Tips for Planning a Wedding Abroad

Tips for Planning a Wedding Abroad

Planning a wedding abroad doesn’t have to be a scary experience. Of course, a local event planner will help, but there are a few other things you can do to make your wedding a success. I asked Judith, an American who had her wedding in Ecuador, to share her experiences. Below is her advice. Take it away, Judith!

It may be the case that you and your partner grew up only blocks away from each other. But it’s more likely that you are from different cities. Or different states. Even different countries. If the latter is the case, you may have to plan a wedding abroad. Here are some tips to keep the process sane.

Tips for Planning a Wedding Abroad
Photo by Cesira Alvarado

Hire A Local Wedding Planner

Even if you have friends and family in the foreign country (who are of course excited to help you), this is a must. Throwing a party is easy, but knowing how to make it legal is not. Figuring out what documents to bring with can be challenging and a professional will be able to guide you. For example, to get married in Ecuador one must produce an official identification document stating that they are unmarried. This does not exist in the US, however, your planner will know that the local embassy or consulate can witness an oath, which is accepted as an alternative. 

A local planner will also have the scoop on the weather. You may choose your wedding date based on when you are available only to find out that it is in the middle of the rainy season. 

Also, a local wedding planner knows other vendors in the local community. You can look at beautiful cakes online, but a planner will be able to tell you which bakers are reliable and whose are the most delicious, and most importantly, which are both. (If you are unsure as to the other  benefits of a planner, check out this post)

Investigate What Can Be Done “Here” And What Needs To Be Done “There”

When planning a wedding abroad, you can buy a wedding dress here, but you can rent a tux there. You can audition a musician here, but need to have a rehearsal there. Try to get as much as possible done ahead of time, but realize that there will be some things that can only be done in person when you arrive at your wedding destination. Using event timeline software can keep you on track and make it easy to check in with your planner from abroad.

Related: Destination Weddings And The Extra Challenges Involved for Planners

When Planning A Wedding Abroad, Local Customs Matter

I’m using “local customs” as a catch-all term for things that are different than in your home country. It could be eating with a fork rather than chopsticks. It could be knowing that at exactly noon people change their greetings from “good morning” to “good afternoon”. These can be small, but knowing them will have a big impact on your wedding.

Did you know that in Mexico weddings have much bigger guest lists in comparison to those in the United States, but the no show rate is higher? A direct “no” beforehand is considered much more rude than a last minute excuse. This can make estimating your space and food needs a nightmare. Understanding that this may be an issue beforehand can help you devise a strategy. 

Other local customs may include:

  • Start time – invited versus expected
  • Assumed inclusion or exclusion of children
  • Event length
  • Attire
  • Gifting practices

When Planning A Wedding Abroad, Know Local Customs

National holidays are big. And it’s easy to find a calendar that tells you when these are. However, in some countries each town has their own holiday for their foundation or their patron saint. This can shut the whole place down. However, just five minutes down the road people are working as normal. 

In bigger cities these celebrations can be specific to just one neighborhood. This can throw off your agenda a bit, even if known about ahead of time. But putting a few notifications in your event timeline to check for local holidays and related celebrations can keep you in the loop.

Arrive Early

Plan on arriving one day earlier than you had originally thought. Flights get delayed, landslides close roads, and altitude sickness can derail guests (all three occurred at my wedding). 

Having some extra time can make you feel more relaxed when unexpected events occur. If you are one of the lucky ones that have nothing go wrong you may even have time to check off some last-minute tasks early – which will be easy to see at a glance on your event planning software. Or you can take that time to relax with your future spouse.


Remember that this day is for you to enjoy and planning ahead of time will make this possible!