When it comes to your wedding, you want everything to be perfect and for everyone you hold near and dear to be there. Alexander Fordham from overseas property buying resource Property Guides, gives us his top tips for planning a wedding when you’re an expat.
The biggest day of your life is finally on the horizon! But when you’re living abroad, there’s just that little bit more to plan for. In this article, I’ll be telling you how you can successfully plan a wedding while living overseas.
Before planning the finer details, it’s vital that you check whether you can legally be married in the country, and what steps you need to take to do so. Remember, as well as the most romantic occasion of your life, it is also a legal contract with profound implications for the rest of your life and that of your children. So the first trip should be to a good lawyer, perhaps with a translator in tow.
Okay, boring bit out of the way, being married abroad can be such an opportunity to have fun!
Top tips for planning a wedding when you're a expat
Decide on a venue
The right venue can make or break your big day. The (almost) guaranteed sunshine in many countries means you can choose a venue that you would never risk in the UK, really showing off the charms of your new country. Beach weddings are a popular choice of course, but you could try a classic villa on a Mediterranean headland, a fun-filled holiday resort, ancient ruins or just glorious countryside.
Whatever you choose, I’d definitely recommend that you visit it before booking anything. You need to know exactly what you’re getting, and it’ll be a lot easier for you to see what you can realistically do with the space than it would be from pictures.
Consider cultural differences
You will certainly need to consider any cultural differences in the country where you’re being married. You won’t want to offend anyone (least of all the new in-laws) and if you choose to have a religious ceremony, be mindful that this may require some extra paperwork. Your local priest might require you to take a course. For example, to have a Catholic wedding in Ireland, couples are sometimes asked to take a pre-marriage course, which ensures that each person is fully prepared for married life.
But marrying abroad is a chance to be creative with the food and protocol too. If you and your partner are from different countries, you might have different wedding traditions. This is a day for the both of you, so you should celebrate the union of two cultures and try to include something from each, which also adds a nice personal touch to your big day.
Some of the younger or older guests might baulk at different food so maybe offer a more recognisable option – you want everyone to enjoy the party. And who says there shouldn’t be a speech from the mother of the bride and Best Woman?
Remember guests might have to travel
Now, when it comes to an overseas wedding, inviting guests can be a little bit trickier. If you know that some guests will be embarrassed by being too hard up to bring the whole family or too elderly to travel, it’s only good manners to quietly make it clear to them that you won’t be offended if they can’t come. (Actually, it’s a really good way to keep the wedding costs down!) Maybe have a smaller wedding celebration of some kind in both countries?
For guests who are making the trip, consider the distance they’ll have to come. You don’t want your big day to be remembered for having lots of jetlagged guests, so help them to arrive a day or two before the wedding by getting a deal on some extra days’ accommodation for them. Do check for local public or school holidays before booking the date as prices can sky-rocket at these times.
And while you might have got used to the climate abroad, do bear in mind that your guests will have arrived from chilly Britain. There’s a reason why everything in hot countries tends to close down at midday so, especially if you’re being married outdoors, it makes sense to opt for an early or late wedding to avoid the heat of the day.
Keep other people involved
You’ll want your bridesmaids and best man to stay in the loop when it comes to the wedding plans, but how can you keep them updated when overseas? Of course, there’s the usual email or WhatsApp, but these can complicate things — we’ve all had to suffer scrolling through a long email thread to find something out. And then there’s the matter of time differences.
The new thing is to set up a private website dedicated to your wedding, which can only be accessed when given the URL or password. This means you can post all the information on there and guests can access it at any time of the day, with the option of going back to things for reference.
Planning your wedding is an exciting time, but when you’re an expat abroad, the process can seem that little bit more difficult. By following my advice, you can ensure that the preparations leading up to your big day are straightforward and successful.