A wedding abroad and affordable don’t necessarily go together. When I think of a destination wedding in Italy, I immediately think of Justin Timberlake /Jessica Biel’s insane nuptials in Italy that probably cost a million dollars. But, after extensive research and tons of planning, I planned a super affordable, super fun wedding on the Amalfi Coast and kept it under a few grand!
The very first thing I did when planning a wedding abroad was research, research, research. It was easy for me to narrow down the location because my husband and I fell in love with Italy- and particularly – southern Italy on our trip there a few years ago. But exactly where was another question. I know I wanted views, natural beauty, and the Mediterranean. Pretty much this narrowed our choice down to the Amalfi Coast.
Tip #1 – Research popular locations for a destination wedding, and make sure there is a major airport nearby! There are tons of free sources – like Weddings Abroad (link above) & Tripadvisor.
The Guest List:
The next part of planning was the guest list. Now, I thought we were going to elope because c’mon, who travels halfway around the world for a wedding?! Well to my pleasure, a lot of people will! This now helped me narrow in on the exact location because I wanted our guests to be together and to have easy access to our wedding/reception. Once I had an idea of the number of people, I could get to the details of the itinerary.
Initially, I wanted my wedding in Positano, but when I began looking at villa rentals, I knew we couldn’t afford to stay somewhere that was $25K a week. The cost of the reception venues didn’t help either. This brings me to how I settled onto Praiano (literally, the town next store to Positano). Villa rentals were a fraction of the cost, it was walkable, and the amount of space you get was amazing for the price. It also had a small town feel and was super cozy. We settled on Villa Dorata (a massive villa overlooking the sea) with enough space for everyone.
Tip #2 – Renting a house or villa for your group may be the most economical choice when planning a wedding abroad.
Tip #3 – If your heart is set on a very popular, expensive location, consider broadening your search to nearby towns and villages that will be more affordable.
This one stumped me – it was hard to officially get married in Italy ( a lot of red tape involved). I also struggled with the cost of using a location for just a 1/2 hour ceremony. Once I booked the villa, I realized the gardens would be a perfect backdrop for a ceremony (AND COMPLETELY FREE!). We ended up getting married in the church courtyard that was behind our house, but that was another completely free space.
Tip #4 – Consider a public space (like a courtyard, park, or the house you are renting) for your ceremony location. These options are completely free!
For sure, the most difficult thing to plan was where we would have the reception. I could book a hall, but had to worry about transportation for everyone and renting a space when there would only be 23 people. And how was I possibly going to decorate a space I have never seen? I couldn’t exactly pack decorations. So I needed to choose a place that could speak for itself. I had the idea that a private space at a restaurant might be perfect – plus there would be no rental fee which is great for my budget.
There was a gorgeous restaurant near our villa, and I read excellent reviews online. Through e-mail, I also was able to pick a prix fixe menu. And in Italy, dinner is an event and you are more than welcome to stay for hours, so I didn’t have to worry about being rushed out! By choosing a prix fixe menu, house wine, and dessert made by the restaurant (instead of getting a wedding cake!) we were able to keep the reception under 1,000 Euro.
Tip #5 – Consider a restaurant for your destination wedding – even better if they can provide you with a private space!
I plan on doing an entire blog post on how to shop for a wedding gown (and think outside of the box) when you’re on a budget, but I will say the most important part of choosing a gown for me was finding something I could easily pack on an airplane and not have to worry about it wrinkling. I somehow stumbled upon an Alice and Olivia gown from Saks Off Fifth and got the most amazing deal on it. Plus it was covered in beading/sequins so it definitely wasn’t going to wrinkle!
The Vendors (or lack thereof):
I knew I would have difficulty trying to find vendors like a florist, photographer, hair salon, etc. – which is why I opted to do my own thing for the most part. For flowers, I planned on visiting a local market in town. For my hair, my plan was to do it myself. For photos, I am super lucky that my best friend is a photographer and she elected to come along and take our photos. My bouquet ended up being free from the winery we visited the day before!
Tip #6 – Decide what you want to splurge on, and what you want to save on; I knew my friends could help me with hair and makeup, but leave the photos up to a professional.
The one thing about planning a destination wedding abroad is that you have to consider what you and your guests will do the rest of the time you are abroad. We thought it was really important to plan an itinerary, tours, and events for our group so that they had a worthwhile trip! We stayed in Rome a few days before the wedding, and planned a wine tour /boat tour in Praiano. Tripadvisor, Rick Steves’ website and Pinterest are all free resources that we used to plan our itinerary. And bonus – Rome is full of FREE walking tours and sites.
Tip #7 – Utilize free websites to plan your itinerary for your travel and map out your itinerary in a spreadsheet (I am an accountant, I love spreadsheets!)