19 Things to Consider When Planning a Wedding Abroad
Tried and tested tips for destination weddings
The decision to have your wedding abroad seems like a pretty easy sell, but before you set your heart on a chateau in Provence, a finca in Rioja or a villa in Tuscany, we have a few tips for planning a destination wedding we’d like to share. From how to fly with your dress to how to choose a venue, these tips from real couples and planners come tried and tested, with the weight of experience. Best to be prepared we say, so here are 19 Things to Consider for your Wedding Abroad.
Choosing the Right Location for a Wedding Abroad:
1. Check the Weather Will Suit You and your Guests
There’s nothing quite like a raging monsoon to put a dampener on a tropical big day, likewise a severe heatwave could be an issue, particularly for older and younger guests. Before you even think about booking, check the rainy and dry seasons in your chosen destination. If you want to cut costs, booking in the country’s low season could work out to be extremely affordable.
2. Find out About the Local Order of Proceedings for Weddings
Italian weddings are all-day affairs that start at midday with food and drink flowing until late at night. In Malta, weddings start in the late afternoon. Local customs and order of day may differ from what you and your guests are used to, make sure to check so you’re happy with the flow of the day.
3. Will the Local Cuisine Suit your Guests?
What is typically served as the wedding meal at your venue? Will it be to your guests’ taste or are they more a “beef or salmon” crowd? Often great food is a selling point of a destination destination wedding, but it’s worth keeping in mind that both the timing of food and what’s on offer might be completely different to what your guests are used to. You want your guests to enjoy and embrace it!
4. Make It Easy to Get To
Think about accessibility for family and friends. Are there direct flights? Are they regular and affordable? How far is it from the airport to the venue? Think about this before you book anything. Choose an easily-accessible venue to minimise pushback and questions from your guests. Unfortunately, asking your guests to travel for hours and hours after a flight may not be appreciated, even if the venue is phenomenal!
5. Will your Destination Wedding be Legal?
You’ll need to check the details of your marriage ceremony under local law. Each country has a different rules when it comes to getting married. In many places, it can be difficult to have a legal ceremony unless you are resident for a number of weeks or months. Some countries sadly still don’t permit same sex marriage. In these cases, the norm is to have a legal ceremony at home and a symbolic blessing on the day. In other countries, religious ceremonies are possible for members of that faith. Some countries will also require certain documents to prove that you are single and there are no objections to your marriage. The best thing to do is research the law before you decide on a certain location.
6. Understand the Differences Between Venues at Home and Abroad
Venues in different countries can operate quite differently to those in Ireland or the UK, for example, in some venues in Europe, it can be necessary to pay for all of the alcohol for the entire day. Usually, the alcohol is much cheaper than at home, and many venues will offer packages, but do take it into account when thinking about your budget.
7. Hire a Wedding Planner
A local wedding planner who knows the area will be invaluable. From sourcing key suppliers, liaising with vendors in the region and explaining your requirements in the local language, the help will be essential. Choose an established, English-speaking planner who has experience working on weddings in your region and of the style you want to create.
8. Visit the Venues Yourself
Having a planner is essential, but certain jobs must be done yourself. A good planner will shortlist a number of potential venues and it’s worth taking a weekend or two and visiting them in person. You’ll get a feel for the place that no pictures can fully express, and you’ll understand the spaces when it comes to questions about layout, timings, accommodation etc. later on.
9. Book Early and Send Save the Dates ASAP
If you want your family and friends to join you, then plan well ahead for a wedding abroad. Like here, popular locations can be booked up 18 months in advance. As soon as you’ve booked the venue, send out save the dates. Keep in mind that there’s a lot more to being a guest at a wedding abroad than buying a dress and booking a day off work. Provide guests with detailed information as soon as you have it, and be prepared to advise about accommodation. A wedding website will be particularly handy for sharing all the details of the trip with your guests.
Make Planning your Destination Wedding as Stress-Free as Possible:
10. Research your Suppliers Online
You won’t be able to meet all your suppliers like you can at home, so you will have to trust them. Before you book anything, make sure to do your research online – read reviews, find real weddings and check out their social media. When you find people you like, have conversations by email and Skype if possible, try and build a relationship and remember to embrace the local way of doing things.
11. Use Pinterest to Communicate with Suppliers
Create a general wedding mood board on Pinterest and share it with your planner. They will then understand your vision for the wedding and be able to advise you as to how it can be created locally. Also create specific mood boards for florist, cake designer etc. so they have a clear picture of your tastes and can adapt local styles to suit.
12. Create your Invite List with Care
Will your sister fly four hours to your wedding? Of course. Would your workmates do the same? Probably not. Weddings abroad are a big ask on your guests, so think carefully and streamline your invitation list to those who really will come and can use the time as a holiday. Oh and don’t over-invite with the expectation that lots of people to turn you down – you may be (un)pleasantly surprised at how many people want to celebrate your day with you!
13. Avoid Extra Costs
Remember you’ll be paying deposits to the venue and suppliers internationally – meaning lots of potential bank transfer fees and currency exchange headaches. Save yourself the hassle and use a specialist currency transfer service.
Avoid Last Minute Disasters:
14. Travel Out Ahead of your Guests
Don’t just jet in a couple of days before the wedding, plan to be on site at least a week in advance, that way you have time to deal with last-minute details, get a tan and feel settled in before everyone arrives and the madness begins. It’s also a good idea to plan to stay a few days after to allow a calm-down period.
15. Take Out Insurance
Ash clouds, forest fires, and snow. Enough said! There are always risks – but taking out wedding insurance can alleviate your concern somewhat. Be sure to discuss your plans with the insurer to make sure you have cover for these types of issues. Cover can be obtained but you may have to plan to be at the wedding destination at least three days before the wedding.
16. Book Tickets in your Maiden Name
If you’re planning on changing your name, just remember to book all your travel tickets in your maiden name – unless you’ve changed your surname on your documents before you jet off – the last thing you want is a panic at the airport when you realise your tickets don’t match your passport.
17. Set Aside Budget for Luggage, Shipping and Hidden Costs
If you’re having items shipped to the venue or planning on bringing extra decor with you on the plane, remember to consider customs taxes and luggage surcharges, and build in time to avoid postage delays if you’re ordering items online and having them shipped.
18. You’ll Need a Plan for your Wedding Dress
Wedding dresses are delicate things, handled with care at the best of times. Think of how you plan to transport it overseas. It might need a whole plane seat all for itself or you might get away with asking nicely and hanging it in the cabin crew closet. Calling your airline ahead will help you decide what will work best. Shop wisely and look for fabrics that won’t crease in transit or can easily be steamed if they do. Have a plan for if your dress is a ball of wrinkles when you arrive at your destination – you’ve been warned!
19. Be Prepared for Questions
Any couple who has ever planned a wedding abroad will tell you that they were swamped with texts, emails and calls about how to get there, where to stay, what to do and everything in between. So be prepared to do your homework, create a document or a wedding website with accommodation options and costs, flight options, directions on how to get to the venue, ideas for excursions, local hair and makeup, restaurants etc. You’re asking your guests to travel, so in return, they’ll require you to become their local tour operator and travel guide.
Weddings Abroad Are Totally Worth it!
There are pros and cons to getting married abroad. It’s not just about hopping on a plane and saying ‘I do’ on a beach, but as you can see in any of the amazing real weddings abroad we share, it’s well worth it! So enjoy your destination dreaming, do your homework and hire a planner. Oh and don’t forget to let us know how it went!
Thinking of eloping? Check out our essential guide!