Getting married abroad

Getting married abroad

Having recently come back from a fabulous wedding abroad, and having had one myself, I thought some lessons learned might be helpful for anyone else out there thinking of jetting away for their nuptials. Destination weddings lend a perfect opportunity to surprise your guests with something a bit different, in a place you truly love. We found it helpful in creating an intimate, low fuss wedding and we knew we would be (pretty much) guaranteed fabulous weather. Did we know anything about getting married abroad? No. Was there any more 'wedmin' than a traditional wedding? Probably not…there are just different things to consider…….. Read on for all you need to know to begin to plan your destination wedding.

the petite passions' guide to getting married abroad


We already were heading off on a family holiday, and most of the key people we wanted at our ceremony were already travelling with us (which helped a lot with reducing wedmin!). We already loved the destination, having visited previously so I began to investigate whether there were even any available slots whilst we were out there, or if we needed to book a lot further in advance. We were only really concerned with booking the ceremony itself at this time, though we could see that lots of planners were able to offer packages that included a choice of venues for receptions too. I did a fair amount of internet research, identifying the possible ceremony locations in our area, found a few wedding planning companies who provided services in these areas too, and emailed to see if any could look into availability for us.

Things to consider:
  • How flexible are you? Is it venues in that region or one specific place you love?
  • What are the seasons like in your preferred destinations?
  • When are peak travel times? It will be busier at these times. Conversely if you go off season there may not be anything open!
  • When are public and school holidays? If you have children attending your wedding this is a consideration. Also if there is a public holiday in your destination this may affect your own wedding arrangements.
  • How soon are you looking for? You need time to process paperwork for civil and faith weddings.

the petite passions' guide to getting married abroad

Wedding planners

You really do need to think carefully about this and research. Some companies require you to book your travel and accommodation with them too (ours was already sorted so they were out of the equation). Out of the companies I did email only a couple contacted me back. One planner seemed intent on booking us for next year even though I had clearly put the dates we were staying in my original message! However, within just a couple of days Ionian Weddings were able to contact me back with some available slots they had found that matched what I was looking for.
Fortuitously for us the location they could secure was our first choice, and they also had a reception package that included one of our favourite restaurants. Their package also included other services that I was keen to get someone helping us on, namely the legal and documentation side of getting married abroad, and they also took care of a lot of suppliers that we needed (hair, flowers, transport, photographer). Being on a tight timescale meant that we were not going to be able to source all of that ourselves….and their costs were reasonable too.

Things that are important when finding a wedding planner for a destination wedding:
    • Can they check and process your documents?
    • Will you have a personal adviser?
    • Do they have a member of staff at your destination?
    • Do they have alternatives for photographers or transport?
    • Can you select your flowers ahead?
    • Can you book a hair/make up trial?
    • Will they be able to translate for you before you go/when you are there?

    Personally I will add in that our wedding planner in the UK, Stacey, was brilliant. She answered so many emails I sent about so many details, and was wonderful about it throughout too. Her Italian based counterpart Stephanie was also very knowledgeable and incredibly helpful.

    How to get married abroad

    The Legal Stuff

    Getting married abroad does mean that you have to go through different documentation processes. I tried to find out about these online here, but what I found out is that each area has its own requirements. The government site gives you a guide, but you need to investigate locally to know for sure.

    Getting married abroad: legal considerations

    Timing is really important. Really the minimum amount of time it takes to get documents securely processed is 12 weeks. This includes 

    • registering your intent to marry at the council offices (like all other couples) and obtaining a certificate from them, 
    • establishing your identity before a solicitor, 
    • having these and all your other identity documents sent abroad (Italy in our case), 
    • having your documents translated and legalised, and 
    • being ready for you in your destination. 

    This was the thing I worried about the most, knowing that it was the holiday season in Italy (meaning everything moves slower) and knowing that it was the one thing we couldn’t control or overcome. We had to send off for long versions of our birth certificates and make sure all our names matched across each document (be careful with middle names). We also had to submit ID copies of our witnesses (but this wasn’t in the same time constraints). Luckily for us we were able to arrange appointments for all these items quickly, and our planning company checked everything over for us. They had also sent us a really helpful guide which made sure we had everything in order in time (which goes to show why it is so important to choose your planners wisely!).

    Also to consider (possibly coming up in future posts) ….
    Transporting and cleaning your wedding dress, translating your requirements, and last minute planning.

    If you got married abroad share your tips in the comments below....or email in your wedding to be showcased on the blog!


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    Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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