Passport to romance: Is a destination wedding right for you?

Sophie McCorry Day of international planners Quintessentially Weddings gives her need-to-know tips on saying 'I do' abroad

Photograph: Polly Alexandre. To see the rest of this real life wedding, look for the November/December issue of You & Your Wedding, out now!

“Getting married abroad can be a very liberating decision”


Gloriously predictable weather, delectable food, the sense of escape and romance that comes with choosing a wedding on foreign shores; what’s not to love? It can be a very liberating decision: you can carry as many rituals as you want to your chosen destination, or you can ditch the traditions and opt for a truly ‘fusion’ wedding. Naturally, for many couples the wedding turns into a holiday for both themselves and their guests, and you can spread the celebrations out over a number of days and extend the fun – always a good thing, to our minds!

“You don’t want to risk the planning process becoming fraught”

Firstly, if who comes to your wedding is your biggest concern, think about a destination that is relatively easy for people to travel to, especially elderly relatives. You will need to think about school holidays if you plan to have children present, and also the effect having your wedding in peak season – from May to September – will have on the cost of accommodation, flights and transport for your guests.

Consider your options when it comes to the ceremony, as different countries have varying laws. In Italy, for instance, you can only marry in a Catholic church if you’re practising Catholics, and can only have a civil ceremony in the town hall or an appointed civic building (which are beautiful if you are lucky, but are sometimes more municipal). Sometimes it’s easier to marry in a small civil ceremony in the UK, and then host your wedding blessing and celebrations abroad.

Make sure you love the region’s gastronomy, and try to include local specialities and ingredients as much as possible; the execution and flavours will often be far more delicious than attempting to recreate a haute British menu!

It might not sound very romantic to have to dwell on logistics, but sometimes the slightly less fantastical venue with better transport links and facilities is the best option for smooth wedding planning. What you don’t want to risk is the planning process becoming so fraught that it diminishes the fun, enjoyment and unbridled happiness every bride and groom should feel on their wedding day.

Sophie McCorry Day

“If you don’t speak the language fluently, invest in a translator”

The most obvious logistical challenge is not being able to oversee and check progress and standards. That’s why wedding planners are often used for celebrations abroad, as you can trust their knowledge of the area and also their ability to tackle the cultural differences. For instance, what is interpreted by a florist in Spain as ‘fabulously modern, fashion-inspired’ flowers may be quite different from the Erdem-style arrangements you had in mind. Language barriers and hours of business are a big factor, so if you don’t speak the dialect fluently, invest in a translator or local ‘fixer’ who can help you organise the fine print. This may seem unnecessary given that English is so widely spoken, but you’d be surprised what it difference it makes having a familiar and tacit understanding of the language and customs of a country; it helps with the relationships you build with your suppliers and sometimes even reduces costs, as your translator or fixer may be able to pull strings and secure better deals as they will be able to haggle more effectively.

“Leave time for problem-solving and sourcing last-minute items”

Initial site visits are a must, and if you possibly can, visit at approximately the same time of year as your wedding will take place, so you can see the location as it will be on your big day. This will also help you picture what seasonal flowers and food could work most effectively, and ascertain how much lighting, outdoor and indoor furnishings you will require. Ideally, you would be able to visit two to three times beforehand to be really comfortable with the location and venue, but don’t fear carrying out Skype calls and asking for regular photos from your venue if you cannot commit to or afford to travelling as regularly. The most important piece of advice we can give is that if you’re not using a wedding planner, ensure you are on site with some practically-minded people a few days before tying the knot to bring everything together so that everything fulfils your expectations. This gives you time for problem-solving and sourcing those inevitable last minute items, such as citronella candles.



Thinking about saying ‘I do’ abroad? You need the destination wedding special in our November/December issue – out now!