For many couples, the idea of saying their vows in a picturesque destination far from home adds an extra touch of magic to their special day. However, organising an abroad wedding in a different country can seem like a daunting task. From choosing the perfect location to navigating legal requirements and ensuring smooth logistics, there are numerous factors to consider. But fear not! Matthew Shaw, Creative Director and Founder of Sauveur, reveals his ultimate guide…
Tips on finding the perfect venue – how far in advance should you look?
Depending on the season you are looking for I would generally suggest making enquiries 12 months prior to your date in view of having a location booked 10 months before. This leaves you plenty of time to put logistical details and information together ready to communicate with your guests.
What logistical challenges should couples be aware of?
Language barriers, travel & accommodation, and the weather.
- Language: This will always be an element when working abroad but the importance of communication and detail is vital in the organisation of your wedding. We only work in destinations where our team speak the language or where we have local partners as it ensures a smooth process and that you are getting exactly what you want from your venue and suppliers. It may be worth seeing if you have a family member or friend who can speak the language to help when it comes to the finer details.
- Travel & accommodation: When asking guests to travel abroad it’s crucial to provide clear and helpful travel and accommodation information (whether this is being provided for them or not). It’s important to do your research (or work with the venue or your planner) to put together useful information to send your guests with plenty of time for them to make arrangements. It will also help with the weekend’s logistics if your guests are all staying in the same locations and you know where they are!
- Weather: Maybe an unexpected one but this should be considered just the same as you would in the more unpredictable UK. You are, of course, more likely to get nice weather down in Europe but this also means that the venues are mainly designed for exterior celebrations. Always consider what a venue’s wet or cold weather options are as they can often be limited when you remove the outdoors.
What non-negotiables should a venue have?
A clearly defined point of contact for you throughout the planning process, a good list of suggested suppliers who know the venue (but not a small list of required suppliers which will restrict what you can do and also likely come with inflated costs), contacts or suggestions for local activities and experiences to help entertain your guests during the day.
What questions do you need to be asking when working with suppliers and venues overseas?
Ask if they able to assist with guest transport and accommodation which will take a huge piece of work off your plate. I always ask how many weddings they do a year as it can be a good indicator of whether they have no experience which will increase your workload and nerves, or whether they do so many you will struggle to get the attention and facetime needed.
Depending on what services the venue provide you should ask them what team they will have across the wedding (an event planner, service staff, hosts) to better understand the level of service you will receive and where gaps may need to be filled.
It’s always helpful to enquire about their different seasonal rates. These can change throughout the year and you may be able to make a saving on the venue hire if you are flexible with your date and able to move it to the end or beginning of a season.
I also like to ask if they have done any weddings that were different from the usual format they suggest or if there are any new and different ways they suggest the venue can be used. There are often many more options or ideas that go beyond the floorplans you receive – you just need to ask!
Is it possible to have a destination wedding on a small budget?
I would exercise caution here. This of course, depends on the destination of the abroad wedding as it can vary hugely. The more well-known destinations such as the Côte d’Azur and Tuscany certainly come at a premium. The main factor that increases destination wedding budgets is entertaining your guests over a number of days. When inviting guests abroad for a wedding there are generally a few different events involved from welcome dinners to pool parties and post-wedding brunches which have an impact on the budget. There are also a number of general expenses involved with going abroad including site visits and travel, as well as ever-changing exchange rates.
When planning a wedding either at home, or abroad, put together a full budget of everything you can think of in advance to ensure you are comfortable with the potential cost. It is also crucial to include a contingency pot to allow for any unknowns that may crop up. Should you engage a wedding planner they should work on a detailed budget plan before proceeding.
And finally…here are three of my favourite & recommended destinations for abroad weddings ….
City – Amsterdam is such a fantastic city and a brilliant location for a destination city wedding. I love their approach to city life and some of the best food I’ve had is in Amsterdam. It is home to great hotels for your guests and so many experiences for them to explore. Amsterdam has a huge range of exciting and different venues from the more traditional Dutch architecture to the more industrial; you can create a magical weekend and top it all off with a boat party along the canals.
Islands – I really don’t think you can beat the Balearics when it comes to an island destination. I just love the landscapes there and the evening light is something else. If you steer away from Ibiza’s party areas it is home to some truly beautiful fincas and villas which are perfect for a rustic celebration under the stars. As islands go, they are also a firm favourite as they are blessed with a very good events infrastructure and all boast some great suppliers.
Countryside – It’s got to be Provence! There are just so many options in the region from sun-bathed lavender fields and crumbling châteaux to bustling towns and villages. I’ve produced many events in the region and each has been so different… The area is steeped in beautiful tradition which you can embrace and also contrast to great something truly special.
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