The idea of planning a destination wedding in England when you’re living abroad or even just in a different county can be a little stressful. There’s a whole host of practicalities to consider, and on top of that, it can feel like you’re constantly ‘out of the loop’ when you’re struggling with travel, time zones and email or Skype communication. As a wedding planner for Essex and London and the surrounding areas, I work with many clients who are planning from further afield – both British couples coming home for their big day and foreign couples who have picked the UK as their location of choice. Whichever camp you fall into, there are a few big destination wedding planning dos and don’ts that you need to be aware of!
DO hire a wedding planner
I may be a little biased, but when you’re planning a wedding from abroad, having an expert on the ground is a must. From sourcing local suppliers to dealing with paperwork and site visits, a wedding planner will be on hand to navigate any issues that crop up, advise you on the best people to work with, and generally save you endless time and stress!
DON’T delay in sending out Save the Dates
If you have friends and family who will also be joining you from abroad, then you’ll want to give them as much notice as possible, so that they are able to arrange for flights, accommodation, and time off. It’s also a good idea to create a wedding website which will give them all the information they need.
DO plan a research trip (if possible!)
If budget allows, plan to visit your wedding destination in the planning stages. This will allow you to check out venue, accommodation and ceremony options in advance, and to meet key vendors like your planner and photographer. A wedding planner can be a great help here too, shortlisting potential venues and helping you schedule your visit to get the most out of your time.
DON’T choose a hard-to-reach location
If guests are already flying in for your wedding, they’re going to have limited time available for driving to an off-the-beaten-path location. Think about accessibility in terms of flights, transport, and accommodation when you choose your venue.
DO keep a checklist of legal documents
Each country has different rules when it comes to getting married, so make sure you have researched the legalities well ahead of time. Make a checklist of all the legal documents you need, and keep them in a file so that they are always easily accessible. Also, don’t forget to check visa requirements and ensure your passport is up to date!
DON’T book tickets in your married name
Even if you’re planning on changing your name once you’re married, you should still book all your travel tickets in your maiden name so that they match the name on your passport.
DO pick a wedding dress that travels well
Transporting a wedding dress can be difficult and expensive, so your best option is to shop wisely and opt for fabric that either won’t crease or can be steamed easily if they do. Many airlines will allow you to stow a wedding dress onboard as hand luggage for an extra fee, but be sure to check this beforehand. You should also buy a good quality garment bag for the journey.
DON’T ship (or check) anything important
Ideally, you should source your decor locally (your planner can help with this!) but if you’re shipping any extra decor items, remember that they can get held up by customs or postal services and may not arrive on time. Never ship anything you can’t live without. Even if you’re packing items in your suitcase, be sure to keep those you absolutely need (dress, suit, rings, documents) in the cabin with you.
DO budget for extra costs
Shipping, customs, and extra luggage fees are just two of the hidden expenses you should plan for when having a destination wedding. Another is bank fees and currency exchange costs, which can really add up when you’re making multiple payments such as deposits. A good way to manage this is to use a specialist peer-to-peer currency transfer service, which charge a much lower commission rate.
DON’T forget to buy wedding insurance
No matter how well you plan, major events like floods and ash clouds happen, and items like wedding dresses and rings can be lost or stolen. Wedding insurance can help to alleviate your concerns – just make sure that the policy you choose covers your individual needs and circumstances.
DO plan to be there at least 3 days in advance
Whether it’s negating travel delays, getting over jet lag, or just making sure you’re on top of those last minute details, travelling ahead of your guests is important. A week is ideal, but 2-3 days is the absolute minimum!
DON’T forget to enjoy it!
It can be easy when planning a destination wedding to get stressed and overwhelmed, but try to enjoy the process! Remember that, while something will inevitably go wrong along the way, the most important thing is that the two of you are there together, saying “I do”.