“Destination wedding” has always sounded extravagant to me and I never seriously thought I would have one myself. Yet, here I am, a happily engaged gal, in the midst of planning her wedding in a small Italian mountain town called Roccascalegna. My fiancé Keith and I chose to marry abroad for several reasons: it’s romantic, the setting is beautiful and unique, it’s a wonderful opportunity to integrate ourselves into a foreign culture, and it allows us to have a small wedding. There’s also less pressure to follow normal wedding etiquette, which has been helpful as we’ve considered costs. These are just some of the reasons people like Keith and myself choose to marry overseas.

It Can Work
We originally cooked up the idea of wedding abroad last year, but put it on hold because I wasn’t sure the idea would work. It can, and here’s how. First, I did some Internet research and bought a how-to book that guides readers through the process of marrying in Italy. I highly suggest seeking out similar publications that focus specifically on the country that will hold the ceremony. These publications are editorially vetted (unlike many Web sites) and will recommend reliable resources, such as wedding planners, tour operators, photographers and more. More importantly, many publications will outline the legal requirements needed to fulfill, both in home country and in the country where you plan to wed. This is very important, and people should consider any legal benefits and consequences of marrying abroad.

Hiring Help, at Least for the Legal Issues
After consulting publications and the Internet to see what I was jumping into, I suggest deciding to plan the wedding entirely by yourself or employ the services of a wedding planner or tour operator. Wedding coordinators are independent contractors or small teams of people who tailor any number of wedding services. Tour operators are often companies or individuals that specialize in group travel packages and can use their business to organize events and, usually, the honeymoon. Some can help couples with the legal and logistical minutiae. I can’t imagine trying to arrange all the sundry details of a wedding in a foreign language, so I opted for an independent wedding planner based in Italy who can speak Italian. She charges a reasonable fee, has invaluable business relationships, and can navigate the serpentine world of both Italian and American bureaucracy. Without her, I would have spent eons using English-Italian dictionaries and figuring out the legal requirements.

Budgeting in a Foreign Currency and Other Logistics
Planning is not cheap, at least for Keith and me. We recently visited our wedding coordinator in Italy in order to view possible ceremony and reception venues in person. We quickly realized that we needed to budget carefully; the dollar is currently weak against the euro, which will limited what we could do. Like anyone organizing a large event, we had to set priorities. Should we spend more on the food, accommodations that can hold all of our invitees, the wedding dress, flowers that can’t be transported back home? No matter what, brides-to-be will have to pack their dresses for air travel and may want to consider a simple look for that reason. As for the rest, it’s up to the couple. Keith and I, for example, preferred to spend more on food and wine that guests can enjoy with us, and less (or nothing) on decorations, photographers and a deejay .

Joys, Hopes, Fears, and Desires

There are both wonderful and stressful aspects to planning a destination wedding. For me, the unique stresses include fulfilling the legal requirements of multiple countries and taking on travel-agent-like duties so that our guests have fun while away from home. Other concerns are more general: who should we invite, how do we cap costs, will the weather be clement? The best part is the anticipation of publicly pronouncing our love in an extraordinary place. Now the task is to enjoy the process along the way. Here’s to taking the plunge.