If you've finally arrived at the decision to get married abroad... congratulations! This is a really amazing step you are taking and I'm convinced you won't regret it :)
If you haven't decided yet about getting married abroad, check out my post with some tips about deciding ... Here
So! You've decided that you're going to go for it. Planning a wedding abroad can be a little daunting becuase ... well... it's in a different country. You don't know who to trust, you're not sure if it will work the same as at home and you're worried about getting everything co-ordinated from a distance.
The brilliant thing is, it's completely possible and really not that difficult once you get going.
The first thing you must decide is Location. With so many places to choose from, it can be overwhelming. My first line of advice would be to consider getting married in a country you have already visited. This way, you know that it's your cup of tea without having to waste a trip out there, just to see if you like the country. If you've a lot of money and time to go jet setting around trying places out, go for it. But for the most part, this is unlikely.
If this still doesn't narrow the choices down much, consider what country is the easiest to fly to. Perhaps looking at journey time, frequency of flights and the cost of accommodation options. This will make it easier for you and your guests.
Another thing to consider is the type of wedding you want. Do you want a religious service? Check out the conditions for getting married in this country and see how easy this would be. If you want a civil service, some countries require you to be resident in the country for a set period of time. So it's best to check these things out first. Other countries will only give a church blessing and require you to have a civil ceremony at home before you come over. If you want to avoid this, do your research into the legal and religious rules in that country.
Sometimes you will already have a location in mind. Perhaps the place is special to you in some way etc. This is the ideal scenario and will narrow it down a lot.
You might also want to email a few hotels or wedding planners and ask for estimated costs of the wedding meal and other services just to get an idea of the overall costs.
If you have decided on the country... well done! You are one step closer to your dream destination wedding :)
The next thing you might want to do (and I really recommend it), is to source a wedding planner in that area. There are some dodgy ones out there, so it's best to go on a recommendation, either by someone you know or from other brides you meet online. I found a great wedding forum and was able to chat to loads of brides past and present and get recommendations. Ensure that the people you are talking to are genuine brides. Some planners troll the forums to advertise themselves. Here is the forum I used and found really helpful for wedding planning. WOL
The advantage of a wedding planner is that they take care of everything on the foreign end including any legal or religious paperwork. They have also spent a lot of time sourcing good suppliers. Wedding planners want to keep a good reputation, so they will ensure that they are using the best suppliers and have tried and tested them.
Once you find a few wedding planners, you should email them and ask them for some venue options and prices. Sometimes you warm to a planner and know they are the one you want to use - even through email. If you like the venues they have to offer, book a date to meet with them and book those flights! This is really the most exciting part. A good planner will spend a lot of time with you showing you around the area and the various venues. Looking back, this was one of my favourite parts of wedding plan.
You will know when you see the venue of your dreams. You can really imagine your wedding there, it's fantastic. At this stage, I wouldn't be too worried about asking questions about minor details. Your main concerns will be logistics of moving your guests around from hotel to ceremony and to the venue etc. For this part of the planning, it really is great to be able to walk around the beautiful venues and soak up the atmosphere. My parents came with us and it was great to have them involved as well - this may be a total no no, depending on yourself of course :)
Check what's included in the price. You'll be surprised that the price often includes extras that you would pay for at home. So don't be shocked when you hear the price per head and remember the currency conversion rate. Normally included are room hire, arrival drinks (including alcohol) for guests, canapes, drinks throughout the meal and things like chair covers etc. There are often options to pay for an open bar all night for your guests. Obviously this increases the costs, but it is usually value for money and a great treat for your guests if you can afford it.
On the trip, try and have a look around the area and check out if it would be suitable for your guests to stay. Check out what there is to do in the area and what accomodation options there are. You could pick up some postcards form the area to use as save the date cards :)
It's not completely necessary, but probably likely that you'll want to take another trip to the area to meet other suppliers and do a menu tasting. However, it is completely possible to organise the rest of the wedding from home if you are happy enough with the suppliers you have chosen.
When you come home, take a little time to let it all sink in. If you're happy enough to go ahead and pick your venue, the next stage is to make the leap and book your wedding date!
A last final tip - a good planner will not pressure you into making a booking. They will be confident enough with their services that they will not need to push you. They shouldn't charge you for a viewing either. Some will justify the cost because of the time it takes and the fuel costs, but I personally don't think they should.
If you are considering Spain as an option, I can whole heartedly recommend Marcella Doran from Your Dream Wedding in Spain. She is a true pro and won't let you down. We had an amazing wedding with the help of this lady :)
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comment box below :) If you have any tips of your own, please contribute too :)