As my wedding day hurtles closer (20 days to be precise) and with most details now finalised, I find myself in a reflective mood.
What began as a small, casual wedding has become something rather different. Setting out on the rocky road of wedding planning, I was naive, some may say a little blasé about the whole affair. “I don’t want a big wedding, just sunshine, good food and my closest friends,” were words I definitely remember uttering. Fast forward to last week, however, as I knocked back champagne and deliberated over what scents to combine for my bridal perfume (uh huh) and my former self was no where to be seen. Oh how differently things have turned out.
Do I regret any of it? No, not at all. I can’t wait. But there’s been valuable lessons learned along the way in planning a wedding abroad. Here, I share the things you need to know before you decide that a ‘destination wedding’ is for you.
1) You’ll need to hire a wedding planner
Unless you have family in the country that you’re getting married in or have plenty of time to travel out, repeatedly, to the country to meet with suppliers, you’re going to need a wedding planner. Fortunately, I realised this early on (it had nothing to do with being lazy and only speaking approximately 4-5 words of Italian). And it’s been the best decision I have ever made, in my entire life. Hands down. I could continue but you’ve hopefully got the message that this has been a positive experience.
From helping you select your venue through to arranging someone to press your dress on the day, your wedding planner is your everything and takes away a huge amount of stress. We’ve most definitely paid the price in terms of paying for more expensive services such as musicians and flowers but ultimately it’s been worth it in maintaining my sanity throughout the process.
If you find it hard to trust people and would rather do everything yourself, a wedding abroad, I imagine, would be a struggle. Ultimately, your wedding day is in the hands of someone you’ve only met through Skype *gulp*. But, if you’re happy with that, like me, then their services will be invaluable.
2) People will disappoint you and you will disappoint others
At any wedding, home or away, there will always be an element of disappointment, anger or silent resentment from a family member or friend. Getting married abroad only heightens this. Looking at my guest list, I can definitely say my nearest and dearest will be attending but there are a few friends and family members that won’t be coming due to the location. If having a large wedding, where inviting family friends, colleagues and the man at the corner shop is important to you, then a wedding abroad isn’t going to work. I’ve had to accept that some of my friends won’t be there on my big day but I know I’ll be celebrating with them when I get back. That’s enough for me.
3) Relinquish full control
Are you a complete control freak? Need to touch, feel, see, smell and test everything before confirming? Then a wedding abroad will be a stressful experience. Being based in another country, ultimately stops you having full control over one of the biggest days of your life. For example, I won’t be having my hair or make-up trial until two days before the wedding, so fingers crossed the lady doesn’t have a penchant for perms and 1980s makeup. I also haven’t been able to taste the food (although I have no worries about freshly sourced Italian cuisine) nor have I been able to meet the celebrant, except for on Skype. This hasn’t bothered me too much but I’ve seen some friends’ faces crinkle with anxiety when I mention these points.
4) Expect your budget to fluctuate
One of the biggest lessons learned, which I hadn’t thought about hugely before I began planning, was the fluctuating exchange rate of the Euro and how this would effect our wedding budget. When we booked the wedding, we were fortunate to have a brilliant rate and were quietly smug at how much we had got for our money compared to our friends getting married in the UK. Fast forward a year and we’re paying more than we expected on essential things such as accommodation and food. So, my advice is that if you plan on getting married abroad, factor in 10-20% on top in case the exchange rate doesn’t stay in your favour. I’m now an expert in the UK to Euro exchange rate and it has been an added stress at times when a deposit becomes £80 more expensive overnight.
5) Embrace the country’s traditions
This probably goes without saying but having a quaint British tea party wedding under the sweltering midday sun in Tuscany isn’t going to work. We’ve had to adapt our wedding in order to stay flexible with the country we’re getting married in. For example, in Italy you can’t get legally married outside and so we’ve decided to do the “legal” part in the UK the day before we fly out. We’ve also opted to get married later in the day to avoid sweaty photographs, and won’t be embarking on our mammoth 6-course Italian wedding dinner until much later in the night. Although there will still be plenty of UK traditions, our wedding will certainly be different to that of one in the UK. And for us, that makes it even more exciting.
Despite the last 18 months being stressful on occasion, planning a wedding somewhere where the sun actually shines has been a fun experience. It’s a bit like a giant holiday with my family and friends. Knowing that I also have more than a day of celebrations with my loved ones makes it even better and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a wedding abroad.
Now, it’s time for the small task of putting all that time and planning to the test. Wish me luck! Ciao.