How to Get Married Abroad: Everything You Need to Know
Getting married abroad gives you the scope to make your wedding day truly magical, allowing you to fully immerse in celebrations with your family and friends whilst creating memories of a lifetime.
There are countless reasons to choose a Destination Wedding and some epic locations to say ‘I Do’ including beachfront wonders, authentic architecture and dramatic sea view terraces, so it’s no wonder more and more UK couples are reaching for their passport to enjoy their big day.
Getting married abroad: Where to start
Once you make the decision you’d both like to hop on a plane and say your vows, the time to start planning your destination wedding begins but where do you start, what should you consider and what do you really need to know?
Where to start:
- Get inspired
- Consider your destination
- Consider your guests
- Find your venue
- Book it!
- Consider the logistics
- Book your suppliers
Get your creative head on, create Pinterest boards, start following inspirational Instagram accounts and check out recent Real Wedding Blogs. The more research you can do in your initial planning stages allows you to narrow down your ideal wedding preferences, simplifying your overall decision process.
Decide Where to say ‘I Do’?
Location is quite rightly one of the most important and first decisions in your destination planning journey. There really is a whole world to discover, with an abundance of countries ideal for dream destination weddings.
Take a look at your inspirational image preferences and understand the key points that you want your wedding to feature. Here’s our quick reference guide to deciphering which popular wedding destinations could suit you best;
- Beachfront Mexico, Ibiza
- Dramatic Sea view Terraces Santorini
- Adventure Morocco, Gibraltar
- Historic Character French Chateau
- Food lovers Italy, Morocco
- Relaxed Vibe with perfect sunsets Ibiza
- Private Countryside Villa Tuscany, France, Spain, Greece
- Exotic Paradise Bali, Hawaii
- Picturesque Waterside Lake Como
Understand the Legalities
Many UK couples opt for symbolic ceremonies or blessings during their destination wedding, completing the legal formalities of marriage at home prior, this ensures your marriage is legally recognised in the UK. It is likely you will still be required to submit documentation and each country or location will have their own procedures.
It is possible for you to get married abroad but keep in mind that individual locations have their own regulations regarding civil or religious ceremonies, some will have residency requirements, religious formalities and require official government issued documents, for in depth specific information you can check with GOV.UK.
Consider your Guests
This is your special day and yes, you should have the day you have your heart set on but you need to seriously consider your guestlist and who you must have present. If you really want every one of your school friends present, your extended family and elderly Grandparents, sending out invites which involves long- haul flights and thousands of pounds for them to have to fork out may not have you receiving the high number of invite acceptances you ideally want.
Of course, there’s the option to choose a destination closer to home or go ahead with the exotic destination wedding you dream of with a more intimate affair and then celebrate with additional family and friends afterwards, that way you can indulge them with your romantic stories of how you said ‘I Do’ and everyone can congratulate you both at the beginning of your marriage.
When a date has been set, send out your invites ASAP, guests will likely have to book a chunk of time off work, save money and make plans around your special day, the more time they have in advance the better.
Choose the Date
Deciding when to get married takes consideration from a variety of factors, when planning your destination weddings the priority is most likely going to sit with the seasonal forecast to ensure you can enjoy the gorgeous backdrops on offer.
Depending when you get married you may have other friends that re getting married that same year, and before you know it you are also attending a couple of weddings, if you have friends that maybe attending other weddings ensure you allow time for people to get the time off work and also ensure they can afford to come.
Destination weddings are great, but also like a mini break where the cost of flights and accommodation has to be considered.
Other top points to keep in mind when choosing your desired wedding date should include;
- Finances. Selecting a date which is just out of the destinations typical ‘Wedding season’ could save on your budget.
- Destination events/ holidays. Do your research, certain religious or celebratory events could change or alter your plans, be aware popular events in your chosen area could result in guest flights and accommodation becoming booked far in advance.
- Job/work commitments. Will you be able to get suitable time off work
- Key guest commitments. Choosing your sisters baby due date or best friends 30th is probably not wise
Do you need a Wedding Planner?
The wedding guru’s, the experts and the one’s in the know, an experienced quality wedding planner is a brilliant idea when you decide on a destination wedding. By selecting a planner which is either local to your chosen destination or boasts experience in this location can give you the knowledge, suppliers and contacts which take your wedding to the next level.
A destination wedding can require more logistical planning then staying local to your home town and there are more considerations to take into account. Firstly, there’s the language barrier, now if you are bi-lingual congratulations but if the country you decide to host your wedding is not your first language, a wedding planner can really excel, they know the culture, they know the formalities, they can direct with paperwork for legalities and be your guiding hand.
During your planning don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice, you will most likely need help and guidance for your dream vision to turn into a reality. Some wedding venues have dedicated wedding planners or co-ordinators on hand, ensure you utilise their expertise.
How are you and your guests going to get to your wedding? Flying is obviously the most popular choice and many airlines offer group flight bookings with advantages including discounts or extras.
And, then of course there’s accommodation. Many stunning destination wedding venues include accommodation and hiring out the venue for exclusive-use across a long weekend or week to enjoy with all of your family and friends is an excellent choice.
You need to be clear from the beginning of your planning what you as a couple are going to provide for your guests, will you be including transport and accommodation, will you suggest the best options for your guests or will you leave this entirely up to them?
We suggest at least giving guests an idea on what is available or block booking out accommodation. This requires organisation and dedication, you can opt to be the lead or let your wedding planner take over, after all they may be a bit stronger at getting decisions out of awkward family members!
Let’s talk budget, destination weddings can cost less than a UK wedding and your money may stretch a little further but they can also cost considerably more especially when you start adding in travel, logistics and accommodation costs. How much does a destination wedding cost? As much as you want it to cost. Keep organised and have a clear maximum budget that both you and your partner are aware of.
The way you structure your destination wedding budget will be different to a UK wedding, obviously there is added extras such as travel but sometimes the way you spend you money can be prioritised to suit your desired outcome. For example, wedding ceremony terraces with incredible backdrops do not need to be completely filled with fancy floristry, the venue does the talking for you, so this is an area you may be able to cut back on.
Send out Invitations Early
As soon as you’re fully committed to your destination wedding, send out your ‘save the date’ cards as early as possible. Your friends and family that want to attend will need their own measure of time to determine their finances, book flights, the time people will spend out there, booking time off work, travel insurance, ensuring their passport is in date.
With these extras it is important to give your guests plenty of time to make arrangements if they can come, the additional cost of flights and accommodation allows couples time to save and book these.
Ask your guests to RSVP at least 8 weeks before so you can make any final amendments to seating and eating arrangements.
Accept That Some Guests Can’t Come
Travelling abroad isn’t cheap and depending where and when you are going it can be quite expensive. It is important to consider that some of your friends simply may not be able to afford the time of work, or the money to attend.
While some may not be able to make it for financial reasons, others may not be able to come due to health reasons, they cannot fly or older guests are not mobile enough to get abroad.
Unlike a wedding in the UK where guests can come for the day, weddings abroad usually require a few days away and have the cost of flights, when planning your destination wedding it is important to remember and realise that some people who you may want there simply cannot come as much as they would like.
Check the Weather
When booking your wedding ensure the date isn’t in monsoon season, or there will be tropical downpours once a day.
When planning the order of the day ensure your ceremony isn’t in the heat of the day, your guests will be cooking in the sun while dressed smartly, and for older guests this won’t be good for them either. Your venue may advise that you have the ceremony later when the sun is starting to set as it will be cooler then.
Will your Destination Wedding be Legal?
Look up the laws governing weddings and marriages in the country you want to visit for your special day. You’ll need to know who can legally officiate weddings and make sure that your marriage will be recognised when you get home.
Different countries have different laws, and also different countries have different laws for couples who are not residents or their nationality, so getting married abroad as a UK citizen can restrict some counties where you can legally get married.
Be aware of what requirements your desired location might have for visitors of any type. Even if you want to have your overseas wedding someplace for the stunning visuals, you’ll need to know how welcoming the area actually is and if there are any cultural or political issues that would make the location inhospitable or even unsafe.
Make a Checklist
Early in the process, find out all the documentation you’ll need for your travel and wedding. This may include passports, birth certificates, other travel documents and any legal papers you’ll need for the wedding.
As you get closer to the date, put together a packet that has all the copies everything you’ll need in one secure place. Share the checklist with your guests to make it even simpler for them to join you at your wedding hassle-free.
Many weddings and marriages involve a name change of some kind. With travel and security conditions being what they are around the globe, take an early look at any issues your name change might create and make sure your travel arrangements work around them.
Download our wedding planning checklist and planner here.
Many venues will have recommended suppliers or a little list of suppliers they have worked with before and have used the venue, this is a great starting point, it makes it easier as the supplier knows the venue, and also helps if they are recommended. It doesn’t mean you have to use and hire them but it is a great starting point.
Plan a Visit
You may have it all planned and all arranged, you may just have a few details that need sorting, whether everything is ticked on the checklist or there are some things to arrange it is certainly worth going out a few months in advance. Going out allows you to see the venue again fresh in your mind, ensuring you have everything how you want it, as well as seeing any suppliers to finalise make up or flowers.
Visiting the destination of your choice prior to your wedding celebrations is ideal, if this is not feasable especially for long-haul destinations, view virtual tours, videos, real wedding blogs, set up skype calls with suppliers such as photographers and venue owners or wedding planners. Knowing a friendly face before you arrive will make you feel much more relaxed.
If you decide to plan a visit, be organised and plan meetings prior to arriving. This is your chance to get everything sorted and in place and for you to soak up the beautiful atmosphere where you will become husband and wife.
Plan Your Luggage
You may not wish to trust some crucial items such as a one-of-a-kind wedding dress to your checked baggage. Talk to your airline about the wedding party. In many cases, you can bring the dress as an extra carry-on as long the airline has been notified in advance. Various arrangements can be made, especially if you have a large group traveling together.
There may be some things you want at the wedding, such as pre-printed place cards or special family decorations, instead of taking this in your suitcase luggage it maybe cheaper and easier to ship this all out in a well packaged box to your venue or wedding planner.
This is one less thing to worry about and if you send it out well in advance you can ensure it has all arrived and is all ok before you fly out yourself.
…And when you come home
Getting everything out there is one thing, you also need to bring it all back, and one thing many couples forgot about is all the wedding presents and gift. Guests will take their gifts out and will then leave them with you to bring back. Again consider shipping these home and perhaps keeping any valuable items with you when traveling home.
Consider Destination Wedding Insurance
With so much going into the big day abroad, you may also find it worth the expense to purchase some insurance to help cover unforeseen issues. Many companies offer specific insurance for overseas weddings that cover damaged items, cancellation costs, or other problems that can arise. Some even offer assistance to get the event back on track if there’s a crisis.
Depending on where you are getting married ensure there are no jabs or vaccinations that are needed, and make sure you are up-to-date yourself. If any are needed make sure you advise your guests before hand allowing them time to get them done.
Also… Don’t forget
- Exchange rates, when booking suppliers and venues abroad be clear in what currency you will be paying. If you pay a small deposit at the beginning, consider that when you pay the balance closer to your wedding that exchange rates may change, and if this doesn’t go in your favour you could end up paying more than you originally anticipated.
- What you buy must be transported– that Cinderella bridal gown must get to your venue, somehow!
- Whether you opt for a Destination wedding or a traditional wedding in your home town, it is likely you will never please everyone but remember this is your day and the start of your married life together.
Bonus. Take a Deep Breath
The last and most important tip is to relax, take a deep breath and just enjoy the day. All the hard work is done and now you must just enjoy your day.
Don’t worry about anything, you have done everything you can and it’s now time to get in holi-wedding mode.