Friday, 20 May 2011

Expat excellence featuring Miller Weddings and Helen Smith

It seems we have all had Weddings on the mind with the recent Royal Wedding hysteria so we thought post the royal one it was probably time to blog about planning a Wedding abroad. This week we have the wonderful insights of Miller Weddings and the real life experiences of expat Helen Smith to bring you the plus points and pitfalls of planning a wedding overseas. ...

The plus points and pitfalls of planning a Wedding Abroad

Photography by Rudy and MartaSince starting up Miller Weddings I have noticed an increased popularity in destination weddings. I think this is mainly because of the restrictions on where you can actually get married within the UK - jetting off to an Italian chapel or Grecian beach is much more appealing than a dreary registry office. Right now, the ‘Any Campaign’ is petitioning to make anytime anywhere weddings legal within the UK, just like in the US and many other countries.

However, despite most people’s initial reaction, often a wedding abroad can cost less due to a minimised guest list and guests tend to pay for their own flights and accommodation. Ceremonies will also often cost less too, especially as they can run up to £500 odd for a church wedding here in the UK.

As for planning, a lot of resorts for destination weddings will take care of everything; from flowers and cakes to photographers and cars. Plus, with the advent of Skype a consultation can be done from anywhere. The downside to this is that your day may not include all the unique details that you wanted but really, most brides would swap ‘details’ in a heartbeat to have a spectacular location for the most memorable day of their life. Making their unique venue, their very special detail!

When looking at having a wedding abroad, brides often choose a place that is easy for everyone to get to. Possibly somewhere that may not require a full week’s worth of holiday, and then narrow it down to where they can legally get married. One of my brides is marrying in Spain this year and has had to take this into consideration. If you’re not resident there for a certain period of time first, you can only have a legally recognised marriage within a Catholic church. For any other Spanish wedding, you need to be married in the UK first and hold your blessing in Spain at a later date.

A wedding license is the same no matter where you are getting married. You still need to apply to your local registrar and obtain a certification of no impediment to show that you are free to marry. You’d then bring this with you to the country in which you are marrying. It is also important to ensure that the country you are marrying in is legally recognised in the UK too. Although a wedding abroad is not registered there, your deposit, marriage certificate with your local registry office and your marriage will be listed in the UK.

Most brides would benefit from hiring a wedding planner in their chosen destination. Not only do they speak the language, but they also have local knowledge and will be able to select the right churches and venues for you. It is easier for your planner to liaise directly with all the suppliers on site, rather than for you to do it through email or over the phone and encounter countless problems with geographical or language barriers.

A wedding abroad needn't cost more than one within your own country. It just requires a bit more organisation and persistence. The end result however, will be a unique experience - not only to the bride and groom but to all of the guests. Just make sure your passport is in date and start looking!

When Helen Smith, a Brit in Oz, found herself engaged her first thoughts were of home. Here she tells us of her wedding planning on the other side of the world!
Planning a wedding abroad can be an exciting prospect. The promise of a tropical island or a rain-free day, are huge selling points but do couples fully anticipate how extra much time and effort it can actually take?

It wasn’t quite the fine weather that drew me in, but being a Brit living in Sydney, Australia, the first sign of an engagement ring and I was almost immediately thinking about where, when and how I might be able to get married back at home. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the first – and in hindsight, the biggest – decision we were about to make, was to name the date. We gave ourselves 18 months and as our engagement progressed, boy did we come to realise that we needed it!

First things first – guests. Australia to England is a long and expensive flight. We had to consider who would come and whether we could ask people to folk out for the trip. Again, timing proved to be key, and almost as soon as we were engaged we spoke to friends and family down under to let them know our plans, giving them plenty of time to consider their options. The UK-based folk could wait!

Unlike many other destination weddings, an 11 hour time difference between the UK and Australia meant that almost all communication with vendors was done via email. Rarely did we hear back within a day which meant that we were constantly on hold and awaiting a response before we could progress other areas.

If I could give some advice from my own experience of planning a wedding overseas, first up it would be to give yourself plenty of time. Carefully plan the size of the wedding, what’s required of vendors and what you think the timeframe will be, and then add a contingency. Make sure that you also book enough time off work to arrive at the wedding destination plenty of time before the big day. This will allow you to meet with vendors or even make any last arrangements without feeling overwhelmed. Secondly, make sure that you are 100 per cent across any visa requirements – you might find that you need to be in the country a certain number of days/weeks before the wedding date (as I found). Remember that that’s where legality comes in to play so if nothing else, that’s what you need to get right.

Back on UK soil and with only three weeks to go until the wedding day, there are still several bits and pieces that are only now being arranged. That said, I’m confident (*holds breath) that with some precision planning and a few little helpers, things will all fall in to place...and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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