If you’ve ever organised a wedding you’ll know that at some point you’re going to come across a few hurdles. By the time you actually tie the knot you’ll have spent untold hours pondering the possible diplomatic fallout of not inviting your third cousin; pulled your hair out over the seating plan; organised the running order to the nth degree and devoted far too much time to worrying about tiny details.
Getting married abroad involves considering a whole different set of circumstances to consider. Generally speaking, destination weddings tend to be smaller, more relaxed, and more intimate (meaning you can afford to be a little stricter with your guest list). But there are also some big and difficult issues to negotiate – including whether your guests can afford to attend.
If you’re worried about becoming the person who demands their 400 closest friends each spend many thousands of pounds traveling somewhere they’d rather not visit – or are the seething recipient of an invitation that asks you to do similar – here’s what to consider.
[Read More: This is how you have a great wedding for under £5K]
Accept some people won’t be able to make it - and that that’s OK.
If you have a destination wedding, you’ll need to accept that some people won’t be able to make it - and that that’s OK, Claire Ransom, who got married in Canada tells HuffPost.
Claire and her husband Pete got married in Squamish, a town north of Vancouver. The wedding cost less than £5,000 and was organised in just six weeks, and the compromise was that some close friends were unable to attend. But for Claire and Pete there was an important reason to get married at short notice. Pete’s mum was terminally ill and it was important to them both that she be there to celebrate with them.
“We wanted her to be there and we took the wedding to her, as she couldn’t travel,” Claire explains. “She passed away five weeks later and we knew we didn’t want to do it without her.”
“We got married in a snowstorm on top of a mountain. It was absolutely bucketing it down, I’d never seen so much snow in my life - it was absolutely beautiful, and like we were in Narnia,” she describes.
There were 14 guests, including Claire’s parents, who bought their flights as part of their wedding gift to the couple. “We didn’t want anything from them, and we really wanted them to be there,” explains Claire. “I’ve got two really close girl friends but it was just too short notice and I didn’t expect them to be there.”
If you’re a guest and you can’t make it, say so as early as possible
Even with plenty of notice, it can be difficult for guests to travel to destination weddings – tickets might be too expensive, getting time off can be tricky, other commitments might make it impossible. Chloe Chai and her husband Shaun decided not to attend a wedding in Saint Lucia last September after realising it would cost thousands. But there was an added complication: Shaun had been asked to be best man.
“We were actually terrified by the idea. Saint Lucia? We can’t afford it. And it sounds bad, but if the destination was somewhere we’d always wanted to go we’d have tried to save up, even if we couldn’t afford it. But we’re not keen on beaches and it’s so expensive.
“If you’re not sure you can make it, be honest about that - don’t pull out at the last minute””
The couple decided to be honest with their friends about the situation – waiting on tenterhooks for a response on Whatsapp. In fact the groom, who lives in Dubai, was understanding. So understanding that he offered to pay for flights. “He really wanted my husband to be there and they were willing to pay for some people to be there,” explains Chloe. “We looked at flights and it would have cost too much; we said the gesture was so sweet but we just couldn’t accept. We reckoned it would cost around £2,500 – it’s a lot of money, and we couldn’t accept. It didn’t sit right with us.”
The approach saw their friendship survive unscathed, and Chloe recommends that anyone who needs to decline an invite does so as soon as possible to allow the couple to plan. “They came about three months later and shared their wedding pictures with us and of course we were very apologetic – and we’re still very good friends,” she says.
“If you’re not sure you can make it, be honest about that - don’t pull out at the last minute”.
Make things as affordable as possible for your guests, and don’t be afraid to run things by them.
If having close friends and family attend is important to you there are ways to make a trip as accessible and affordable as possible. Marthe de Ferrer, a 25-year-old freelance journalist from Manchester, who is getting married in France next June, has worked hard to make it as affordable as possible for her guests.
Nonetheless, Ferrer admits, “it’s a big ask.” She and her partner checked with key friends and family that they were happy to travel first. “I was so worried that it was obnoxious to ask people,” she said.
“I’m quite aware that we’re quite young and that it’s a big ask to ask people to come abroad for the first big wedding in our friendship group,” she says. But when the couple found venues in the UK cost around £8,000 (without any catering), they swiftly realised that they would not be able to have the kind of wedding they dreamed of in the UK.
Five years ago Merthe’s parents moved to Normandy, so the couple decided to hold the wedding there instead on a shoestring, after figuring out the cost of flights to France would likely be roughly comparable to train tickets to Manchester.
As part of the planning process they’ve done lots of research into accommodation for people and negotiated lots of deals - from hotels at the upper end of the spectrum to all the way down. “Some of my friends could be spending as little as £20 a night,” she said, “and for people who are really worried about cost… the garden is big enough that we can set up a camping area as well. There are loads of options and I’ve been very, very aware of making sure that’s all covered.”
It’s worth considering the timing of your wedding too – she and her partner are getting married on a Saturday and will have informal BBQs the days before and after, with all food and drink included, giving people an opportunity to make a mini-holiday out of their trip.
“The people who I really, really want to be there will be there and that’s really nice. It means a lot to be able to share this place with them. It means we’ll get a good number of people while it’s still intimate and meaningful,” she adds.