‘We dreamed of marrying in Italy – and will save by honeymooning there too’: Dreaming of a wedding in an exotic location? Here’s our guide to guarantee a big day – with smaller bills
With the price of the average wedding held in Britain now topping £25,000, many couples are thinking about heading abroad to trim costs when they tie the knot.
By going overseas it is possible to get hitched for a third of the price of a ceremony at home.
Equally, while some are opting to wed abroad for financial reasons, others like the idea of smaller venues and fewer guests, coupled with the promise of a stunning backdrop – giving them an excuse to bust the budget.
Steph Bishop from website Marryabroad, says: ‘There are many potential benefits to getting married overseas, including better weather, a distinctive wedding, a smaller guest list, the chance to combine a wedding and a honeymoon – and lower costs.’
La Dolce Vita: Natalie and Giles will marry on the Amalfi Coast
WE DREAMED OF MARRYING IN ITALY – AND WILL SAVE BY HOMEYMOONING THERE TO
Natalie Dent and Giles Barber, both aged 28, are busy planning ahead for their wedding in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast in Italy next June.
The couple from West Sussex met at school, and have been an item since they were 15. Natalie now works as a marketing manager for a telecoms company, while Giles is an account manager for an airline.
Giles popped the question last December as a surprise on Natalie’s birthday.
As the couple have always loved taking holidays in Italy, they dreamed of tying the knot in the Italian sun.
Natalie says: ‘We are rapidly reaching the budget we set of £25,000. It is a lot of money, but will be worth it to have the wedding we always dreamt of.’
The couple make payments in chunks every few months to an Italian wedding planner and send money to other overseas suppliers. They are not stinting on food and drink for guests.
Natalie says: ‘One of the biggest costs is the catering and food, as we have opted for a package which works at around €130 (£115) per head – including some drinks. With plans to invite 80 guests, costs have mounted up.’
Another of the big costs is the photographer and videographer, with a price tag of around €2,000 (£1,770).
‘In addition, we hadn’t realised there would be quite so many taxes – including royalties for the band,’ says Natalie.
They opted to make the payments using TransferWise, which takes a fee of just 0.5 per cent each time.
Natalie says: ‘This is cheaper – and simpler – than transferring money through my bank.
‘We also use a “rate alert” tool, which means we get a notification when the euro rate has moved to an acceptable level. We then quickly take advantage of this opportunity to send money abroad.’
The couple will take their honeymoon on the nearby Amalfi Coast after the ceremony, neatly saving on extra travel costs.
This is a view shared by Neil James Cartwright from travel website Momondo, but he warns that couples are at the mercy of foreign exchange rates that can play havoc with their plans.
He says: ‘While getting married abroad can sometimes mean a more intimate and affordable celebration, getting wed outside of the UK may not always work out cheaper. A lot will depend on the country and location you choose, the exchange rate, and how efficient you are at transferring money abroad.’
Stretch your pounds
The pound has had a rocky ride against key foreign currencies since the Brexit vote last year, making the likes of eurozone destinations and America a more expensive bet. But if you are not set on a particular destination, you may want to look for one with a favourable exchange rate.
The best-value wedding destinations include the exotic climes of Argentina and Brazil, as well as the tropical beaches of Gambia, Jamaica and Mexico, according to currency dealer FairFX. Other top-value destinations include South Africa and Tanzania, along with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka.
Ian Strafford-Taylor of FairFX, says: ‘Savvy planners won’t just be looking at the most idyllic wedding destinations, they will be making a financial assessment too. Choosing a country where currency is more favourable is a smart way of getting the most bang for your buck – and more wedding for your money.’
For example, the pound has improved by six per cent against the Argentine peso over the past six months, and is 43 per cent stronger than two years ago, according to FairFX. Compared to five years ago, it is 200 per cent stronger.
Strafford-Taylor adds: ‘This gives you 13,695 Argentine pesos more for every £1,000 spent – equivalent to £667 more.’
Find a good currency deal
Couples planning a wedding abroad should not overlook how they make payments to the overseas suppliers they deal with. Often big sums will need transferring to pay the venue owner or catering company –and a poor deal could chop hundreds of pounds out of the bridal budget.
While a couple’s first instinct may be to turn to their bank for convenience, this is likely to be costly due to poor exchange rates and hidden fees.
The key to avoid getting ripped off is to move money through a currency specialist, as these firms can offer better exchange rates, and do not apply extra fees. Transfer times are also faster, and may be as short as a day.
Invite: Abbey Sutton is keen to do all she can to manage the costs of being a guest
Try firms such as FairFX, Caxton FX, HiFX, Currencies Direct or TransferWise.
Nilan Peiris of TransferWise, says: ‘When paying deposits and upfront costs to lots of different suppliers – such as caterers, venues and DJs – the cost can really mount up, especially if you are being charged transfer fees as well as a poor exchange rate each time. This will make it hard to stay in control of your budget.’
Beware extra charges
It is not always obvious where the extra charges lurk.
A couple wanting to transfer £1,000 to a supplier in Europe using a high-street bank, such as Santander, for example, could end up paying £15 in fees plus an extra £31 or so due to the poor exchange rate, according to an independent study by research firm Consumer Intelligence.
If you opted for the Post Office you might be tempted by its promise of no fees. But customers end up paying £48 due to an uncompetitive exchange rate.
The same transfer using TransferWise, would cost just over £5.
Time your payments
Think carefully about when to make overseas payments, especially when moving significant sums.
Phil McHugh from Currencies Direct, says: ‘As exchange rates are always moving, it can be difficult to pick the best time to send money abroad. By subscribing to a market update, you can keep an eye on exchange rates and plan your currency transfer for when the rate has moved in your favour.’
With some currency providers, you can also set up a ‘rate alert’ which will notify you as soon as the market moves to the level you have chosen.
Follow the rules
DELIVER DOCUMENTS Most countries have a set timeframe for receiving legal paperwork. Check what is required at gov.uk/marriage-abroad.
RESIDENCY RULES In some countries you cannot have a legal wedding unless you or a close relative are resident. In France, for instance, you, your partner or one of your parents need to have lived in the town where you want to marry for at least 40 days.
TIMING NUPTIALS Couples will need to register their ‘intent to marry’ on arrival in the country – so a ceremony may well be a few days after arriving. But in Florida and some Caribbean countries, you can arrive and marry the same day.
NAME ACCURACY Ensure the name on your passport is the name on all legal and travel documents.
DELEGATE ORGANISATION Consider using a local wedding planner to save time, money and hassle. A planner will know the area and can suggest locations and suppliers – they can also smooth out any problems.
BAGGAGE CHECK Most airlines will allow a bride to be to bring the wedding dress as hand luggage – but check before booking.
CONSIDER COVER A marriage abroad is a holiday – with (wedding) bells on – so travel insurance should reflect the difference. Amber Moon, of insurer Holidaysafe, says: ‘You need to purchase travel insurance that includes all aspects of a destination wedding, such as loss of rings, gifts and wedding attire, and problems with the photographer. If your wedding is doubling as your honeymoon, it is important to ensure your travel insurance covers both the big day and the vacation afterwards.’
I do: A marriage abroad is a holiday – with (wedding) bells on
EVENT ADD-ON Find out if a policy offers a separate ‘wedding extension’ to the basic travel cover. Alternatively, look at standalone overseas wedding policies. This should offer protection for a range of eventualities. This might be covering the costs of an alternative supplier if a pre-booked service provider goes bankrupt or fails to turn up or if the wedding has to be postponed due to illness. Unfortunately, being jilted at the altar is not included.
Prune bridal budget
FREE WEDDINGS Many Caribbean resorts offer a ‘free’ wedding if you book to stay there – a great way to combine the ceremony and honeymoon.
GUESTS WITH BENEFITS Find out if your resort will give you a free room if you bring a certain number of guests.
MARRY OUT OF SEASON Brides and grooms who are flexible with dates can trim costs dramatically. Getting married outside your chosen country’s peak tourist season should yield lower villa rental and hotel rates.
FORGET THE PRICEY PHOTOGRAPHER Ask your guests to tap into their inner David Bailey to upload their Instagram-worthy shots to a photo-sharing app, such as WedPics.
Here comes the bill – for guests
Millions of people will attend weddings as guests this year and spend hundreds of pounds.
Research from credit card provider American Express says nearly a third of people will attend one wedding this year, spending an average of £432. But like Hugh Grant in the famous wedding-themed romcom, some will attend an average of four celebrations this year, seeing their bills mount with each of the nuptials.
The largest expense for guests is usually the wedding gift (£85), followed by hotel accommodation (£74), and an outfit (£71). Those invited overseas will see bills rocket.
Separate research carried out by the Post Office reveals Britons are willing to travel up to 1,163 miles on average to a close relation or best friend’s wedding – and invest a hefty £827 on being a guest. Its findings also suggest a third of people welcome the idea of a wedding abroad.
That said, it is still worth taking all the steps you can to keep costs down, and avoid an overseas wedding burning a hole in your pocket.
Keep costs down
BOOK both accommodation and travel well in advance.
TEAM UP with others. If the accommodation offered at a venue is too expensive get in touch other guests to share a local Airbnb property.
BE CANNY on flights. Try flight comparison websites such as Momondo and Skyscanner.
Neil James Cartwright, from travel site Momondo, says: ‘Book your flights in advance and bear in mind that departures between 6pm and midnight typically offer the cheapest fares, while Tuesday is generally the cheapest day to fly.’
IF THE wedding is part of a package holiday, see whether you can get a group rate if you all book together.
SHOP wisely for outfits, gifts, travel and accommodation, and make use of discount, voucher and cashback websites such as Voucher Codes, HotUKDeals and TopCashback.