Dreaming about getting married on a beach, in your favourite city or somewhere sensationally exotic? Overseas weddings are becoming more and more popular, but to avoid the pitfalls involved in planning a ceremony abroad, we asked the experts what you really need to know.
Leave Plenty of Time
Don’t expect to just turn up and tie the knot — paperwork can take months to complete. “A symbolic ceremony can be held pretty much anywhere, but if you want a legal ceremony abroad, the red tape differs from country to country, ”says Geraldine Sweetland, director of weddings at London-based Love and Lord.
“You usually need to visit the town hall before the wedding. In Italy, you have to attend a meeting just two days before, but in other countries, including Spain and France, you must reside there for longer periods.”
Stephanie Bishop, director at Marry Abroad says you’ll need to make sure all the necessary paperwork is in place, including full birth certificates, passports, legal proof of any name change and divorce papers or a death certificate if it’s not your first wedding. Most US states also demand a blood test.
“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 make the documents legal. Some countries also require a certificate of ‘no impediment to marriage’ from your embassy.”
Pass the Passport Test
Don’t forget your passport; and as well as making sure it’s packed, check that it doesn’t expire before the ceremony. Brides will need to make sure their tickets are booked under their maiden name – or whatever matches their passport.
“Check the same rules apply to everyone,” says Tony Quinn, director of Brides & Beaches. ‘If it’s a multicultural wedding and not everyone’s on a UK passport, there may be different visa requirements.”
Trust Your Planner
You can’t be as hands on as you would be at a UK wedding, Tony explains. “The bride wants to know every detail, but that’s impossible. Planning a wedding abroad demands a degree of trust. You’re going to have lots of questions and concerns, but the biggest problem is if you doubt what your planner tells you.”
Think of Your Guests
“Before deciding on a venue, find out if there are flight connections from your country and how far the airport is from the venue,” says Laura Orlando, owner of Italian wedding specialists, Varese Wedding.
“Send your ‘save the date’ cards well in advance; the more notice you give, the more likely they will be to attend, ”Stephanie adds.
When you choose to have your wedding defines where you can hold it, Tony points out. “A wedding on a beach is most unpredictable and vulnerable to the weather, ”he says. “Even in the Caribbean, in July and August, there could be a gale or sandstorm. And beach weddings aren’t necessarily private. In Europe, you cannot secure a private beach, so a group of lads could be playing football next to your nuptials.”
Dress for Your Destination
A heavy, traditional white wedding dress might not be practical overseas. “Choose an appropriate dress for the weather when and where you marry, ”says Stephanie.
And the same goes for the groom: “A morning suit and a 2pm beach wedding is a disaster waiting to happen, ”adds Tony, who advises grooms to hire a lightweight suit.
Dress in Transit
“Speak to the airline in advance, ”says Geraldine. “It may be possible to take your dress as hand luggage and you can buy hand luggage-sized boxes for this purpose. Some airlines will let you hang the dress if you carry it in a folding dress cover.
“Discuss this with your dress designer too, as packing or folding may crease the dress depending on the size and fabric.”
Budget for Insurance
Geraldine urges couples to always make sure they are covered in case the worst happens. “Wedding insurance is imperative. No discussion, ”she says. “Do get comprehensive travel insurance too.”
Enquire about wedding insurance for your big day.
Theme Your Wedding
Make the very most of your unusual destination and let it influence the whole ceremony, Laura suggests. “Choose a local art, craft or delicacy for the favours and serve local food and wine. A destination wedding can turn out to be a fantastic holiday for your guests, particularly if you organise great activities like guided tours or wine tastings.”