By Travel with Kate, on January 23, 2016

How to plan a wedding abroad

From personal experience, I can tell you that destination weddings abroad can be absolutely magical. The wedding party and guests don’t just spend a special few hours together, they go on a multi-day adventure that they’ll remember forever.

If you are set on having a destination wedding, there are important considerations to make. As someone who recently got married in Paris, I am intimately familiar with them. Here are my tips to get you on your way to planning your magical wedding abroad.

Choosing the destination

Once you’ve dreamed up what setting you want your wedding to be in, you will start to narrow down your top destinations. There are many to choose from. For example, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Jamaica are popular countries for beach weddings abroad. And a Tuscan vineyard or French country chateaux are romantic countryside settings.

As you make your destination decision, don’t forget to consider your guests. If you are inviting friends and family, be sure to look into the cost of travel. You don’t want to price out loved ones. Look into special group rates for hotels and flights. Similarly, make sure the destination is a place where guests will feel reasonably comfortable. Not everyone is an adventurous traveler.

Additionally, key factors as you narrow down your options are time of year and weather. That is, steer clear of hurricane season, the rainy season, or the heat of midsummer as a rule of thumb. And remember, the weather will impact your wedding attire.

Wine country makes an excellent wedding destination

The paperwork

Getting married in another country is not as straightforward as heading down to your local town hall or popping into a Las Vegas chapel. You need to start by doing the research. Peruse the embassy website of your destination country and give them a call to learn about the process of getting married as a foreigner. Some countries, like Costa Rica, make it really easy. Others, like France, make it harder.

You may have to produce documents like certified birth certificates and proof of vaccinations. Or you may simply need to send over a copy of your passport. Some countries require a special visa in order to get married, while others allow you to enter on a tourist visa.

If you have your heart set on a country that has a super difficult process, don’t be discouraged. There is one great cheat! You can always be legally married at home at your local town hall, and then have the wedding and celebration abroad thereafter.

Get help on the ground

When planning a wedding abroad, you will undoubtedly need the assistance of someone in your destination. Choose a local hotel or other venue to help you coordinate the event or even hire a local wedding planner. Expedia has an entire portal dedicated to this that is well worth a look.

When working with a wedding organizer or hotel, make sure to ask shrewd questions about payment. Will you pay the hotel or organizer only, or will you have to pay each vendor separately? And be prepared for issuing those payments. Here’s a sneaky tip. If you must pay vendors separately, ask if you can pay in cash in your own currency to avoid transaction fees. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Just be sure to take the money out in advance before your trip. Also consider credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees, of which there are many.

Viewfinder Tip: When booking a wedding abroad, be sure to purchase travel insurance and wedding insurance to protect yourself from the unexpected.

Let go of the details

For some brides, this may be hard to hear. But when you are planning a wedding abroad, it is possible that you won’t see the venue, pick the flowers, or meet your officiant in person prior to the wedding. An abroad wedding requires the bride to not sweat the small stuff.

However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t double-check as a means of quality control. Check to see your venue’s pictures and reviews across the web. And also make sure reviews from vendors, including your wedding organizer, look good. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and a simple Google search are ideal places to start. Once you’ve done the due diligence, relax and let the professionals perform their jobs under your guidance.

Connect all the dots for guests

Many people say that the wedding is not really for the couple but for their community of friends and family to celebrate with them. If you are inviting guests to your fabulous wedding abroad, be sure to take special care of them.

First, give them notice well in advance of the wedding so they can clear time in their schedules and possibly budget for the trip. Make sure to find hotels for them to stay in. And be sure to give them both practical and recreational information about the destination. For example, explain how to get from the airport to the hotel as well as provide information on great restaurants or activities in town. The hotel staff or other local contacts can be great sources for this kind of information.

If you wanted to go the extra mile, consider organizing events for guests to engage in together in addition to the wedding and rehearsal dinner: a city tour, a horseback ride, or a sunset cruise. The more adventures you have together, the more magical the trip.

What destination are you dreaming about for your wedding abroad?