May 6, 2024

How To Start Planning a Wedding Abroad


Let me guess, you want to start planning a wedding abroad but have no idea where to start? Well, you’re in the right place. I’m Hope, a destination wedding photographer — alongside my husband Max, I document weddings all over the world. In 2022, I started planning my wedding abroad in Scotland, where Max is originally from, and it was a dream come true. I’m sharing all my tips around planning a wedding abroad through my experience as a photographer and a recent bride.

1. Start Planning a Wedding Abroad

Though you might want to dive into planning head first, the first few big decisions are worth thinking about deeply. The best advice I have for couples planning a wedding is this: instead of asking yourself, “what do I want my wedding to be like?” Ask yourself, “How would I want to spend the most perfect day?” Whether you’re planning a destination wedding somewhere new, or a place that’s very special to you — the hardest part is just getting started. Think about your vision, budget, ballpark guest count and overall vibe. This will help you guide your decisions around your first big step — choosing a venue and setting a date.

2. Choose a Venue and Set a Date

Sit down with your partner and discuss want’s most important to you when planning your wedding. Is it the venue (i.e. a specific chateau), or the location more broadly (i.e. Provence)? What do you want the ambiance to be? Will travel be convenient for you and your guests? Once you nail down a few of these key details, it opens you up to find the venue of your dreams and set a date! Then it’s time to start planning the finer details that make destination weddings so amazing.

3. Hire a Wedding Planner

I always strongly advise my couples to hire an experienced wedding planner, particularly if they are planning a wedding overseas. For planning a wedding abroad, you’ll want to find a planner specifically experienced in destination weddings, or hire someone local to the place you’ll be tying the knot — doing so will dramatically decrease your stress and make the overall planning process easier and more enjoyable! But, don’t panic if you’re already looking for photographers or other vendors before you’ve tackled this step. As a destination wedding photographer, I also have a list of trusted, talented vendor recommendations that I’m always happy to share with my couples.

4. Hire a Destination Wedding Photographer

Next, I recommended locking down an experienced destination wedding photographer (luckily, you’re already in the right place!). Hiring a photographer who specializes in destination weddings is crucial — not only will they be a talented artist, but they will be an expert in navigating the unexpected territory that often comes with planning a wedding abroad.

As you start planning a wedding abroad, here are a few tips to consider when hiring a photographer:

  • If you don’t speak the language in the country you’re planning a wedding in, it’s a huge plus to have a photographer that speaks English (either fly someone in or hire someone local who is fluent)
  • If you currently live in the U.S. there’s a big advantage in hiring a photographer from the U.S. as well. You’re more likely to be able to meet and work with them ahead of your big day if you’re both based in the same country. There’s nothing quite like building a relationship with your photographer leading up to your wedding — it’s seriously the best!
  • Hiring a photographer with a lot of experience shooting destination weddings means that the photographer can roll with the punches. For a wedding abroad, you want vendors who are adaptable and seasoned travelers (not only personally but specifically for work).

PS. I include a day before session in all my destination wedding photography packages (learn more about them here)! I understand just how much goes into planning a wedding abroad, including the meaningful events that happen before and after. There’s nothing I love more than watching you experience it all to the fullest, the way I did.

5. Hire The Rest of Your Vendors

You’re well on your way to planning your wedding abroad by this point. Now, it’s time to hire the rest of your vendors! I recommend leaning on your venue, planner and photographer for this step. Often times your wedding venue may have a list a vetted vendor recommendations (local to your area) and the same goes for your planner and photographer.

6. Plan a Visit

Now that you’re starting to get those boxes checked off and have most of your vendors booked, plan a trip! This may not be possible for every couple but I highly recommend taking one planning trip before the big day if possible. While you’re visiting your wedding venue, it’s a great time to get the lay of the land, gather recommendations for your guests and also check off some of those in-person wedding appointments. I did a wedding planning trip with my mom to Edinburgh ahead of our wedding in 2022 — attending appointments like our catering tasting and exploring the surrounding area was so special, and it was one of the most memorable trips of my life.

7. Next Steps

Now that the big stuff is done, it’s time to plan for your wedding week or weekend as a whole. Think about what experiences you’d like to share with your guests; do you have a favorite restaurant, bar, or activity that you want to share? After going through the process of planning a wedding abroad myself, I really enjoyed this stage of planning. Max grew up in Edinburgh, and we lived there together for a time, so we had a very long list of recommendations to share with our friends and family who were visiting for the first time.

To make things easier for our guests, I put together an Edinburgh Guide with all our recommendations. This included everything from our favorite restaurants, pubs and cafes, to walks and nearby hikes, museums to visit and day trips to take. Can’t recommend doing this enough!

Here are a few things I recommend thinking about when planning your wedding week or weekend experience:

  • Think about the big picture. Why are you getting married in this location? What do you love about the location, culture or atmosphere that you want to share with your loved ones?
  • When considering your wedding experience, think of ways to let your guests in to your love story and why this destination experience is so special.

The most unexpected joy of having a destination wedding abroad was that during the week in Scotland, my favorite day wasn’t even my wedding day. Shocker, I know! The truth is there were so many great days during our whole wedding experience — my wedding week felt like a never ending string of special days because of all the impromptu opportunities to see our people, in addition to planned time with guests. Those memories mean everything to me and my husband.

Ready to Start Planning a Wedding Abroad?

As a seasoned destination wedding photographer and an avid traveler, I know the ins and outs of planning a wedding abroad firsthand. To get in touch about documenting your destination wedding, you can see my upcoming travel schedule here, then fill out my inquiry form here. To browse through recent weddings I’ve documented abroad in Italy, Scotland, Austria and more, click here and find more inspiration on the blog.

How To Start Planning a Wedding Abroad
How To Start Planning a Wedding Abroad
How To Start Planning a Wedding Abroad