Booking your wedding through a travel agent or tour operator:
Trusting something as important as your wedding to a Travel Agent or Operator is a big deal. This an emotional event for you and financially there is likely to be a lot more at stake than the cost of a standard holiday.
And the travel industry can be a bit of an unknown. So we've put together a few facts which we hope will help you get the best wedding possible.
* Using a Travel Agent or Operator can be useful if you want someone else to take care of the flights, accommodation and marriage paperwork.
* Helpful if you are travelling as a group or your guests want help with their arrangements. An Agent/ Operator will look after everyone’s travel, negotiating group rates and some specialize in group bookings.
* Useful if you're undecided about where you want to marry, especially if you are considering one of the exotic destinations. A good company will offer a healthy choice of countries, seasonal weather information as well as temperature and humidity levels.
They should also volunteer the pre-requisite medical inoculations, but always check with your GP or the Government-backed FitforTravel website.
* Operators/ Agents offer the simplest way to safeguard your money (as long as they're ATOL & ABTA registered - check here if you're unsure).
* Good if you need help sticking to your budget. Give the agent/ operator a maximum and be firm about it.
* If you are looking to organise your wedding this way, we'd suggest going for either an independent Travel Agent (not many left) or one of the high end tour Operators who sell direct to the public (and therefore don't have agents to pay commission to).
Trailfinders are not only one of the largest independent operators in the field, they also have one of the best reputations (Operator of the Year in 2009). And with 24 travel centres throughout the country you shouldn't be too far away from a friendly face (ask to see one of their dedicated in-house wedding team).
Click here to have a look at their website.
* Limited choice of hotels and venues. A 'Multiple Chain' or Group Travel Agent (eg Thomson TUI, Thomas Cook, Co-op Travel Grp) will only sell products that they directly own, or receive enhanced commercial terms from. They are not 'whole of market' and therefore your choice is restricted to the hotels they have relations with.
* Possibly less personal - many of the smaller details are often left to plan when you arrive (eg colour and type of flowers, cake etc) and the ceremony tends to be more formulaic and quicker than one you might have created from scratch.
* Some hotels in Travel Agent packages conduct a number of weddings in one day, so if you want your special day to be about just you two and your guests, be sure to check.
Tips for booking with an agent or operator:
* In this current market there’s room to haggle. Compare 2 or 3 different Agents – hotels and airlines sometimes offer deals to one company but not another. Check out how much it would cost to book it independently by looking at an airline website and hotel website – that way you know if you’re getting the best rate from the Agent.
* Get recommendations of Travel Agents - you can't beat word of mouth when deciding which company to trust with arranging your big day.
* Make sure the company is both ABTA and ATOL registered. Click here to check ABTA's user-friendly database.
* Get all your quotes in writing before you sign anything.
* Your Agent isn't responsible for telling you if you need a visa for entry, so be sure to check this yourself.
* Find out from the Agent on day of booking what the paperwork requirements are for the wedding. Keep a record of which documents you send off, to whom and when.
* Find out who will be looking after you when you arrive at the destination and whether you can contact them before you leave the UK with any special requests.
* Get a clear breakdown of what is and isn't included in the wedding package. As with any wedding, it's easy for costs to spiral.
* Take photo copies of your passport with you when you travel and keep them in a separate location to your passport itself (you could always scan a copy of the photo page and email it to yourself – then it's impossible to lose!). Same goes for all your insurance documents, venue information and contacts.
If you're feeling uber organised, write yourself a schedule with all these details on and email it to yourself, as well as taking a hard copy with you.
Get the best advice from the pros
A quick look at ABTA's very user friendly website will give you total peace of mind if you are booking through an Agent or Operator. Click here to go directly to their consumer protection advice page.
Check the most up to date information, download handy tips about checks to make when booking and contact them personally with any query you may have.