Destination weddings are on the rise, and it’s easy to see why – what could be more romantic than jetting off to far-flung lands, to wed your beloved in a beautiful location? Endless blue skies, in a unique setting, combined with the opportunity to spend quality time with your nearest and dearest (without breaking the bank!), all add to the appeal of tying the knot abroad.
However, when you add adventure and travel to wedding planning, a unique set of logistical challenges arises. As a result, planning a wedding abroad can feel a little daunting, but with some careful forethought and preparation, escapists can have the wedding of their dreams. Let us help you navigate the voyage with our six-part guide to planning a wedding overseas…
Choosing a location:
When it comes to choosing a destination for your big day, begin by letting your imagination run wild (before embarking on the logistics!). Without doubt, there is the perfect location for every couple; can’t get enough of the great outdoors? Tie the knot under a canopy of majestic sequoias in California, or in a white-washed chapel, atop a hillside covered in wild flowers in Santorini. Dreaming of a relaxed family affair? A wedding reception in the gardens of your very own private villa in Tuscany could be just the ticket, while beach babes may feel more at home saying their vows with sand between their toes, overlooking the azure waters of St Lucia.
The possibilities are wonderful and endless, so if you are struggling to narrow down the options, first think of places which hold particular meaning for you and your betrothed and then head to Pinterest to create a board of your top three locations, working through the pros and cons of each.
Once you’ve picked a location, be sure to take into consideration any relevant seasonal implications before setting a date. The heat in Southern Europe can be stifling in August and some couples might prefer to tie the knot in late Spring or early Autumn when skies are still blue, but the heat is a little more bearable.
Thinking about saying ‘I do’ in more exotic climes? Bear in mind that hurricanes, twisters and tropical storms can wreak havoc between June and September in certain parts of the world. Meanwhile, Thailand is at its most humid between April and June and Australia’s rainy season generally runs February to July.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a fortune to hold an unforgettable wedding abroad. In fact, even when flights are factored into the equation, destination weddings are often more affordable than their British counterparts. According to recent research, destination weddings come in, on average, at less than half the price of nuptials held on home soil.
Destination weddings tend to have fewer guests and therefore usually require a smaller venue, resulting in lower overheads. Picturesque settings often come with a smaller price tag overseas and when it comes to food and wine, money can go a lot further, especially when local delicacies are taken advantage of. Finally, holding a wedding abroad creates an instant honeymoon destination and the opportunity to combine costs.
Hire a wedding planner:
Unless you speak the language of your chosen destination fluently and know the area where you intend to marry well, hire a local wedding planner. Local wedding planners are worth their weight in gold, able to instantly bypass potential cultural or language barriers and instead focus on using their network of contacts to source well respected vendors and help you understand local laws. While hiring a wedding planner is often considered a luxury in the UK, a local wedding planner worth their salt will save you money by using their expertise to secure the best prices.
When it comes to planning a destination wedding, your guests require a little bit of extra care and attention. Contact your guests well in advance and communicate as many details as you can – make the process as easy and effortless for your friends and family as possible.
Decide which aspects of your big day you are going to cover (or subsidise) and make this clear from the outset in order to both avoid confusion, and help your guests to budget correctly. Try and ease the financial burden for guests wherever you can – contact the relevant airlines to discuss group rates and set about negotiating a group discount when it comes to accommodation.
Regardless of how thoughtful and considerate you are, prepare for a few guest list casualties – not everyone will be able to budget for a wedding abroad or take the time off they need to make the trip – accept absentees graciously. If you have your heart set on tying the knot half way across the world, but don’t want to exclude your elderly great aunt Edna, your cousin with a tiny baby or a cash – strapped friend, consider throwing a larger party when you get home.
Legal requirements vary greatly from country to country and can take time to fulfil, so make sure you fully investigate all the legalities associated with tying the knot in your country of choice well in advance of your big day. Don’t rely on websites to gather the necessary information – contact the relevant embassy or consulate direct in order to develop a clear idea of the timeline required to fulfil the necessary requirements.
When it comes to choosing the right gown for your big day it’s wise to consider both the setting and the climate. Natural fibres like silk, in flowing cuts, work best in hot weather and separates will not only help to keep you cool but are also beautifully suited to a relaxed beach or countryside setting. Meanwhile, men may wish to take their lead from our Italian cousins and opt for a spezzato style ensemble (the Italian art of pairing trousers and jackets which are not part of a suit) in tropical wools, like merino, which breathe more easily and are smarter than linen and cotton.
An important consideration in planning a destination wedding is the safe transportation of your wedding gown. Carry your dress on board to avoid any risk of it getting lost en route. Some airlines allow passengers to reserve a space in the business class coat cupboard in advance, so one option is to transport your gown in a garment bag. If you are unable to secure a spot, fold the garment bag in half and place it on top of your case in overhead storage. Alternatively, purchase a good quality hard sided box and carefully wrap your gown in acid free tissue paper (remember to check the airline’s requirements). Whichever option you choose, you will need to make sure your gown is steamed by a good dry cleaner ahead of your big day.
- Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months after your travel dates – six months is the minimum entrance requirement in some parts of the world.
- If you can, visit your venue in advance – nothing beats meeting potential suppliers in person and you can combine your trip with a hair and makeup trial if required.
- Book a space for your gown in the business class coat cupboard of your chosen airline. Arrange for your gown to be steamed before the big day.
- If you are tying the knot in tropical climes, check well in advance whether there any medical requirements (vaccinations, malaria tablets etc.).
- Organise specialist destination wedding insurance, just in case.
Words by Annora Sutton