What comes first?
Once you’ve decided to get married abroad and you have a good idea of your budget, the next thing to do is to choose the perfect destination and venue.
But hold on – there are a few things to consider before you get underway with your research and start requesting quotes.
Expert advice from Themis, an event manager in Greece
Searching for the perfect wedding venue can be a real nightmare due to the number of wedding venue options available, especially for those planning to get married abroad. Couples need to think about their preferences carefully before they start looking at different destinations and venues.
Style and setting
What type of setting or style of venue do you have in mind? Knowing this will help guide you towards a specific region or country to focus your search. For example, if you want a beach wedding, you could look at Greece, Spain or further afield to the Caribbean, or for a chateaux, you could start with France.
When you close your eyes and think about your dream wedding venue, what do you see?
Real bride Sophie, who married in Crete.
I had always wanted to have a beach wedding and knew that going abroad to get married was the only way that was going to happen.
There are so many possibilities that you need to narrow down your options and have a starting point for your research. Otherwise, you may get overwhelmed by your choices.
The world really is your oyster, with venues ranging from private villas and beautiful chapels to restored castles. Choice is a wonderful thing but it can lead to stress if you are a couple that struggles with making decisions.
What was the original vision that led you to consider a wedding abroad? This is a good place to start.
Real bride Sophie, who married in Santorini.
I had seen so many pictures of stunning weddings with white and blue backdrops on Instagram and fell in love instantly with the idea of having a wedding in Santorini.
Near or far?
How far are you’re prepared to travel? Short haul, anything from two to six hours flight time or over six hours (long haul)?
You next need to consider how long your guests will be prepared to travel. Generally, the further you go, the more expensive it will be and this could mean a smaller guest list.
Would you prefer a destination where guests can join you only for the weekend? If yes, a maximum flight time of two to three hours would be ideal.
If you’d like guests to use this as their annual holiday, a beach destination with a good range of accommodation options makes more sense.
A larger wedding with over a hundred guests can be more logistically challenging, so a closer destination within a few hours’ flight time and good regional air links will give guests more options and guarantee more attendees.
Don’t forget to work out transfer times from the airport at your destination to the venue. Some remote locations in Italy (for example) can take over an hour to get to and will eat into precious celebration time – airport transfers can be expensive too.
Research holiday prices, what will your guests will be comfortable spending? A quick search on Google will give you an idea of what a week’s holiday will cost. Try searching the same period as your wedding and add around ten per cent. You then need to decide if your guests will be happy to pay this. Some destinations can be surprisingly expensive, and if your guests typically spend less on their annual holiday, you may need to consider a cheaper destination.
One of my couples who had booked a wedding in Santorini saw their guest list reduce dramatically because their family and friends couldn’t afford to holiday there. Needless to say, the couple were upset, but as they’d already paid their deposit it was too late to change destination.
If you are planning a more intimate wedding, take the opportunity to ask your guests how far they’re happy to travel before you start looking at venues.
However, if your party is larger, don’t try to please everyone – it’s an impossible task. You have to make a decision that you and your most important guests are happy with and take a chance on whether or not the rest will attend. More often than not, most couples are pleasantly surprised by how many guests join them.
We’ve now discussed the style of the venue and how far you wish to travel, so you’ll hopefully have a region or a list of destinations to consider.
But there are other things to consider before you get started on your search.
What style of food would you like? A relaxed BBQ or buffet, or perhaps you’d prefer a served dinner, maybe even fine dining – some venues may only offer one style of dining.
Do you have special food requirements, for example, Indian cuisine or kosher, or perhaps you have guests with special dietary requirements or fussy eaters? Make sure the venue can accommodate their needs.
Expert advice from Themis, an event manager in Greece.
Since the number of couples who choose to tie the knot abroad in exotic and unconventional locations is rising, it is my strong belief that destination weddings are a wonderful opportunity for guests to sample the local cuisine to better understand the culture of the country the couple have chosen to get married in.
Venues have adapted their menus to meet different customers’ needs with special food and dietary requirements, but still, to fully utilise the caterer’s expertise, I recommend enjoying the local cuisine. This way you also get to enjoy locally produced produce.
Avoid asking for a curry in Cyprus or Greek tzatziki in Thailand!
Are you party animals wanting to celebrate into the small hours?
Some venues limit the type of entertainment they allow or have noise level restrictions and may require you to end the music earlier than midnight. Whilst this may not necessarily be a deal breaker, you’ll need to consider what you would do after the reception ends and if you want to continue the party.
Do you want to supply your own DJ or have a live musician or band? If yes, bear in mind that some venues only allow you to use their in-house DJ or you may need a special licence for live music.
Are you inviting children? You need to check if the venue is child-friendly or not. Consider things like pools, perilous drops or open venues without boundaries – discuss any concerns with parents if you’re unsure.
Does your budget enable you to provide an open bar for your guests for the duration of the wedding? If not, you’ll need to rule out any venues where drinks packages are compulsory.
We’re not as familiar with the open bar concept in the UK, and having to purchase a drinks package can come as a shock! Check before you pay a deposit. At some venues, drinks packages are compulsory with no cash bar available and this can seriously impact your budget.
Likewise, if your guests will be purchasing their own drinks during the day, you need to consider bar prices, especially in five-star venues.
We were once hired to coordinate a wedding after the couple had booked their venue, a very well-known exclusive venue in Italy. They were completely unaware that it cost nearly €12 just for a beer. The deposit was paid and there was no turning back, so the couple had to dig deep to find money to purchase a drinks package as they didn’t feel comfortable asking guests to pay so much for drinks.
Expert advice from Themis, an event manager in Greece.
A couple should always ask questions about the operational side of their venue, such as the volume a DJ can play at, the way drinks are served, and the number of staff available to look after guests and to clean the premises throughout the event. This way, they can confidently choose the perfect venue to host their wedding, free from the stress of any unexpected issues negatively affecting the event later on in the planning process.
Do you have guests with limited mobility or in wheelchairs?
We’re spoilt here in the UK with almost all venues now being wheelchair friendly. This is certainly not the case abroad, especially in historical buildings that are thousands of years old.
If you have guests who are elderly or have mobility problems or are inviting lots of young children, consider steps, ramps and accessible toilets.
I once received an enquiry from a bride desperate to get married in Santorini at a venue accessible only by seventy steps. It was only on booking that I discovered her sister-in-law-to-be was severely disabled – she was assuming her fiancé would be happy leaving his sister at home. Needless to say, the wedding didn’t go ahead at this particular venue!
It’s important to decide your list of priorities and preferences before you start looking for your dream venue.
- Style and setting: When you imagine your dream wedding abroad, what type of venue do you envision? This should be where you start, for example, a beach wedding, winery or private villa.
- Distance: How far are you willing to travel? You can find destinations within a couple of hours from the UK, and if you’re willing to travel further, the world really is your oyster. Remember to consider guests and how far you think they would be willing to travel.
- Guests: When you find a destination you like, go online to research holiday prices. Use the current years’ prices and add ten per cent. Alternatively, speak to a travel agent. Do you think your guests will be happy to pay these average prices?
- Cuisine: If you require a special type of cuisine such as Indian, kosher or vegetarian, note this down now. Don’t assume all venues and destinations will cater for all food styles.
- Music: Would you like a live band or do you want to fly in your own DJ? If yes you’ll need to note this as a priority. Some venues have early music cut off times or may not allow amplified music and recently there has been an increase in venues requiring you to use their in-house DJ.
- Drinks: Is your intention to provide a free bar? If not, you need to make sure the venue doesn’t have a compulsory drinks package condition. If you’re not having an open bar, check the prices of drinks. You don’t want guests going thirsty due to expensive drink prices.
- Accessibility: Do any of your guests have walking difficulties? Or do you have lots of children? If yes, check accessibility at your venue. Make sure there are ramps and avoid venues with difficult access or lots of steps and make sure it’s child-friendly
Once you have considered the above, it’s time to start the venue search, click here to create your Free Luvana Wedding Account and create your venue wish list
Photo Credit Hannah Monika