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How To Get Married Abroad

How to get married abroad

Destination Weddings are getting more popular every year, especially for couples who like to travel together or who've formed a special bond with a particular country, city or town. But what do you need to do when organising a wedding abroad? To answer this question, we were lucky to get expert advice from Francesca Cribb, site manager at www.hitched.co.uk, who talked us through the dos and don'ts.

Plan Ahead

Unless you're planning a private ceremony with just your spouse, having a wedding abroad means that your friends and family will need to make travel arrangements to be there. Francesca sheds some light on this point: “If you wish to have a full guest list, then let your friends and family know about your destination-wedding plans well in advance. Send out ‘Save The Date’ cards a year beforehand, giving your guests enough time to save and purchase their tickets if they plan on joining you”.

Banquet by the seaBanquet by the sea

The last thing you want to do is to only let your guests know at the last minute, leaving them with just a couple of months to take leave, book their flights and find a place to stay. “Although it tends to cost less to tie the knot abroad, it may end up costing your friends and family more. If you've always dreamed of having a big wedding, then you may not be able to achieve this if you plan on getting married abroad. Your guests may not all be able to financially afford to travel for your destination wedding; they also may not be able to take the time off work - especially if you are inviting friends who all work in the same office or department.

Don't Take It Personally If People Can't Make It: This is something I've had personal experience with. When my wife and I got married in the States last year, a good 90% of my guest list couldn't make it, even with nearly two year's notice. It's a lot to ask of people to fly around the world for your event and most of the time money will be the deciding factor. If your loved ones can't make it, understand that you're choosing to have a wedding far away and that it might be too logistically impossible or expensive for everyone to be there.

Pre-Arrange The Small Details: When it comes to things like your gift registry and dress code, be clear with everybody beforehand. I know it seems like a no-brainer to let everyone know that you can't take gifts on honeymoon with you (unless it's something small or money), but it's good to be clear with people.

Sort Out The Legal Stuff

One of the least exciting (and sadly most important) aspects of your wedding abroad is legal paperwork. Ultimately, you want your marriage to be valid in the UK when you get home. Francesca says that you should first contact the relevant authorities of the country you're going to.

Couple on the beachNewly weds on the beach

“You can do this by contacting the appropriate embassy in the UK, for the country you want to marry in. If you’re getting married in a resort that has a dedicated wedding planner, then you may find that they’ll help you with all of the relevant information. They should have all the connections you’ll need in terms of international suppliers, and might even take care of the official documentation and paperwork for you.” This includes the marriage license, what papers you need to bring with you (like birth certificates or proof of any previous marriages/divorces) and a visa if required. Alternatively, if you don't want to deal with any legal hassles, you can get married in the courts at home, and then have a faux ceremony abroad for your family and friends.

Go With The Flow

You can't be in two places at once, which makes planning a wedding overseas a bit stressful at times. If you're the kind of person who likes to have everything properly organised well in advance, using a wedding planner may be the way to go. Even the most relaxed people can get rattled by planning an event like this from afar - it's totally understandable and one of the most normal reactions to the process. As Francesca says: “It’s not uncommon to get married abroad nowadays, so international wedding planners and coordinators are well equipped with the information you’ll need in order to tie the knot overseas. Also, being realistic helps. Unless you can frequently visit the country or spend an extensive amount of time there before your wedding, you’ll have to accept that you won’t be able to be as hands-on or in control as you would be if you were having a local wedding.”

Table DecorationsThink about hiring a wedding planner

Take Good Advice: One of the funniest things about getting married is how everybody in your greater circle of family and friends will suddenly feel the need to impart words of wisdom onto you, about every aspect of marriage: from planning a wedding, to maintaining good lines of communication after the Big Day, to mastering the art of a good 50th anniversary party. Some of the advice will be priceless, a bit of it will annoy you and most of it will get lost in the mess of things you're trying to remember at the time.

It's important to have a solid 'Go To' person when planning a wedding; an individual who is there to impart lasting words of advice and help you make decisions. Using a wedding planner or a wedding site, like hitched.co.uk, will mean getting the best advice available from people who deal with weddings every single day. Listen to what they (or your Go To person) says. Your aunties and family friends will bend your ear with pearls of wisdom long after the big day.

Ceremonial Details: Unless you are flying your personal, religious official over to conduct the ceremony, a wedding planner or the resort will help you with this crucial detail. If you're not opposed to the idea, you can always have a close friend or family member conduct the ceremony by getting ordained online. If you're not religious, this adds a really special, meaningful dynamic to the service and removes the unnecessary cost of hiring a priest.

Consider Your Luggage

”If you plan on travelling via plane to your destination wedding, then be aware of your luggage restrictions and weight allowances. You wouldn't want to order a huge ball gown wedding dress, only to find out that it takes up all of your baggage allowance.”

Wedding Dress
Consider weight of wedding gowns

Another point to consider is how to transport your dress and suit. You don't want to squash it all into a small bag for the sake of saving a few quid. “If you do however need to take extra luggage with you, there is always the option of paying for the extra weight allowance. Upgrading your tickets to a higher fair may also increase the amount of luggage you’re able to carry.” This could be extremely helpful if you're going on honeymoon right afterwards and need to bring a change of wardrobe.

Administrative logistics aren't the only thing you'll need to let go of when planning a destination wedding. “The weather may be a huge advantage to getting married abroad, but if you choose to travel during the rainy season then you may not have the beach wedding of your dreams. It would be advisable to check the historic weather trends during the month that you plan on getting married, just to be aware.” Even if you do get married during the warmest, sunniest season of the year, it could rain - and that's totally fine. You'll still have the best day of your life.

Enjoy It

Don't get too stressed out with the details. Organising any wedding, local or abroad, will get chaotic at times, but that's life...

Parting Words

I asked Francesca for one final piece of advice for couples who are considering having their wedding abroad:

“If you’re planning on getting married abroad then the best piece of advice that we could give would be to do thorough research; both to check that you have the correct paperwork, and to be confident that you’re arranging the marriage with a reputable company. It might be worth travelling over to your chosen destination and resort to make sure you’re happy with the way that your day will flow when it comes to doing it for real.”

I'd like to say a big Thank You to Francesca for taking the time to answer all my questions.

Last Updated: February 2013

Clayton Truscott

Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.