On numerous occasions, I’ve been asked what it is like to plan a wedding from abroad without the use of a wedding planner. No, planning a wedding abroad is not hard; planning a wedding abroad is not scary; planning a wedding abroad does not have to be stressful if managed correctly. I thought I would dedicate a post to sharing my experience and maybe be of help to those of you who find yourself in a similar situation. This post will be lengthier than usual, but I hope it will demystify the process of planning from abroad if this is something you are seriously considering.
To give you some background, I actually had the opportunity to plan three weddings abroad, only one of which will come to fruition, the one in Toronto in August, as the other two were “re-routed” for various reasons.
If you have made the decision to get married in a city, other than the one in which you are presently living, congratulations, you are now planning a wedding abroad. I researched and planned three different weddings, cities I was neither familiar with, nor in which did I reside (Amsterdam/Florence) and planned the third wedding in Toronto (where I am originally from, but not currently living). I will first address the experience of planning a wedding in a city where you neither live, nor are from- as this type takes a bit more leg work.
How Much Help Do You Need on the Ground?
The first step is to determine how much help you need on the ground. This ranges from hiring a wedding planner who will act on your behalf and negotiate with local vendors (full service), to going it solo and relying on your own research skills and perhaps the venue’s staff to help you sort things out. If you are getting married at a venue such as a hotel, vineyard, museum, or restaurant, that is already accustom to organizing events, your planning task becomes simpler. Outside of negotiating what can and cannot be brought in from third party vendors and what has to be supplied by the venue, this type of venue is proficient in running their business and is usually experienced in events and can help guide you through the decisions that need to be made for your destination wedding.
In Florence, for example, where we were looking at a mix of hotels and Tuscany villas, we started with a planner as we thought it would be helpful to have someone show us around for a day or two but to be quite honest, we did the research ourselves, told our planner what we wanted to see (what type of venues looked good/suited our budget) and at the end of the day, could have conducted the visits ourselves.
If we went through with Florence, hiring a planner would have been helpful to help manage our guests on the actual weekend of the wedding, help us coordinate and oversee the extra guest activities as well as manage the legal wedding process, especially if there are documents that need translation or certain requirements to be met by the local government. For instance, some countries require that the couple is present in the country three weeks before the wedding if neither person is a citizen of the country. Be sure to check out local marriage laws if neither of you has citizenship of the country you are getting married. Government websites are the place to look for this information.
On the other hand, in Amsterdam, we found our own religious officiant, set up meetings with florists, cake makers and located hotels for our guests. We also researched and found our own venue and would have felt in good hands and received support from them since it was a hotel with an on-site events manager/team.
Planning a wedding in Toronto from Prague, brought its own complexities but nothing that was too difficult to manage. The benefit of this situation is that we are both from Toronto and were familiar with venues. We also planned to return home once before the wedding and did most of the correspondence with our caterer, cake person, florist, DJ, venue and decor via email. We then set aside and booked one week of meetings to finalize details and meet everyone in person when we returned to Toronto. For the most part, vendor decisions can be discussed and managed online or on SKYPE because they require a little face time until a taste test is required.
We did opt to hire someone for day of execution because this bride-to-be would end up micro-managing the heck out of this event (more out of pure love of events and a strong interest to be hands on in everything she does) but that might not suit the needs of the guests and people around her. So we mutually decided to increase our team by one and partner on the execution.
How Much Do You Love Research?
The more you love to research, hunt and search, the easier it is to plan a wedding abroad. I will say, our process in all three cities was smooth due to the fact that both of us like hunting for things and one of us excels at online research. Because my fiance and I were on the same page and shared a common interest in research, it was a pleasure to meet, talk, find, and learn about the potential vendors we could work with in each city. It wasn’t stressful. It was like an adventure. We also gave ourselves enough time to do it so when we landed on the ground in each city, all of our meetings were pre-booked and all we had to do was follow our schedule of appointments and say yay or nay. If research is not your thing, interest, forte or desire, hire someone. Planning from abroad takes a lot of leg work and organizational skills. If this does not bring you or your partner pleasure, outsource this duty.
Thanks to the Internet, our invitations, decorations, DJ, cake, groom’s suit/shirt, plus a couple other items, all came from online. Pinterest has also been an extremely helpful tool in terms of creating image boards and finding pictures to help us communicate (visually), what we are looking for to vendors. It is so easy to send a picture or group of pictures if words are not your forte, to help someone understand your needs. I have Pinterest boards for everything, the most minute detail if it is more helpful to communicate with a picture to someone I am speaking with. (If you are new to Pinterest- here is an example of a series of Pinterest boards)
If anyone has any particular questions, or is in need of some ideas, feel free to leave me a comment in the comment section below. Happy to help where I can.