1. Book early and give your guests a save the date ASAP
It’s time to embrace a long and indulgent engagement: popular locations can be booked up 18 months in advance. As soon as you’ve booked the venue, send out your save the date cards. Keep in mind that there’s a lot more to being a guest at a wedding abroad than buying a dress and booking a day off work: provide them with detailed information as soon as you have it, and be prepared for lengthy phone calls to advise about accommodation.
2. Visit the venue if possible
Taking money out of your budget so that the two of you can visit your venue in advance is worth every penny. You’ll have a feel for the place that no pictures can fully express, plus you’ll get some extra fuel for inspiration – and, of course, added peace of mind.
3. Hire a wedding planner
A wedding planner that’s local to the area will be invaluable. Whether it’s liaising with vendors in the region, speaking the language, or sourcing props from the town’s flea market, there are certain jobs you just can’t do yourself if you’re getting married abroad. Choose an established planner who has experience working on weddings in your region.
4. Check the legalities
Different countries have different laws when it comes to making it legal. For example, it’s difficult to have a legal marriage in France unless you can prove residency, so you’ll need a ceremony back in the UK and a symbolic blessing on the day. On the other hand, if you’re Catholic you can marry in one of Ibiza’s churches or have an al fresco ceremony. In short: check the laws before you book. Some countries will also require certain documents to prove that you are single and there are no objections to your marriage, which can be obtained from the UK legislation office.
5. Think carefully about numbers
Will your sister fly four hours to your wedding? Of course. Would your workmates do the same? Probably not. Destination weddings are a big ask on your guests, so think carefully and streamline your invitation list to those who really will come and can use the time as a holiday.
6. Check the weather
There’s nothing quite like a raging monsoon to put a dampener on a tropical big day… Before you even think about booking, check the rainy and dry seasons in your chosen destination. If you want to cut costs, booking in the country’s low season could work out as extremely affordable.
7. Work your budget
With the average wedding abroad costing just £7500, and the average UK wedding costing an incredible £21,000, it’s no wonder one of the most popular reasons for getting wed in another country is to save money. Make the most of it and get married on a shoestring, or spend your budget elsewhere on a blow-out designer dress.
8. Keep an eye out for special offers
But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop looking for a bargain. Some hotels will offer a ‘free’ ceremony if you stay for a certain number of nights or bring so many guests (particularly in the Caribbean).
9. Consider combining your wedding and honeymoon
Save yourself some pretty pennies and combine your wedding abroad with your honeymoon. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend a little longer lounging on a beach or exploring a Mediterranean island…?
10. Choose the right dress
That sweeping princess ballgown and metre-long train just isn’t going to work on the soft sands of Thailand. Pick the right dress and not only will you look the part, but you’ll feel infinitely more comfortable, too. A Grecian-inspired draped gown would look stunning in Cyprus, as would a backless boho affair on a far-flung beachy island.
11. Book travel tickets in your maiden name
Avoid any airport nightmares and book all your travel tickets in your maiden name – unless you’ve changed your surname before you jet off.
12. Use local produce
Part of the fun of getting married on distant shores is embracing local culture and wedding traditions. If you’re planning a romantic Tuscan celebration, serve Prosecco and olives. Heading to an exotic beach? Treat your guests to a funky barbecue and plenty of rum cocktails.
Expert wedding planning advice
Who better than expert overseas wedding planners who’ve been there and done it to offer nuggets of destination wedding wisdom?
‘Create a mood board on Pinterest and share it with your planner. They’ll then be able to advise you on whether to buy things in the UK or on the island.’ Lisa Hoyle, Weddings by Lisa Lee, the Caribbean
‘Don’t forget about customs taxes and postage delays if you’re ordering items online and having them shipped.’ Clara Boatto and Eva Trevisa, Chic Weddings Ltd, Italy
‘You can’t meet all your suppliers like you can in the UK, so you do have to trust them. Read reviews, find people you like, and embrace the local way of doing things.’ Leah Lyons, Elixir, Ibiza
‘The ideal total stay is two weeks – that way you have time to get a tan and acclimatise, and a week after to have a restful honeymoon.’ Jane Stuart-Palikira, Ionian Weddings, Greece