Planning a wedding abroad is not the hassle you think it is

Deciding to get married abroad need not be the hassle many imagine. Paula Burns tells how she planned her upcoming wedding in Spain

On September 2, 2017 I will be saying ‘I do’ to the love of my life.

As clichéd as it sounds, it’s the truth. He is my love, best friend and partner in crime.

The backdrop to this momentous occasion will be the breath-taking Parque Torre Leonera, a flower filled haven nestled in the Spanish village of Benahavís.

This is the whitewashed village where we celebrated our engagement last year and so holds a special place in our hearts.

With beautiful views and almost guaranteed sunshine (I’m so afraid of jinxing the weather despite the South of Spain boasting 320 days of sunshine a year!) it felt right that this should be the place where we will begin the next chapter in our lives.

When we decided to get married in Spain my initial reaction was ‘We NEED a wedding planner!’ The thought of going it alone to create a magical day for THE biggest day of our lives gave me palpitations.

So I scoured the web and sussed out a couple of English-speaking wedding planners. The Costa del Sol is filled to the brim with ex-pats so needless to say there was no needle in a haystack moment.

Through emails and a couple of calls the date was set to meet the planner to view some venue options. To be honest most of these were venues we had found online.

Also we own an apartment close to Benahavís so we had a fair idea of the surrounding areas.

Because we had chosen the park as the ceremony venue it was easier for us to decide on reception venues.

Obviously we wanted to be close to the park for logistic reasons. Proximity for everything is of the upmost importance when marrying abroad.

I felt that because we were asking people to get on a plane I wanted the wedding venue to be accessible to the airport and somewhere where everyone could stay in the same place.

We fell in love with the Gran Hotel in Benahavís; just a stones throw from Parque Torre Leonera. It was here that we met the wonderful Dunia, the events manager of the hotel.

And this is when we decided to ditch the wedding planner.

Something to take note is that we had not signed a contract with her at this stage.

We had agreed to pay €50 for her to show us venues and from there the decision would be made whether to use her services or not.

For us it was a saving grace which left our pockets €3,000 heavier, which a few months down the line of planning a wedding you will be extremely grateful for.

Of course having a base in Spain has been an advantage for us but choosing a venue that caters for weddings on a regular basis will be of enormous benefit if you opt not to use a wedding planner.

Dunia, the events manager at the Gran Hotel has become our surrogate-wedding planner. She has been able to provide us with an array of contacts.

Remember the hotel want your business and understand the stresses associated with planning a wedding so more often then not they will be at hand to help.

You will need a year to organise your wedding. Yes I know it sounds insane but trust me.

To get the venue you want you will have to nail it down at least a year in advance. To ensure you get your first choice of bands, photographers etc. you need to be ahead of the pack.

You don’t need to be in Spain to do this, as the Internet will become your best friend.

While emailing a company or photographer is easy, convenient and a cheaper option I did find that making a call initially shouldn’t be shied away from. Just that one call can give you a feeling for the person.

It was through a quick internet search that we found our photographer He wasn’t the first I contacted but our first choice was already booked and he recommended a colleague.

I also found my make-up and hair stylist through a Google search. Just like at home a trial is paramount. So back in February I booked five days in Spain.

During this week I had set up three appointments with three different make-up and hair stylists.

Luckily I went with my first choice. I also met up with the photographer, just to put a face to the emails. I spent time in the hotel, meeting the florist etc. Those five days put my mind totally at ease. I came away feeling that everything was going to plan.

When it came to choosing music we wanted a DJ.

This is where spending time in Spain came to our advantage.

The DJ is the resident DJ of the local bar we go to but there are plenty of choices on the web.

Again when it came to the celebrant she is a friend of ours from the village where our apartment is.

Though the hotel did provide contacts for both of these.

The hotel also have an English speaking contact in the village who can help with marrying couples in the Church if this is your preferred choice.

With a church wedding comes a lot of paperwork but having an English speaker makes it all the easier.

If you do opt to have a civil ceremony like ours you do have to get married in Ireland first as in Spain it is only legally binding if you get married in a church.

The only time I have missed having a wedding planner is when it has come to decorating the venue.

I have decided to bring the essentials of fairy lights, Mr & Mrs signs, rose gold Love balloons etc. with me from Ireland.

I think with a wedding planner they would have done the groundwork in Spain relieving me of bringing a carry-on full of stuff.

Otherwise it’s been pretty easy to organise even from another country. I think the key is taking a deep breath before letting the stress take over. Everything will fall into place, as it should.


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