Getting married abroad is a wonderful way to start your married life together but make sure you do it right to be left with nothing but happy memories
He’s finally popped the question (or perhaps you asked him) and you now have your sights set on married life together. But the traditional bells and whistles British wedding just doesn’t appeal and that’s ok. In fact, any wedding in the UK – whether intimate or formal – is not how you see you and your partner tying the knot.
And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this way. ABTA, the UK’s largest travel association, found that around £1.5 million people flew off to countries around the globe in 2014 to celebrate a wedding either as a guest or as part of the wedding party. And the trend has continued to rise as the costs to get married here in the UK spiral upwards of £20,000 (You and Your Wedding magazine 2013), compared to a more modest £7000 to £8000 abroad.
Cutting your wedding costs by more than half sure sounds appealing but there are some sacrifices to consider too. But if you consider sun-drenched beaches and panoramic views across turquoise oceans a much better vibe for your big day then we’ve put together this guide to getting married abroad.
1. Making the decision
As with any decision, there are going to be reasons for and against getting married abroad. You can enjoy an exotic location with guaranteed weather and stunning scenery and you can begin your honeymoon straight away in your chosen location. The downside is that you may have a much smaller wedding than you had first anticipated as many of your family and friends won’t be able to afford or get the time off work to join you abroad. Secondly, it’s likely that you will have to be in residence in your chosen country for anything from a few days to a week or even longer – which may not be such a drawback but if you have work commitments it can be difficult to carry this out.
2. Choose a destination together
ABTA says the most popular places for getting married abroad, according to its members, include Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Caribbean. But you could also follow in the footsteps of many an A-list couple and opt for the chic shores of Ibiza or the stylish scenery of Italy, just like the Clooneys and the Kardashian-Wests did for their own nuptials.
3. Be meticulous in your planning
Whether you decide to plan the wedding yourself, book through a reputable tour operator or use a wedding planner who is expert in organising weddings abroad, there are going to be a few things to you’ll need to sort before jetting off. If you are going to handle the bulk of the admin yourself, the HMRC has a handy guide to get you started and to help identify which documents you’ll need to have with you and how to obtain these, but you should also check with local authorities in your chosen destination to find out what you need to do, and that the marriage will be recognised in the UK.
Before making any additional plans, you should also check that you are able to get married on the date of your choice and how long the residence status is, if any.
4. A word about your wedding wardrobe
Where you plan to tie the knot and the type of wedding you are going for – from beach to church – will ultimately determine the wedding attire for you, your partner and your wedding party. Try and choose outfits that are suited to the weather and circumstances of your day, especially any groomsmen who might find it hard to cope with full tailored suits in high temperatures.
Similarly, when it comes to your dress, you may have already chosen your dream dress but are wondering how you are ever going to transport it across continents with you! Short of paying for another seat just for your dress, you’ll still have to abide with the airline’s baggage regulations. It is worth a call to the airline to see if they have any specific guidelines on travelling with large and/or delicate items like a wedding dress too. And always check that the resort or hotel you are staying at has a good steamer – just in case!
5. Packing everything else
If you are also wondering how on earth you are going to pack up your dream wedding into your suitcase allowance, then try not to worry. Of course, you are going to need a few extras to your usual holiday prep but try not to let yourself get out of control. Remember you are doing this differently for a reason and your day is going to be sensational – with or without the boxes of personalised confetti – so allow yourself to be a little more relaxed about things. Write yourself a list of everything you need and want to take and check them off as you go so you are less likely to forget something. Some important things to remember of course are your documents, the rings any specific music you want to play.
6. Think about local touches
Adding local touches to your big day is a brilliant way to merge your family and tradition with the uniqueness of your location. Whether that’s the gifts or favours you buy locally for your wedding party or going one step further and buying your wedding rings from a jeweller when you arrive. You can incorporate local produce within you wedding menu and serve local cocktails as a welcome drink. Why not research any local customs or traditional wedding dances and weave these into your special day too!
7. For those who can and can’t make it
One of the great things about getting married abroad is turning your nuptials into a holiday and having twice the fun! Most of your guest will tie your wedding in with a short (or longer) break for themselves so you use this to run your celebrations over a few days. Your hotel should be able to accommodate a dinner or get together or beach barbeque giving your wedding that something extra and also another chance for you to thank your guests for joining you.
And what about those that can’t? Having a wedding abroad may be your dream but it does mean you probably won’t see all the familiar faces you thought you would have around you on your special day. And if you could afford to, you would pay to have everyone there in an instant. But, as this is unlikely, and you can pretty much guarantee that not everyone will be able to make it to your big day, whether that’s because of flight costs or getting time off work, there may be another way to include them. If your venue has a good internet connection, invite your UK guests to log on and join in to your special day via a video web link!
Don’t forget to look into and organise a local photographer or videographer to capture your special day. This can be a daunting task to make sure you get someone who can understand and carry out what you need. Checking in with your tour operator or hotel/resort contact is a good start as they are likely to have contacts that specialise in weddings, and can set your mind at ease.
When it comes to gifts, it’s a good idea to organise this at home either through a cash donation site or via a department store gift list. This will save your guests having to transport heavy items in their luggage.
And finally, be sure to enjoy it all from start to finish – getting married abroad is a once in a lifetime experience in more ways than one.