How to plan your wedding abroad?

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Lots of people dream about their wedding. You can marry wherever you want. A lot of people will think you’re crazy to marry in another country, they think it’s a lot of work but nowadays with internet and social media, it’s easier than ever.

It’s important to talk with your partner about what you want and together make your dream come true, so that you won’t regret a thing! Wish it, dream it, do it!

I did it, I had my dream wedding in Portugal, even though I’m from Belgium. You can read about my wedding in the my blog Wedding in the Algarve, Portugal.

In this blog I’m going to write about how I planned my wedding and I give you a checklist on the decisions you and your partner must make. We started preparing our wedding a year before our day. You can download the checklist for free, it’s a pdf file.

Preparing a wedding in another country is almost the same as preparing a wedding in your own country. The main difference is that you first need to get married for the law in your country and then you do the ceremony in another country. This means that you can’t do the ceremony on the same day as when you get married for the law.

We married for the law around a month before we went to Portugal. Also, if you want to do a religious ceremony like for example in a church, you’ll need to find a priest that is willing to come with you. It all depends on what you want. The rest of the things you need to arrange is the same as in your country. The only big difference is that you’ll have less control over how your wedding will be unless you fly over to that country to figure it out.

We trusted our location to make it the best day. We hired a wedding planner, which made things so much easier for us. She understood us so well, you can read about our experience with our wedding planner in the blog Wedding in the Algarve, Portugal.

Anyway, it’s also possible to plan your wedding by yourself, you just must find the best suppliers for your wedding. Read reviews online, ask friends for recommendations, send mails to different suppliers, etc.

Communication with your partner

Are you getting married? Congratulations! Now the planning can begin.

First, have a long talk with your partner. It’s the most important thing in preparing a wedding. My husband and I decided to look things up individually on Pinterest and afterwards we compared our decisions. We talked about our choices and started talking about what we wanted for our wedding. Together we made a document with pictures from Pinterest on how we wanted our wedding, it’s a first idea that you make together. This step is important because you’re both marrying so do it together, not alone!

Tip: there are many countries where marrying is cheaper than in other countries. Marrying in Portugal was cheaper for us than if you should get married in Belgium.

Anyway, communication with your partner is the most important thing because it’s going to be a stressful period as not everything will go the way you want. But believe me, in the end it will be the most beautiful day of your life.

When you’re on the same page as your partner, you can start with the real preparation. We started with our preparations a year before our wedding. I think that’s, for most people, the best time to start preparing a wedding. Of course, if you want to go over the top you can start preparing earlier. Some people start preparing their wedding two, three or even four years before.

How do you start with the preparation of your wedding?

Set a date for your day

Pick a date for your wedding. Think about what kind of wedding you want. Do you want your wedding in the summer or in the winter?

Your wedding is in another country, so look at the local weather of that country. Make sure you don’t do your wedding outside during rain season in Asia. Look up the seasons of the country you will marry and the average temperature and rainfall from that month.

The weather is always unpredictable but it’s nice to know what kind of weather you can get, some months it could be freezing and some others it could be too hot. Look up what your best changes are to get the weather you want.

We married in Portugal, and we didn’t want to get married in July and August because it’s too hot and there are too many tourists, also if you want to marry on the beach in these months, it’s really crowded, and to be honest, I don’t know if it’s even possible.

If you marry in another country, it’s almost impossible to do your legal wedding on the same day as your ceremony. We had our legal wedding in Bruges on the 3rd of March 2018 with the bridesmaids, best man and our parents. On the 7th of April 2018 we had our ceremony in Portugal. To us, our wedding in Portugal is our wedding date because the ceremony was over there with the reception, dinner and party.

How many guests and who? Let’s talk numbers

The next thing you must decide on is how many guests you will have and who you will invite. It’s convenient to know this before you choose your venue as some venues have limitations regarding the number of guests. You must keep in mind that some people cancel last-minute.

First, we wanted to elope but afterwards we decided to invite our closest friends and some family, 9 family members. I always wanted a small wedding, so we had around 23 guests.

Write down everybody that you and your partner want to invite. Only invite people that you want to invite. The biggest mistake people make is, inviting people they don’t want but they feel obligated. Don’t do this because you will regret this. Invite people that you like and think that have a value in your life. Okay, do you have an idea of the number of guests? If you do, that’s great! Now you can start looking for a venue.

Tip: be honest with your guests. Our guests knew that they had to pay for their stay in the country. We paid for the drinks the night before, our day and transportation for the wedding day. Guests are already honored that they get invited!

Venue for your wedding day, the place where you’ll say yes!

Think about what type of venue you want. Do you want to have your wedding at a barn, a resort, a field, the woods, the beach, on the cliffs, in a church, etc. use your imagination, everything is possible! Where do you want your venue? Do you want to do your whole wedding on one location? Or are you going to move to another location for diner?

At this point it’s important that you request quotations of venues you’re interested in, so that you can compare factors like prices, capacity, facilities, etc. Go look on the internet for different venues and ask a quotation. A lot of hotels and resorts in other countries are open to do a wedding. It’s easy to take a resort because they can take care of the food and drinks. You can also contact restaurants, bars, etc.

If you want to get married on the beach, most of the time you need a beach wedding permit. So, if you want to get married somewhere in nature you can easily look up if you need a permit in that country. 

We fell in love with Suites Alba Spa & Resort and with a bar/restaurant Caniço in the Algarve. Suites Alba Spa & Resort was our number one because there is a stunning natural bridge there. Our wedding Planner called in June with some bad news, another couple already had an option on our date. Luckily, the couple didn’t confirm so we got our dream venue, yes!

Tip: keep in mind that some venues are already booked on your date. Two options to solve this: another venue or another wedding date?

Save the date invitations

When your date is set and you chose a venue, you can start sending out the save the date invitations. Make sure your venue is already booked for your date when you send out your invitations. A save the date is an invitation with the date of your wedding so that people can write it in their agenda.

Some people send them when they’re sure about their date, even if they don’t have a venue yet, but sometimes the date can change if you’re really in love with a venue and it’s not available on that day. If my venue wasn’t available on that day, I would have changed the date.

We didn’t send a save the date, but we immediately sent our invitations because we would send an e-mail with information about the country and where they can sleep, what type of transport they can use, what they can do before our day and after our day, etc.

All our guests stayed a few days or even a week to discover the Algarve. We made our wedding invitation online on Tadaaz where you can order samples. The invitations you can buy on this website are amazing, we used a passport as invitation.

Tip: people love to get some extra information about the country you are marrying in. When people confirmed they are coming, send an email with all the information about the country.

You can decide what you want to mention in the email. Here some examples what you can write about:

  • A map of the country
  • General information about the country (language, capital, currency, time difference, etc.)
  • Food and drinks in the country
  • Must visits in the country
  • Transportation in the country
  • Places to stay close to the wedding
  • What to bring
  • etc.

Photographer and caterer

Okay, now you’re getting somewhere. After arranging your venue, you can start looking for a photographer, if you want one. Look at different profiles and ask about the price and the available packages. There are so many different photographers with each a unique view, so look at their portfolios and choose those you like.

Watch out because the prices for a photographer can differ a lot. We heard of photographers that ask three times the price we paid, so look around and ask the prices and facilities. Some photographers even come in pairs, make video’s, bring a drone and so on. It all depends on what you want.

You should also start looking for a caterer. The same can be said here, watch out because some caterers ask way more than others, but you also want a good one. Take your time to try the food, then decide what you want. Again, every caterer is different, ask the facilities of the caterer and if they have reviews, read them.

Wedding clothes & rings

Okay, wow, that’s already a lot of preparation but you’re not there yet. You guys can now start with organizing your day. Don’t forget about the clothes you’re going to wear.

I started looking for a dress five months before my wedding and trust me, that was a little too late. After looking for a dress, I found my dream dress, that was more expensive than I anticipated. I visited three shops in total, and I chose for the dress that I saw in the first store. It was a store with different brands.

The problem was that my brand was from the USA so five months was just in time for my wedding, but they told me that you must start looking earlier because they normally have to do the fitting several times. I would say, start looking around a year before the wedding just to be sure.

It was a stressful period because my dress came in the store the second of March, that was one month before my wedding. I still had to do the fitting. My wedding dress was finished just a few days before the wedding.

Besides the dress you also must think about the suit, shoes, jewelry, a veil, etc. At this point we also started to look for our wedding rings, you can do this a little later if you want. Start thinking about the color that will come back in the decoration and maybe your clothes, or the clothes of your guests. If you have bridesmaids, start looking for their clothes as well, so that they will match your wedding dress. Also think about a theme if you want one. 

Tip: it’s nice to have one or more colors that comes back during your wedding day, in the flowes, your outfit, your tables, etc. You can also put this on your invitations so that everyone wears something with that color.

Tip: if you go by airplane ask to take your wedding clothes as hand luggage. We’ve sent an email and they did our clothes where the costumes of the pilot hangs.

Suppliers for your wedding

When do you start looking for suppliers? We’ve heard that you should do this best more than six months before the wedding because a lot of people are getting married in the same period and some people start their wedding preparation years before their wedding.

Tip: to make planning easier: start a year before your wedding with planning what you want. The moment you know what you want, write it down. Make an excel or document and start sending emails out to all your suppliers. Make sure you send to different suppliers to compare packages and prices! Five months before the wedding you should have the final list with all your suppliers. It can happen that something still changes so don’t throw away your back up list.

Your suppliers depend on the wishes of your wedding. Do you want a celebrant? Do you want a band or a guitarist that plays during the ceremony or just a stereo? Do you want a DJ for the party? Are you going to order flowers, a bouquet? Do you want a wedding cake? Maybe you want a food truck or a BBQ? See the checklist above this blog if you want to know which suppliers you can use on your wedding. Look on the internet for the suppliers and again, ask different suppliers for their prices and facilities.

Decoration on point

It’s time to look for your decoration, yes! For me, that was the most fun part, and we did this three months before the wedding. Now you can think about what you will do with the tables, your ceremony, etc. Look around on the internet or on Pinterest and try to decorate your dream wedding. 

Tip: if you’re on a budget is to order decoration on AliExpress or Amazon, it’s cheap. Just be cautious, because sometimes you must wait for 3 months before you get your order and don’t forget to read the reviews and to at the number of orders.

You can ask yourself the following questions for decoration: What do you want on your tables? On your chairs? How will you organize the tables? Do you want a gazebo? Do you want a photo booth or place disposable cameras on the table or maybe a polaroid? Do you work with name tags or not or maybe you want a walking dinner? Do you want fairy lights or lanterns or maybe even candles? Etc. You can do whatever you want, look up on Pinterest wedding decoration and let yourself go. Check out my checklist at top of this blog.

Tip: think about what you can bring on an airplane. We wanted firesticks for our wedding dance, but you can’t bring this in the airplane, so we needed to buy this in Portugal.

Plan your dream day

The last thing you must arrange is how your day will look like and when you’re setting up the decoration. Write down when the suppliers are delivering or when they are planned during your day. You must make a schedule about how your day will go before the wedding and the wedding. At my wedding my husband, his best man and my wedding planner set everything up because it took less time for them to make themselves ready. They did this in the morning.

Our wedding went like this:

  • 1:00 pm first look only with bridesmaids
  • 3:30 pm everybody’s gathering
  • 4:00 pm ceremony, bride comes with the father
  • 4:45 pm toast with married couple
  • 5:00 pm reception
  • 6:00 pm pictures with the family, friends and the couple
  • 7:00 pm diner
  • 9:00 pm opening dance & party
  • 10:00 pm cutting the wedding cake & throwing wedding bouquet & party

We married in Portugal, like I mentioned earlier we’ve sent e-mails to the guests with information about the country. We talked about the culture, the weather, the food, places to stay, places to visit, etc.

The day before the wedding we invited everybody to drink something at Caniço, a beautiful bar between the rocks. It’s amazing because you’re in another country and everybody gets to know each other before the wedding. We arranged transportation from the hotels to our wedding so that everybody could drink and party.

Tip: think about how your guests come to your wedding. We arranged transportation. The guests stayed in different hotels, and this was not a problem. It’s more relaxed for them and they can enjoy more.

Okay, so that’s a lot of information. I hope you can use this to prepare your wedding. At the beginning of this blog you can find a checklist for your wedding, good luck and live your fairytale!

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