Planning your wedding from abroad

Planning a wedding from abroad can be stressful to say the least, but don’t worry, I’m here to offer you my hottest tips!

  • Recruit – This is THE most important step when you are planning your wedding from abroad, you need to recruit your family & friends to help! My sister & best friend, who are my bridesmaids, were invaluable when we got engaged and started the task of looking for our perfect venue. They drove the length and breadth of Ireland to visit venues for me, met with the on site wedding coordinators and asked the all-important questions for me. If you have specific requirements, make sure your bride squad knows them, along with any particular questions you want answered about a venue. Make sure to recruit friends or family that you trust 100% because you will be heavily relying on their feedback when making your final decision on your venue.
Bride & her squad on Claire’s big day!
  • Be bold – Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In the initial stage, you will be spending a lot of time emailing various venues to get their wedding packages and brochures. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their packages or mention any ideas you may have but you don’t see included in packages. Once I started looking at more and more packages, I got a feel for what the “standard” was and I was bold and asked some places to include things in their package at no extra cost. Every venue will offer for and you fiancé to come and check out their venue and meet with the wedding coordinators. Don’t be afraid to ask if family & friends can go on your behalf. The venue we went with in the end offered us a free overnight and complimentary dinner to come and look around so I asked if Rebecca & Claire could go on our behalf. I didn’t expect them to say yes but they did and honestly that went a long way and put them straight to the top of our venue list. If you don’t ask – you don’t get!
  • Budget – The budget is always important, otherwise you can’t choose a venue if you don’t have a budget in mind. However, I would say it’s particularly important when you are planning your wedding from abroad because you are dealing with different currencies. For us, the Canadian dollar is so weak against the euro, that it meant we were priced out of a lot of venues. We would get a quote and think it sounded really reasonable but then we would convert it to Canadian dollars and be sorely mistaken. You and your fiancé need to sit down together and come up with a budget that you are both happy with. And include EVERYTHING in this budget from wedding rings, to flights for the wedding, to flowers, to invitations. At this point you will be estimating a lot of costs, I find it better to always estimate on the higher side so that, if anything, your actual costs will be lower than your budgeted costs! There loads of free budget templates out there such as this one, or you can get one especially for destination weddings here, however, I find if you have a friend who recently got married abroad, use hers!
Popping the bubbly while getting ready!
  • Be organized – Organization is key for all wedding planning, but when you are doing all the planning from a different country, this is even more true! Firstly, establish what items you will be purchasing where and in what currency (if you are dealing with two different currencies). For example, I know I will be buying my wedding dress here in Toronto in Canadian dollars, but we will be paying for the venue, DJ, celebrant etc in euro. We will be buying the groomsmen suits in Ireland in euro. Put all of this into your budget and don’t forget to also note down when you’ve paid a deposit. It makes things much easier, and now I can see what exactly we will have to pay in euro when we are home for the wedding. It also means we can plan to deposit euro into our Irish accounts over the next 10 months.
  • Ask vendors if they’ve dealt with couples living abroad before – This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be. If you’re dealing with a venue, photographer, or celebrant who have never dealt with a bride and groom living abroad, it can cause some issues. I always made sure to ask when I was contacting venues if they had done this before as I think that’s where the biggest problems can arise. For me, I won’t see my wedding venue (Knockranny House Hotel) until the day BEFORE our wedding, and I won’t be landing in Ireland until 6 days before the wedding. I don’t want to worry about the small details in the lead up to the wedding, so I wanted a venue I could really trust.
Some paper flowers made by my talented sister-in-law Sviatlana
  • The legal part – Don’t forget to consider the aspect of legally getting married. Whether you’re planning your wedding to be in your home country, or it’s a destination wedding, don’t forget to look into the legal requirements. For us, when I reviewed the legal requirements in Ireland versus the legal requirements here in Canada, it’s actually much easier AND cheaper for us to legally get married here in Toronto and then have a symbolic ceremony in Ireland, so that’s what we are doing!
  • Don’t stress the small stuff – it can be easy to get carried away and worry needlessly about the small details when you are planning everything from a different country. Try and take a step back and calm down and realize that in all reality, the finer details don’t really matter. No one will remember your invitations, or your centre pieces. All people will really remember is a) the food and b) the party, did they have a good time! Again, for me, the venue we picked really helps with this as they are handling all of the smaller details for me such as decorating the ceremony room, table plans, menus, centre pieces. This is perfect for me!
  • Get family/friends to help where possible – do you have a musical sister? Do you have a friend who is great at arts and crafts? If so, ask these people to help out. It’s more meaningful if you can have some of your wedding decor done by people close to you! I initially didn’t want to have a have bouquet, but then I realized it may be awkward, what would I do with my hands if I wasn’t holding a bouquet I then decided that I wanted paper flowers made from old maps to incorporate our love of travel into the wedding, and my sister-in-law, who is an artist, is making them for me! If you want things made for your wedding, it’s easier to get help from people at home so that you don’t have to worry about transporting those items home with you, it’s enough to worry about getting your dress on the plane safely!
More paper flowers by Sviatlana!
  • Transporting your wedding dress on the plane – nobody wants to say goodbye to their wedding dress and send it off with checked luggage – you may never see it again! I’ll be bringing my dress onto the plane with me as carry on. I read a great tip online that once you purchase your dress, ask the bridal store if you can bring your carry on bag into them for them to pack the dress into the bag for you before you catch your flight – brilliant! That’s definitely what I’ll be doing! Update: My wedding was in June and I successfully transported the dress home. I didnt put it into my carry-on in the end, but just carried it in the dress bag. I then placed it in an empty overhead bin (it did have to be folded but I was fine with that). I would suggest contacting your airline beforehand to let them know you will be carrying your wedding dress on board. Mine was perfect when we landed and I didn’t even have to get it steamed!
  • Trials. Standard practice is that the bride will have a hair and makeup trial before her wedding, however, of you are living abroad, this will be difficult. Depending on when you are arriving home, you may not have time. That’s the situation with me so I plan to have a hair trial here with my own hairdresser and take loads of pictures and then also get my makeup trial done here. Just make sure you let your hair and makeup vendors know that you wont be doing a trial with them but that you will have pictures of the look you want on the day. Update: my wedding is now over so I wanted to update you on this part. It worked out perfectly. I had pictures of my hair and makeup for the girls on the day and they absolutely blew me away. My hair was fab, it turned out better than I ever imagined and my makeup was flawless. It just goes to show if you have professionals who know what they are doing, a trial isn’t necessary!

For more planning tips, visit my blog post Top Tips for Stressless Wedding planning!

Morning of the wedding!