Planning a destination wedding? Dreaming of blue skies, sand underfoot, gently lapping waves, continental cuisine, a historic backdrop? Wherever you're headed, we know you're picturing the most romantic day imaginable. But trust us: Whatever your fantasy nuptials involve, the bureaucratic hoop-jumping and organizational headaches that go hand in hand with scheduling an event abroad can be anything but. We'll be looking into overseas weddings in more detail over the coming months, but to get you started, here's a time-saving list of tips we wish someone had given us from the get-go.
1. It may be a no-brainer, but let's say it anyway: Give yourself plenty of time to research and plan your big day and make all the arrangements. Consulates, registry offices, immigration offices, church officials—all institutions take time to process paperwork, and if you submit anything incorrectly, you could delay the process further. A year is certainly not a ridiculous amount of time to allow for planning the most important—and probably most expensive—day of your lives.
2. Make sure all your paperwork is up-to-date and that you have all the documents you need. This could include your birth certificates and any paperwork relating to a previous marriage as well as travel visas. Most important, check your passport expiration date: Double-check to make sure it is valid not just now but for at least a few months beyond your wedding day as well as your entire honeymoon. If you don't have a passport, get one ASAP!
3. If your wedding is somewhere a little more exotic than Brooklyn—particularly Africa, the Indian Ocean or Asia—check which travel vaccinations you need (or make sure yours are current) and find out if your destination is in an active malaria zone. You can check online at sites such as
or ask your doctor for advice. Some shots need to be administered a couple of months before travel or you may need repeat injections, so it's wise to check this out in plenty of time. Can't stand needles? Ask your doctor what your options are. Or try hypnosis. Or pick a different destination!
4. As soon as you have a date set, send out save-the-date cards to all the people you're planning to invite, and remind them to check their passports, apply for visas and get any necessary shots too. This will also give the most important people the opportunity to check their calendars, schedule time off work, make any necessary financial decisions and reschedule any events that clash with your wedding. You can send full invitations nearer the date with all the finer details about accommodations, transportation or gifts. It may help with some of the decision-making to have a realistic idea of how many guests are actually going to travel to your wedding before you commit to that 300-seat marquee in the Tuscan hills.
5. Wherever humanly and financially possible, plan at least two trips to your wedding destination before the event itself. This is of course easier for Europeans marrying in Europe, who can pop over to
to research venues, chase quotes, file paperwork and check that everything is progressing as it should be. If you're based in the States, however, this may still be a possibility—especially if your wedding is in
. If not, try to find someone "on the ground" (a wedding planner, a relative, a friend) who can help you move things along on your behalf and make sure your venue really is as good as it claims to be.
6. Find someone who speaks the local language. This will come in handy when negotiating with local suppliers and understanding the legal requirements. If you book your wedding at a hotel, it may have a dedicated wedding planner and liaison staff who can walk you through the whole process. It's one of the many
(at least for your reception)—a big help with all the details.
7. Get in touch with the relevant church or temple as soon as possible if you're planning a religious ceremony or blessing. It can help you with all the arrangements. Some countries don't accept religious ceremonies as legal marriages, which means you will have also to attend a civil ceremony or registry office first. This is also the case for wedding ceremonies or blessings in hotels or resorts, which may not be legally licensed for marriages. You may not wish to make this legal element part of your wedding day, so work out if you will need to travel ahead of your guests to complete any official documents or legally "tie the knot." There also may be different requirements for different denominations—arranging a non-Catholic Christian wedding in
, for example, will involve an additional legal ceremony; an interfaith or cross-denominational marriage may be even more complicated. In addition, your home country's laws may differ from those in your destination, meaning a marriage that's perfectly legal in, say, the Maldives means nada back in the U.S.A.
8. Book your accommodation as soon as you can, and make reservations on behalf of your guests if possible. Remember that the most popular overseas wedding spots tend to be vacation destinations, so they get booked up well in advance.
9. Inform your bank of your travel plans so it doesn't stop your cards when it detects lots of foreign transactions. Check that your mobile phone will work in the area you're visiting; it may be cheaper to buy a phone card locally than use your existing SIM card.
10. Arrive at least three or four days before your wedding to give you time to settle in and make any last-minute arrangements. (This also means plenty of postflight recovery time and pampering spa sessions to make sure you look your best!) Speaking of which, ask your airline, but you should take your wedding dress as carry-on; crumpled ivory silk is not a good look, and not packing it in checked baggage means no danger of it getting lost!
Useful Web sites:
For travel visas and passports, visit the U.S.
Check your vaccinations at
Check back soon for Mr & Mrs Smith's country-by-country destination wedding guides…
For more honeymoon and travel advice from Mr & Mrs Smith, click here.
*View a full list of Mr & Mrs Smith