Nearly one in four couples now have a destination wedding abroad. But there are a whole host of practicalities to consider before simply jetting off somewhere exotic and saying ‘I do’.
From the legalities and visas to stowing your wedding dress on the plane, Lucy McGuire shares her ten essential tips for getting married overseas.
1. Check it’s legal
Marriage laws vary between countries, so find out if it’s legal to get married in the country of your choice and if it will be valid in your local and international law.
France for example, requires 40 days’ residency before you can legally marry there and your ceremony must take place 10 days after your marriage banns. Other countries have no residency requirements. Laws for same-sex marriages vary again, so check with foreign embassies first.
If you’re set on a destination but the laws won’t allow it, consider a quick registry office wedding in your hometown, then hold a blessing overseas.
2. Decide on tailor-made or one-size-fits all
Once you’ve picked your wedding destination, decide whether you want a wedding package, or if you’d like to tailor-make your day independently or through a wedding planner.
Many travel companies offer a ‘menu’ of wedding packages held within a hotel resort. They’ll often have a wedding planner on speed-dial and they’ll manage every detail of the day – handy if you have lots of guests.
For a more personalised set-up, research local wedding planners to find out what they can offer and check out their reviews and photos of past weddings they’ve done before you commit.
3. Use your wedding planner
If you decide to use a wedding planner, make sure you get the most from them. They should be your local expert on the ground, suggesting beautiful locations to tie the knot, secure the marriage officer or registrar and sort all the logistics surrounding your big day.
Negotiate a fee that works for you and tap into their expertise on the best hotels, local vendors, photographers, musicians, and venues. Keep in regular contact and schedule at least one call or Skype chat before your big day.
4. Pick the right time of year
National holidays and festivals can affect the demand on flights and accommodation. So expect to pay more during busy times.
Try to plan your wedding just outside of peak periods. You’ll have more choice for your wedding date and you’ll stand a better chance of a flight upgrade. Hotels, restaurants and local attractions will be quieter too.
5. Consider the weather
While September may be a beautiful time to marry in Santoríni, it’s monsoon season in parts of the Caribbean and the Far East. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, choosing the right season could be the difference between a sun-kissed paradise and a hurricane disaster. Make sure to have a contingency plan in case of downpours.
6. Check flight times
Check which days the key airlines fly to your wedding destination and leave at least 48 hours between the day you land and the date of your wedding day. Even if there’s no legal waiting period, this should give you enough time to get over any jet lag and discuss final details at your location.
7. Check your baggage fee with your airline
Most airlines allow you to take your wedding dress onboard a flight as hand luggage but it will most likely be at an extra cost. Contact your airline in advance to check this and buy a good quality dress bag that can be hung or folded. If you have to check your wedding dress in, pack it up securely in a box and mark it as fragile.
8. Keep a checklist of legal documents
Check all the legal documents you're going to need for your wedding overseas. Some countries require a certificate of no impediment (CNI) from your local register office as proof of your single status and all will most likely need a copy of your birth certificate.
Check visa requirements well in advance, too, and don't forget to make sure you have six months left on your passport.
9. Buy wedding insurance
It’s important to take out extra wedding travel insurance that covers your wedding dress, rings or gifts in the unlikely event they are lost or stolen. Always check the small print for the value you are covered up to and the details on excess payments.
10. Tie in your honeymoon
Try and plan your wedding so that you have enough time to relax and enjoy your honeymoon. You could go island hopping, escape to a retreat or mix safari and city.
Either way, see your destination wedding as a stepping-stone to your honeymoon travels. You’ll get your money’s worth and it’s the chance to enjoy the trip of a lifetime. We've compiled a list of top honeymoon destinations and collected ten essential planning tips to get you started.