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10 top etiquette tips for weddings abroad

Avoid offending your friends and family if you plan to marry overseas by following these simple steps to perfect guest etiquette

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Get it right when you marry abroad
  1. Who to invite. “One of the advantages of a wedding abroad is that it’s acceptable to have a small guest list,” says James Lord. “It’s the perfect solution if you have an ever-expanding guest list. Choose a venue with an absolute maximum limit and use that as an excuse to leave some people behind.” Beth Stretton of Get Married In France says you could use tricky residency rules like those in France to your advantage. “You could always have a civil ceremony at home that includes an extended guestlist, before holding a blessing and reception abroad,” she says. “It’s a great way to include everyone.”
  2. Make it as easy as possible for guests to come. “The further away your guests are based, the lower the percentage of acceptees,” says James Lord. “If everyone is travelling from the UK to Europe, 15-20% of your list will not come.” Erica Bellini, of Tuscan Dreams, says hold the wedding in the school holidays to ensure as many people as possible come: “Accommodation will cost a little more but most guests will combine a holiday with the wedding.”
  3. Help your guests plan ahead. Send out a save the date card as soon as you can so your guests can start planning for your big day too.
  4. Give them a helping hand. “Provide guests with a fact sheet,” says Rosa Spatola-McAuliffe, of The Italian Connection, “include suggested airlines, accommodation options, car hire firms, etc.” James Lord suggests creating a simple website with all the relevant information. Or set up a Facebook page so guests can get in touch with each other to share transport or accommodation costs.
  5. Consider your guests when choosing a venue. Erica Bellini suggests hiring a farmhouse so guest accommodation is on site. If this isn’t an option, choose a venue with lots of affordable accommodation close by.
  6. Help with transport. Your guests will spend a lot on flights and accommodation – consider providing transfers from the ceremony to the reception. Or choose a venue that does both.
  7. The giftlist. Stress that having your friends and family at your wedding is gift enough – make gifts optional.
  8. When to leave. Most couples make a weekend of their wedding celebration and end up spending more time with guests than they would if they married at home. Rosa Spatola-McAuliffe says they shouldn’t therefore feel guilty about leaving for their honeymoon the next day. Beth Stretton says many couples stay a day or two after the wedding. “To be honest, this is far better than jetting off in the midst of a Champagne hangover!” she says.
  9. Relax! Don’t become obsessed with being responsible for everyone, says James Lord. “Provide them with the information they need to make it easier and then leave them to it.”
  10. And for those who miss out… Erica Bellini estimates that 30-40% of the couples who marry abroad have a party back home afterwards. “It’s an excellent way to make sure no-one feels left out,” she says. Rosa Spatola-McAuliffe says a party is a good way to include reluctant travellers like the elderly or those with babies: “You could show your wedding video at the party to help bring the two celebrations together.”
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