Wedding Planning Abroad

Melissa and her husband. Aidan Rawnsley

Planning a wedding is stressful on its own—but then add 6,000km between you and your destination. 

I always envisioned (with rose-coloured romantic glasses) that the moment you become engaged your wardrobe suddenly consists of white, you drink mimosas with every meal and float around on cloud nine. That every night you are nestled up with your future groom to be deciding on flowers, choosing venues, and skipping off to your next cake tasting after Sunday brunch.

That is not the case. There is a layer of stress that enters the relationship when planning a wedding. It brings out the frightening conversation of the budget, family politics (or should I dare say drama), travel logistics, long-honoured traditions and childhood fantasies. This alone is a lot to take in without a wedding planner, but then add 6,000 kilometres between you and your “destination wedding." Yup, we planned our entire wedding from abroad, with yours truly as the planner. We decided to tie the knot in Canada so that we would have more family and friends present, as not everyone can afford to head to Europe. 

I know what you're thinking: “Good luck!" "My condolences." "Are you nuts?”  But I have a long history of contract jobs in event planning and TV production in my repertoire. So I thought it would be an easy peasy, a nice hearty slice of fondant cake (see what I did there?).

Oh, boy was I wrong. Soooo wrong.

The venue

I should also confess to you now that I am very visual and hands-on. So to decide on venues (whether it be for the ceremony, photos or reception), I honestly need to be there to envision how I will create my DIY décor and to decide on which flowers to use. After multiple Google image searches, and sending in reinforcements to take phone videos, we finally came to a decision. Without giving too much away from our personal day, we opted for a private ceremony (with just our parents, Maid of Honour, and Best Man in attendance) followed by photoshoot at Mint Room Studios, and a taco party reception at Good Fortune Bar guests. We would have loved to invite more friends and family, however, we wanted to keep this event as small and intimate as possible. Also, most of our venue choices had a very limited seating capacity.

Going into this our original choices were traditional romantic wedding settings in a castle or a museum, maybe a yacht, even an art gallery, as this represents what our interests are and reflects our old-school personalities. However, as incredible and unique as these options are, they are insanely expensive!

So we took a step back, scaled down and decided to be untraditional because we ourselves are. I’m not regretting the scale down as even managing those invites, food orders, transport, table numbers, party favours, etc, was enough to handle. I could not imagine a wedding with 300 guests, props to those of you that have done that!

The dress

There are pros and cons of purchasing a dress in another country. Currency is one of those cons. Things are way more expensive in Europe. I’m not just talking about the exchange rate. But in general, items are the same price, however in Euros. So that’s fun.

Then the sizing, it is so hard to figure out your size sometimes. It’s hard enough in Canada where it ranges depending on the brand, same deal here but often with a new system.

I was lucky enough that my parents flew in for a visit and I could go dress shopping with my Mom. That was a moment that was not lost abroad. However, I ended up with a dress I sourced online. But I was not able to visit some of the stores that I had passed by and fantasized about in previous years as they were all in Toronto.


Another added expense was the flight back to Canada. That is something to consider if you head back home for the festivities. And during the visit we opt to fit in both bach parties, the bridal shower, family visits, birthdays and more, while visiting all the venues in person and now finally being able to get hands-on with any décor. Our schedules were jam-packed, adding to the stress of the wedding. With such limited time and so much to do it’s hard to always remember to be in the moment and breathe, but it can be done.

What I did learn is that after a while you realize that no one invests as much thought into the event, or the countless hours of research, as you will. You alone will notice the minuscule details (well if you are the controlling detail-oriented wedding planner that I was), the tiny imperfections, and the challenges that others may not be aware of.

Everyone kept saying something will go wrong, you just have to accept it. So the event planner in me decided to over plan every logistic detail to ensure preparation and prevention. However, lo and behold, things did unravel and it took fixing them on the spot and then letting it go with a smile and laugh.

Happily ever after

After all the blog reading, the hours of research, planning, décor making, invite designing and dress hunting, all that matters is that you get to marry the love of your life. The one that you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. The one that loves you for you, quirks and all, and whom will be with you through thick and thin. The fact that you get to celebrate with loved ones, no matter where you are in the world, no matter what you are wearing, or eating, is all an added bonus.

Plus by the next day, most people have forgotten all the details and it becomes a part of your memory to reminisce while eating old cake a year from now, and to one day share with your future little ones.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Melissa Verwey

Melissa Verwey is a Canadian performer who has been residing in Amsterdam for the last year. Her career has included acting in over 20 plays, coupled with over a decade of working behind the scenes in TV and Theatre Production.


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