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How to Get Married Abroad: Everything You Need to Know

Before you pull the trigger and book your destination wedding, here's everything you need to know and consider to ensure it's perfect day

a couple getting married abroad holding hands and walking through a procession of guests at an outdoor location

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There are plenty of reasons why a couple may consider getting married abroad - the weather, the vibe, the feeling of getting away with your nearest and dearest - the list is endless.

But when making the decision to get married abroad, there are a few things you need to consider. With so many destination wedding locations to choose from, it can be hard to choose between the best places to get married abroad, and aside from choosing where, there's also the 'how' and 'when' to figure out. 

But fear not - anyone couples considering weddings abroad are in safe hands here as we take you through all the steps you need to know about in order to plan the perfect day. 

Getting Married Abroad: Expert Tips & Everything You Need to Know

To help you on your way, our guide to getting married abroad covers it all. 

We give you tips on how to choose where to get married abroad, information on how much you can expect to pay, important tips from an industry expert and key things to consider when it comes to the legalities. 

If you're planning to get married abroad, everything you need to know can be found right here. 

Where to Get Married Abroad?

two brides kissing in unique wedding outfits on a beach at their abroad wedding

When it comes to where to get married abroad, the world literally is your oyster. Of course, there are particular areas around the world that are super popular for weddings abroad, but that's not to say that you have to choose them. 

Below are some of the things you need to consider before choosing where to get married abroad. 

1. Cost of Travel & Accommodation

The cost of travel and accommodation are one of the biggest considerations when deciding what the best places to get married abroad are.

You need to think about your budget and what your guests can afford (if they are paying for their own travel and hotel) and ensure that the location you choose works for everyone's bank accounts. If you know you want to spend a smaller amount and want to save your guests money, you'll want to look into the cheapest place to get married abroad and avoid notoriously expensive countries and areas. 

2. Duration of Travel & Accommodation

Much like the cost, you need to think about the amount of time you want you and your guests to spend at your wedding abroad. If you're looking into long haul locations, you will want to think about entertaining guests for at least five days to make the lengthy travel worthwhile.

However, if you're planning for more of a weekend weddings abroad vibe, look to closer places in Europe that'll only take a few hours to fly to. 

3. Language Barriers

When deciding on where to get married abroad, you need to consider any language barriers that may impact how you plan your wedding. If you have fallen in love with a location but the native language isn't English, you will need to enlist the help of a local wedding planner or professional to ensure your needs are properly communicated. 

As Brits, we are very lucky that many countries have quite a good level of spoken English among locals, especially in cities and built up areas, but this may not be the case in more rural parts of the country you are going to so don't assume this will be the case. 

4. Familiarity With the Area

Similarly to language considerations, it's also important to think about your level of familiarity with a country or area before choosing it as the place you want to get married abroad. Choosing places you have been on holiday together or that are special or meaningful to you is a nice way to honour a special location and also plan your day somewhere you know lots about. 

It's not to say that if you've never been somewhere you shouldn't get married there, but someone within your wedding planning network needs to have familiarity with the area, whether that's a wedding planner, coordinator, family friend or someone else who can advise you. 

But when it comes to the absolute best places to get married abroad, this edit has all the recommendations you need. 

How Much Does it Cost to Get Married Abroad?

a couple holding hands in an outdoor garden wedding venue as they get married abroad with two statues either side of them

Finance specialists reported in February this year that the average wedding abroad costs £11,099. When you compare this to the average cost of a UK wedding (which is currently £18,400), it seems that getting married abroad can save you money.

However that doesn't mean that tying the knot in another country will always save you money as this isn't a like-for-like comparison. The average UK wedding has 81 guests on the invite list, and we know that many destination weddings have less than that, and often your guests will fork out more to attend. 

The answer to the question, 'Is it cheaper to get married abroad?' will depend on a variety of factors which we will dive into further below. 

1. The Destination

Where in the world you get married will have a huge impact on the cost of getting married abroad. Super popular destination wedding locations like parts of Italy, Spain and France may cost you more than the lesser known parts. What's more, it's worth considering whether or not your location is expensive regardless of whether there's a wedding there or not. 

2. The Time of Year

As well as the destination you're travelling to, it's also worth considering the time of year you are getting married. Peak wedding season in the UK will be different in different parts of the world, and the seasons will also differ depending on where in the world you choose to get married.

Whether you're getting married abroad or in the UK, peak and popular times of year and days of the week will always be more expensive than others, so take this into consideration if you're hoping for it to be cheaper to get married abroad. 

3. Costs You're Covering

When getting married abroad and thinking about finances, you need to think about what costs you will be covering and what costs you will pass onto your guests. Are you planning to pay for everyone's accommodation? Will you cover flights? Are you entertaining people for the duration of just one day, a weekend or longer?

The level of financial support you are offering your guests will undoubtedly impact how much it costs to get married abroad. 

4. Your Guest List Size

a couple getting married abroad sitting outside toasting with their guests at a table

The size of your abroad wedding guest list, as with any wedding both abroad in the UK, will impact your costs. As your guest list gets bigger, so does your spend. If you are planning to get married abroad with a very small guest list, or with guests who are paying for their own accommodation and travel, it is likely that it is cheaper to get married abroad as opposed to tying the knot in the UK.

However, if you are planning to have a big wedding abroad with lots of people in attendance, your costs will of course rise. 

5. The Duration

It is becoming more and more common for couples to plan wedding weekends or even wedding weeks and holidays when getting married abroad. This is a really lovely way to celebrate a wedding overseas, and allowing one day of celebrating to turn into a multi-day party makes the trip abroad even more worthwhile for all of your guests.

However, when one day of celebrating with food, drink and entertainment turns into two, three or more, the costs will go up. In the UK, the longest you tend to see wedding celebrations last is three days, with a cocktail party the night before, and the wedding day itself, followed by a day-after brunch. 

Doing this abroad means everyone needs to stay multiple nights, and the expectation for round-the-clock entertainment, food and drink will add to your overall bill (and your guests' accommodation costs!). 

How to Get Married Abroad: 7 Expert Dos & Don'ts 

a couple in a boat after getting married abroad sailing on a lake

If you've got your heart set on getting married abroad, here are some vital dos and don'ts from Matthew Shaw, creative director and founder of wedding planning and events studio Sauveur

1. Plan in Advance

Even if you are eloping abroad as a twosome, you still need plenty of time to plan getting married abroad. 

"Depending on the season you are looking for I would generally suggest making enquiries 12 months prior to your date in view of having a location booked 10 months before," explains Matthew, "This leaves you plenty of time to put logistical details and information together ready to communicate with your guests.

"I also suggest doing some research on your destination to ensure it’s easy to reach and that there are regular flights from where you and your guests are located as well as the onward journey from the destination airport - this is always hugely appreciated by guests."

2. Ask About Seasonal Rates

No matter where you're getting married abroad, there are going to be high and low seasons and it's important to keep these in mind when booking your wedding. 

Matthew adds, "It’s always helpful to enquire about their different seasonal rates. These can change throughout the year and you may be able to make a saving on the venue hire if you are flexible with your date and able to move it to the end or beginning of a season."

3. Understand the Cultural Differences

Different countries and areas in the world have different customs and traditions and being aware of these ahead of your own wedding is wise. 

Explaining why, Matthew says, "Weddings, customs, and general event planning varies hugely around the world. This is not to say that you cannot make your day your own but it can be very helpful to understand how they would usually plan weddings in your destination as this information can be very useful.

"If you are working with a planner, they will be able to help you with this, or, when speaking to potential venues, it can be helpful to ask about suggested timings and formats that they usually do."

4. Take Note of the Currency

You wouldn't go on holiday without understanding the exchange rate for where you're heading, and the same should apply to getting married abroad.

"When planning a destination wedding it is likely that you will be paying a lot of your suppliers in the local currency," says Matthew, "When you are planning your budget at the beginning of the process, remember to factor in international transfer fees as well as some contingency for potential currency fluctuations as this can have a big impact on your final spend."

5. Don't Bet on Good Weather

a couple getting married abroad sitting down at their wedding ceremony holding an umbrella up over them

For many, the biggest reason to get married abroad is to ensure better weather than you'd have here in the UK. 

Whilst many destination wedding locations will have more brighter and warmer days than we do in Britain, don't assume it as a given. 

"This may be an unexpected one, but weather plans should be considered in the same way you would if you were getting married in the more unpredictable UK," explains Matthew. 

"You are, of course, more likely to get nice weather down in Europe and other abroad wedding locations, but this also means that many venues are mainly designed for exterior celebrations. Always consider what a venue’s wet or cold weather options are as they are often limited when you remove the outdoor option."

6. Be Aware of Luggage Needs

We love some practical advice and Matthew is here with one of the things most people forget about when planning to get married abroad. He says, "A packing list is a must here!

"You will have a huge amount you need to take, from outfits to spare suppliers and anything you might be bringing with you from home. You will be very reliant on what you bring with you so I always suggest putting together a detailed packing list and then working out how many suitcases you may need, or if you can divide things between your wedding party's luggage.

"You will definitely need a wedding dress plan and for this, I always recommend speaking to the airline in advance. Finally, do not fly out a day before with lots of luggage in case anything goes missing. Where possible, give yourselves a few days at the destination to problem solve (or relax!) so everything is sorted by the big day."

7. Prioritise Your Guest Experience

a group of guests at an abroad wedding sitting outside eating and drinking and giving a toast

If you are opting to get married abroad with lots of friends and family, it's super important to think about their experience throughout the duration of the trip and organise things sufficiently. 

Matthew explains, "When your guests are travelling abroad, it is so important to provide clear and helpful travel and accommodation information (whether this is being provided for them or not).

"You should do your research (or work with the venue or your planner) to put together useful information to send your guests with plenty of time for them to make arrangements.

"It will also help with the weekend’s logistics if your guests are all staying in the same locations and you know where they are! The more you can tell your guests in advance, the fewer questions they will ask… Ultimately, if you are asking your guests to travel abroad for you, in return you should be prepared to assume the role of travel guide."

The Legalities of Getting Married Abroad

a man standing behind a bride hugging her at their abroad wedding overlooking a cove with boats floating

Paperwork is the last thing you want to be doing during wedding planning, but you’ll be devastated if there’s one missing document that means you can’t get a marriage licence. You can use the British Government’s online tool to find out exactly what paperwork is required in each country or on the embassy’s website.

Essential Documents

The full legal requirements vary by country, but every destination will need the bride and groom to have these documents in their original form (not photocopied) or a certified copy.

  • Valid 10-year passport with at least six months remaining on it
  • Full birth certificates
  • Deed poll proof of any name change
  • Decree absolute, if married
  • Marriage and death certificates of deceased spouse, if widowed
  • Adoption certificate, if adopted

If you’re marrying in a non-English speaking country your paperwork may have to be translated and given an apostille (additional certification of authenticity) to validate the document abroad. This can be done by the Foreign Office in the UK.

Other Common Documents

  • Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) – Each party will need one to prove there’s no reason they cannot marry and they can be obtained from a local registry office or your embassy. They can take around a month to issue and last for six months from the date of issue. These are required in Cyprus, Greece and Italy, for example.
  • Single Status Statutory Declaration – Similar to the certificate, this is for people who’ve never been married to prove they are free to marry. They need to be stamped and certified by a solicitor in the UK. Countries requiring this include Seychelles, Kenya and the Bahamas.
  • Medical test – This is not always required but you need a medical/blood test to marry in the United States, Mexico and Turkey, for example.

Remember to factor the cost of obtaining these into your wedding budget. If you are using a wedding planner, then the cost of these should be included in their quote – watch out if you start getting lots of hidden costs.

Residency Requirements

two brides getting married abroad in rome kissing in the middle of the square in their wedding dresses at sunset

Many countries have a minimum residency period before you can obtain a marriage licence there. For example, in parts of Italy it varies between four and seven days, but in France, at least one of the parties will need to prove they’ve lived in the country for a minimum of 30 days prior to the application for a marriage licence.

Start your research early if you want a legal marriage in a different country. In Spain, you can only marry if you’ve been a resident for the last two years, or, if you live in the UK, for either party to be a Spanish national. Unless you want to move to Spain for two years, a British couple living in the UK can’t have a legal wedding in Spain.

Special Requirements

Many countries have specific other requirements to obtain a marriage licence that you must be aware of.

You need a blood test at a Mexican hospital and a minimum of four witnesses to marry in Mexico for example, whereas just two witnesses and valid return tickets are needed in Barbados. In Antigua, weddings must take place between 8am-6pm, while in Kenya written parental consent is needed for anyone under 21 to marry. Again, you can find these requirements on the British Government website.

As you'll already be abroad, how about planning a honeymoon immediately after your destination wedding? Here are the best honeymoon destinations by month, and some budget friendly options if you've splurged everything on the wedding.