If planning a wedding abroad appeals to you, here’s our ultimate guide to destination weddings, trends and everything you need to know about getting married abroad.
Planning a Wedding Abroad: Everything You Need to Know
Whether you plan on beach wedding in the 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.
2023 Trends of Couples Choosing to Wed Abroad, According to Wedinspire
Peak Wedding Season Snubbed
Deemed the most desirable time to get married- June, July and August have notoriously been labelled peak wedding season, hence the most expensive dates to obtain. However, wedding date popularity has shifted entirely, leaving romanticised wedding months such as June and July off the top-lists, making way for September and May- the most desired months to wed in 2023/2024. Potentially another fingers up to tradition for those planning to wed abroad but notably couples are aware of the financial gain of excluding past-tense ‘desirable’ wedding dates.
Intimacy is Prioritised In Abroad Weddings
Extensive destination wedding guestlists don’t have the same appeal as a refined collection of close family and friends coming together to celebrate upcoming nuptials.
At the start of 2023, there was a 20% increase in couples inviting less than 50 guests compared to the previous year, a huge shift in wedding requirements when you also consider the 10% drop in weddings of over 150 guests. Intimate, micro-celebrations are the foundation of many couples planning to wed abroad.
Wedding Budgets are Increasing
Less Couples are Choosing to Book a Church Wedding
More than 80% of couples admitted that they do not wish to say I do in a religious institution such as a church for their upcoming destination wedding. The most popular locations for couples wanting to tie the knot are sunshine destinations such as the Cyclades and the scenic Italian region of Tuscany.
An Abroad Wedding is the Event of a Lifetime
Bigger budgets are helping to finance extended getaways, with the majority of modern couples now opting to stretch their nuptials over more than just one day. Over 70% of couples say they plan to celebrate their wedding across a whole weekend, while others are opting for a three or even five-day event.
Splashing out on a private wedding villa is certainly in high demand but couples want more, not just for their big day but for their wedding stay, opting for new and exciting experiences to enjoy with their guests, from wine tasting and cooking classes to water sports and adrenaline high activities.
Best Abroad Wedding Venues for 2023 and 2024
From exclusivity to trending locations and experiences guests will never forget, here’s our top picks of desirable wedding venues for 2023/24.
Nobu Hotel Santorini, Greece
Bursting with Cycladic charm, the tranquil all-suites resort of Nobu Santorini is off-the-beaten path, luxury in what is one of the most popular Greek islands. With uninterrupted coastal views and all the luxuries of five-star living, the newly opened Nobu Hotel offers a relaxed vibe for wedding day bliss. White-washed walls compete against striking turquoise waters, while a stunning dual-level infinity-pool looks out over the glistening Caldera.
Finca La Gloria, Spain
Focusing on an ethical foundation, the unique Finca La Gloria morphs nature, culture and conscious living together, providing a peaceful retreat for the ultimate feel-good wedding celebration. Say your vows amongst unimaginable landscapes of tropical trees and blossoming nature then celebrate alfresco style, incorporating long dressed tables lined with your hand-picked guest list. Further activities can be arranged onsite, from yoga and meditation to Bonsai workshops.
Tonnara di Scopello, Italy
Originally an ancient fishing village, La Tonnara di Scopello is full of Mediterranean charm, amazing crystal-clear water right on the Sicilian coastline nestled in its own private bay in Palermo, Sicily, while rich in history, culture and traditions. Perfect for weddings up to 250 guests there are ample spaces to use for your wedding, beautiful courtyards of the sea front terrace, then party into the night under the stars and early hours in the underground cave with the waves lapping in the background.
Wedding Abroad Checklist
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.
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).
- Covid vaccination status
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.
Most Countries Require the Following Legal Documents for Getting Married Abroad:
- 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
- COVID vaccination status
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.
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!
Check if you can you Take your Wedding Dress as Hand Luggage – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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 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!
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!
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.
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 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.
- The Essential Packing List for Your Honeymoon or Wedding Abroad
- 25 Beautiful Beach Bags For Your Honeymoon and Beyond
- 10 of the Most Instagrammable Wedding Venues for the Ultimate Destination Wedding