TOP TIPS FOR A WEDDING ABROAD
We're getting married!
My husband James and I got married in Lake Bled in Slovenia in August 2022. Below is an insight into what it's like planning a wedding abroad and all the do's and don'ts. Follow our journey from the start of our planning to the big day.
Let planning commence
Just after we got engaged, we were thrown into lockdown for Coronavirus. As much as this was gutting and stopped us celebrating our good news, this did give us all the time in the world to plan the wedding. James wanted to get married in summer 2021 so we got straight into the planning.
We’d visited Slovenia in 2018 and completely fell in love with Lake Bled. Even back then we’d talked about how Lake Bled would make a fairy tale wedding location. When we started thinking about where we’d get married, we still had Slovenia in the back of heads but didn’t know whether we could pull off a destination wedding. This was our dream wedding and we began looking further into how to organise a Lake Bled wedding.
Where to start?
We started as we all do with learning something new these days, Google. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a huge amount of information about Lake Bled weddings but we took what we could from blog posts and Trip Advisor (strangely). We first looked at venues and quickly realised there aren’t a lot of options in Lake Bled, to name the main choices:
· Bled Island
· Bled Castle
· Grand Hotel Toplice
· Vila Bled
My dream was to get married on the island but I didn’t know whether this was possible. I then originally wanted the reception in Bled Castle. I fired off some emails to Bled Island, Bled Castle and other venues to try and get an idea about cost, availability and work out how easy it would be for us to organise a wedding in Slovenia from the UK. To keep the cost down we weren’t going to use a wedding planner but as I looked more into what was actually involved in planning a wedding and how many different things you have to think about, I quickly did a U turn.
After contacting a few different wedding planners and having initial consultations over Skype, we chose to work with Primavera Bled. We really jelled with our wedding planner who was warm and friendly and could tell how passionate she was about her job. Primavera have been planning weddings since 1996 and the reviews are excellent. We were sent information via email with a list of photographers and videographers, wedding venues, food and drink menus and the Primavera Bled packages. Primavera offer three different packages: standard (ceremony and services), premium (ceremony, services and dinner) and all inclusive (includes extras such as organising brunches and excursions etc). They also offer the same packages at a discounted price for intimate weddings of up to 10 guests.
The ceremony venue
We looked through the information in depth and decided to have the wedding ceremony on the island (yay!). The ceremony on the island involves:
· Pletna boats to take bride, groom and guests across to the island
· Ceremony in Bled Church with music, reading and vows (around 15-20 minutes)
· A reception on the island (drinks, canapes and traditional Potica cake)
· Pletna boats back to main land
To be able to have the ceremony in Bled Church either the bride or the groom must have been baptised. Luckily, I was when I was born but I didn’t have a copy of my baptism certificate. My mum managed to get this for me from the church where I was baptised for around £13. You have the option of choosing between a violin and a guitar or a guitar and singer or all three to play during the ceremony. There are two time slots in which you can get married on the island, 1pm and 5pm.
The reception venue
We then had to decide where we wanted to have the reception. We discussed this in depth with our wedding planner and had looked at numerous pictures of weddings in Bled Castle and Grand Hotel Toplice. Bled Castle is the place to make you feel royalty on your wedding day. The catering is highly rated, the venue is stunning and the views from the terrace are spectacular. However, the venue is quite theatrical with staff members dressed as knights and jesters and we were worried we’d feel a little like we were in a Shrek wedding! For this reason we opted for the Grand Hotel Toplice.
The Grand Hotel Toplice is 5* hotel overlooking Lake Bled with a private beach and excellent cuisine. You can get married at this hotel or just have the reception here. There are two rooms you can choose from in the Grand Hotel to hold the reception – the Grand Hall and the Panorama room. The Grand Hall is on lake level with a terrace area. This is a ballroom with large round tables, a dance floor and the top table. The Panorama room is street level, overlooking the lake. This is more of a function room than a ballroom and doesn’t have a designated dance floor as such. There is no terrace but there is a glass pavilion where you can have drinks before or after dinner. We still cannot decide which room to go for and the hotel have been kind enough to reserve both rooms for us until we decide.
Inviting our guests
Once we had the date locked in, Primavera Bled sent us a Google Docs link of our wedding plan which allows us and our wedding planner to make amendments. This is such an easy way to organise the wedding across two countries and remind us of what needs doing when. We were also sent a Planning Pod link which we could use to set up our wedding website. This was another learning curve, discovering what we needed to include on our wedding website. Here is a snapshot of our website and the key paragraphs are:
· Welcome to our website
· Why Slovenia?
· Our wedding location
· Reception location
· Itinerary of the wedding day
· Holiday ideas
· RSVP box
· Countdown to the wedding
I loved making this website and the Planning Pod portal is extremely easy to use and navigate. It is not a very sophisticated piece of software but it does the trick and allows you to get all of the information onto your website which you need to include. We sent our save the dates in April 2020 giving our guests 16 months to organise their flights and accommodation.
Asking my maid and man of honour
Now the date was confirmed and save the dates were sent out, I thought about how I was going to ask my maid and man of honour if they’d be a part of our special day. We were still in lockdown so my options were limited but I knew I wanted to get them both something they could keep. I shopped around and got them both a personalised mug each with their names and the date of wedding on them. I also bought them both cards and wrote a heart-felt message inside, basically thanking them for everything they’ve done for me so far and explaining how I couldn’t imagine getting married without them by my side. Topped off with some New Zealand Pinot Noir and some Lindt chocolates, the gift was complete. Luckily, they both said yes and are in the process of planning the hen party now! Both the mugs and cards I bought were from Etsy. The cards are here:
Finding 'the one'
At the end of October 2020 I set out to find my wedding dress. I had exhausted all Pinterest and Instagram searches and knew it was time to go and try some on. I chose three local bridal boutiques The Wedding Dress Company, Corbridge, Mia Sposa and Y.A.P Bridal - both in Newcastle. I started in Corbridge as this was closest to home and took my mum along for moral support/brutal honesty. We were out of lockdown but Covid-19 restrictions were still being adhered to so masks and gloves had to be worn at all times.
After two unsuccessful attempts it was third time lucky at Y.A.P Bridal. I had found a dress online I wanted to try and Y.A.P managed to get a loan dress for me. I had been recommended Y.A.P by a number of friends and they all said the service was completely different to anything they had experienced elsewhere. My mum and I were welcomed by Brogan and Kat who sat us down and instantly made us feel welcome. The loan dress was hanging in front of me so I could gawk at it whilst we were talking. We discussed the location of the wedding and the logistics with the two locations and getting a boat to the island. We then talked about some dress ideas and my wedding dress journey so far. By now I was pretty sure what I wanted (it was hanging right in front of me) but before I committed I wanted to try on some other Y.A.P dresses in case there was one I liked more.
I tried on some beautiful dresses and some which I really loved with interchangeable skirts, long trains and capped sleeves but none that felt 100% right. I put on the loan dress and instantly loved it for all the reasons I had when looking online.
I said yes to the dress before even asking the price but luckily it was within budget. Brogan left to go into the adjoining room and sort out some paperwork whilst I kept the dress on for as long as I could. As it was a loan dress it was being returned the next day so I wouldn't get to try it again until my dress arrived in 6 months time (eek!). I reluctantly peeled myself out of the dress and went next door to pay the deposit. Y.A.P then gave me a tote bag filled with goodies. We couldn't have a 'I said yes to the dress' celebratory Prosecco so there was rose Cansecco in there for me to enjoy at home.
My experience with Y.A.P was flawless from booking the appointment, securing the loan dress and finding 'the one'. I can't recommend them enough and thank them so much for helping me find the perfect dress.
Covid said 'no'
So January 2021 came around and the world was not looking much better after the Covid-19 pandemic. Cases had risen again after winter and lockdowns were back. Travel was definitely not on the cards. Naive and hopeful little old me did not want to throw the towel in on her dream wedding of 2021 just yet. So we held out and checked the Slovenian and UK news numerous times of day. Our family and friends were great and weren't asking whether it was still going ahead or casting doubt, no matter how much they were really thinking it.
It got the May 2021 and the UK introduced a travel light system for travel. The best case scenario was that Slovenia was on the green list. The green list restrictions still required a negative test on departure and a negative test on return. From then on I knew I could not ask my family and friends to turn up to the airport, potentially test positive and not be able to travel. Worse, get to Slovenia, test positive and then they couldn't get home to their families so we made the decision to postpone.
Slovenian Winter Wonderland
We finally made it to Slovenia in December 2021 and met our wedding planner. My mum and dad came with us and got to see Lake Bled in all its glory. We were blessed with Bled being covered in snow and it really felt like a winter wonderland.
We stayed at Hotel Lovec in Bled which a traditional hotel but with a modern feel. It was gorgeous and we were given a room overlooking Bled island.
Our day of wedding planning started with a hair trial whilst James and my dad went to soak up the views from Bled castle. I had an idea of how I wanted my hair on the wedding day and provided the hairdresser with some photographs. I loved how the hairdresser styled my hair and it was great to get an idea of what sort of accessories and hair pieces would look best.
Next stop was to visit Bled Island with our wedding planner. We jumped on one of the traditional pletnas and got a ride over to the island. We walked up the 99 steps to Bled Church and had a look inside. We talked through how the ceremony would work, what music would be played, how long the ceremony would be and rang the bell for good luck. We then went outside to see the location of the island reception and the indoor location in case it rained (it will not!).
Stop 3 was to visit our reception venue, the Grand Hotel Toplice. The hotel was closed due to covid restrictions but the owners were kind enough to open it up just for us to have a look around. We viewed the two different reception rooms, the Grand Hall and Panorama and decided on the Grand Hall with a drinks reception on the terrace. We then got to view the traditional hotel rooms where some of our guests will be staying.
We were then lead to Hotel Park, another of the Sava Hotel group, to have our food and wine tastings. We tried two set menus and 4 different wines. The food was exquisite and it was Michelin star standard. We were amazed and could not believe our luck. We chose different dishes from both menus and created our own bespoke menu for the big day. We also have a vegetarian and a vegan menu.
Our Fairytale Slovenian Wedding
Finally it was time to travel out on our 17 day European road trip to our wedding in Lake Bled, in Slovenia. It was truly magical from start to finish and we honestly couldn't have dreamed for anything more.
See the blog posts below to read about our wedding day and some tips and tricks to help you plan your wedding abroad. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch and I would to hear about your abroad wedding!