Getting married abroad – how, where… and why?
Why? Simple really. Organising a wedding, however starry-eyed and breathless the happy couple, can be one of the foremost, stress-inducing experiences.
REAL LIFE WEDDINGS ABROAD:
The overnight transformation of a smiling sweetheart into a harassed and screaming Bridezilla, increasing interference from overbearing parents, arguments over who should be invited and the shock of a spiralling budget; all these things can make the thought of a quiet wedding abroad more and more attractive. Not only that but you’re right there on the spot ready to start your honeymoon.
If you check out the local requirements it’s quite possible to organise it all yourself but if you choose to arrange it through a tour operator then wedding co-ordinators in the UK and at your destination will be there to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Part of the attraction of getting married abroad is that, unless you’re Richard Branson and you’re flying a jumbo jet full of people out to enjoy the occasion, numbers tend to be smaller and the guest list tends to be made up of the people who are closest to the bride and groom. It may mean that there are some people who would like to be present – or that you would like to be present – who can’t be for practical or financial reasons but you can always celebrate with them in as lavish or as low-key and intimate a way as you like once you’re back home again.
And just because you are flying off in to the sunset to tie the knot, doesn’t mean to say you have to throw all style and caution to the wind and get married on the beach in flip-flops and a swimsuit. You can still be as glamorous and as gorgeous as you like in venues that range from a mountain-top chapel in Greece (yes, we’ve all seen Mamma Mia!) to an ice-hotel in Scandinavia.
So where, then? First and foremost you need to decide on the destination. Pick up a few brochures, take a look online and when you’ve settled on the place to go, work out what type of wedding you’d like; traditional hotel package or something more unusual? Maybe on a reindeer farm in Finnish Lapland or down a tin mine in Cornwall?
Although the cost of getting married in the UK has gone down a little in the last 12 months, the average bill of a wedding at home is still creeping towards the £20,000 mark. And while overseas weddings tend to be cheaper than in the UK, like any holiday, the cost can vary wildly depending on how much you are willing to spend. Wedding package prices range from a few hundred pounds per couple to many thousands for a big group bash.
Important: Make sure you acquaint yourselves with the legal requirements of getting married abroad. A good local solicitor or a wedding planner will guide you through the process.
Insure against any trouble. You may not be able to insure yourselves against the weather or a breakdown in relations with your in-laws but you can make sure that your wedding is sufficiently covered.
The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) advises couples to check the details of their regular travel insurance which may not be sufficient to cover precious items like the rings or the wedding outfits or being let down by any suppliers.
There are plenty of companies offering insurance packages for weddings abroad and prices start at under £20.
Legally Binding: The legal requirements for marriage or civil partnerships vary from country to country, so planning in advance is essential.
The Foreign Office advice recommends contacting the embassies or High Commission of where you plan to marry to find out what documentation you will need.
You should also check regarding visas or if you need proof of residency in that country before you can get married - in some countries it is a necessary requirement that you spend a certain number of days there before making your vows.
You may also need to take a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) or a Nulla Osta (in Italy), which is a document confirming that there is no reason that you cannot marry.
There is also the question of whether your marriage is legal when you return to the UK. The FCO advises speaking to a lawyer to find out if your marriage is recognised.
For more information, including foreign embassy contact details, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Give yourselves enough time to book a wedding abroad. You should be looking at a minimum of six months to plan the perfect day.
If you are getting married somewhere hot beware of lying for too long in the sun; you don’t want to look like a semi-cooked lobster with visible strap marks in your wedding photos.
Don't get a dress that is likely to get creased too easily or that will need last minute alterations.
Before you leave home, make lists of everything that you need; overseas, you might not be able to replace what you need so easily.
Here’s a check list to run through:
- Ensure you can marry on your chosen date. Make sure you get this confirmed, in writing, with the celebrant who is to perform the wedding ceremony.
- Check you have a valid 10 year passport.
- Check the weather for your wedding date, ensuring there are no freak changes in weather predicted.
- Take out travel insurance and wedding insurance for all those unforeseen events. Ensure you read the small print so you know exactly what is, and what isn’t, included in the insurance.
- Find out if there is a minimum residence stay before you can get married.
- Ensure you have a list of all the required documents you will need in order to get married in your chosen country.
- Check whether your documents will need to be translated into the country’s own spoken language.
- Check if the bride or groom needs to deliver the documents to appropriate authorities in person before the wedding day.
- Allow plenty of time to gather all the correct documentation needed to get married abroad.
- Contact your chosen country’s embassy in the UK, for further information on getting married abroad.
- If you are using a tour operator and they are offering you a wedding package, ensure you know exactly what is, and what isn’t, included in your package.
- Ensure the wedding ceremony abroad is legally recognised by the UK.
- If you are planning a church wedding abroad, you will need to seek permission from the church authorities where you wish to marry. You may need to allow extra time as you may be asked to attend pre-nuptial consultations in your chosen country.
- If your wedding is to be performed in a language other than English, ensure you have an interpreter present to translate the proceedings.
- If your marriage certificate is written in a foreign language you will need to ensure it is translated on your return to the UK if you intend to use it for any official applications, as proof of marriage, or if you intend to have it deposited at the GRO.