Top Tips From The Experts on Marrying Abroad

Have you been dreaming about tying the knot on a pristine white sandy beach with the sound of the ocean gently lapping in the background? Well you’re not alone, thousands of couples are ditching the traditional church wedding to fulfil their dream of a perfect beach wedding. With destination weddings becoming ever more popular I have been asking all the top wedding planners for their best advice for planning a beach wedding abroad. This is what they had to say…

What should a bride take in to consideration when planning a beach wedding?

Nadia Hagger – Find out the legalities, what paperwork do you need? Will your marriage be legal in the UK? Will you be required to have your marriage certificate translated into English? Do you need to reside in the country for a certain number of days?

Julie Dawson – Set A Budget!! Most important. If not you will run up your own national debt. Discuss your budget with your chosen resort and wedding co-ordinator at the resort. Together you can apportion your priorities to it so that out of the money you have you should definitely spend on the areas that are most important to you. Everything can be moved around. Remember it’s your money and you can spend it how you like.

Nina House – If possible factor in at least one trip to the destination before the wedding. To meet the co-ordinator and key members of staff, perhaps use this opportunity to do things such as a menu tasting.

Sarah Vaux – Make sure there is enough accommodation at the resort/location for family and friends attending.


What should a beach bride consider when picking her locations?

Nikki Foster – Pick somewhere that makes your heart melt. It’s your wedding day and you must choose somewhere that means something to you both. Whether it is somewhere you have always wanted to go together or had a memorable holiday together or just somewhere utterly beautiful, make sure you choose it for you.

Inge Bergakke – A bride must consider the seasons and weather at her chosen location, make sure you pick the best time of year and ensure there is an alternative location in the resort for you to host the ceremony and reception if the weather turns bad.

Alexia Morrison – Getting married abroad will undoubtedly have an impact on your guests. Unless you have an unlimited budget you are probably going to have to invite a much smaller number of guests and it’s unlikely that your grandparents are going to want to travel to a destination wedding…. That said if you have a beach wedding you’re more likely to be able to spend quality time with your guests over more than 1 day.

Bernadette Chapman – When choosing your venue ask how many weddings on average they do a day. I was lucky with my hotel in St Lucia in that we were the only couple in 2 weeks to get married so I felt very ‘special’. Do you mind any other wedding couples the same week or day as you?

How much notice should a bride give her guests when getting married abroad?

Nikki Foster – As much as possible. As a rule I would say 12 months is a good time scale as people tend to plan their holidays a year in advance. You are asking people to use their holiday time and finances to come and celebrate with you so don’t get upset if everyone can’t make it.

Kim Taylor – If you have not fine tuned the details of the wedding I recommend save date cards with a little note to say where and roughly when the wedding is likely to be held. Also consider including a list of accommodation in different price ranges to accommodate your guests varying budgets.

Do guests usually pay for their own travel and hotel expenses at a destination wedding?

Alexia Morrison – This completely depends on the couple who are getting married. It is most common for the guests to pay for their expenses and it’s just the wedding breakfast etc that’s covered by the bride and groom (as per a normal wedding), but some couples will ask that their guests pay for their own travel but then the bride and groom will cover the costs of their accommodation while they’re there. It really depends on the individual couples financial position.

Isabel Smith – Although there are megabucks couples around who are willing to fly their guests out for an all expenses paid holiday-cum-wedding, most couples choose a destination wedding in order to take advantage of the savings made from smaller guest lists, cheaper costs and combining the wedding with the honeymoon. As destination weddings put a bit of financial pressure on the guests, I usually recommend footing the bill for a little treat for those that have made the effort to attend – perhaps a water sport lesson for the men and a spa treatment for the women.

Siobhan Craven-Robins – I recommend my couples pay for key wedding party people such as the bestman and bridesmaids as thy are taking on a lot of responsibility.

Julie Dawson – Some of my couples ask their guests to attend their destination wedding as their wedding present.


What is the best way to transport a wedding dress?

Inge Bergakke – The best way is to check your dress in as hand baggage and ask a steward very nicely to put it away in a hanging closet in first class. Or you could wrap it in special paper and place it in a dress box in the overhead locker. You may also want to consider sending it to the destination a week in advance, wrap it up in acid free paper, box it carefully and send it. Sometimes the dress shop will pack up the dress for you if you ask nicely.

Isabel Smith – Beach brides tend to favour slimmer, more flowing gowns or shorter dresses that can be hung in a suit bag before being folded and taken on as hand luggage. In these cases, it is best to arrive to the venue a few days before the wedding so the dress has time to be hung up to allow the creases to fall out.

What is the best time of day for a beach wedding?

Bernadette Chapman – Due to the heat it is better to have the ceremony in the morning or late afternoon so it is cooler. Neither you or your guests want to have shiny faces from the scorching sun.

Kim Taylor – Take in to consideration the tide – if you are near the water’s edge the ceremony needs to be at the right time to ensure you are not washed away!


What is the first thing a bride should do when she wakes up on the morning of her wedding?

Alexia Morrison – I think it’s important to just take some time out for yourself when you first wake up. You’re going to be surrounded by people for the rest of the day so keep the first 30 minutes of your wedding day to yourself to reflect on what’s going to happen and have some quiet time. Perhaps it’s enjoying a cup of tea on the balcony or having a walk along the beach. Also ensure that you have some breakfast, it’s going to be a long day and you don’t want to faint during the middle of your vows!

Bernadette Chapman – Have a nice relaxing breakfast with family before taking your time having a nice relaxing bubble bath. The key is to take your time and relax, the whole point of marrying abroad is to reduce the stress. If you have time book a massage and manicure before the makeup artist and hair stylist get to work.


What is the best way to ensure things run smoothly?

Julie Dawson – If you have planned well beforehand this should help ensure your days goes smoothly. Make sure a few days before the wedding you have a pow pow with your wedding co-ordinator and check everyone knows what is happening and if they are allocated a task they know what it is and when to do it. An order of service is a good idea. This lets guest know what and when things are happening. They will know what time the food is being served so can make provisions to eat. Keeping guests waiting for long periods of time, especially when its hot is not a good idea. Alcohol tends to be the main nutritional supplement and you don’t want your guests too tiddly before the wedding breakfast.

Alexia Morrison – It’s important to have somebody involved on the day, perhaps your maid of honour, who knows what’s happening, throughout the day, someone you can trust to sort out any problems that arise. Ensure that they know who it is that they need to speak to in the case of an emergency and have any relevant contact names/numbers.

What is the most common thing to go wrong on a wedding day?

Alexia Morrison – You can’t control the weather and often this can be the cause of many problems. It’s therefore important to ensure that you have a backup plan and remember that even if the worst does happen it isn’t the end of the world., you are marrying the person you love surrounded in people who love you both

Nikki Foster – The main difference between a UK wedding and a beach wedding is heat. Wedding party members and guests can easily become sunburned or dehydrated. People tend to avoid sun cream unless they are actively sunbathing. Remind everyone how important it is, suggest hats, and have water rand hand fans readily available – especially if there are children and elderly at your wedding.

Nadia Hagger – Allowing too much time, especially during welcome drinks, guests get hungry and if not careful become ‘over served’ in the alcohol department too soon! Make sure things stay on track.

Bernadette Chapman – A bride can take longer to get ready then anticipated thus delaying the ceremony and making everyone stressed. Make sure you leave plenty of time in the morning to get ready in a relaxed stress-free environment.

Any nice ideas of how to make her guests feel involved in the wedding?

Isabel Smith – Extending the celebrations by hosting a rehearsal dinner or post wedding day brunch or picnic gives guests the chance to get to know each other, building bonds that can carry a wedding’s party atmosphere. Accelerate the process by organising an activity or mini tournament (like beach cricket or a dawn island tour).

Inge Bergakke – What I always advise my couples is to change the setting during the ceremony. Don’t turn your backs to the guests, but turn to face them! That way you involve them directly in the ceremony. You could also think of unity candles, letting guests do readings, blowing bubbles outside or letting up balloons or lanterns.

Julie Dawson – Use a Polaroid instant camera with a guest book. Ask your guests to take pictures throughout the day and then write a comment with the picture in your guest book. It’s a fun thing on the day and the next day when you read through it you will see all the fun your guests were having. It’s also a great way of capturing some of the things you missed.

Caroline Gould -Why not ask your guests to RSVP with their favourite track so you can play it at some point during the wedding, this will ensure everyone will get up on the dance floor at some point.

Helen Carter – Think about having some form of entertainment during the drinks reception – this could be as simple as live musicians playing in the background. This is a time when you will be busy with photographs, so make sure your guests aren’t left standing around wandering what to do. Ensure there are adequate refreshments and sufficient seating so that they can relax and chat.

Alexia Morrison – If you’re having a beach wedding then the chances are that people will travel to the destination for a few days and make a holiday of it. If you can arrange, for some local activities in the run up to the wedding, then it will give the guests more of a chance to interact with each other. Are there any local traditions you could incorporate into the day that the guests could be involved with? Perhaps a trip to the local market or a cooking class on the beach.

Julie Dawson – Out of town baskets are a great way of making your guests feel involved. We used these at our wedding. Ask the hotel to leave them in their rooms. Fill them with little chocolates, candles and matches, miniature bottles of wine, handmade bath bombs, local maps, itinerary and a little personalised welcome note.

Nadia Hagger – If there are children present they could be asked to gather up lots of shells and form the couples’ names with them on the sand or scatter rose petals. Down the aisle.

What is the best way for a bride to stay calm when things get stressful?

Helen Carter – During the planning I recommend delegating as much as possible to friends and family that you trust. Don’t panic if things aren’t going quite right on the day. Don’t start running around making sure suppliers have set up in the right place or start making phone calls to check where your guests are. Instead, ask your wedding co-ordinator or chief bridesmaid to step in and deal with the situation on your behalf.

Siobhan Craven-Robins – Keep it in perspective. The day is a happy one that won’t be repeated. Any small disaster will not ruin the day for anyone unless you allow it to. Everyone is there to celebrate the union of 2 people they love, and very little can spoil that.

Julie Dawson – Make sure you give yourself plenty of time on the day, don’t get up late. One of the things that most brides get stressed about is how they are going to look. Remember you had your makeup and hair trial and you looked gorgeous. Having plenty of time to leisurely get ready will ensure you are calm and the people around you are calm too.


What sort of food and drink would you recommend for a beach wedding?

Alexia Morrison – There are too many choices – I think you can afford to be a little quirky in your choices when having a beach wedding. Why not make the most of the local food and drink that’s available to you – something that’s a little bit different will always be remembered by both you and your guests.

Isabel Smith – I think it is important to stick to the local customs and suppliers when marrying abroad so think about fish, rice and vegetables that are available in the nearest village. You could even organise a group fishing trip the day before the wedding and eat your catch.

Nikki Foster – If there is a traditional drink, incorporate this in to your reception. In France serve champagne, in the Caribbean serve rum punch, in Spain serve Sangria. Use the local influences as much as you can – and also ask the hotel or wedding planner what works well.

Sarah Vaux – For beach weddings nothing beats a nice ice cold fruit punch before a laid-back BBQ or buffet of fresh grilled fish and refreshing salads.

Nadia Hagger – Welcome drinks could be champagne cocktails or fruit punch served from jugs. Add frozen fruit – i.e. strawberries or raspberries in place of ice cubes. Bear in mind the effects of the sun, alcohol should be well balanced with plenty of soft drinks – Pina Coladas, Strawberry Daiquiris & jugs of mint iced tea work well.


Brides and grooms often feel like the wedding day goes by in a blur. What advice would you give a couple so they can enjoy their wedding day the most?

Caroline Gould – Make sure you spend some time alone together – your wedding day will fly by! There are so many people to catch up with, they will all want to congratulate you – its not surprising if you find yourself thinking ‘Where’s my new wife/husband?’ regularly throughout the day! It is important that you make time to get away and spend a few precious moments just the two of you.  Perhaps a walk along the beach together or before the evening reception take a few minutes to get away and freshen up together before welcoming your evening guests, and at a couple of points during the day be sure to sit to one side and just watch all your friends and family having a great time. Your wedding day is one you will remember forever – make sure you have a few special moments that you can reminisce about together.

Nadia Hagger – I advise all my newly-weds to find some time to spend alone, this gives them a chance to catch up with each other and reflect on the days happenings before gearing up for their evening entertainment. For a beach wedding it may be possible for the couple to take a short boat trip with a bottle of champagne. If this was done later in the afternoon it would not only give them time out together, but provide for some lovely sunset photographs.


What are your top tips for beach brides?

Inge Bergakke – Keep your make-up fresh and simple

Nina House – Beach weddings lend themselves to less formal attire…meringues and sand don’t tend to mix! Think straight, slinky dresses

Bernadette Chapman – Don’t have the dress too ‘tight’ as the heat & air travel can make you bloat a little. I was married in St Lucia and the dress fitted perfectly at home whereas on my wedding day I couldn’t sit down as it was so snug!

Alexia Morrison – Pretty Flip flops! If not for the ceremony itself for being able to walk around on the beach for photos etc. Heels really don’t work with sand! Take this in to consideration when choosing your dress

Nadia Hagger – Consider hiring a tent or gazebo, It will serve as a place to shelter should it get too breezy or offer shade if the day gets too hot.

Alexia Morrison -. Ensure that you drink sufficient fluids so that you don’t become dehydrated

Nina House – Embrace the destination and it’s culture

Nadia Hagger – Hire a small PA if possible so that your guests can hear you take your vows. The sound of the sea together with any breeze could mar the sound.

Nikki Foster – Understand and respect local traditions.

Siobhan Craven-Robins – Take your time walking down the aisle – enjoy the moment.

Caroline Gould – Think about your honeymoon – do you want to stay in the same location or maybe have a second, honeymoon destination

Nadia Hagger – Consider wedding insurance, there are many different packages available and considering the average cost of wedding it’s a snip out of the budget for complete peace of mind. They cover all eventualities including double bookings on the day, an accident with your cake or even the supplier going bust.


What should What should be in a brides ‘Wedding Day Survival Kit’?

Alessia Marcianò all the suppliers numbers

Inge Bergakke – Deodorant

Alexia Morrison -. Double sided tape

Bernadette Chapman – Mosquito repellent

Caroline Gould – Baby wipes (great for removing marks from a wedding dress)

Helen Carter – Tissues

Nadia Hagger – A hand fan to keep cool

Isabel Smith – Mini Hairspray

Bernadette Chapman – Mini sewing kit

Julie Dawson – Blotting paper or tissues to keep makeup intact if it’s a hot day

Caroline Gould – Hair grips

Helen Carter – Paracetamol

Kim Taylor – Sun cream – don’t forget this, you don’t want to get burnt on your big day

Nikki Foster – Face Powder to reduce shine

Nina House – Rescue remedy

Sarah Vaux – Plasters

Julie Dawson – Clear nail polish for runs and or spare tights.

Bernadette Chapman – Sting relief

Nadia Hagger – A Kashmir or light rug to cover her shoulders in the evening

Kim Taylor – Safety pins in case of a dress hitch!

Nikki Foster – Bottle of Water

Sarah Vaux – Lipgloss for photos

Siobhan Craven Robins – Talcum powder