Are you dreaming of having a destination wedding in mainland Europe but don't know where to start? As a photographer and videographer who specializes in destination weddings, I'm here to share some tips and advice to help make your dream wedding a reality.
1. Start planning early
Planning a destination wedding in mainland Europe requires a lot of research and coordination, so it's important to start planning early. Begin by researching the countries and locations that interest you, and start putting together a budget and timeline. Make sure to consider factors like travel, accommodations, local customs, and legal requirements. Planning early also gives you more time to secure your preferred vendors, book venues, and make travel arrangements for yourself and your guests.
2. Hire a local wedding planner
A local wedding planner can be an invaluable resource when planning a destination wedding in Europe. They can help you navigate the local customs, language barriers, and logistics that come with planning a wedding in a foreign country. They can also recommend local vendors and venues that fit your style and budget, and help you negotiate contracts and secure bookings. A local wedding planner can also help you plan other wedding-related activities like rehearsal dinners, welcome parties, and day-after brunches.
3. Choose the right time of year
Europe has a wide range of climates and weather patterns, so it's important to choose the right time of year for your wedding. Consider factors like temperature, crowds, and local holidays when choosing your wedding date. Summer is a popular time for destination weddings in Europe, but it can also be crowded and expensive. Spring and fall offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds, but the weather can be unpredictable. Winter weddings can be romantic and cozy, but it may be difficult to find outdoor venues and activities.
4. Consider the legal requirements
Every country in Europe has its own legal requirements for getting married, so it's important to research and understand the requirements for your chosen location. These requirements can vary widely, from obtaining special visas or translations to completing paperwork and obtaining local licenses. Some countries may also have residency requirements, where you must reside in the country for a certain period of time before you are legally allowed to marry.
It's important to note that the legal requirements for getting married in Europe can be complex and time-consuming, and it's recommended that you hire a local wedding planner who is familiar with the requirements and can guide you through the process. A local wedding planner can help you obtain the necessary paperwork and navigate any language or cultural barriers that may arise.
5. Prepare for unpredictable weather
Mainland Europe is known for its unpredictable weather, and it's important to prepare for any conditions that may arise on your wedding day. Even in popular wedding destinations like Tuscany, where sunshine is expected, rain can surprise you. I once did a wedding in Tuscany where throughout the whole outdoor ceremony, it was raining heavily. Thankfully, we were prepared with umbrellas and ponchos, and the bride and groom embraced the rain and created beautiful memories. To be ready for any weather situation, consider packing umbrellas, rain ponchos, or even a backup indoor venue in case of inclement weather. Talk to your photographer and videographer about alternative photo and video locations in case your original plans are affected by weather. With a bit of preparation, you can be ready for anything and ensure that your wedding day is beautiful and stress-free, rain or shine.
6. Incorporate local flavours
One of the best parts of having a destination wedding in Europe is the opportunity to incorporate local flavors and traditions into your wedding day. Consider serving local cuisine or incorporating local customs into your ceremony. For example, in Italy, it's traditional for the bride and groom to cut a cake called a millefoglie, which is made of layers of puff pastry and cream. In Spain, it's traditional for the bride and groom to exchange 13 coins during the ceremony, symbolizing their commitment to each other.
Another way to incorporate local flavors is to offer local wines, beers, or spirits at your reception. Research local wineries or breweries in your chosen location and work with your vendors to incorporate their products into your reception. This can be a fun and unique way to offer guests a taste of the local culture. You might also consider incorporating local flavors into your wedding favors. For example, you might offer guests small jars of local honey or olive oil, or handmade soaps or candles made with local ingredients.
Talk to your wedding planner and other local vendors about ways to infuse your wedding with local culture and traditions.
7. Plan transportation
Transportation is an important aspect of planning any destination wedding, and it's important to consider the logistics of getting your guests to and from your wedding events. Depending on the location and venue of your wedding, there may be a variety of transportation options to consider.
If you're getting married in a major city, public transportation may be a viable option for getting around. Research local subway, bus, or train lines and consider providing guests with information on how to use these services.
For guests who are staying in hotels or accommodations farther away from the wedding venue, you might consider arranging transportation services like shuttles or buses to transport guests to and from the venue. This can be a convenient and cost-effective way to ensure that everyone arrives on time and safely.
If your wedding venue is located in a remote or difficult-to-access location, you might consider hiring a private transportation service like a van or limousine. This can be especially important if guests will need to travel long distances or over difficult terrain.
When planning transportation, it's important to consider the needs and preferences of your guests. Make sure to communicate clearly with guests about transportation options and provide detailed information on how to access these services. It's also a good idea to have a backup plan in case of unexpected delays or issues with transportation.
Overall, planning transportation for your destination wedding can be complex, but it's an important aspect of ensuring that your guests have a safe and enjoyable experience. Consider the logistics of getting around your chosen location and work with local vendors to find the transportation options that best suit your needs and budget.
8. Communicate clearly with vendors
When planning a destination wedding, communication is key. Be sure to communicate clearly with your vendors about your wedding vision, timeline, and any special requests, and keep in touch with them regularly to ensure that everything is on track.
If you're working with vendors who are not local to the area, make sure to communicate any language or cultural barriers that may impact communication. Consider using video conferencing tools like Skype or Zoom to meet with vendors remotely and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
9. Join a Facebook group
Joining Facebook groups or online forums can be a great way to connect with other couples who are planning destination weddings in your chosen location. These groups can provide valuable advice and recommendations, as well as tips for navigating the local customs and culture.
You can ask for recommendations for local vendors, learn about local laws and regulations, and get advice on everything from transportation to accommodations. Joining these groups can also help you build connections with other couples who are going through the same process, making your destination wedding experience feel more like a community effort.
10. Embrace the adventure
Planning a destination wedding in mainland Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore a new place, experience new cultures, and create lasting memories with your loved ones. Be open-minded and willing to embrace the adventure, and don't be afraid to try new things. Consider incorporating local activities like sightseeing, wine tasting, or hiking into your wedding weekend, and encourage your guests to do the same. By embracing the adventure, you'll create a truly unforgettable experience for you and your guests.
Ultimately, embracing the adventure means being open to the unexpected and allowing yourself to fully experience all that your destination wedding has to offer. By doing so, you'll create memories that will last a lifetime and ensure that your wedding day is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.