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Picture shows a small pale brick church like structure in the grounds of a Greek hotel, with a white awning above it and a read carpet with rows of white covered chairs facing a white clothed table. Confetti has been thrown all over the red carpet

Planning a destination wedding or elopement? What you need to know

Whether you are thinking about eloping, or have always wanted to have your dream beach wedding somewhere exotic, there are hard and fast things you need to know about planning a wedding abroad. Think you already know everything you need to about how to plan a destination wedding? Then read on…

Research, research, research - it's the key!

There is so much more to consider than just what is the best time of year for your preferred destination. My top tip is to get acquainted with local rules and regulations around marriage, both here and at your destination country. Check with the home office website to find out how legal your wedding might be in the UK and make plans to legalise it. Don't forget that rules change, and your travel firm may not keep you appraised on how any changes might affect you.
Make sure you know what you can take as hand luggage and what has to be stowed. If you're thinking you can just take your cake (yes this can happen) or real flowers out to your destination, then make sure you're allowed to do so (you could always take fake flowers instead if you can't get what you need at destination). You really don't want these things taken from you at customs. And the repercussions of trying to take elicit substances into another country can be huge, and no that doesn't just mean drugs. Australia especially has hugely restrictive rules around animal, seeds and food products arriving at its borders and takes serious issue with protecting their own wildlife and indigenous plants/crops.

Passports and visas need to be checked well in advance for any holiday and if you want to change to your married name and travel on a new passport, again you need to start planning this well ahead of time. For peak travel season, the recommendation is to start proceedings a good 6 months ahead and you'll generally need at least 6 months left on your passport after your intended return date, but this might change at any time. The better prepared you are, the safer!

Who can help with your destination wedding planning?

Well aside from me of course! Find a local wedding planner with connections to other local wedding suppliers at your destination; especially if you're doing a bespoke wedding rather than a ready-made package. These awesome folks will help you pull together everything you're looking for and will likely speak the local language so can help with any 'lost in translation' issues before they arise. I can make recommendations in this regard (see below).

If you're going for the easy version of the hotel all-in-one wedding package, then be prepared for the potential restrictions/ease (depending on your point of view) of using only those suppliers that they tell you are 'included'. Much like some venues over here, many hotels especially will offer you everything to make it easy for you to turn up with your outfits and just say your vows, however you might not like or want everything they usually do. Do your research, and if you really don't mind, then go for it. Again, use your local contact to help you make the best decision but ask for details, same as you would if you were getting married at home.

Be aware though

Some really popular destination wedding venues will not allow you to use your own photographer from home (I know, weird right?). Bear in mind the location and rules around working abroad, if you're still happy to pay for any extra costs associated with tax law/employment law in that country, then go for it. Just beware trying to sneak your professional in as a guest, it could get you into a lot of trouble. Local knowledge of the area for photographs is great but so is being able to work with the person you're presented with; ask for their links and credentials, and if you really don't like what they offer you may need to find an alternate venue.

Travel Early

You'll want to get there a day or so before your wedding day, to give yourself some time for all the final prep and to confirm everything is as you want it, including allowing time for steaming or letting your dress drop any creases. Be sure to plan and write your wedding invites accordingly. If your destination only has one flight a week, you and your guests will all arrive together, which can be great, but if you're trying to host your wedding guests for the whole time it'll get exhausting. Set the ground rules before you fly out - I advise things like suggesting activities that your guests can get up to while you're finalising the details of your wedding (again research the destination) and meet up with them at set times. Let them know you'll be busy. Same after the wedding, you might not want to be around your weding guests the whole time, so plan to let them know when you'll be catching up with them. You might also want to stay on an extra week or few days longer than them so you can really enjoy your honeymoon.

Get wedding And travel insurance

Normal travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for loss of things like your wedding dress or suit/s. If adverse weather means your beach wedding is out and you need to hire an indoor venue, then you need to have insurance in place for the extra cost. Make sure your wedding rings (if you're having any) are covered, and think about how you're transporting them. It's better to have insurance and not need it, than to need it but not have it. If you're transporting other wedding items like decorations or equipment, you need to make sure you're covered for all eventualities, including damage and replacement.

Elopement versus destination wedding

Either way you're planning a wedding possibly in another country where things are likely to be very different to what you're used to. That said there are many great reasons for opting for getting married in a foreign country. For starters, any sort of travel and associated costs will keep wedding guest numbers down, and will help if you're looking for a way to do a much more intimate wedding. Not telling anyone before you elope may be tempting but expect some resistance and upset, if you still want to go for it, you have lots more options available than just a Las Vegas Little White Wedding Chapel do (you could get Married in Manhattan instead), so talk to a good knowledgeable travel agent (I love Travel Counsellors, they're awesome folk).

Far flung destinations are not necessarily the cheap alternative to a 'big' wedding in the UK. Everything is about perspective though, so know your budget. If you're not happy with what your £20000 wedding budget can get you in the UK, then a beach can go a long way to make up for it!

Whatever you decide: plan, get advice, do your research and have a fantastic time. X