Getting married abroad is a trend on the rise! One in four British couples has their wedding abroad, often choosing a resort in a tropical destination as a venue. But, marrying abroad is not as simple as hopping on a plane to somewhere exotic – you have to take legalities and all sorts of documentation into account.
Add that to the usual wedding planning tasks such as picking your venue, finding a photographer, picking a dress, the process can become a little more complicated. Taking it from my experience the legal side of things can be very complicated.
10 TIPS FOR PLANNING A WEDDING ABROAD
1. Choosing your destination
If you always dreamt of getting married abroad, you might already have a list of ideal destinations for the ceremony, but if you only thought about this possibility now there are a few things to bear in mind when choosing the destination. Start by thinking about the type of wedding you want to have – traditional or informal? Then think about the setting, which can go from historic to exotic, and move on to the cultural experience you want your guests to have – after all, they will travel to that destination. Remember to also consider the climate, as you probably don’t want to have a beach wedding in monsoon season. If you haven't been to the destination you have chosen to go on holiday out there. Explore and check out different places.
2. Check the legality
Once the destination is pinned down, you have to check if the marriage will be legally recognised. For most countries, the answer is yes, but you should get in touch with the embassy or consulate of the country you want to marry in first to find out more about their legal requirements. You want your marriage to be legally recognised both in the UK and in the country where the wedding will take place. If you find this too much of a hassle, hiring a local wedding planner is a good option – this way, you will have an expert dealing with all the legalities and paperwork for you.
3. Find a venue
When you’ve confirmed you can get legally married in the destination of your choice, it’s time to find the perfect venue for the big day. Remember this will be a once in a lifetime experience for you and your guests, so take your time researching different venues and speaking to owners.
Besides the usual cost, deposit and cancellation policy concerns, make sure you ask about: venue size, local suppliers, languages are spoken by staff, sleeping arrangements, decoration restrictions, transportation options, rules etc. For most places you can book your wedding venue up to 18 months before the wedding, so when you have a few venue options in mind, it would be ideal to visit them first before you make the final choice – this will, of course, depend on your time and budget. Also, join Facebook groups and talk to other couples who have got married there.
4. Hire a local wedding planner
What could be better than having someone local planning your destination wedding? Hiring a local wedding planner is a great option since they can handle legal requirements, venue arrangements and wedding suppliers for you, while you focus on everything else back in the UK. Besides taking stressful and time-consuming tasks off your shoulders, a local planner will have local connections with suppliers and vendors, and be able to translate your requirements into the local language. You might not even have to visit the destination beforehand if you find just the right planner!
5. Book your photographer
Do you want to have a local photographer or bring a photographer with you? Whatever you decided, do your research!
Do you like their style?
See a full wedding they have shot abroad.
Knowing your photographer is the best way to feel relaxed in front of the camera. Most photographers will be over the moon you would like them on your wedding day abroad and get excited to shoot somewhere new and exciting. I offer so much more with my abroad packages, pre-wedding session, full wedding day and a day or so after let's get your wedding outfits on again and go exploring and get some epic shots!
6. Book the flights
As soon as you book your wedding venue and photographer, book the flights too. Remember the farther the destination, the more expensive it will be to fly there, so it’s important to book as in advance as possible. Ideally, you will have chosen a wedding date when no local holidays or events are taking place, as these will most likely have an impact on in-flight demand and price. When booking the flights make sure you’re leaving at least 48 hours between the day you arrive and your wedding day, so you have enough time to get over any jet lag and to discuss last-minute details with the venue and/or the wedding planner. Keep in mind some destinations ask you are in the country a week before. Find all this out before you book your flight. There are loads of travel counsellors that can also help with getting things organised for you and your wedding VIPs to travel there in time.
7. Send save the dates early
Getting married abroad is not the same as getting married 45 min away from home. Your guests will probably have to take more than one day off work, so the sooner they know the date the better. Make sure you send out your Save the Date cards at least a year in advance, if possible, and be ready to receive numerous emails and phone calls with questions about travel plans and accommodation. A good option to keep your guests informed is to create a wedding website with all the details on the big day.
8. Gather all the legal documents
A wedding overseas will require more paperwork than a local wedding. With this in mind, creating a checklist of all the documents you need is a good way of keeping everything organised and making sure you don’t forget to get any specific documents beforehand. Most countries require original documents or certified copies, and some countries might require authenticated document translations.
Usually, the legal documents required when marrying abroad are:
Passport valid at least 6 months at the time of the wedding
Declaration of Single Status
Certificate of No Impediment
Proof of residence
9. Get wedding insurance
Insurance is always recommended when travelling abroad, but it’s even more important when you’re travelling for an overseas wedding. Buy wedding insurance to cover your dress, wedding rings, gifts and any other valuable items you carry with you – just in case they are lost or stolen. When you’re signing off the insurance, remember to double-check the value you’re covered up too. And if you’re concerned about any natural phenomenon at the destination that might affect your wedding, such as ash clouds, covid, for example, you can talk to the insurer to get coverage for those too.
10. Think of a plan for the dress
You not only need to plan how to get to your wedding destination, but you also need to plan how to get your dress there, safe and sound. A wedding dress is too delicate to simply check-in as hold luggage, so you have to find another way to transport it overseas. You can take your dress on board as hand luggage (probably at an extra cost), ask the cabin crew nicely to hang the dress in their closet, or even book an extra seat just for the dress (if you have the budget). If all else fails and you have to check in your dress, just make sure you pack it securely in a box or extra suitcase and mark it as fragile.
Here are some photos from a wedding I shot in Cuba - enjoy!