing system and is used exclusively by Naxi shamans to create manuscripts for special rituals or ceremonies.
We later discovered that the 85-year-old shaman doesn’t usually give public demonstrations but agreed to share his knowledge with the couple’s guests. With the help of his son, the elderly shaman translated our names into dongba and drew them onto bookmarks and fans he’d handmade himself. It was such a treat to witness this extraordinary demonstration firsthand and to take home a piece of this region’s history.
A famed national tea master, recognised as one of China’s best, was also invited to share the art of tea brewing with guests during the cocktail hour. The experience was complemented by local guzheng and flute players who delighted us with their musical prowess.
The final wedding dinner marked a perfect end to a weekend full of laughter and wonder. We sat beneath a huge tent erected on Amandayan’s garden grounds for the occasion. Decorated with fairy lights and foliage, it felt like a fancy picnic under the stars — magical, intimate and lush.
All in all, it had been a destination wedding like no other.
Photo credit: Joy He; Eleven Studio; KH Yeo