Guide to Your Wedding Abroad

Last updated: 1 August, 2017

Almost everything you need to know before getting married overseas.*

*You’re on your own for dealing with your mother-in-law.

Planning the perfect destination wedding? There is a lot to consider as you coordinate your big day. How will you choose your wedding location abroad? How should you prepare for the climate and culture? What is the best way to overcome the language barrier and plan the overseas wedding you want? Will your home country recognise the union once you travel back? Phew! It’s a lot to take in. Fortunately, OFX is here to help.

In this guide, you will learn:

How Do You Choose a Wedding Location Abroad?

Choosing your wedding venue abroad is incredibly exciting, but no one wants their event to be fraught with complications that could have been avoided. A little bit of strategic planning will go a long way to making sure your destination wedding goes off without a hitch.  Once you’ve nailed down the ambiance you’re looking for (be it a mountaintop or a sandy beach), pay special attention to language, climate, exchange rates and visa requirements.
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Language Barriers

Language is an important consideration in choosing your wedding location overseas. The further you go off the beaten path, the more likely it is that you will run into a language barrier.  This barrier could hinder your ability to ask for specific services or products that are important to your big day. If you don’t speak the language or have a personal contact at your desired wedding location overseas, hire a local wedding planner that speaks the local language and has experience navigating local vendors, so you get what you want more easily.

Having a trusted person negotiating and working for your best interest can be invaluable when planning any occasion abroad. While a wedding planner may seem costly at first, the best ones could help you negotiate better rates with all your major vendors.


Climate Considerations

Take a moment to research the average temperature and seasonal weather patterns of your wedding location. This will keep you from planning your wedding in the middle of monsoon season while picturing clear blue skies and sunshine. If you’re keen to take advantage of cost savings during the shoulder season,  investigate a back-up plan that will save your ceremony even if there is a bit of weather. A little bit of climate research can ensure you plan for heat, humidity, rain, snow, or wind, so that you have people and services ready to protect your perfect day from whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
 

Easy Visas or Complicated Bureaucracy

You and your guests will need to navigate the visa process for your destination wedding so it’s definitely something to consider when choosing where to have your wedding abroad. It is important to understand that some people may have trouble attending your wedding abroad depending on the visa requirements and travel limitations of their home countries.
 
Ask yourself: Can my wedding party and guests get to my international wedding location easily? Do they have to apply for visas to attend my destination wedding? How long of a process will that be? Take the answers to these questions into consideration as you make your final choice of wedding destination abroad.

Some countries have relaxed their visa requirements for weddings precisely to cater to the destination wedding market. That said, if you plan on taking up residency in that country afterward, there may be different laws you have to abide by. 

Don’t Forget to Factor in Exchange Rates

When choosing a destination wedding venue, exchange rates can make a substantial difference to what you’re ultimately able to afford. The average cost of an international destination wedding is about $30,000. So if you’re considering having your wedding in Switzerland versus France, even a 6% difference in the exchange rate between the euro and the Swiss franc could mean saving $2,000.

When it comes to paying your bills in foreign currencies, many banks and big name money transfer providers will charge a margin of about 5% above the daily market exchange rate (and that’s on top of the fees to transfer the money). Switching to OFX instead could save you enough to cover the cost of your flight overseas. Currency specialists can also help you lock in an exchange rate for up to 12 months in the future, so you always know what you’ll be paying even if the exchange rate fluctuates between the time you book your venue and the time you pay the bill.

The Nitty Gritty: Baggage Limitations, Shipping Costs, etc.

It is highly likely you will need to bring or ship some items with you for your wedding. Dresses, accessories, suits, decorations, and special a memento or heirloom will make your big day special. Getting them to the venue means you need to know what it will cost to add extra bags to your travel plans, or what it will cost to ship internationally to your final location. These costs can really add up, so plan ahead and choose the option that keeps your items safe and secure.

How Much Does a Destination Wedding Cost?

Wedding costs will always primarily depend on how many guests attend. According to TheKnot.com, overseas weddings spend over $400 per guest with an average total spend of just under $28,000. That said, many people choose to travel for their big day precisely so they can have an intimate wedding abroad.

The best way to control your budget is to determine your major priorities for the day. Do you want a party that lasts all night and a venue that will stay open for your group? Do you want all of your most important people to attend, if so, your choice of destination is critical. Is Michelin quality food important to you, or is it all about making sure everyone can drink fine wine? Once you clarify what you really want in your mind, you can determine how to allocate your budget accordingly. 

Be mindful that destination weddings may be less expensive than a domestic wedding for the people hosting, however, you are asking your guests to pay much more than they normally would in transportation and accommodation costs. When planning your wedding abroad, the effort you make to reduce these costs for your guests will be much appreciated.

Should you Book a Wedding Abroad Hotel Package or a Wedding Coordinator?

There are two distinct ways you can plan your wedding overseas. One is to find a hotel package with a wedding coordinator that will cover all of your wedding abroad needs; the other is to coordinate the various items yourself.
 
With a hotel package you can expect to have the majority of details decided under one roof with a designated contact person. This can take some of the pressure off of finding and coordinating every detail. Hotel packages may include things like a room to stay in, on-site ceremony and reception locations, someone to preside over your wedding, catering or drinks, flowers, cake, and a photographer/videographer to capture your big day. If the hotel doesn’t offer these services themselves they will likely have a list of preferred vendors for you to choose from.
 
Planning outside of a hotel package can potentially be more affordable, but there is a lot more legwork involved. Each element of your destination wedding will need to be found, planned, negotiated, paid for and coordinated. The best way to choose one option over the other is to determine your personal wedding  priorities,  be honest about your expectations, and decide on which option will give you  the control and level of flexibility you want.
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Booking Your Vendors

When booking your vendors, you may want to make an effort to negotiate on costs. In many cultures, negotiating is expected and welcomed. If you can’t get the price down, you may want to try to add additional services to the contract. You should also make sure the contract specifies exactly which currency you’ll be paying in. Some island locales often prefer to be paid in US dollars rather than the local currency, so it’s best to ask upfront. No matter where you go, review your contract carefully before you sign. 


How Do You Get Group Flights and Hotel Discounts For My Wedding Abroad?

Getting everyone to your location and making sure they have a place to stay is of paramount importance for an overseas wedding. Almost all airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways and Qantas, offer group flight arrangements, sometimes with a discount, though every policy is different.  Contact the main airlines that serve your location to find out what they can offer your wedding party and guests.
 
Hotels around the world offer group discounts for booking a block of rooms together and a simple call to the hotels nearest to your ceremony and/or reception location can help you determine which location is the best for your group.  It is wise to ask about transportation as well so you know if shuttle services, taxis or other modes of transportation are available for your guests. On site amenities, like childcare, can also help take care of some practicalities for your guests.
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What Documents Do You Need To Collect If Getting Married Overseas?

In addition to considering the travel requirements and limitations of your guests, you will need to collect certain documents in advance of leaving your home country for your wedding abroad. Proper collection of these documents, as well as proper submission for recording, ensures your marriage is valid and can ensure you have what is necessary for the marriage to be recognised in your home country. Not following these steps carefully could lead to great hassle in the future.

Any party wishing to marry overseas needs to contact the embassy or consulate of the country where they wish to hold their wedding abroad and get the detailed requirements of that country.

Contact your destination country to find out the following:

  • If you need a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (see below), or an Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry, which proves your legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract.
  • Where you should obtain your Certificate of No Impediment of Marriage or Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry according to the destination country.
  • If there are additional requirements for your wedding in your destination country like divorce papers, death certificates, or blood tests.
  • If you need a birth certificate, ‘Single Status Certificate’ or ‘No Record Result’ which may be issued by a local department or registry in your home country.
  • If there is a residency requirement in the destination country prior to a marriage taking place.
  • If your documents will require certified translations.

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What Do You Need to Know About Visas for a Destination Wedding?

Depending on your origin and destination countries, as well as the length of your stay overseas for your wedding, you and your soon-to-be-spouse, as well as your guests, could need visas. Visas take time to process, so applications and passports should be submitted with plenty of time to get through the necessary steps and be returned to you for your travel.

 

Applying for the correct visa is critical. Visas are based on the reason for your trip, the length of your stay and your current passport status. You can find information on how to obtain the correct visa through your destination country’s embassy, high commission or consulate. If you are planning on visiting any additional countries, be sure to include their visa requirements in your research as well and obtain all necessary travel documents for your trip.

Visas are often approved with an expiry date, so be sure to apply early while also requesting the appropriate visa end date to cover your travel time. Many countries also require passports to have at least a 6-month validity beyond the date of travel. If that’s the case, it’s wise to outline such requirements for your guests, so everyone can avoid unpleasant surprises.


No Impediment to Marriage/Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry

Australia, the United States and United Kingdom all recognize marriages based on adhering to the rules of the country where you choose to have your destination wedding.  Foreign governments may require that you submit a Certification of No Impediment to Marriage or an Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry. Each destination country has requirements concerning specific documents to be issued by the departments or offices of your home country. Be sure to check your destination country for the requirements of that country.
 
For example, some governments will only accept a Certification of No Impediment to Marriage from the Australian embassy or consulate within their country, so you will need to arrive in your destination country with enough time to obtain this document before your wedding.  
 
For Americans marrying overseas, a country may accept a personal statement regarding your ability to marry if a U.S. consular officer has notarized it; and the United Kingdom provides a valuable search engine that details specific requirements for marriages and civil unions based on the country where you are choosing to plan your wedding.

What is the Best Way to Pay for My Wedding Abroad?

 

Whether you are seeking the perfect intimate wedding location with awe-inspiring scenery or are traveling to be close to friends and family for your big day, the joy of getting married overseas comes with some important financial considerations. What is the best way to pay your overseas vendors? How do you get money to suppliers abroad at competitive rates?

Currency Risks

Transferring money internationally can mean that fees really add up. It can also mean you’re vulnerable to exchange rate fluctuations that can dramatically affect your budget. When sending money overseas, it can start to feel a little out of your control, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

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What’s the Best Way to Pay for a Destination Wedding?

Because exchange rates move minute-by-minute, you need a money transfer provider who uses live exchange rates. Most banks don’t. A specialist money transfer provider can help you save substantially. With OFX, you can book your transfer 24/7--on your schedule. Track your transfer every step of the way with our mobile app, or take advantage of Forward Contracts and Limit Orders to get the rate you want.

What to Include in Your Destination Wedding Invitations

Because an overseas wedding requires a substantial investment of time and money on the part of your guests, it’s wise to give people lots of notice and plenty of information upfront. A wedding website is a great way to showcase your chosen venue and to answer many of the common questions that will arise.

Aside from date, time and venue information, your invitations for a wedding overseas should include information about any group travel you’ve arranged with airlines, car rental agencies and hotels. It should include information on local transportation--especially if the access to taxis is limited at your destination.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, you may also want to include visa information, so your guests can plan accordingly. People often have questions regarding what to wear to a destination wedding, and guests may welcome a few insights as to what the dress code is for the event. When it comes to an overseas wedding, more info is probably better than less, so having a wedding website up and running before you send the invites may help minimise the number of questioning phone calls from your guests.


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What to Wear at Your Destination Wedding

While the bride will surely have the final say on the ideal wedding gown for her perfect day, suits for weddings abroad can vary in style and material. Many men opt for light-colored linen or cotton suits for beach-bound destination weddings while tuxedos or wool may be more appropriate for a European castle venue.

No matter where you end up tying the knot, choosing fabrics that are suitable for the climate, humidity and heat will ensure that you stay comfortable during the excitement of the ceremony. To learn more about destination wedding trends in general, check out this page.

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How Do You Ensure Your Overseas Marriage is Recognized?

In order to have a destination marriage recognized in a home country the marriage, in general, should meet the requirements of both the home country and the destination country.
 
If you follow the correct process of the country where your ceremony takes place, you do not need to register your marriage in the United Kingdom or in Australia, it is automatically recognized if it fits your home country criteria for union. The exception to this is same sex marriages, which aren’t recognized in every country. 
 

Gay couple on the beach

Where are Same Sex Marriages Legally Recognized?

When it comes to same-sex marriages, the legalities can be quite complicated. The process of getting a same-sex marriage authorized can also be slow and expensive. Since not all countries recognize same-sex marriage, it is important to know if an overseas marriage is recognized by your home country and what the requirements are to obtain that recognition. In Australia, for example, a marriage conducted overseas may be applied when navigating Commonwealth, State and Territory laws regarding de facto relationships. In the United Kingdom, however, civil partnerships and marriages are recognized if the local law where the marriage took place was followed. 

 

Here is a partial list of countries where same sex marriages are recognized:

  • Argentina - Belgium - Brazil - Canada - Columbia
  • Demark - Finland - France - Iceland - Ireland
  • Luxembourg - Mexico - The Netherlands
  • New Zealand - Norway - Portugal - South Africa
  • Spain - Sweden - United Kingdom - United States - Uruguay.

Conclusion

A wedding abroad can be one of the most memorable times of your life and an exciting experience for all of your guests. It is important to start early, give yourself time, and use trusted services when planning your destination wedding.

The earlier you start, the more likely you will be able to navigate any unexpected hurdles that come up along the way. This goes for your guests as well, so notify them with plenty of time to obtain visas and make important travel arrangements. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions or consult people who have planned their wedding overseas already - there is no need to learn the hard way if you don’t have to.

Remember, this is your big day, so create the wedding that represents you. You can use our Destination Wedding Checklist to prepare, and when you’re ready to make those overseas payments, OFX is here to help you keep more of your money.