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Tying the Knot in Europe

May 13, 2011 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent

A Dunraven Stateroom at Adare Manor
A Dunraven Stateroom at Adare Manor in Limerick, Ireland; the former castle is a popular pick for destination weddings.

There are as many options for a wedding in Europe as there are couples looking to tie the knot. We reached out to a few wedding specialists to find out what their clients want and how they deliver the best wedding imaginable.

Laurie Gluck, president of Gluck Travel, emphasizes the need to know as much about a destination as possible before trying to arrange a wedding there. She mentions a couple that planned for a wedding in Italy, and arrived without anyone telling them about the seven-day residency requirement. “No one told them, [so] they could not get married,” she says. “There are so many small but important things that need to be done before a destination wedding, so going it on your own should never be considered.”

Agent Advice

Two wedding packages from the London Eye let couples look out over the city as they take their vows in one of the Eye’s glass capsules. The packages run for an hour (two rotations of the wheel), and can include everything from flowers inside the capsule and champagne served after the ceremony to the night either before or after the wedding at the nearby Marriott County Hall Hotel and two spa treatments (a mini-manicure, pedicure, facial, or back, neck and shoulder massage). For more information, e-mail [email protected].

Adare Manor was once a bona fide Irish castle. Today, it is a luxury destination resort in Limerick and a popular pick for destination weddings. While many people of Irish ancestry have “come home” for a wedding at Adare, we hear that Jewish and Hindu ceremonies also have been arranged. Two churches in the nearby village are available for Catholic and Protestant weddings. If your clients want to feel like royalty and get married at Westminster Abbey, tell them it’s long as they actually are royalty, or are members of the Order of the Bath,or live within the Abbey’s precincts.

Gluck says that she warns all her wedding couples not to drive themselves to a destination in Europe. “They need to rely on transfer services or driver guides to get them where they need to go without any stress—a wedding is too important a time in your life to try to penny-pinch; this is the one time to be extravagant.”

Sandra Aaron, owner of Mindless Sophistication Events, recommends partnering with a local wedding planner when sending clients abroad. “I do that sometimes,” she says, “but I find that since all couples are different, unless I chose to specialize on one or two select geographical areas, it’s really hard to know someone locally who provides the level of service and expertise my clients need.”

To counteract that, she uses Destination Management Companies (DMC) and works with a Virtuoso member travel agency. This gives her clients access to Virtuoso’s network of on-sites, which are available in most countries.

“If a client has a special request that seems impossible, a Virtuoso On-Site usually knows someone who can make it happen,” she says.

Aaron’s first destination wedding was for a couple who wanted to get married in Paris. The bride was French and had a home there, and they met all the other legal requirements for weddings in France. “What made this couple unique was the groom really wanted to spend his wedding night in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom at the Palace of Versailles,” she recalls. “It’s for this reason the Palace of  Versailles was their first-choice wedding venue.”

While a wedding there is not a problem, staying overnight is a completely different issue. It’s one of the few special requests Aaron hasn’t pulled off. 

“At the time I didn’t know about Virtuoso. I didn’t know if this is the type of request their on-sites in Paris could have arranged. But, their connections are such that they had a better chance of granting this wish than I did,” she says.

Another wedding that Aaron assisted with was in Italy. “It was a Jewish couple who loved the romance of getting married in Italy. They also wanted a very traditional ceremony that would celebrate the cultural history of the Jewish community in Italy. The wedding took place at one of the historic synagogues in the old Jewish quarter of Venice. All the synagogues in that area are Orthodox, so we needed to have an Orthodox Rabbi in the couples’ home country write a letter asking permission to use the synagogue and stating that both the bride and groom were Jewish under Jewish law. To date, it has been one of my favorite weddings.”

Erika Unbehaun of FlutterFly Events, a London-based wedding planner, says that traditional weddings are still the most popular. Most of her clients choose to get married in London’s historic buildings or grand banqueting halls.

One American couple had a Central London wedding at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Chelsea behind the posh streets of Kings Roads, followed by two red double-decker buses taking guests off to a venue next to Westminster Abbey

Another couple posed the challenge of combining cultures: the groom was Canadian while the bride was Sri Lankan. They married at the Royal College of Greenwich (where the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie was recently filmed). And a Chinese couple will be getting married in June at the childhood home of Henry VIII.

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About the Author

Jena Tesse Fox
Jena Tesse Fox covers Europe, Africa, Australia/South Pacific and business travel for the Questex Travel Group's publications. The daughter of history teachers, she can spend...

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By Jena Tesse Fox | May 13, 2011
In theory, there are endless possibilities for a unique wedding in Europe but only a well-connected, knowledgeable agent can bring them to fruition.