How to Plan Your Wedding Abroad
What You Need to Know
- Try and make your guests aware of your intentions early on, to help them factor the time and expense of attending in to their owns plans.
- Decide what type of wedding you want, small or large, themed or traditional.
- Try and visit your preferred destination in advance. This needn’t be expensive as you can find cheap flights by booking well in advance.
- Consult with the embassy of your preferred destination to make sure you have all necessary legal documents.
- Work out how much you want to – or can afford to – spend on your wedding abroad and do your best to stick to this.
- Wedding planners based in your preferred destination can be an excellent source of local knowledge and can help with legal and language issues.
- Consider delegating at least a few responsibilities to a friend or family member.
Before You Start Planning
Whilst this guide aims to give you a grounding in how to go about planning a wedding overseas the very first thing you need to consider is whether tying the knot abroad is really the right thing for you.
Whilst this is something you and your partner will budget for and plan extensively, the occasion will, inevitably, be less of a priority for the guests you want to invite.
It is worth letting those you really want to be there know of your plans before they get to advanced. Otherwise you may find yourself in a situation where your friends may be forced to put themselves under financial pressure and put the rest of their lives in order to attend. Making sure that the people you want there are on the same page as you is a very good place to start.
What type of Wedding do you want?
Do you want a traditional, themed or large or small wedding? A close number of family or friends or a huge party to witness your ceremony be it on the beaches of the Maldives, a castle in Italy or in front of an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.
Before you can do anything else you need to make these decisions.
Choose a Location
Whether it’s a castle in the Scottish Highlands, a Caribbean beach or a hillside town in Tuscany, the chances are its straightforward enough to get married in your dream location.
Indeed, the first challenge many couples face when planning a wedding abroad is agreeing on one location.
Factors that could help you choose include how far somewhere is from home (and whether cheap flights are available), whether a particular place has sentimental value to one or both of you, or even if you’ve seen a favourite celebrity get hitched there.
Take your time to draw up a list of you top three locations and then set about working out how practical it would be to tie the knot in each of them.
If possible, try and visit your preferred destination in advance. Bear in mind that some quality travel agents such as Olympic Holidays can help you plan your stay and even have experience of helping people plan weddings abroad in locations such as Greece and Cyprus.
Once you have a dream wedding destination in mind, the first thing you need to do is check that, if you got married there, would this be legally recognised once you get home?
For the most part, the answer is likely to be yes as, while rules and regulations may vary from country to country, the vast majority of ceremonies are recognised elsewhere in the world.
However, for your own peace of mind, it pays to double-check. The best way to do this first-hand is to get into the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to get married in.
Ask them about the legal requirements for getting hitched. For instance, it may be the case that you have to provide certain documentation on the day or to submit a request and the relevant paperwork well in advance.
Be prepared to be required to produce official documentation such as a birth certificate, proof of residence and, if you are a divorcee, evidence to show you are free to re-marry. Again, always check with the relevant embassy well in advance so as to avoid major disappointment on the day.
Fix the Date
While it may be possible to arrange a last-minute wedding at your local town hall and expect your friends and family to show up, this is not the case when it comes to getting hitched abroad.
Indeed, given that most people will need to take time off work, save up some money and book flights and accommodation, it’s important to give your guests as much notice as is possible.
So, as soon as you’ve confirmed the venue, at the very least send a ‘save the date’ note to everyone you want there on the day, and then you can start thinking about formal invitations and everything else that comes with planning a wedding.
Work Out Your Budget
Once you’ve fixed the date, you’ll need to draw up a budget for your wedding.
This needs to include the cost of flights, accommodation and legal fees and you’ll also need to decide early on what you are going to pay for and what you expect your guests to pay for.
So, will there be a free bar or will guests have to buy their own drinks?
Once you have a budget in mind, do everything you can to stick to it. Create a buffer zone of around 20 to 30 per cent to allow for the currency fluctuations and the fact that even the most careful of couples tend to overspend.
It’s best to be as strict as possible from the start and be willing to make some compromises in order to balance the books.
Many couples now use an unsecured loan to help pay for their big day, as well as help from their savings and parents.
Consider Getting Help
Though more expensive than going it alone, specialist wedding planners can significantly reduce the stress of organising a wedding abroad.
For extra peace of mind, consider employing the services of a wedding planner either based in the country you want to get married in, or at least one who has significant experience working there.
It’s highly likely they’ll have a good knowledge of all the relevant legal considerations, as well as being able to speak the local language and have working relationships with local caterers, entertainers and possibly your venue of choice.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford a professional wedding planner, consider delegating some responsibilities to friends of family – for example to your best man.
This is a particularly good idea if one of your party has a good knowledge of the location in question, or if they speak the local language.
Additionally, the forums of wedding websites as well as specialist magazines can also be a good source of information, though it’s wise to always do your own research as well.
As well as transporting yourselves and your guests out to your dream destination, you’ll also need to consider how you’ll get your wedding dress and other essentials out there.
You and Your Wedding magazine advises that you should think about how you will pack a dress before you commit to buying one.
It may be the case that you will have to put it into the hold of a plane, so make sure your dress is fully insured.
At the same time, however, the same publication notes that it’s often a good idea to get things such as flowers and the wedding cake at your destination.
Not only is this often much cheaper, it’s also one less thing you’ll have to worry about.
- Find out more about the legal requirements for getting married overseas, here.
- Staying in the UK? You’ll still have a lot to arrange. Take a glance at our guide to planning a wedding to get a hold on things.