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Guide To International Weddings

Cheaper prices and the certainty of better weather are encouraging more and more couples to tie the knot abroad.

It’s not surprising that overseas weddings are increasing in popularity, with numerous hotels offering complete packages at least £10,000 cheaper than the average ceremony in the UK.

Surveys show that the top five most popular countries for British couples getting married are the USA, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and France, but many opt for exotic destinations such as the Maldives and Caribbean.

Why marry abroad?

Cheaper for the couple

Key reasons why people marry abroad are the savings on the budget, guaranteed sunshine and the opportunity to combine wedding and honeymoon. While overseas ceremonies are often cheaper for the couple, they are far more costly for the guests.

Some couples don’t want a big UK wedding and want the minimum of fuss.

First step before booking a package is to think about where you would like to get married and find out the legal requirements and documentation needed for your chosen destination – embassies will help you. If you want guaranteed sunshine, check what the weather will be like around your selected date.

Who pays for what?

Work out your budget including the legal fees, hotel wedding package, flights and accommodation. Talk to the people you would most like to attend. Giving plenty of notice of the wedding date enables your guests to plan ahead. When you invite guests, make it clear if they are paying for travel and accommodation. As in the UK, the couple will usually pay for the reception but, depending on your budget, you could meet the costs for key members of the bridal party. You will be able to choose the right wedding package and book it once you have an idea of guest numbers.

If you are booking well in advance, you may decide to visit the area and hotel/venue. Many hotels abroad have on-site wedding planners who can help find extra suppliers if they aren’t included in the package and help co-ordinate on the day.

It is wise to hire a local wedding planner who can speak English if you aren’t marrying in a hotel or resort. You may also need to have some documents translated into the local language. Check that your passports are up to date and that the destination country doesn’t require you to have at least six months left on your passport before expiry. Fulfill the legal requirements by the deadline given and consider taking out wedding insurance.

Why marry abroad?

Vital paperwork needed

Most countries require the following paperwork:

  • passports
  • full birth certificates showing parents names
  • if divorced, the original final divorce papers, or if widowed, death certificate of former spouse
  • legal proof of any change of name
  • some countries require a ‘Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage’, which can be obtained from a local department of foreign affairs, registrar or embassy in the country where the marriage takes place
  • some countries require UK legal documents to be stamped with an ‘apostille’ stamp that makes them legal in the country where the marriage takes place. In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can legalise documents for a small fee.
  • certificate of single status/sworn affidavit that you are free to marry
  • an adoption certificate, if you’re adopted.

In the early stages of preparation, establish email contact with your wedding planner. As guests reply, help them as much as possible with travel and accommodation plans. Hopefully, the hotel/venue can help with a list of places to stay aimed at all budgets. If the whole family is travelling together on the flight to the wedding, ask the airline for a group travel rate to save money.

Why marry abroad?

Fit the size restrictions

Check what your wedding package includes and plan what you would like to take on the flight yourself, such as the cake and favours.

Speak to the airline and organise how everything is going to be transported. Most airlines will allow your wedding dress or mother of the bride/groom outfit to be taken on the plane as hand luggage but it needs to meet the airline’s size restrictions.

Outfits can be carried in breathable suit bags along with hatboxes – again, check size restrictions. Hopefully, during the hunt for your wedding gown you took into account that lots of layers can be very hot in overseas temperatures. However, ceremonies are usually held in the cool of the day.

If you do have a dress with volumes of layers, you could ask for cabin space and, in some cases, brides have bought an additional airline seat.

Start organising your honeymoon, such as car hire and additional flights, if you aren’t staying on at the wedding destination. Get any vaccinations done about two months before your wedding.

Why marry abroad?

Pack your dress well for travelling

The bridal shop will pack your wedding dress in a sturdy, protective box in acid-free tissue paper to minimise creasing. Don’t pack the dress with anything else. Take your dress out once you get there; hang it somewhere safe and fluff up any layers. If you have any concerns, the hotel will usually offer a pressing service.

For many couples, getting married abroad is the opportunity to do something completely different, and when vows are exchanged in the sunshine with a view of a sandy beach or mountains, it is worth going the extra mile.

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