A bride abroad
Getting married overseas
When it came time to plan my wedding five years ago, I didn't have a clear vision of what I wanted that day to be. Neither my then-fiance (now husband) nor I were raised in religious households, and I certainly didn't envision myself in a big white dress walking down a church aisle.
Truthfully, I was much more excited about the prospect of the honeymoon, and I kept coming back to “elopement,” which sounded much more romantic to me. We didn't want to sneak off in the night and not let our friends and families know, so there had to be a compromise. When I asked Andrew, my husband, what he thought about just combining the wedding and the honeymoon by getting married abroad, he was all in.
For us, it came down to these considerations:
According to wedding site The Knot, the average wedding in the United States costs a whopping $33,000. I had just finished graduate school the year prior, and we wanted to buy a house, so spending that much money on a one-day ceremony was unthinkable. Going into debt for a wedding seemed antithetical to the whole point of our wedding, which was to celebrate the next stage of our lives together.
A desire to travel
Andrew and I love to travel internationally and try to make it a priority when it works with our budget, which usually means we go on a big trip every couple of years.
An experience unique to us
While we love going to weddings, we couldn't really picture what ours would look like and how it would be special to us and represent our relationship. We knew that if we went abroad, we'd do something unique and memorable.
Andrew and I both have good relationships with our mothers, who were very supportive of our plans as long as we included them in other aspects of the wedding planning. I went with my mom to a wedding faire, and she planned my bridal shower with my extended family. Although we were serious about making our international wedding ceremony legal in the location we chose, we compromised by deciding to do our legal paper-signing at the Reno courthouse with our moms as witnesses after we returned from our wedding trip.
This checked two must-haves off our list: including our moms in our “wedding day” and alleviating the need to manage all of the paperwork required to get married in another country to which neither of us have citizenship.
When it came down to where we wanted to get married, the easy choice for us was Prague, Czechia (which was still called Czech Republic at the time, one of many names that region has had over the years). The magical, mystical atmosphere suited our interests and personality. Czechia is also much less expensive, but just as beautiful, as some of the other places we considered (including Italy and Scotland).
Once we settled on Prague, we added another week to spend in Budapest, Hungary, for our honeymoon. Our trip lasted two weeks overall, with a week in Prague and a week in Budapest (and a train trip to and from those cities in between). Ultimately, planning our wedding became planning a trip.
We worked with a reputable husband-and-wife wedding planning duo in Prague who specialize in coordinating “symbolic” ceremonies for people who want to get married in the city. They also coordinated our photographer, helped us write our vows, officiated our ceremony, and provided us with a ceremonial license. These services only cost us a couple hundred dollars and it was worth every penny for the romantic and beautiful private ceremony we had on the historic Charles Bridge.
Our whole wedding trip, including the wedding itself and all our travel expenses, cost about $3,500. We had an incredible time and talk about our trip every day, reminiscing about the experience that only the two of us shared. We plan on returning to Prague on our 10th wedding anniversary to renew our vows. I think next time we'll bring our moms.
Planning Your Wedding Abroad
Determine where and when you want to get married. We got married in November, which is off-season for a popular European destination like Prague. It was cold, but saved money on flights, avoided large crowds, and I splurged on a nice trench coat to fend off the cold (which I wore during the ceremony).
Decide if you want your ceremony to be legally binding. It's very possible to make your international ceremony legal, but you'll need to research the paperwork required at your destination and plan ahead of time. Most government websites have the documents you can download and fill out to send off for approval from embassies and officials.
Decide if and how you want to include your friends and family. I'm a firm believer that weddings should be about the couple, but there are still ways to involve your loved ones in the planning of your special day.