If planning a wedding abroad appeals to you, here’s our ultimate guide to destination weddings and everything you need to know about getting married abroad.

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Planning a Wedding Abroad: Everything You Need to Know

Whether you plan on beach wedding under the hot sun, or you’re simply after booking any destination wedding abroad because it’s cheaper, we’re here to help you plan your wedding abroad…

With the average wedding in the UK costing over £30,000, weddings abroad are coming in at a relatively cheap £6,500, making them the perfect choice for couples on a budget.

“Planning a wedding abroad was the perfect way to get everything we wanted without the added costs associated with a wedding at home,” says real bride, Lauren, who tied the knot in Jamaica. “We would recommend it to anyone looking to take the stress out of the big day.”

Wedding Abroad Checklist & Your Ultimate Guide to Planning a Destination Wedding

Hire a wedding planner abroad

The first thing you need when planning a wedding abroad to do is hire a wedding planner. Find out who organises weddings in your chosen destination and ask them about the different types of service they offer when, and talk about how much you have to spend before you start planning a wedding abroad.

Find out if they will handle all the legal elements for you. They should be able to liaise with local suppliers and get you the best deals. Ask for references and photos of their work. Many of the bigger hotels will have an events co-ordinator or wedding manager who will be able to help you too.

A good wedding planner will often have established relationships with local suppliers and can obtain better deals than if you go direct. Their advice on what is and isn’t possible will also help to make the whole process seamless and fun.

It may be tempting to try and organise your entire wedding with no outside help, which is often the right way to go for weddings based on home soil. But there’s often more paperwork and red tape to contend with when getting married in another country.

There’s also added paperwork. A Certificate of No Impediment must be provided and depending on the destination you choose; these documents may need to be translated before they are accepted.

Using a destination wedding planner will alleviate some of these headaches, and will ensure your day goes off without a hitch.

Visit your destination before your wedding abroad

Secondly, don’t even think about planning a wedding abroad until you have actually visited that destination. If your budget allows, make a preliminary visit to the place where you’re hoping to marry. Meet up with your wedding planner and visit the suggested ceremony and reception venues.

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It’s always a good idea to visit the location of where you’re getting married abroad before booking anything. Check out venues, talk to wedding suppliers and find out exactly what is possible within the time and budget you have.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take your own hairdresser and make-up artist with you, so find out who will be doing your hair and make-up on the day and ask for a trial if possible.

Book early for the best deal

The early bird certainly catches the worm when it comes to booking a wedding abroad. Taking care of venues, hotels and flights a long way before your planned date can save huge amounts, as hotels often increase rates according to demand.

Book through a reputable travel company

Booking through a reputable travel company often means you’re protected from unpredictable incidents. Alternative flights and, in some cases, accommodation can be found. Booking flights individually can leave you open to disappointment if the worst does happen.

Remember your essential documents

Couples should make sure they allow plenty of time to sort out the marriage paperwork, which can take between three to six months to complete, depending on the country.

There are several major documents that you need when planning a wedding abroad. In most cases you will need to present the following original documents on arrival:

  • Birth certificates
  • Valid 10-year passports
  • Affidavit/statutory declarations
  • Confirming single status
  • Decree Absolute (if you are divorced)
  • Previous spouse’s death certificate (if you are widowed)
  • Parental consent if you are under 18 (21 in some countries).

When you’re planning a wedding abroad you need to check the period of time you have to be present in the country before you can get married. Some countries require you to have visas, and it is your responsibility to get these.

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Most countries require the following legal documents for getting married abroad:

  • Passports
  • Full birth certificates showing both parents’ names
  • If divorced, original final divorce papers and if widowed, death certificate of former spouse
  • If bride/groom has changed their name(s), legal proof of the change
  • If marrying in a non-English speaking country then documents may need to be translated by an official translator and stamped with an apostille. In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can legalise documents for a small fee
  • Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (required by some countries) which can be obtained from a local department of foreign affairs, registrar or embassy in the chosen country
  • Some countries require UK legal documents to be stamped with an Apostille Stamp, which then make them legal documents in that country
  • Certificate of Single Status/Sworn Affidavit that you are free to marry

For the most up-to-date information contact the relevant embassy. In some countries you’ll also have to wait for the documents to be translated. Check with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for more information.

Try to avoid arriving a day before the wedding. Most countries require couples to be in the country for a certain number of days before they can get married and all differ.

Allow at least four days to visit the local Public Register Office if needed. This will also give you time to sort out any last-minute changes.

Remember wedding insurance for getting married abroad

Take out a specialist wedding insurance policy which covers your destination. Consider covering things like suppliers, cancellation because of poor weather and so on.

Why get wedding insurance? Because there’s always an element of risk when it comes to planning a wedding. Unforeseen circumstances can stop the ceremony going ahead, causing distress for the couple, not to mention thousands in lost deposits.

Wedding insurance protects you from any eventuality and will offer peace of mind if your destination is known for occasionally tumultuous weather conditions.

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Check that your wedding abroad is legal

Contact the relevant foreign embassy or consulate and check that getting married abroad will be legally recognised in Britain. Understand what documentation you need and take two spare copies of each one.

Book flights in your maiden name

Brides should remember to book airline tickets in their maiden name unless they change their name legally before they fly.

The check-in desk won’t accept you if you’ve given them a different surname than on your passport!

Talk to the airline and booking company

Most airlines will allow brides to bring their wedding dress as hand luggage, however brides would need to contact the airline directly prior to booking.

Also, while speaking to the airline – if family is travelling together – the whole party should ask for a group travel rate to save even more money.

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to upgrades for nearly-weds. Flight upgrades are rare, so if you’re looking for a luxurious flight, your only option is to pay for one.

Hotels on the other hand are more accommodating. Thailand and other destinations on the Indian Ocean are more likely to upgrade your room as standard, but check availability before your trip.

Look out for free wedding ceremonies abroad

Caribbean or North American resorts often offer a ‘free’ wedding ceremony, if couples stay for a certain number of nights or bring a certain number of guests.

Check and compare currencies

When choosing a destination for a wedding abroad , couples should check and compare currency exchange rates to save substantially on costs.

Couples should secure quotes from a selection of Forex companies to obtain the best rates to transfer money to their wedding provider and not forget that rates will usually vary, depending on the amount of money being transferred.

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Send save the dates for your wedding abroad

Couples should post ‘save the date’ cards well in advance of the date if they wish their guests to attend an overseas wedding. Because chances are, it’s going to cost your guests a bit more to travel to your wedding in another country.

The more notice given, the more likely friends and family will be able to fly over. Lots of notice also gives them plenty of time to start saving for the trip.

“To ensure the people that you want to come are available, you need to get moving on invitations fairly quickly,” advises Jo Adamek from TUI.

“You may not know the exact details, like the venue or date, but hopefully you have selected a month and destination. If this is the case, then send out your save the dates quickly.”

Check the weather for your wedding abroad

When choosing a wedding dress, brides should always have the weather of the country in mind at the particular time of year they plan to get married.

A heavy wedding dress on a tropical beach may make brides look uncomfortable and overheated in the photos.

Hurricane or rainy seasons may also not be the ideal time for an outdoor wedding, which is particularly true of the Caribbean and South East Asia.

When setting a date, check whether it falls in the hurricane, monsoon or very hot dry season. Prices for destination weddings can vary a great deal between low and high season.

Think about your wedding guests

Getting married in another country can save you up to £13,500 – that said, it’s often your guests who will shoulder the financial burden.

Consider the cost of the flights and the availability of accommodation – try not to leave your guests with a four or five-star hotel as their only option. Make sure you pick an area with a variety of hotel or apartment options, allowing your guests to pick an option they can afford.

The distance travelled is also an important factor. If you’re hoping to invite older relatives, a long flight may be difficult and make them less likely to attend. It may be worth discussing potential destinations with important attendees before booking anything, to avoid disappointment over the guest list when the big day comes.

Make your destination wedding easy and effortless for your guests from the moment they step off the plane to the moment they leave.

Will they need a hire car? Are there accommodation options for varying budgets and how tired will they be after the journey? Ask your family and friends how they feel about travelling before making any plans.

Embrace local customs with your wedding abroad

You’ve chosen where you’re getting married abroad so make the most of it and embrace some of the local customs.

Use red styling ideas in China as red is lucky, swap a traditional wedding cake for a croquembouche in France, decorate your hands in henna in India and kick off your ceremony in New Zealand with a traditional Maori dance.

Combine your wedding with your honeymoon

A destination wedding makes it easier to go straight from the ceremony to your honeymoon, without any waiting time in-between!

Many couples opt to go travelling immediately after a wedding instead of a traditional honeymoon, visiting multiple locations on a single trip, by either rail or plane. Combining your honeymoon with the ceremony can be a handy way of saving money on flights.

Do extra research for same-sex marriages abroad

Same-sex marriages require even more research, as not all countries will facilitate them. There are still many amazing options to choose from, with Argentina, Belgium, Finland, France, New Zealand, America, and many more.

A lot of couples know that they want to get married abroad but struggle to narrow down a specific country. From white sandy beaches to historic castles, the options available are endless.


Choosing Your Wedding Dress for a Wedding Abroad

When it comes to choosing a wedding dress for a wedding abroad, you need to think the climate you’re marrying in. If it’s a hot country, avoid heavy fabrics like satin.

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Lightweight chiffons and tulles will look amazing and keep you cool at the same time. Also consider how you will transport your wedding dress.

Most brides like to take it in the hold of the plane with them in case their luggage gets lost or delayed. The same goes for jewellery, and especially your wedding rings.


Flowers for a Destination Wedding

Artificial wedding flowers are always a good option but if you’re insistent on having real blooms, you should choose flowers that grow locally and avoid anything imported. Not only will you get fresher, better flowers but you’re also likely to save money.

TUI’s Jo Adamek suggests bright shades that hold their own in strong sunlight, such as pink and orange. Yellow is also good and can look wonderfully fresh against a deep blue sea and sky.


What is a Certificate of No Impediment?

A Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) is a legal document that non-commonwealth countries require to prove you and your partner are able to marry. If your CNI is issued in Scotland it will only last for 3 months after it’s been sent out.


What’s the cost of getting married abroad?

In a survey carried out by Mintel, the average cost of having a wedding abroad is £6,585.

While research from foreign exchange experts, Currencies Direct, revealed that the average wedding abroad now costs around £7,000, including the ceremony, photography, overseas reception and a honeymoon stay.

Of the most popular destinations for overseas weddings, South Africa – with the opportunity to get hitched on Table Mountain or even in a game reserve – offers the best value with the British pound up 35% against their local currency. Just behind is the home of the barefoot beach weddings, Bali, followed by sunny Australia, Thailand and Mauritius.

Money-saving tips for getting married abroad

  • If there’s a quite a few in your wedding party, you might get a better rate for your spending money if you agree to buy your currency together, and in advance. A specialist exchange company will give you a better rate than your high street bank.
  • Get costs from your suppliers in the local currency, and pay them in the local currency – this will give you a much better exchange rate than one set by the hotel or wedding venue on the ground!
  • If you’re looking to spend big and have several suppliers to pay, it can be better value to set up a local account and transfer the money over in a single lump sum using a specialist foreign exchange broker. This means you’ll get the best rate, minimise commission and fees, and avoid losing out on multiple transfers.
  • If you do need to make multiple overseas payments, make sure you do it online through a currency specialist. You’ll generally avoid fees that way.
  • Unless you spontaneously elope, you’re probably not going to get married for several months at least. Look at getting a Forward contract – a ‘buy now, pay later’ transaction, where you lock in the current rate for a future purchase in the next 12 months, or a Limit order.

And according to Debenhams Personal Finance‘s brilliant ‘Brit’s Guide to Getting Married Abroad’ infographic, one in six couples now choose to get married abroad, potentially saving up to £10,000 by choosing to marry abroad.

Planning a Wedding Abroad: Everything You Need to Know about Getting Married Abroad

Couples loved the guaranteed good weather of a destination wedding and the fact that the wedding and honeymoon can be rolled into one.

Free Weddings Abroad

Some hotel chains offer ‘free’ weddings if you stay for a certain number of nights, or bring a certain number of guests – this is especially common in the Caribbean. If you have more than 15 guests staying at a hotel, you may qualify as a group and receive a free room or other discount – just ask the resort or your tour operator when you make the booking.

Choose an out of Season Wedding Abroad

Consider getting married out of season. If you exchange vows between November and March, prices are lower in the northern hemisphere, and you can still have an amazing wedding, (one exception to this is in ski resorts, where it’s high season).

Get Married on a Public Beach

Pare down your ceremony – a wedding on a public beach with a BBQ reception will cost less than a five-star chateau with a sit-down meal.

Avoid Translation Costs

Choose a country where the paperwork is easy and you won’t incur translation or solicitor costs, so stick to English-speaking countries, or ones where English is an official language.

Cheap Wedding Destinations

  • Las Vegas
  • Florida
  • Most Caribbean countries
  • Canada
  • Gibraltar
  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • Australia

How much does it cost to be a wedding guest abroad?

However, it’s not such good news for wedding guests, who will have to fork out around £2,000 in order to join in the celebrations abroad.


Planning a Wedding Abroad: Q&A with TUI’s Wedding Editor, Jo Sharples

When I book a wedding with TUI, what happens when we arrive?

You’ll meet with your weddings advisor. They’ll be on hand to take care of every little detail, so your big day runs without a hitch. They’ll check through your documents, run through the ceremony and sort out any extras like music and transport.

Will our wedding abroad be legally recognised in the UK?

Yes. All Thomson weddings are carried out by official marriage officers in line with British law and are registered in the country where the ceremony takes place. If you want to have your marriage recorded in the UK, you can lodge your original marriage certificate with the General Register Office.

But do your research. Every country has its own laws on wedding ceremonies, some require a lot of paperwork, others require you to be a resident in the country for a certain amount of time, and in some countries you will only be able to have a blessing.

Who will marry us abroad?

The ceremony is usually a civil service led by a local registrar with two witnesses. In Cyprus we also offer church weddings which are Anglican services carried out by an English minister.

What else do I need to remember for my wedding abroad?

Requirements for legal documents are subject to change. This can happen at short notice and means you may have to pay extra.

Make sure you check all your documents for mistakes – such as misspelt names – as this can lead to cancellation of your wedding.


Getting Married Abroad: The pros and cons

Rather than inviting everyone you’ve ever met, getting married abroad tends to be more about intimate celebrations – less guests means less money. However, you may face the problem of disappointment from family or friends being unable to afford, or take the time off to come abroad.

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Generally, getting married abroad is cheaper than the average British wedding. Most oversea wedding plans are done with set-priced packages meaning less scope for overspending. Celebrating in an unusual or exotic location will certainly make it a wedding to remember. And at a cheaper price – why not?

Also, letting trusted travel companies take on the time and effort to organise your wedding to the way you want it, gives you time to relax and focus on dress shopping or honeymoon plans. No one wants that wedding preparation stress.

Although, the idea of your own wedding in someone else’s hands, other than yours, can be a worrying experience, some brides take on all the work themselves. This should not be for the faint-hearted, though! Problems can arise from the distance and language barriers between you and the suppliers, organisation and thorough research is necessary.

The down side to getting married abroad

Disadvantages of tying the knot outside the UK included not being able to invite everyone the couple wanted to, due to budget constraints and having less control over the planning as it’s not as easy to visit the venue.

With the unpredictable English weather, getting married abroad has always been a popular choice. Whether you and your h2b are sun-chasers, adventure-junkies or just want to get away for your wedding day, make sure you avoid these planning mistakes…

9 Common Mistakes When Getting Married Abroad

Over-inviting

Your best bet is to think not about all the people you could invite to your wedding abroad but instead, the people you just couldn’t imagine not being there.

You might end up having to pay towards their travel or accommodation, so when it comes to a wedding abroad, you are better shortening the guest list as much as you can! Remember to send them out in plenty of time, too.

“Invite the people you want to share your wedding day with, rather than the people you feel you have to,” says TUI’s Jo. “You can always hold a drinks and nibbles party for everyone when you get home.”

Thinking everyone will come

You’ve got to remember that travelling abroad for a wedding, isn’t the same as going to a wedding that’s down the road from you. People may not be able to come.

It’s not because they don’t love you, but rather issues of time, money and maybe even babysitting may arise. Don’t be disheartened! If getting married abroad is what you want to do, why not consider a little after-party for the guests who couldn’t make it?

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Dismissing the legalities

It might not be the most amazing part of your wedding planning, but the legalities of the place where you’re getting married are important to consider.

Can the marriage be made official there? Can a wedding even be held at your dream venue? Make sure you do your research! Or better still, ask a local planner to help you.

Not organising your packing

Be organised with what you take away with you, and think ahead to what you might be taking back. Edit your gift list and favour ideas to be suitable for suitcase travel, without going over your baggage allowance – or consider buying your favours there. Or what about personalising pebbles from the beach?

Going for an unsuitable wedding dress

When it comes to a wedding dress for a celebration abroad, you need something light, something manageable, and something suited to the climate.

A boho look is ideal for a beachy big day, have a look at some more dresses perfect for the bride abroad here. And remember to think of your bridesmaids, too!

Picking the wrong wedding shoes

Heels are most likely another sacrifice you need to make. You want to be able to walk down the aisle without getting your shoes stuck in the sand after all.

Go for some pretty pumps or sparkly sandals to make a really nice beachy bridal look, which you can easily walk and dance in.

Forgetting about the heat

Make sure you think about timing for your wedding if you’re in a hot place. Avoid the unbearable midday sun and get hitched around 5pm – that way you’ll only have to feed everyone once, too, cutting down on your overall bill.

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Choosing the wrong food

You’ve got to think about the heat again when it comes to your food and drink, including your wedding cake. You don’t want to spend a fortune on three beautifully iced tiers only for it to melt before you get the chance to cut it!

Make sure you and your guests keep hydrated, too – perhaps consider serving a non-alcoholic beverage to start with at the drinks reception.

Not making the most of it

Don’t think you have to fly in, get hitched and fly straight back out again. Why not make the most of your gorgeous surroundings and stay on for your honeymoon?

Ideally, you could book two weeks away and get married in the middle of the holiday. That way, you’ll get the chance to pick up a nice tan for the photos beforehand, and a few days of relaxation after the confetti has settled.

Don’t forget the holiday extras

Apart from settling the balance of the actual wedding abroad, couples shouldn’t forget the ‘little extras’ that need to be budgeted for in the UK, such as travel and wedding insurance, getting documents translated (if required), and getting the correct documents legalised.

Essential Travel Apps for Planning Your Wedding Abroad

TransferWise

The international money transfer platform that cuts the cost of paying suppliers and venues abroad by 89% is a no-brainer. On a £8,000 you could save around £360 – easily enough to pay for those wedding flowers.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner is the flight compare site that allows you to see the cheapest times in the year to travel. Plus, it helps you spot a deal by comparing hundreds of flights to find you the cheapest there is!

Airbnb

Ditch the hotel and rent out a real local’s house for your bridal party! Not only could it save you hundreds, it’ll me a much more authentic way to enjoy your big day.

Wedding Dress Studio

Save time by trying on hundreds of dresses from the comfort of your sofa. The app allows you to find the best shape and style for you – perfect!

Appy Couple

This is the app that helps you to organise your entire wedding. By downloading this app, your wedding guests can RSVP, find out travel info, upload photos, chat, and MORE.

iTranslate

Don’t start talking to suppliers abroad without this app being on your phone or iPad. It translates speech and text, and gives a few possible results depending on the context just to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!

Spotify

Spotify is a great way to stick to a budget, cutting the cost of a DJ altogether by making a wedding playlist yourself. You could even suggest your guests add songs to the playlist that remind them of you for a nice, personal touch.

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Jennifer Read-Dominguez is the Digital Editor of Wedding Ideas magazine, heading up the website and covering all things lifestyle and beauty – from the best hen weekend destinations and luxury honeymoon hotspots, to the perfect hair extensions for your wedding day. When not on her soapbox about her home renovations and commuting troubles, she's known around the office for her love of Millwall FC and MasterChef. Despite telling the world she was about to get engaged underneath a spectacular show of the Northern Lights in Finland last year, Jennifer is still waiting for her boyfriend Ashton to propose...