How Brexit could affect your European destination wedding

Suzannah Ramsdale

Being engaged is a joyful time. You feel closer to your partner than ever before, you’ve (hopefully) bought countless bottles of fizz by way of celebration and then there’s the chance to throw the biggest party of your life.

But the actual wedding planning can be painful. So much so, that in a recent survey by Mercure hotels, 52 per cent of couples said they found the experience stressful. Seating arrangements, photography and venue décor were cited as the most headache-inducing.

Add to the mix a destination wedding combined with a no-deal Brexit and that stress can multiply. A new poll by UK wedding site hitched.co.uk found that Britons are feeling the squeeze in the run up to Brexit, with 26 per cent of couples worried about the impact of the vote to leave the EU on their wedding costs, while 1 in 3 couples reckon Brexit has made their wedding more expensive.

For some, the prospect of leaving the EU is putting them off a destination wedding all together with 30 per cent of couples surveyed saying Brexit has made them think twice about organising a wedding abroad.

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But for those still committed to having a sun-drenched ceremony overseas, Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland and Cyprus are among the most popular spots in the world to tie the knot. So, as the UK hurtles towards an increasingly likely no-deal Brexit, what will it mean for couples looking to exchange vows on the continent?

We asked Lisa Burton, founder of the newly launched European destination wedding planning site Luvana.co.uk, what kind of Brexit-shaped bumps in the road she predicts to see over the next few months - and how to overcome them with minimal fuss.

(Ben Wyatt Photography)

Exchange rate

There have been a few years of exchange rate turmoil since the original Brexit vote in June 2016. The pound has dropped and never recovered to the great rates we were seeing in 2015. This means that couples who have booked their wedding abroad may have seen a rise in the sterling cost of their wedding. With wedding budgets in the high thousands, even a small fluctuation in the exchange rate can have a huge impact.

One of the ways to combat this fluctuation is to open a Euro or Dollar account at your bank and either put regular amounts in over time to lessen the effect of the fluctuations, or keep an eye on the exchange rate and transfer large chunks into this account when the exchange rate is good. Be aware though, that the more payments you make, the more the charges will add up to. Whether you want to wait or make regular payments will depend on your attitude to risk vs peace of mind.

Legal paperwork

This will vary by destination, but couples definitely need to do their homework especially when it comes to apostille stamps. An apostille stamp is issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and proves to other countries that have signed up to the 1961 Hague convention on apostille stamps that the stamped document is an official UK document. A lot of European countries already require these, but others have changed in preparation for Brexit. For example, Malta now requires some of the paperwork to be apostille stamped.

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Apostille stamps cost £30 per document and usually a couple will need four documents stamping, so £120 (plus around £12 postage). Worse than the unexpected cost however would be turning up in your wedding destination and finding out that your paperwork is no longer valid and you will have to have a blessing instead of a legal wedding.

(Ben Wyatt Photography)

Passports

Passports and visas in Europe are split into two areas: Schengen and non-Schengen.

The Schengen area allows travel across the area without needing border and passport checks. Whilst the UK is a member of the EU British citizens can travel in the Schengen area as long as their passport is valid. In the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK will be considered a ‘third-country’ by countries in the Schengen area of Europe. There are two main changes this brings. UK passports will need to have been issued within 10 years (so extensions for early renewal won’t count) and have at least six months left on your passport from date of arrival.

When it comes to the Non-Schengen Area Europe (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania), I expect these to have the same passport requirements as the Schengen area after Brexit, although the government advice is still vague.

These rules don’t apply when travelling to Ireland due to the CTA (Common Travel Area) agreement between the UK and Ireland.

Check the UK government’s official guidance here.

Visas for travel in Europe

If there is a no-deal Brexit, the European Commission has proposed that British Citizens would not need visas for short stays of up to 90 days (this would not include time spent in non-Schengen EU countries). On arrival in the Schengen area you may be asked for confirmation of sufficient funds (suggested €50 per day, min €500). You may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. More information can be found here.

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If the UK leaves Europe with a deal, Brits will be able to travel visa-free in the Schengen area of the EU until at least the end of the transition period in 2020. After that, current thinking is that the EU and the UK will have a reciprocal agreement with no visa required. If the country is in the EU but not part of the Schengen area, the official government advise is again, vague at this point.

It’s important to check and incorporate visa costs into your budget and consider that cost for guests. Similarly, in 2021 the EU is introducing ETIAS which (similar to the US ESTA) is an electronic way of tracking visitors to the Schengen Zone of Europe. It will be required by citizens of any country not in the EU who can enter the Schengen Zone without a visa. Costs are expected to be around €7, so whilst not unreasonable, again, it’s something to keep in mind.

Guest lists dropping

Expect to see some reduction in guest list numbers like we saw during the 2007/8 banking crash. This year, destination wedding guest numbers have still averaged 50-80 so I’m hopeful that the fact that us Brits love our holidays in the sun means we’ll avoid a major slump post Brexit.

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