Ah, the irresistible lure of sunshine and beaches… some Irish couples just can’t say no. Are you thinking about flying away to say ‘I do’? It’s a great idea, but a big decision – and you need to consider a few things before you commit. So, to help you decide whether to have your wedding at home or abroad, we’ve compiled a list of the most important differences. Have a read, have a think, and if you have any questions, just ask!Advanced noticeIt will be hard for some of your guests to travel to your wedding abroad on a short notice. The usual issues are booking time off work, childcare and money. The more time you give them, the better – hence save-the-dates. If you can tell them 8 months in advance, great. A year or longer – even better!For a wedding at home, a standard 6-8 weeks for mailing out invitations is no problem. But if you have guests travelling in from faraway places, feel free to send them save-the-dates too.
Photo from Niamh & Paddy’s real wedding by Marcella Doran, Your Dream Wedding in Spain
Number of guestsWeddings abroad tend to be smaller. First, you can expect more people to decline the invitation to travel, for the same reasons we already mentioned above – work, family or money. Second, it’s not a question of getting the most of your wedding package and venue capacity – it’s more about the people you absolutely must have with you on that important day. Of course, if your budget is rather large, you’ll have much more freedom with the number of guests.A venue at home will usually give you prices based on a certain number of guests. Our survey in January 2016 showed that an average Irish wedding has 156 guests – so if a big party is something you have your heart set on, staying put may be the better choice for you.Some won’t be able to attendGrandparents, best friends with tiny children, close family members on a very limited budget – these are prime examples of people who may not be able to travel abroad. Would you be ok with not having them there?A wedding at home is easier to travel to for all involved, no doubt about it.
Photo from Aoife & Steven’s real wedding at Schloss Prielau Hotel, Austria
The legalitiesYou must check if the ceremony type you want will be available to you abroad. In some countries, you won’t be able to have a church wedding, while in others, your civil ceremony won’t be legally valid back in Ireland. Some paperwork may have to get filed far, far in advance, even up to a year. Doing all your research before you book anything is a must. Also, same sex couples still can’t get married in some countries.In Ireland, you have a full choice of ceremonies available to you, and same sex marriage is legal. Paperwork guidelines are clear, and you may have to mind deadlines for any pre-marriage courses you may have to take if you’re having a church wedding.Hiring a wedding plannerSo organising a wedding at home is already a pretty intense job – imagine having to do it all in another country while NOT living there? It’s a superhero task. For a wedding abroad, a good planner is an absolute gem and a lifesaver. They’ll answer all questions, won’t let language barriers get in the way, and arrange all the details exactly as you want. We cannot recommend hiring one highly enough – in fact, we’d say it’s essential. However, if you’re the type of person who strongly prefers to manage things on their own, you may find it difficult to let someone else take the reins.At home, while many brides choose to organise the whole thing themselves, hiring a local wedding planner is also a smart thing to do. Many brides have told us it was the best money they’d spent in their whole budget. Not many people know (but they should!) that wedding planners can get you discounts and deals which aren’t publicly available, especially on venues. They’ll also give you loads of suggestions on other ways to save money and make your wedding unique. Not to mention – resolving things that stress you out! In the end, the balance between the money you spent versus money and sanity you saved will be perfectly worth it.
Photo from Niamh & Paddy’s real wedding by Marcella Doran, Your Dream Wedding in Spain
Wedding gown When shopping for your outfit abroad, you must take the weather and the location into consideration for your gown and shoes. Make sure to tell the bridal shop staff about your plans, and let them help you shop accordingly. Comfort should be as important as looks – and that means not sweating all day in the sun in a heavy gown, or freezing in a strapless one in the snow. Same goes for the groom – don’t make him sweat in a three-piece suit on a hot day. And last but not least – your gown will most likely have to travel with you, so ask about bag or box options to take it safely abroad and back. And did we hear ‘luggage allowance’? Check with the airline about any extra charges for cabin baggage.At home, you know the weather like the back of your hand, so you’ll already have a good idea how to shop, and there won’t be luggage allowance to worry about.
For even more useful advice about getting married abroad, visit our weddings abroad pages!
FoodOne of the best things about being in a foreign country is discovering its culinary gems. However, you should always keep some fundamentals in mind. For example, if any of your guests have special dietary requirements, you must ask your wedding planner to make appropriate arrangements. We also recommend keeping to local signature dishes to add that authentic feel to your celebrations. For example, if you’re getting married in Italy and you want to serve sushi at your wedding, that’ll definitely be possible – but you must consider the costs and the quality. Local food prepared by people who really know it is a winner every time – not to mention, far less expensive.Unsurprisingly, the same food rule applies at home. Sure, it’s easier to get sushi in Dublin than on a vineyard in Italy, but local food beautifully prepared is usually of better quality, less expensive, and of course helps the local producers and businesses.
Photo from Fabiana & Michele’s real wedding in Italy by Alessandro Mari Photography
MoneyThe price is often part of the allure of a wedding abroad. However, it’s worth remembering there are other expenses you have to budget for. One of these is the cost of translating documents into another language, and obtaining documents you may not have needed for a wedding abroad. Sometimes, there are visas (not just for you, for all the guests too) and mandatory health insurance. You should also take exchange rates into consideration. If you’re going to another euro country, it won’t be a problem, but as soon as you venture into Eastern Europe, the USA, Canada or Australia, your costs will fluctuate with the economy.For many couples getting married at home, budget is still the single most important consideration. As we mentioned before, the increased costs are usually related to being able to invite more guests. In our aforementioned survey, we discovered that the average price per head is €61 – a number well worth keeping in mind when considering how many people to invite.Choosing the venueNo matter how beautiful the pictures, you just won’t get the feel of the place unless you see it with your own two eyes. This is the one point that applies to a wedding at home or abroad. At home, you’ll tour at least two, three venues, and maybe even attend some venue open days to widen your search. If at all possible, make sure you visit the venue you’ve got your sights set on abroad. Yes, it is an extra cost, but you could turn it into a little holiday. We recommend asking a wedding planner in your chosen country to show you a few places once you arrive.Wedding insuranceWhether you’re having a wedding at home or abroad, wedding insurance is something you should definitely consider. When you’re spending a large amount of money on an event, it makes sense to protect yourself. Imagine having to unexpectedly pay for something twice -it will seriously affect your budget. We recommend Irish Wedding Insurance – they cover both types of weddings.
Photo from Sarah & Ross’s real wedding in Spain by Owen Farrell Photography
Main photo from Alexandra & Neil’s real wedding by Lyndyloo in Spain
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If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.