The Essential Guide to Your Destination Wedding Planning

So you’ve decided to ditch the unpredictable UK weather for sunnier exotic climes on the big day? With the weather being as dire as it has been so far this year, I can’t say I blame you!

The temptation to tie the knot overseas is one that draws many brides and grooms (around 350,000 annually!), with sunshine in abundance, the potential for a gorgeous beach backdrop and not to mention getting to combine your wedding day and honeymoon, if you so wish!

While a Destination Wedding is undoubtedly a wonderful idea, with the possibility of being a wonderful reality, it does come with a fairly hefty ‘to do’ list of things that you would not normally have to consider with a wedding in the UK. But being a challenge doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it on, it just means that you need to get clued up and know the essentials beforehand so you don’t get caught out.

From licensing laws to organising the catering from afar, the struggle of arranging a destination wedding on your own is real, so if you can budget to hire a wedding planner to help you out this might be a very good option. Although the outlay for employing a professional may seem more than you’d like to part with, it could actually end up saving you money in the long wrong purely by cutting down on logistics and having someone who knows how and where to get you the best for your money. However, before you decide whether or not you need professional assistance, you might want to try getting your head around what it is that actually needs doing that really differs from the organisation of a wedding on home shores.

As an award-winning bridal hair and makeup artist with 30 years experience, my services are often required outside of the UK for brides who have chosen a destination wedding to ensure that they get the hair and makeup they really want. Because of this, I’m no stranger to the ins and outs of planning the big day from a distance and I’m familiar with both the joys and the downfalls! To help you get started with your destination wedding planning, I’ve put together my essential guide with everything you need to know…

Want to hire me for your destination wedding?

destination wedding

Licensing

Before you do anything else, the first step to planning a Destination Wedding is to investigate your different countries licensing laws ASAP.

You may have an idea in your head of where you would like to get married, but there are some countries that are considerably harder than others to achieve that in and in fact, some where legally it’s not possible at all. Fortunately, on the flip-side, there are numerous countries where UK citizens can get married relatively easily and unless you really want your work cut out for you, I would generally advise you opt for one of these. Even the easier options may have some tricky legislation to get through, which often includes having to be in the country for a month or two before the big day to make it legal.

destination wedding

Depending on your availability and budget, caveats like having to be in the country for an extended period or make multiple visits within a certain time frame could easily take a destination out of the running, so make sure that you have thoroughly researched the ins and outs of where you’re going before you send out your invites!

As a UK couple getting married, there are lots of amazing places you can say your ‘I dos’ without too much hassle that only require a 1-7 day residency beforehand. These are:

Italy

Greece

Cyprus

Mauritius

Seychelles

Sri Lanka

Southern Africa

Bali

Thailand

Caribbean

USA (New York, Las Vegas, Florida and Hawaii)

Canada

Australia

New Zealand

Cook Islands

Fiji

destination wedding

Seasons

You’ve figured out where to have your destination wedding, the next step is when. Have you found an almost too good to be true deal at your dream venue that is weirdly cheaper than other times of the year? This could be down to the fact that the weather you’re counting on is doing some crazy things at that time of year.

Always check the general annual weather for countries that you’re considering for your destination wedding to avoid selecting a season that is known for it’s unbearable heat or tropical monsoons. Getting married on a beautiful day is often a priority for couples drawn to tying the knot abroad and if you pick the right season, you’ll be in with much better luck of getting your wish.

destination wedding

Vendors & Suppliers

One of the most daunting things about having your wedding overseas has got to be the organisation of all the ‘little’ things: catering, flowers, bridal hair and makeup, entertainment, décor…these are all hard enough to get selected, tied down  and booked in when you’re in the same country, speaking the same language, but it can be near-impossible if you’re attempting to go it alone from abroad.

This is the point where you can’t beat a wedding planner when it comes to getting everything sorted remotely. Hiring someone who is a pro at planning weddings in the area or even using a wedding planner provided by a hotel or venue will take all of the really challenging planning out of your hands and into those of someone who knows what they’re doing. You shouldn’t have to worry about them taking over and arranging a day that isn’t what you have in mind – be vocal about your wants and needs and be clear that you want to have as much input as possible from the outset.

destination wedding

There are lots of things that are best left being local – the food and the event styling being two of those. But often getting the high quality of bridal hair and makeup you’re after and of course, being able to attend that all-important trial run, is a task best left to pros at home.

The way you look on your wedding day will have such a huge impact on how you feel and therefore, whether or not you really enjoy your wedding, so it’s essential to get right. You will of course have to take into account the extra costs of flights, accommodation and additional days you’ll need to pay your bridal hair and makeup artist for, but if it’s an artist you know you’re really happy with, it’s worth it.

destination wedding

If hiring a wedding planner is out of your budget or you’d rather take it on yourself, here are some tips:

  • Pay a visit to your destination at least once before the wedding to scout out and book local suppliers
  • Befriend people who live in the area or who work in local restaurants for the best intel on lesser known talent and the best prices.
  • Bring your hair and makeup artist with you! Getting your bridal hair and makeup just right makes such a difference to your big day. Don’t risk it on someone you’ve never met or trialled with, instead, talk to your favourite UK wedding hair and makeup artist about their fees for coming along.
destination wedding

The Dress

Wherever you decide to get married, be it in the UK or a destination wedding, always book the venue before choosing your dress.

Not only will the choice of backdrop affect the style you’ll want to go for, but of course when getting married abroad you also need to take into account the temperature and whether or not you’ll be comfortable. You might love those illusion sleeves and big ball gown silhouettes, but these are probably going to be far from practical on a beach or in sizzling heat! Your husband to be should consider his outfit too – maybe a tailored linen suit would be more appropriate than a wool tux?!

Oh and one more this: never check your dress! It’s Sod’s Law that the item of luggage that will go missing will be the most important one and you can’t afford to lose this. Carry your dress on board and have it pressed and steamed when you arrive.

Start Early

Planning a wedding in your own country takes around a year all in, so take into account that arranging a destination wedding will usually require more time and effort than that, unless you’re using a wedding planner.

Don’t leave anything until the last minute! Everything must to arranged well in advance to avoid any unwanted stress.

Start your organising by planning at least one scouting trip, but preferably more like 3 or 4 – the more the better to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Really be on it for these trips by setting up as many appointments with prospective suppliers and vendors as you can to really make your most of your time out there. The less rushed everything is, the more you’ll feel happy that you made all the right decisions when the day comes.

destination wedding