Organising one of the biggest days of my life was expected to come with a little stress, but anyone who knows me knows I do love to plan, so I was also fairly excited about it. So I’m not quite sure how that turned into an amount of stress that had me sobbing on the sofa about where to put the ketchup!
That is not what I had in mind after this unexpected moment in June last year…
There’s planning a destination wedding , where you invite as many people as can make it to come with you and celebrate your wedding abroad, then there’s planning a wedding where you invite some international guests and make plans to accommodate them as much as possible. And then, there’s planning a wedding in a country that you’re not from, with less than a year’s notice, when you’re living in another country for half of the planning time…
Welcome to my past 10 months.
Travel has been the most important thing in my life for the past 7 years at least, and the thing that I’m constantly planning for. I’m not one of those girls who’s been thinking of my dream wedding since I knew what a wedding was, so the world of wedding planning was all new to me. There are lots of decisions to be made, as expected, but as an international couple from opposite sides of the planet (literally) there were some huge things like visas and what country we would get married in.
At the end of the day the most important thing for EB and I is that we want to be together, and we want to be married. It really could happen any way, which is part of the problem because it means we’re in control of how that happens! There are so many ways to get married now, and so many options for all couples, but for us there seemed to be a few more.
Deciding where we would get married
Planning a wedding as an expat means a lot of location options. There’s where you currently live, your significant other’s home (not necessarily the same place), your home, or some other neutral location.
We could have got married in Scotland, England, New Zealand, Spain or some other completely different place!
However, I may not have had wedding plans in mind before we got engaged, but I did know a thing or two about the visa path we would need to take to live in the same country again. So that we wouldn’t have to spend more time in a long distance relationship after we got married, the best option for us was to have the ceremony in the United Kingdom. I am yet to write about the hell that was the UK Fiancé application process, but basically we knew that we would be doing the legal stuff pretty early on.
Deciding on the kind of wedding ceremony we would have
So we knew we would need to get legally married here in the UK, but that doesn’t mean we needed to have the celebration (PARTY!) here.
We considered a registry office in the UK and some sort of party later. Except I knew that plan would fail from the beginning because there was no way I could be convinced to spend money on it when the time came. There would always be something more worthy to spend money on *cough*travel*cough*. Even if we chose that option, would we have a celebration in the UK, after the wedding, or just the ceremony here and then the party in New Zealand? Or both, so no one missed out? But some people might want to come over from New Zealand to the ceremony anyway, even if we had a party there, so then would there be any point of having two things? And what is the cost of that by the way? At this point I might have started to realise at this point that wedding planning was not going to be all fun…
In the end we decided to opt for a ceremony followed by a celebration in the UK, with a plan to visit New Zealand for our honeymoon at some point, where we would be able to catch up with family and friends who couldn’t make it over. Then we figured if we were having a celebration here, and some people were travelling all the way around the world to be there we should put on a decent party!
Turns out if you label a “decent party” a “wedding” then everything costs 5 times as much. I wish I was exaggerating. I had my first little wedding breakdown when we chose our venue. Let’s just say I was very, very naive about how much weddings cost.
The traveller in me curls up in the foetal position and dies a little at the thought of how much travel we could do instead of having a wedding celebration. But we decided this is our one chance to ever do this, we have people who are paying a lot to come and spend this day with us, and we want it to be the best reflection of us and most fun for them that it can be.
But who was actually going to come to this wedding in Scotland between and Englishman and a Kiwi?
With me having living abroad for so long I have friends spread all over the world, plus my parents are travelling in Europe right now, we realised I would have more friends and family that could attend a wedding in the UK than EB would if we had a wedding in New Zealand. Another reason to have it over here!
Even so, asking people to give up holidays and money to come from all over is still a big deal, and there will always be people who can’t make it. We didn’t have a choice on date so we went with it and just had to hope people might make it. I am happy to be able to say that while people we would dearly love to be there can’t make it, we do have guests coming from about 9 different countries!
Help with planning a wedding when you’re an expat
I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful friends close by and around the world, but this another one of those times I’ve realised that everyone I love will never be all in the same place together. We’re having one of those DIY sort of weddings (Pinterest I blame you) which means more planning and logistics. Because I never like to make things easy on myself of course! While we’re surrounded by a wealth of technology that means I can send ideas and pictures to people all over, it’s not been quite the same as having people right here to talk wedding. I feel incredibly lucky that my Mum was able to be here to go dress shopping with me, and to come to my first fitting.
Two people that can’t be here that I really really wish could be are my Grandma and my Nana. I wish I could have shared this whole process with these two women that have been a huge part of my life, who were married to their partners until both of them were no longer with us.
In the end though, travelling and living abroad has meant I’ve been lucky enough to find the man I love and want to spend my life with. And as stressful as this wedding planning can be at times, we’re in it together and all I have to do is think of our life together and it brings a huge smile to my face and butterflies in my stomach.
So…. why the crying over ketchup?
Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly how it came about, and I was laughing as much as I was crying because I knew it was ridiculous. Especially since EB was trying so hard to comfort me and NOT laugh (and failing). But it wasn’t about the ketchup as such, and whether there actually is room for it on the tables (I still haven’t figured this one out), it was about the whole stress of planning a wedding in a way I had never imagined.
There are ups and downs in expat life, and planning a wedding while living abroad seems to have compounded them even more. I should have known wedding planning would be stressful, after all that’s what everyone says!
I’ve missed New Zealand more in the last 10 months than I ever have before, and I’m more aware of how travel has changed the course of my life. But at the end of the day, the fact that we have people coming from all over the world to celebrate us starting our life as a married couple warms my heart. I feel grateful and blessed to be at this point, despite the ketchup.
Four weeks until the planning is DONE!!! Oh and we’re married of course.
Have you got married, planned, or been to a wedding abroad? I’d love to hear your story!
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