There’s nothing more exciting then planning your wedding abroad, from exotic locations to brand new experiences, choosing a destination wedding has never been more appealing.

Whether you opt for an intimate European soiree inviting your nearest and dearest or have your heart set on an epic tropical celebration, the choice of spectacular wedding venues abroad are bound to suffice even your wildest dream wedding vision.

Destination Wedding Checklist

Planning your wedding abroad is unquestionably going to differ from planning one near home so we’ve created a dedicated checklist of points to help you on your whirlwind journey of destination wedding planning, filled with expert tips & knowledgeable insight.

1. Find out the Legal Requirements

Every country and sometimes even specific areas will have their own rules and regulations on the legalities of marriage for UK citizens. In some countries residency requirements will rule out legal marriage and for others official documentation will need to be completed prior to the ceremony.

  • Firstly distinguish the type of ceremony you would prefer; religious, civil or symbolic.
  • Look into the official marriage requirements for your desired wedding location.
  • Speak to your wedding planner or your venue’s point of contact regarding the necessary formalities required.

Many UK couples make their wedding legally binding in the UK prior to hosting their destination wedding abroad, this can certainly simplify the process and allows you to still hold a blessing or symbolic ceremony in any location you desire.

Discover more about marriage legalities | The Best Places to Get Married Abroad  

2. Set Your Budget

Not the most exciting element of wedding planning but by far the most important, deciding your budget. Begin by finalising your maximum spend and then begin to split up your budget into different areas.

Usually the higher the numbers on your guestlist the more your wedding will cost but this can get a little more complex with destination weddings especially if you decide to factor in travel or accommodation costs for guests yourself.

  • Decide how much you want to spend and can afford, set your budget and stick to it.
  • When researching destination wedding venues consider on-site accommodation or research nearby options for guests at varying price points. Some guests may want to splash out on elaborate suites but others may need a more cost effective option to attend.
  • Begin asking suppliers for estimates on items such as floristry, cakes and additional decor.
  • The main elements of your budget should entail;
    • Venue hire which may or may not include; decor including flowers, food and entertainment
    • Accommodation
    • Travel including flights, transfers and on the day travel
    • Wedding photographer and/or videographer
    • Bridal dress & accessories
    • Grooms outfit & accessories
    • Bridal party outfits including; bridesmaids & groomsmen
    • Hair and makeup
    • Wedding stationery including save the dates, invitations and any on the day requirements
    • Wedding jewellery including wedding rings
    • Legal marriage paperwork formalities
    • Wedding Insurance

It’s vital you also look at your wedding trip as a whole, factoring in eating and entertaining costs for your remaining stay away from home. Some couples love to host a welcome meal or book group events to get the celebration started before the day of the wedding, it’s also worth considering at this stage whether you would like to combine your hen/stag parties and honeymoon alongside your destination wedding, this could help with an ever stretching budget!

Destination wedding budget extras

Number one on unforeseen destination wedding extras is paying for additional baggage allowances. You’re more than likely going to have an abundance of items to take to your chosen destination but think wisely, can you purchase or plan to collect theses nearer your venue.

Bridal stores have clever, innovative ways to package dresses neatly in a compact way to travel abroad and many airlines now have bridal gown options when travelling but do check before you arrive at the airport!

Small taxi rides and trips when you’re abroad can mount up, so it’s worth researching the area you wish to say ‘I Do’ to work out everyday travel logistics.

Of course there’s the holiday in itself, your guests will be thrilled to join you on a long weekend or even week celebration and you are most likely to blow most of your budget on that one incredible wedding day but make sure you don’t leave your pockets empty, so you can enjoy the time and experiences with your nearest and dearest before and after the big day.

3. Plan your Wedding and Your Reception

When getting hitched abroad most couples will host their ceremony and evening reception at the same venue, firstly there’s the ease of further travel but it’s mainly due to the fact destination wedding venues have an incredible array of wedding spaces adapted to both epic parties and stylish ceremony set ups.

This will differ if you opt for a religious ceremony which needs to be held at a local church but by speaking to venue managers and planners you will be able to co-ordinate the smooth running of your entire day.

Cultural customs will differ from UK traditions, so do talk through your wedding day wishes and requirements before committing to any formalities.

4. Choose the Date

Decide when you want to get married and then do your homework. Find out when the tourist season falls in your destination country, when the rainy season is, when the holidays or special dates of interest are and if there are any cultural holidays which could limit your day. You don’t want to choose a day such as a bank holiday where you struggle to find any local suppliers willing to work. You also want to ensure your guests can make large group bookings, if your date falls on a specific holiday this could not only bump up the price incredibly but make it impossible for them to get there.

Once you have your date confirmed, and the venue is booked, make sure to send your invites out. You want to give your guests plenty of time to make arrangements such as booking time off work, booking flights and accommodation and maybe even saving up themselves to enjoy your celebrations.

5. Find Accommodation for Your Wedding Party and Guests

There’s no rule book on the formalities surrounding your responsibilities as a bride or groom when it comes to destination wedding accommodation.

When you exclusively hire certain wedding venues abroad this can include a selection of bedrooms and suites which may or may not cover your guestlist number. Can you ask guests to contribute to their accommodation costs if you are footing the huge exclusivity bill? Well, you make the rules, you decide.  For some, their intimate wedding getaway includes accommodating their guests but for others the budget for their guest number is out of the question.

Luxury Wedding Villa in Italy Casa Olivi 

Guests invited to destination weddings certainly don’t expect travel and accommodation to be paid for them but they do expect you to supply them with the necessary details on where they can stay.

Options & ideas when accommodating guests at your destination wedding;

  • Ask nearby hotels about special rates for large parties and price shop for the best rate.
  • Reserve/book a block of rooms at nearby hotels or villas offering a variety of price ranges.
  • Do research to find options in the area for guests who do not want to stay with the wedding party.
  • Think about booking airport transfers for your guests, to and from their hotels.
  • Remember to speak to your wedding venue regarding accommodation, they might be able to offer you a special discount which is negotiated with nearby owners due to you hosting your wedding.

Most importantly, just make sure there are a range of appropriate options in the vicinity of your wedding venue and share this with your guests either on your invites, your wedding website or via email.

6. Plan travel arrangements

Depending on where you are getting married you are likely going to need to plan and book flights to get there.

Book your flights as early as possible to get the best price. Also contact the airlines to see if they can offer a group discount.

When it comes to additional luggage, it may end up being cheaper to post out a box that contains table decorations, table place etc then buying an additional case and paying to take that with you.

7. Find Your Suppliers and Vendors

So with your venue found, date booked, invites out, its time to home in on the finer details, find your suppliers and get things ready for your big day. You may want to consider hiring an overseas wedding planner or translator to help with arrangements or of course ask your venue for recommendations, many will give you access to their prized contacts if they do not provide the particular service you are after and will be happy for you to use local experts.

Here’s a snippet of items for your to-do-list;

  • Find a wedding officiate or priest.
  • Hire a photographer and/or videographer.
  • Go wedding dress shopping!
  • Send your hairstylist pictures of your ideas.
  • Find travel for your guests to and from the venue.
  • Begin wedding day timings and table plans.

When it comes to planning make sure you download our wedding planner printable, an easy way to stay organised, help manage your guestlist and budget.

8. Don’t Forget to Pack

Lists, lists and lists! You are going to need to be super organised when it comes to packing for your destination wedding because when you’re mid-flight and get that dreaded feeling you’ve forgotten your most important item, well odds are you’re too late.

Rather then listing everything and anything, take it step by step, creating separate lists or spreadsheets. Of course there will be numerous items which can only be packed last minute but others can begin to be stored in luggage sooner rather than later.

If you have the space, you can start placing items into suitcases months in advance and tick off when necessary.

Destination Wedding Packing Checklist;

  • Important documents & paperwork; passports, travel documents, flight tickets, marriage and legal documents, wedding insurance papers, travel insurance papers, supplier & venue documents, table plan.
  • Brides attire; Dress, veil, underwear, shoes and accessories, wedding day perfume.
  • Grooms attire; Suit, shirt, shoes, tie and accessories.
  • Wedding Rings
  • Wedding day stationery including guest book, table names.
  • Bridal party gifts
  • Wedding decor; personalised favours, accessories or extras.
  • Photos & accessories for your hairstylist and makeup artist.

Plus you will need to pack your usual holiday essentials for the duration of your stay, a few suitcases may be needed!

9. Create a Wedding Day Itinerary

Just like you would for a wedding at home, plan your wedding day itinerary. We recommend making 3 separate itinerary’s, one for your guests, planners and suppliers, one for the bridal party and one for the groomsmen.

Wedding Day Itinerary for guests, planners and suppliers

Ideally part of your wedding stationery, this can be passed around to guests either on the exciting flight out, at the welcome dinner or you could ask your hotel/venue to leave them in the guest rooms. Include wedding day timings and how to get to and from the wedding, this allows guests to be prepared for the day ahead with the understanding of when they need to be ready by and when to eat prior to your wedding. Give your wedding planner, venue, suppliers and translator a copy of this itinerary.

Bridal Party Itinerary

Next up is the bridal party itinerary or guide, there’s no need to be formal, your bridal scribble will suffice but you will need a plan for the wedding morning. Getting ready for your big day is one of the most exciting, memorable parts of your wedding day and a lot happens in the run up to walking down the aisle.

Photo by Katie Ruther

To allow you to focus on the enjoyment and nervous butterflies with your closest girls, write down the necessary timings. Include hair & makeup timings, when the photographer should arrive, when to order breakfast or snacks, when you ideally should start getting into the dress and when you really need to leave the room to arrive on time. Make your bridesmaids aware of how you want the morning to go with contact details for suppliers, so they can chase on your behalf allowing you to pamper, beautify and get ready to say ‘I Do’.

Groomsmen Itinerary

Similar to above but I’m sure much more simplified, writing a few morning timings down for the groom or the groom himself noting the time he should start getting into his suit, when the photographer will visit him and the time he needs to be at the ceremony location will help to keep the day on track from the very start.

10. After Your Big Day

Your wedding and reception might be over, but now you need to get everything home and there are also a few things to do once back.

  • Record your marriage, so it is legal. Depending on where you get married, this might be done prior or during your ceremony.
  • Send thank you cards, you might want to wait until you receive your professional photographs for this.
  • Fill out forms for name changes on a variety of documents.
  • Get your dress cleaned, pressed and packed.
  • And, take a moment to bask in the glory of becoming Mr & Mrs!

Where to get married abroad?

Some couples know where they want to get married, it could be a place you’ve visited before, where you got engaged, a place that means a lot to you, or just somewhere that has always been your dream destination. If you simply envisage walking through a white sandy aisle or on a sun-kissed terrace, there’s a whole world of exciting options to discover.

You’ll find a breadth of knowledge and only the most incredible places to say ‘I Do’ abroad here. We certainly know a thing or two when it comes to destination weddings, sourcing the best the world has to offer from sought-after tropical paradise’s to private rural retreats, glamorous beach fronts and desert wonders. We’ll have you hoping on a plane before you know it!

Looking for some help or advice when planning your destination wedding? Not sure where to begin or which venue could be perfect for you, simply get in touch with our friendly team – Ask The Experts

Read More | The Best Places To Get Married Abroad