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Getting married abroad


For many couples, getting married outside the UK is a neat way to save money on the cost of the wedding.

Tying the knot abroad can be a little trickier than doing so in the UK, so it pays to be prepared before jetting off.

Are you a guest at an abroad wedding? See our section below

Legal requirements

The key thing to remember about weddings abroad is that they need to be legally recognised in the UK as well as in the country you want to get married.

In 1990, Rolling Stones front-man Mick Jagger married Jerry Hall in Bali, only to discover a decade later that the marriage wasn't legally recognised by either country.

To avoid that kind of situation, it pays to be prepared.

The specific legal documents you’ll need for getting married will change depending on your chosen location.

As a general rule of thumb, having these with you should put you in a good place:

If you are:

  • Divorced - A Decree Absolute

  • Widowed - Death certificate of spouse and previous marriage certificate

  • Adopted - Adoption certificate

  • Below the age to marry freely - letter of consent from parents

Make sure that all documents are originals and that they have been translated ahead of time (where required).

Some countries also have a minimum residency period, where you have to be in the country a certain number of days before your wedding can take place.

Many countries do not legally recognise same-sex marriages, so if you're planning a same-sex wedding it’s worth checking with the local embassy to make sure.

Visit GOV.UK for a more detailed list of requirements for each country.

The finer points

One of the drawbacks of an overseas wedding is that you have less chance to visit venues, caterers and decorators beforehand.

To take the stress out of the decision making, it might be worth considering a wedding planner who will organise everything down to the tiniest detail for you.

Hiring a local wedding planner means they have a better knowledge of nearby suppliers, and might be able to get discounts with preferred companies. 

They may also have a better knowledge of local customs and traditions that will add a little extra magic to your day.

If you plan on hiring a wedding coordinator, make sure you get a written quote from them before you agree to anything.

This will help you if the wedding budget suddenly balloons and you’re left to foot the bill.

Think of your guests

According to ABTA research, couples tend to save about £12,000 if they get married abroad, but these weddings tend to be more expensive for the guests who come with you.

Some guests may expect you to help pay for some of their costs.

For example, if you want your guests to pay for their own accommodation and flights, make sure that their food and drink are taken care of while they’re there.

If you’re asking people to travel to a different country to be at your wedding, consider scaling down your stag or hen party to compensate.

With the average ‘last hurrah’ coming in at almost £300 per person, you’ll have more success getting your friends to come to your wedding if the stag/hen do is a small event.

Coming up with a list of wedding guests can be a nightmare at the best of times, but a wedding overseas means that some people are going to be left out for one reason or another.

It might be worth hosting a second, smaller wedding reception back in the UK to include the friends and family that couldn't make it abroad.

Failing that, you could always broadcast the wedding through Skype, Apple Facetime or Google Hangouts for your folks back home to watch you tie the knot live.

Get covered

You might think that a standard travel insurance policy would cover you for any potential mishaps, e.g. damaged wedding dresses or lost rings.

But some policies might not be able to cover everything due to the sheer cost of everything so it's important that you get the right type of travel insurance.

Some companies offer extra cover for overseas weddings, and you can also get specialist wedding insurance policies to cover things like venue cancellations and photography costs.

Also, you may need separate policies for the wedding and for the honeymoon, even if they’re in the same location.

Make sure you've got the right travel insurance for your trip

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I’m a guest at an overseas wedding

It’s an honour to be asked to share someone’s special day in the setting of their choice, but that doesn't stop the pounds from mounting up with flights, hotels, spending money and gifts.

The average cost for a guest at a wedding abroad is around £564 (compared to around £247 for a UK wedding), so it’s best to make every penny count.

Consider using the wedding as a springboard for a longer holiday. If you’re at a one-day wedding ceremony in France, why not make it a long weekend sightseeing in Paris?

If you and the happy couple have many mutual friends (in real life, not just on Facebook), why not see if there are any discounts for group bookings on flights and hotels?

Ultimately, though it’s flattering that you've been asked, you’re under no obligation to attend an overseas wedding if it puts you in a difficult place financially. 

Just make sure that you thank them for the invitation and get them a great gift!


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