More and more couples are choosing to combine their wedding ceremony with a honeymoon by getting married abroad. But is it necessarily cheaper and better? Pip Larkham asks two couples about their experiences.
Julie and James Magill’s wedding was hardly conventional, but they look back on it as being perfect. The couple married in beautiful botanic gardens on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
Julie wore a simple ivory silk dress and James, who hails from Scotland, sported a kilt and full ceremonial attire. The only witnesses were Julie’s brother and sister-in-law, who had flown out to be with them on what turned out to be, in true romantic style, the happiest day of their lives.
“We were worried the service might be over-simplistic, but it was really beautiful,” says hospital social worker Julie, aged 34.
“There were the normal vows, and a good deal more about love and relationships which was moving and important.”
James, 30, who works in security, says it was a perfect wedding.
“It’s difficult to say what was so good about it, because everything was exactly right and exactly how we wanted it to be.”
Julie and James, are among a growing number of couples choosing to tie the knot in sunny and exotic places. It’s not just the atmosphere of the location that is important to such couples. The cost of a traditional British wedding and the organisational nightmare of arranging a service and reception to satisfy all tastes contribute to the decision to arrange simple weddings in beautiful places.
“It wasn’t difficult once we found the right travel agent,” says Julie. “We went to several places before finding a local agent who was extremely helpful and knew exactly what needed to be done. We had a brilliant time. I’m not one for a lot of pomp and ceremony, but what we had was very special.”
Another couple, Sarah Leach and Simon Baker, recently married in America.
“I didn’t want to be married in a register office, or a traditional church ceremony,” says 28-year-old Sarah, a civil servant. “My parents went to Las Vegas when my father was still alive, and I love America, which is why we decided on that particular location.”
There were eight people in the wedding party — Sarah and Simon, Sarah’s mother, Simon’s parents and Sarah’s aunt, sister and friend.
“I couldn’t have gone without them and we checked with them before we made the arrangements,” says Sarah. Her mother made her dress, and, as a florist, she sorted out the flowers in America.
The couple were married in a chapel, and then the party headed off to a restaurant in a chauffeur-driven limousine in true style.
Sarah Reed, sales executive at Bakers Dolphin travel agents said: “Couples are often amazed at how much cheaper it can be compared with a traditional British wedding.
“An all-inclusive wedding and honeymoon with all the frills in the Caribbean costs at least £3-4,000, under half the price of the average UK wedding, which can set you back at least £8,000 without the honeymoon.”
In addition to the purely romantic, more couples are arranging alternative weddings on ski-slopes, in helicopters and even under water.
Favourite honeymoon destinations are the Dominican Republic and neighbouring Caribbean islands St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica.
Good travel agents can arrange details such as the photographer, flowers, video, cake, head dress and champagne; some even say they can organise a best man if the couple are travelling alone.
But there are certain documents and legal considerations to be looked into. To marry in Bali, for example, the groom must be over 23 and the bride over 21.
The Hawaiian authorities insist all brides have a Rubella vaccination certificate, and in Mauritius, if the bride has been divorced for less than nine months at the time of the wedding, a medical certificate to confirm she is not pregnant has to be obtained locally before the marriage can go ahead.
It may not be everyone’s idea of a perfect wedding, but getting hitched abroad is certainly an option no-one should discount.