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The Secret of Planning a Successful Wedding Abroad

Posted on 22/05/2019 at 3:58 PM by in Blog

Wedding in Santorini

A Wedding Abroad

A wedding abroad is no longer only for those wanting to elope, times have changed and more and more couples are choosing to take their wedding celebrations overseas. Escaping the formality, expense and the unreliable weather now means 1 in 4 weddings take place abroad. A wedding abroad can be a unique and cost effective way to get married with some destinations offering incredible value for money, meaning you can celebrate in style! With unique venues from cliff top terraces with magnificent views, private beaches and historic castles to highlight a few the options are simply, endless.

Where do I want to get married?

Whether you love snow or sun, long or short haul, intimate or extravagant, there are wedding destinations to cover all styles, tastes and budgets.

If you’re from the UK and want to guarantee sunshine on your wedding day but don’t want to travel long haul, the Mediterranean is the perfect place to host a summer celebration.  The most popular time for weddings in the Med is from May to October, with the cooler months of May, June and September being popular with those that want the sunshine without the humidity, and July/August popular for those wanting wall to wall sunshine and the high temperatures that go with it.

If you’re from the USA then the Caribbean is a great choice with so many gorgeous beaches to choose from and regular flights from most major airports. Remember hurricane’ season is from June to November so maybe avoid these months, although they can be tempting due to low rates and special offers you don’t want to worry about your day being a washout.

Africa is a must for animal lovers with some of the best safaris experiences in the world, and there is a world of culture just waiting to be explored in Asia, so as you see, the only limit is your imagination. A word of warning when travelling to countries or continents your unfamiliar with, some destinations suffer with bad weather for months,  like monsoon season in Thailand broadly speaking lasting from May to October, you may think you’re getting a great price, only to realise after you’ve booked that it may rain at some point every day during your holiday. Be sure to do your research and check which months are most suitable before deciding on your wedding destination.

For those of you who dream of a cosy winter wedding – fear not! There are plenty of locations which will provide you with a winter wonderland setting – whether you want to say your I do’s on the grounds of a cosy log cabin surrounded by hills of snow or if you’re brave enough to face the minus zero temperatures of an ice palace. For a winter wedding in Europe consider Finland (Lapland), Iceland and Austria. Outside Europe there are exciting destinations such as New Zealand, Canada and the fairytale city of New York for a winter wedding in a city setting. Just remember to dress warmly for the occasion!

How do I get married abroad?

Let’s face it planning a wedding can be extremely daunting whether at home or abroad and you don’t get a practice run and planning a destination wedding adds a whole new level of complexity.

How much will it cost?

How do you communicate with suppliers that don’t speak English as their first language?

Who do I invite?

Where do I start?

I’ve first sign up for your free LUVANA ACCOUNT, this will walk you step by step through the process, from booking your wedding date to the big day itself. However as a sort of summary we’ve put together a useful list of what you need to consider when planning a wedding abroad, and an order in which to approach them. We’ve also asked a few expert suppliers to give us their advice on what to consider when selecting and booking a supplier.

18 months to 2 years ahead of your wedding abroad.

Announce your wedding

With a wedding abroad it’s ideal to give your guests a little more notice than usual to ensure they have time to save for their holiday and to book time off work, or plan around other annual commitments.

With some popular destinations, such as Greece, now booking up to 2 years in advance you can secure your date early and give guests plenty of notice. Fantastic for budgeting and planning!


The ‘B’ word! No one wants to discuss it and everyone shies away from it but it’s the key to a stress free and successful wedding.

Here are a few things to consider when working out your budget.

  1. How much can you save comfortably between now and the wedding? Don’t overextend yourself and completely sacrifice annual holidays and nights out to save for your wedding, you’ll end up resenting it.
  2. Will family contribute – remember the bank of mum and dad?
  3. Are you considering a loan, if yes then now is the time to shop around to get the best possible rates, we don’t recommend getting in debt to pay for a wedding, but we know a lot of you do take out loans and we want to make sure you consider the best options before you sign any agreements.

Once you have your budget then it’s important to realise no budget (with the exception of very few) will ever be enough, after all it’s only natural to want more….

Learn to compromise.

You’ll need to as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to afford every luxury you want. Remember why you’re getting married. Don’t get overwhelmed worrying about all the small details if money is tight, chances are your guests won’t even notice. Spend your budget where it really matters and not where you necessarily think you should, especially if it’s just for effect or to please someone else.

Be realistic.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment from the outset. Why look at 5 star hotels in Italy if you know it’s clearly out of budget. Likewise be realistic about how far your budget will stretch. Weddings abroad can be cheaper than the UK but you still get what you pay for!

A few things to consider when allocating budget

  1. If you find a 5 star venue you really like then consider reducing your guests list if it makes it affordable.
  2. Cut back on the decoration budget if it means you can have that amazing photographer?
  3. Instead of having a 7 course gala dinner go with a more casual menu if it means you can add those extra 10 guests you really want to.

Set your budget based on your guest numbers.

A budget for 50 will be deeply stretched if you’re guest list suddenly balloons to 100 guests. Be prepared to lower your guest list if needed and only invite as many as you can afford, don’t rely on people not accepting, it catches people out all the time! Which brings us to our next point…

The Wedding Guest List

This will take some diplomacy. It’s important that you only invite people who you want to be there to share your special day. Having a wedding abroad means you can break from the norm and you don’t have to invite all your great Aunties or 4th cousins twice removed. However, make sure you ask those that are most dearest if there is anyone they would like to invite, and remember if someone is contributing financially they may want an input on your guest list.

Be ready to compromise (you’ll notice this comes up a lot) but be confident enough to have the final say, after all it’s your wedding and if you decide small and intimate is for you then don’t end up sending out 80 invites out of obligation, they may all just say yes!!

I suggest having 3 tiers of guests lists, guest list A, your must haves – the VIP’s such as parents and close family, followed by, guest list B, the ‘must haves’ your close family and friends that you REALLY want to attend followed by guest list C, the ‘reserves’ which speaks for itself.

If you choose a smaller venue or your budget doesn’t stretch to having everyone you can leave out the reserves and only invite them if you have anyone from list A and B drop out.

Which Wedding Venue / Destination?

The venue is the biggest and most important decision you will make. (apart from the dress ladies)

Usually choosing a destination is done in one of these two ways.

You’ll see a venue that you fall in love with, therefore this will decide the destination


You’ll have a destination in mind before you even get engaged and you’ll search hard for a venue you like in that destination.

Either way if you’re struggling to choose a venue or find the perfect destination this may help.

Start by considering the distance and time of year.

  1. Long or short haul? What can your guests realistically afford? Long haul can be much more expensive and mean a smaller guest list.
  2. What time of year? Summer or winter time? School holidays (high season) or low season? Consider work commitments or children? Exams or other family events coming up?
  3. Do you like the heat? Or do you prefer mild weather, or even snow?

Now think about the type of venue you’ve always dreamed of when you think about getting married abroad.   

  • A venue with a sea view, or a quaint hamlet in the middle of nowhere surround by rolling hills or maybe you like the buzz of a city?
  • Would you prefer a private venue or don’t you mind there being others around?
  • Do you prefer modern venues or something more rustic or traditional? Are you a princess at heart and only a castle will do?

You can see why it’s such a big decision with so much to consider

Research is key.

The internet is an amazing source of information so have a good look around at previous weddings. Our Pinterest, InstagramFacebook,pages are fantastic platforms for research along with our Supplier Directory. Ask friends and family who have attended weddings abroad about what they liked or didn’t like.

Get creative and make a mood board of what you like (and what you don’t like). Do this separately from your other half and then get together to compare. What style of venue or setting is prevalent, a sea view? Rolling hills? Draping fairylights or a magnificent sunset?

If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by all the amazing choices it’s time to speak to a specialist wedding planner, they visit venues all the time and may just have the perfect venue in mind. Or they can at least help you work through the pro’s and cons’s of the venues you’re considering.

And trust me you will know when you’ve found THE one!

Taking the time to ask yourself these questions and then researching will help immensely, otherwise you could get stuck for months simply going round in circles and getting no closer to finding the perfect wedding venue! By sorting your priorities first you’ll be one step ahead, and remember this part is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it!

12 to 18 Months Ahead of Your Wedding

Travel and Holiday

Are you going to use a travel agent or book directly?

Trying to personally arrange travel for your wedding guests can turn into a full time task in itself so think carefully before you take this on. Booking holidays and paying deposits for anyone other than those whose accommodation you are paying for can turn out to be a bad idea in the long run. If you’re short of time and have little interest in trawling through brochures and spending nights checking bookings and chasing up payments then it makes sense to use a travel agent to help.

Most people don’t realise if they arrange a group booking they are then the only liaison for that booking, due to data protection. It means any changes to dates/address or names will have to be done by you!

A travel agent can act as one point of contact for your guests, simply put their details on your invites and let them work directly with your guests.

It’s no surprise that if you’re getting married abroad your guests are going to need to budget a little more to attend your wedding so ask your travel agent to provide sample prices for 3/4/5 star hotels, to guide guests with costs upfront.

If you’ve booked your wedding well in advance and prices are not yet available then register with a travel agent and you’ll be the first to hear when all the hotel and flight prices for the next season are released meaning you’ll be well organised and get the best deals!

Your Wedding Dress and Accessories.

Choosing the perfect wedding dress is a huge decision; after all it’s more than likely the most expensive dress you’ll ever buy!

Here’s a few important things to consider before you hit the shops.

Material and weight.

Will the dress travel well and is the material suited to hot, or cold weather?

Steamers aren’t always easy to find and can be expensive, needless to say what happens if they ruin your dress, so by choosing a material that travels well gives you one less thing to worry about.

Comfort is essential, if marrying in a hot destination don’t choose a material that will make you sweat profusely,  choose one that allows your skin to breath easily, you’ll want to stay fresh as possible to stay looking good for those photos! Likewise, if marrying in cool or cold climate choose a dress that isn’t going to leave you freezing at the altar. You can still have short sleeves, just add a cover up, a fur shawl or gorgeous cape is perfect for a touch of glamour.

Consider the setting.

A princess style gown would look fantastic in a church or a boutique hotel but wouldn’t work as well in a vineyard or a beach. Instead look for a dress and accessories that flatter and work with your environment, and of course makes you look fabulous.

And remember

Ordering time

When you arrange your fittings and collection date work back from the flight date not your wedding date!


For some the food and drinks is a key element of their wedding. It’s a chance to introduce their guests to local culinary delights, and lets face it, by having free flowing drinks you’ll be sure to create a party atmosphere. The meal can take up a good chunk of your reception  so here are a few things to consider when planning your wedding meal and drinks.

  1. How long do you wish to spend eating? A sit down dinner typically takes 2 hours whereas a buffet is around 1.5 hours.
  2. How important is the food quality and presentation? Does the thought of a buffet make you break out into a cold sweat? Some venues only offer buffet style dining for larger wedding parties, so it’s a good idea to check sample menus before you book. Having said that, it is still possible to have a formal and sophisticated wedding with buffet style dining, you just need to be specific about the presentation. Think cruise ship style presentation on a gala night.
  3. Do you want a free bar? This isn’t really a UK custom but has become more popular in recent years, however it does add an extra few 1000euros into your budget.
    If you don’t want to pay for guests drinks then you need to check drinks prices before you book the venue, there’s nothing worse than a room full of sober, thirsty guests due to extortionate bar prices. Also find out if the venue takes cash only or card.
  4. Do you have any special menu requirements? Children, vegetarians, Kosha, Halal or special diets like gluten free? Check these can be accommodated before you book,
  5. How flexible is the venue with their menus. Can you mix and match or do you have to stick with their set menus?
  6. How many meals would you like to serve your guests? Normally one would be adequate as weddings abroad tend to take place later in the day, but how about a midnight pizza party or a midnight buffet to soak up some of that alcohol!

The Flowers and Decoration

Your dress is ordered, your venue is booked and you have chosen your menus and drinks packages so now it’s time to work on the smaller but equally important details, and first we look at flowers and decoration.

Set your budget and manage expectations.

Flowers can be expensive when used in high quantities and pinterest is filled with images of venues with flowers flowing from every crevice and rooms adorned with 1000’s of candles to tempt us. However the reality is that very few can afford such extravagance! Set your budget and stick to it, simple can be beautiful. Your decoration and flower budget needs to cover ceremony and reception flowers, bouquets/buttonholes, bridesmaids, mums and dads flowers / candles, stationery for the tables, favours, prop or furniture hire, this will vary for each venue. TIP: make sure you find out what your venue includes as standard before you start buying, it’s not always evident in their brochures.

Mood Boards

Create a secret board on pinterest and get pinning.  Go crazy and pin everything you like, you need to have lots of photos on your board and then walk away. Go back a few days later and see what you still really like and delete anything you don’t, do this a few times and eventually a clear colour scheme or style will emerge.

Consider the venue

It’s likely at least part of your wedding will take place outdoors, so just how much dressing does the need, an outdoor venue in a pretty setting will already be attractive, otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen it? What colours will suit the venue? Classic and chic would work for a modern boutique hotel with vintage being a good choice for a vineyard surrounded by trees. But your wedding is all about you and should represent your personalities, so get creative!

Keeping control of Costs

Are you creative, if yes then how much decoration could you make yourself? Explore the practicalities of taking items over with you, for example will you need extra luggage or can guests help? Will you have access to the venue to store the items and then time to decorate on the day?

A word of warning

If you choose to do your own decoration then avoid buying lots of small items randomly, first decide on your theme and colour scheme and then buy to suit this, it will create a more cohesive look. And don’t forget the elements such as the wind / light / position of the venue before you buy!

The WOW factor

If budget allows it then we suggest working with a venue decoration stylist, one that knows the venue well and will advise on what works and what doesn’t. It can be the difference between a venue that looks OK and the WOW factor!

Hair and makeup


Make sure you research and reserve your hair and makeup team well in advance as good stylists book up quickly. If you’re planning a pre wedding visit then we recommend arranging a trial, if not then have a trial when you arrive a few days before the wedding, remember it’s never too late (even on the day) to change your mind about the style.

It’s a good idea to have a hair trial with your regular hair dresser to get ideas about what works and what doesn’t, you can then take photos to share with you’re on the day team.


Make sure you ask what products the makeup stylist uses, if you have sensitive skin tell them and you can always discuss using your own products if necessary. Send images of the look you have in mind, make up artists can sometimes apply heavier makeup as they will consider how your makeup will look on your photographs, so if you want a very natural look make sure you get this across, there is nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable on your wedding day because you don’t like your makeup.

Wedding Photography

This can be one of the most daunting things about planning a wedding abroad. How do you capture the day so you have wonderful memories to look back on for years to come! We’ve asked one of the most popular photographers in Zakynthos, Lukas from Story Studios, to give us some tips on how to go about finding your photographer when planning from afar.

From Lukas…

“The first thing you need to take into account is the photographer’s style.

Take a look at their portfolio: are the wedding albums of other couples the way you’d like your wedding album to be?

Are the pictures mostly artistic or edgy?

Do they look spontaneous or classic?

Most probably the wedding photographer will be able to offer you any style you want, but do the pictures you see talk to your heart?

Find a photographer that you think will be able to capture the elements you want to remember from your wedding, in the style you prefer!

When you’ve found a photographer you like remember to ask about the technical details of the service they provide: how long will it take for the wedding video and pictures to be ready?

Review their contract, how much will it cost, how do they wish to be paid? Asking this all at the start avoids any unpleasant surprises along the way.”

Lukas Agelastos


Nothing quite sets the scene like the sounds of live music as guests see your venue for the first time.

Think about a harpist, saxophonist or pianist for an air of elegance or for something more fun and relaxed look into local musicians.

For the evening think about the type of ambience you wish to create.

DJ’s and live bands are a great way to get people up dancing, whilst live lounge music or an acoustic guitarist is perfect for an elegant intimate dinner.

Traditional music and folk dancers are wonderfully entertaining as long as your guests will appreciate it, however, if your wedding party are more reserved will they really be ok with being dragged up to do the conga?

Music adds so much personality to a wedding, so whatever type music you choose, we suggest creating your own playlists, your guests will love it.

8 to 12 Months Ahead of Your Wedding


One of the more mundane but very necessary considerations when planning your wedding is how to get your guests from A to B, you don’t necessarily plan for this with a wedding at home but if you’re marrying on an island with limited transportation options or have a remote hard to find venue, then it needs to be considered.

If you can only afford one way transportation then we suggest making sure everyone gets get to the wedding safely and on time. Remember that not all venues abroad have official addresses so finding them can be a challenge, although it’s easier now with google earth. Taxis often can’t be booked in advance and are not always reliable. You don’t want to be kept waiting due to missing guests, after all isn’t it the bride who should be late!

If you’re using separate venues for ceremony and reception, then you should presume you’ll need to get everyone from one venue to another, so find out how far apart the venues are and the costs for this in the early stages.

Also consider return transfers, how will your guests get home at the end of the evening? How easy are taxis to arrange?, Will the venue help?

Guest transfers can be surprisingly expensive in destinations like Italy due to the distance between venues, so it’s good to budget this in early in the planning. In other locations like Spain taxis are readily available and therefore usually quite reasonable.

Ask your venue what the latest end time is, if your venue is a vineyard in the middle of nowhere or a standalone venue with no accommodation then your guest may have nowhere to wait for their transfers to arrive once the venue closes, in this case you’d need to plan for transfers to arrive earlier than closing time to avoid stranded guests.

Wedding Stationery

Stationery is one area where you can either go very traditional or completely unique. There is no etiquette with a wedding abroad. Traditionally you have the save the date cards, the formal invite, the table plans, menu cards, place cards, table numbers, schedules and finally itineraries. However go with as little or as much as you like. Either way make sure you communicate the important details of your wedding day early on, such as the destination, venue name, date and time of the ceremony. Collection details if any and a brief rundown of how things will work on the day along with any pre wedding get togethers can follow later.

4 to 6 Months Ahead

How To Make Your Wedding Personal

Regardless of budget, having a wedding day that is unique to you, rather than a ‘cookie cutter’ style wedding is high on the list of priorities for most couples.

This is easier said than done when you may not see the venue until a couple of days before the wedding, how do you know what will and wont work, where do you start when it comes to sourcing items of decoration or transporting things over to your destination?

Rest assured there are simple, low cost ways of making your wedding day personal, if you’re not particularly gifted when it comes to being creative or crafty then it’s time to ‘round up the troops’ swap skills for bottles of Prossecco. Or even better, have crafting parties, making lasting wedding memories on the way.

  • Decide on a theme that truly represents you, a more obvious theme would be travel, you could name your tables after places you’ve visited and make the table plan a map. For something a bit more ‘out there’ a couple that are known for their love of desserts could have a welcome sweet drink instead of champagne or choose Sherbert pink as their wedding colour.  In my experience guests love to learn about the thoughts behind these details and it’s what makes your day different to everyone elses.
  • Consider items that you can make easily yourself and transport with you – this way you can make sure they fit with your colour scheme and theme.
    • Table plan – pretty easy to hand make or using a template online create and print.
    • Name cards – very easy to hand make, simply buy the cards and get writing.
    • Order of Service – create in a word document and print on pretty wedding themed/colour paper.
    • Table Names – print or hand write. I suggest using card or hard foam to ensure they stand upright and make sure your venue has holders. If not then stand them in/against your table flower arrangement.
    • Confetti Cones – personalise with the date of your wedding, they can be easily assembled when you arrive and filled with freeze dried rose petals and you’re all set. They look great on photos too.
    • Favours – some of our favourites over the years have been homemade, one couple created a wedding sound track on a CD and presented it in a personalised case for guests, what a wonderful way to remember the wedding day. Ladies (and gents to be honest) love handmade gifts like candle’s, something they can and will use, I don’t think you’ll see many of these being left behind at a wedding. Pinterest is your friend when it comes to ideas for favours.

Never underestimate how much the small personal details and effort you have gone to will stay with your guests after the big day is over and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you prefer to leave it to the professionals then there are many talented stationers that can help, check out our directly HERE, some even specialise in destination weddings.

Legal Paperwork

If you’re using a wedding planner then they should help with your legal paperwork.

If not then you should contact the local embassy of where you are getting married to find out the legal requirements. Here are some basic things you need to know;

  • Is there a minimum residency period? If yes, ensure your flights arrive in time, proof will more than likely be needed.
  • How long is your wedding paperwork valid for? Timelines differ greatly with weddings abroad, with notice periods and expiration dates.
    Some documents such as certificates of no impediment have an expiry date if you’re marrying abroad, so it’s important that you do not obtain these too early to avoid re-applying and paying twice.
  • When does your paperwork need to be completed by? Ensure you leave enough time to courier items to the destination if needed, or if you need to present it personally ensure you are in your destination in enough time to do this.
  • How many days after the wedding do you need to stay in the country? You may need to sign official documents after the wedding, if this applies then make sure you book flights accordingly, remember most official offices will be closed at weekends.


A wedding abroad generally takes place later in the day, sometimes as late as 6 or 7pm when the temperatures are cooler, this often surprises couples when they first find out, however think of the benefits.

It’s cooler so you won’t need to worry about feeling uncomfortable in the heat or fainting! Don’t laugh, it happens!

The sunshine of midday / early afternoon is incredibly intense and bright and causes squinting and harsh shadows which doesn’t look great in photos.

If you really don’t want a wedding so late in the day then think about destinations such as Italy or Cyprus where you can marry earlier in the day, however this will have cost implications, guests arriving for an 11am ceremony will require more food and drinks than those arriving at 6pm.

On Your Wedding Day

Your wedding day has arrived and all those months of planning are about to be realised.

Our best advice is to really soak up what is happening all around you, we hear so often that the day goes by far too fast and couples wish they could do it all again, they even miss the buzz and excitement of planning.

So enjoy every second.

Relax and absorb all the sounds, sights and love around you, really notice the delight in the faces of your guests when they see the glorious day you’ve created for them.

Try to take time out as a couple, even if only for a few minutes to reconnect and really relish what is happening around you.

And most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff, you’ve planned this day for so long and even if something doesn’t go completely to plan, its likely only you will ever know. Enjoy every moment as the day will soon fly by and you want to truly enjoy all that you have created.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, but you’ll be left with amazing memories that will last a lifetime and of course exciting future to embark on.

So there you have it! These are the secrets of planning a successful wedding abroad!

We’d love to hear about your wedding plans, or any tips you’d like to share, what you loved about the planning or the day itself, what if anything would you do differently if you could and what secrets you’d like to share with other couples embarking on their wedding planning journey.

This is a very pared down simple version of planning a wedding abroad, for a more detailed step by step process sign up for your FREE Luvana account today and start creating your dream wedding abroad.

Lisa Luvana


Featuring the wonderful work of

Nathan WyattPhosartBen WyattStorystudios

Other images from Pinterest – author unknown

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