Getting married abroad is a wonderful dream for many couples. Jetting off to exchange vows on a sun-drenched beach seems like the perfect way to start their married life.
Obviously, Covid-19 has dealt a blow to such plans over the last few years but loved-up couples are expected to embrace destination weddings over the coming months.
Here we take a look at what you need to know about getting hitched overseas, discuss the most popular destinations, and highlight potential problems to avoid.
Why do people get married overseas?
There are plenty of reasons to get hitched abroad. Top of the list for many couples is a picture perfect backdrop – and certainly far more appealing than outside a city centre register office.
Then there’s the ability to tie it in with the honeymoon. They can spend some days with their loved ones before extending the trip on their own.
Finally, is the cost. Incredibly, it can sometimes be cheaper to get married abroad than in the UK, which means they can afford to indulge in far more lavish celebrations.
Top destinations for getting married abroad
Travel specialist Kuoni had seen a 40% increase in forward sales of weddings abroad for 2020 before Covid-19 forced many people to rethink their plans.
In its Worldwide Trends Report, the company had highlighted five amazing locations that were enjoying fantastic demand in the months before coronavirus struck.
- The Maldives
- Saint Lucia
The company noted particularly strong demand for tying the knot on private islands with close family and friends.
How much does it cost to get married abroad?
Of course, the costs of marrying abroad largely depend on what you want. A fairly simple ceremony with a handful of friends may be relatively affordable.
You probably need a bigger budget if you’re wanting to hire a private island for a few days and fly in relatives from around the globe to join in the celebrations.
However, you can actually save up to £13,500 by opting to get married abroad instead of the UK, according to a study by SNTravel.
Its analysis revealed that the most expensive country in which to get married was France, with an average all-inclusive cost of £26,059.
This price included:
- The venue
- Make-up and hair
Around £9,500 of various extras.
France was followed by:
- Italy with £24,738
- The UK with £23,141
- Greece with £22,755
- Spain with £19,832
- Portugal with £19,38
However, the cheapest on the list was Mauritius, which came in at a comparatively cheap £12,493. The Maldives, Seychelles, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Antigua were all less than £14,000.
Cost of a wedding abroad
The first cost to consider is the wedding venue itself. Obviously, prices vary enormously depending on the country and type of location.
The average cost of a wedding venue in Europe is a staggering £6,501, with France topping the list with a whopping £9,398, according to SNTravel.
This is almost 20 times the price of Mauritius, which has the cheapest average venue cost of just £511. Stunning locations in Mexico, the Maldives and Barbados all came in at less than £750.
Then you need to consider photography, catering and music, not to mention hair, make-up and a florist. These can add thousands of pounds to the overall bill.
Where to get married abroad
So, what do you need to consider when choosing your ideal destination? This comes down to personal preference. The best place to start is discussing preferred locations with your partner.
Don’t be afraid to dream big! You can always scale back your aspirations later in the process. Discuss where you’ve always fancied having your big day.
Once you’ve drawn up your list of possible locations, it’s time to get real with the planning. A crucial component is how many guests you’re planning to invite.
Do you want a grandiose affair with hundreds of people – or will it be a more select gathering of only your closest family and friends? Also, will you be paying for their flights and accommodation?
If guests will be footing the bill themselves for attending, make sure you find out how much the flights and accommodation is likely to cost in order to give them an idea.
Once you have the main destination in mind, it’s worth visiting for the next stage of your research.
Flying out on a short holiday gives you and your partner the chance to scope out potential venues and get a feel for how the event might unfold.
Legal requirements: what documents do I need to get married abroad?
It might not be romantic, but you also need to consider the various legal requirements as these are likely to have a major bearing on the success – or otherwise – of your day.
What’s needed in order to legally get married depends on your chosen destination. Every country has its own rules and regulations.
For example, there are some places where only locals can officially get hitched. In those cases, you need to be married elsewhere and then have the union blessed in your dream destination.
Others require certain documents from the UK government, including a certificate of no impediment (CNI) before you can proceed with the ceremony.
A CNI is a certificate that confirms there are no objections to a proposed marriage or civil partnership. You should also check if the certificate needs to be legalised or translated.
In some instances, these certificates can’t be issued in certain situations due to various legislation or agreements in place between relevant countries.
It’s worth pointing out that you may need to complete the legal paperwork in the country where your ceremony is to take place.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fire solution. You need to carry out thorough research on your chosen destinations. The first step is reading the basic information provided on them by the UK government.
However, you usually need to contact either the British embassies in these countries or official departments to clarify the exact requirements.
Remember, the regulations may still be affected by Covid-19, so make sure you check regularly to ensure nothing has changed before you finalise your plans.
Will my marriage be legal in the UK if I get married abroad?
Your marriage should be legal in the UK as long as:
- It’s legal in the country where you’re getting married
- It would have been legal if the wedding was in the UK
You can check the local requirements for weddings on the GOV.UK website.
What about my guests?
Depending on whether you plan on having your guests pay for flights and accommodation, seeing you get married abroad could cost them a pretty penny.
According to Condor Ferries, it costs guests around £673 (around £510) to attend a destination wedding, on average.
With that in mind, it might be good to take some of the burden off your guests.
- Make sure their food and drink are taken care of while they’re there
- Offer to subsidise part of the cost of flights or accommodation
- Scale down the stag and hen party to free up more money for the big day
- Consider a smaller UK reception for when you’re back home
Wedding insurance abroad: will travel insurance cover me?
Adequate travel insurance is essential whenever you go overseas – and it’s even more important when it comes to covering weddings abroad.
Compare travel insurance
Carry out detailed research to ensure everything you need is covered by the policy. You certainly don’t want any unwanted financial surprises if things go wrong. A standard travel insurance policy should cover you if you fall ill during your trip, or if you have to cancel the trip altogether.
For example, will you have financial protection if the venue cancels? What happens if your wedding dress goes missing on the journey? How about if you fall ill on the big day?
The chances are that you need more than just standard travel insurance. To cover eventualities like the photographer cancelling, you’re likely to need specialist wedding insurance.
Other top tips for tying the knot overseas
Here we take a look at the key pieces of advice to make getting married abroad as stress-free – and as successful – as possible.
Get everything in writing
It might sound obvious but don’t rely on assurances over the phone without written confirmation. At the very least this should prevent any innocent misunderstandings.
Having such confirmations make it clear to all parties what’s been agreed, the prices involved, and any other requirements or conditions.
Check your passports
In all the excitement of booking your wedding, it’s so easy to overlook the most essential element of all: your passports!
Check to see how long you need to have left on your passport to ensure entry into a country. If in any doubt, get the passport updated well in advance of the big day.
Check the weather
Weather conditions can be unreliable wherever you are in the world – but improve your chances of it not affecting your day by carrying out some research beforehand.
For example, what time of the year is the weather likely to be ideal for such a ceremony?
The last thing you want is for it to be right in the middle of a rainy season – or for temperatures to be so hot that your guests are risking sunstroke!
It could be worth thinking of a backup plan if the weather puts your wedding plans at risk. For example, if you’re planning on an outdoor ceremony, consider having a marquee that you can retreat to if the heavens open.
There are plenty of travel companies that can help you in the process. However, planning a successful overseas wedding takes time.
Make sure you start your planning well in advance so there’s adequate time for everything. For example, the legalities can take a few months to complete in some destinations.
Finally, make sure you know what type of clothes to pack – and let your guests know! Maybe avoid a dress code of heavy suits and top hats if you’ll be sweltering on the beach.