Key advice for getting married abroad
Home weddings, with all their family politics and high guest numbers, can sometimes feel really overwhelming to some brides and grooms. Destination weddings, on the other hand, are often the perfect alternative to what would otherwise be a stressful experience for this kind of couples.
Getting married abroad is usually the choice of brides and grooms that are focused more on gifting their friends and families with a fun experience abroad, than solely on the wedding day. They choose charming landscapes and different cultures because they love traveling and they know their family and friends love it too. In some cases, it’s the perfect compromise between a big home wedding and an elopement. Intimate, fun and relaxed are more often than not the three words that our clients use to describe their destination wedding.
As informal as their destination wedding weekend will be, however, there are still a few things destination couples should bear in mind to ensure that the experience is as enjoyable as possible.
In this post we’re sharing with you our UKAWP destination planners’ insights – years of experience condensed in a few pearls of wisdom.
What is a common task/thing that couples forget with destination weddings?
We’ve all heard brides and grooms telling us: “We want to get married in a mediterranean country because we want guaranteed sunshine.” If we could control the sun, wedding planners would probably charge the moon! 🙂
As French destination wedding planner Fabienne of Elian Concept Weddings & Events reminds us, the weather just cannot be guaranteed. Here’s her advice:
“One thing many destination couples forget about it making a back up plan! Couples often overlook the possibility that the weather may not be as perfect as they wish. It may sound paradoxical, as many choose France for its sunny climate, but even in the most Southern part of France, it can and it does rain, even during the summer months. It’s good to check average statistics before deciding on a location, but they will be of no use on the one and only wedding day, and unfortunately weather is one thing that cannot be controlled. So it is wise to take no chance and ensure that the outdoor ceremony, alfresco drink reception or dinner under the stars is not going to be spoiled by the vagary of the weather. My main recommendations would be to choose a venue that can accommodate guests inside at the last minute if necessary, or that has the space to set up a marquee on their grounds. In regions where rain is more likely (Western and Northern parts of France) and for spring or autumn weddings, have plenty of umbrellas and don’t risk with an outdoor dinner.”
Steering away from the unpredictability of the weather, on another practical note, there is one thing our Italian destination wedding planner Elisabetta of Elisabetta White Events believes catches everyone off guard: fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. No one likes to talk about money, but “very often couples forget that fluctuations in exchange rates can really affect the amount of money at their disposal, particularly when they start planning quite early,” Elisabetta says. “Keeping track of how the budget is being allocated and spent, including when you’re spending in a foreign currency, is crucial. Another expense that is often overlooked is bank charges for foreign payments. Some banks charge quite a lot, so do set aside a little allowance for payment charges and various admin costs.”
Should you pay for guests flights and accommodation?
One of the most popular conundrums of destination weddings – should we or shouldn’t we cover our guests’ travel expenses?
Michelle of Elegante by Michelle J , planner of UK weddings and an luxury destination weddings in Italy, says:
“Typically I find that my clients don’t do this, but I always ask them to consider how disappointed they would be if certain guests might not be able to attend due to the cost. If this is going to be an issue, then either they need to offer to pay, or re-consider if a destination wedding is right for them.”
Yes, you’ve read that right: you may need to reconsider your options. Don’t forget that any guests with children in school age will not be able to attend your wedding unless you do it during school holidays. And, of course, with that being the case, the cost of your travel will go right up too, as school holidays are usually in high season. Equally, bear in mind that if you choose to have a child-free wedding, some of your guests might not be able to arrange childcare for 2 to 3 nights. If the presence of certain guests is essential to you, and getting married abroad makes it impossible for them to attend, don’t overlook this aspect.
On the other hand, Elisabetta White Events, whose weddings tend to be more for the adventurous and relaxed bride and grooms, finds that “with destination weddings becoming more and more popular, they’ve become a welcome excuse for a break, so guests are often happy to cover for their own travel costs. Some B&Gs pay for their immediate family and closest friends. However, the key is to make sure that you are giving them as much as notice as possible. As a guest there is nothing worse than being invited to a wedding abroad during high season, to then find out that the cost of travel is more than what you’ll be able to afford.”
On a similar note, should you arrange entertainment before and after the wedding day?
Michelle of Elegante by Michelle J raises a very good point: “I always ask my clients to remember that it’s a big “ask” when you invite people to attend a destination wedding, in terms of both cost and time. So it’s really important that they ensure that their guests have an amazing experience. With that in mind I always suggest that other wedding weekend hospitality is planned, i.e. a welcome party and/or a post wedding lunch.”
But don’t feel the pressure to pay for everything. Everyone needs to eat, of course, and most probably your guests thought about having a meal together somewhere, so no one is expecting you to pay for their meals beyond the wedding day itself. If budget doesn’t stretch, you can always take on the organisation of either a lovely dinner in a local restaurant, or a relaxed bbq or buffet style reception at your venue. The key is to keep it simple and pressure-free, and ideally not extortionately expensive, so that everyone feels comfortable with paying for it. In mediterranean countries, for instance, a pizza party can start from €25 pp and a meat BBQ from €45. If you feel your guests would be comfortable with this sort of figures, that it is okay to ask them to contribute towards it.
The main thing is to keep your guests together and organise experiences that you know they’ll all enjoy, whether you’re paying for it or not.
Should you send paper invitations or evites?
Wedding planners are a bit biased when it comes to this topic. The truth is – we love paper stationery because we feel it brings out your theme / style beautifully, and of course we love pictures of your wedding details.
That aside, there is another reason why Italian wedding planner Elisabetta White Events believes paper invites are a must:
“When you are asking your guests to get on a plane and pay to come to another part of the world for your wedding, you want to make sure you’re setting the right expectations. A beautifully thought out, quality paper invitation is the perfect way to do just that. It tells your guests it’s going to be a magical weekend, where you will truly take care of them. Unless you are going the eco-friendly route, in which case email or online invitations are totally justified, e-vites can come across as: ‘We’re trying to save money’, which to a guest who’s about to spend quite a lot of money to come to your wedding, can feel a bit… cheap (if you’ll allow me to say). If you need to save money, I’d recommend you tweak the rest of the stationery order, by perhaps printing just two to three menus per table, rather than one per person, or choosing an off the peg stationery suite from websites like Minted, which will no doubt save you some money when compared to a bespoke route.”
Is it cheaper to fly in UK suppliers compared to local ones?
We’re sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is yes and, you guessed it… no. At times it is, at times it isn’t.
Here’s is the deal: there are times when photographers, regardless of calibre, want to build portfolio in certain countries. For that reason they make themselves available to a planner for a reduced rate (or choose to include their travel in their fee). Is it fair on the local suppliers? It depends. We believe that slashing prices is unfair on the competition and we support photographers and suppliers that charge their worth, so we always try to encourage them to tweak the service rather than discounting their prices. For instance, instead of a 10 hours package, a photographer might choose to reduce the number of hours and therefore the number of images being delivered, so that they can slightly reduce the cost. In some cases a photographer might choose to reduce the cost of the service by removing the pre-wedding shoot with the couple. When this happens, you can at times find that bringing a supplier in from the UK or whatever country you are in, works out cheaper.
The key is: you need to pick a supplier not just based on budget, but on affinity too. Sometimes it’s worth going the extra mile for the right supplier, be it local or international, because you feel perfectly aligned on budget, personality and style.
The location of your wedding will also impact the answer to this question. Fabienne of Elian Concept Weddings & Events, who specialises in destination weddings in France, feels that it isn’t necessarily cheaper to fly UK suppliers over to France. She says:
“Some couples may do so because a service they are strongly keen on is not available in France, or is not to the standard they are looking for. The other reason could be that they particularly like the style of a photographer or a band. But I wouldn’t see this is as a cost saving exercise.”
How do you handle time differences / language barriers?
We know this might sound an obvious answer from us, but as Fabienne says, “the most effective way to handle language barriers is to work with a bilingual wedding planner.” It doesn’t matter if the planner is based in the UK or in the destination country – it is a matter of choice, “but ensuring that nothing is lost in translation during the planning and on the day is essential.”
Elisabetta White Events offers some advice if you’re not able to hire a wedding planner:
“Bear this in mind: a destination wedding requires you to keep a flexible and open attitude to difference of traditions, habits and language. For instance, Southern Mediterranean countries tend to be fairly laid back, so expecting immediate answers to your emails is probably the quickest way to get frustrated and disappointed. However, do remember that you’re spending quite a bit of money and you’re making big decisions, so when you receive emails or contracts that you don’t understand, you should not ignore it. Ask for clarification, and if you realise that the supplier’s English just isn’t good enough for you to liaise with them with ease and peace of mind, consider changing supplier. The last thing you want is turning up on your wedding day and realise they’ve completely misunderstood your requests.”
We hope this is useful! If you need more advice on your destination wedding or are considering hiring a destination wedding planner, visit our Destination Directory here: or get in touch with any of the planners mentioned above.
With thanks to:
- French destination wedding planner Elian Concept Weddings & Events
- Italian destination wedding planner Elisabetta White Events
- UK and Italy destination wedding planner Elegante by Michelle J Ritzy Events
Feature image by Nora Photography