• Jocette Lee

Planning a Wedding in a Foreign Country


This is not a wedding checklist of things to do nor a detailed timeline for wedding preparations. This is an honest reflection on the challenges and joys of having a wedding in a foreign country.

I am an American and my fiancé is Turkish. Currently, we live in Turkey and for many reasons (mostly Visa-related), we are having our wedding in Izmir, Turkey this summer. Like for most people, wedding planning is full of lists, joy, stress, celebration and sacrifices. My experience is no different. I hope to take this time to discuss both the challenges and joys of planning a wedding in Turkey thus far.

To start, having a wedding in a foreign country cuts down on the number of dear friends and family who can attend. Traveling difficulties, work schedules and cost immediately reduce the likelihood of people who can attend from America. I am definitelymourning the loss of not having some loved ones with me on our special day. This also impacts the preparations for the wedding. Trying to organize bridal showers, dress fittings, etc can be challenging and painful. However, through wedding photography and videography, we hope to capture the wedding with detail so we can share this day with people in my home country.

Additionally, as an American, the wedding expectations I have been raised with are not aways achievable in a foreign setting. Decoration, photography and music are all areas I have had to readjust to the reality of options in Turkey. Communicating these desires is also a complication. While I am currently learning Turkish, I still have to rely on the skills and translation abilities of my Turkish fiancé to execute our to-do list. I am a planner and an achiever, so relying on someone else is a great challenge for me. However, this has significantly grown and strengthened our communication skills. But sometimes, I just want to get things done myself.

When I reflect on the challenging moments of wedding planning, they all surround the idea of expectations. Releasing and adjusting these expectations has allowed me to experience more joy in the process. So let’s transition to the positive aspects of planning a wedding in Turkey. Currently, the dollar is strong so our money goes further. I cannot help but to rejoice in the cost difference between a wedding in Turkey versus America. Additionally, because my fiancé is Turkish, we will include many cultural traditions. While I may not know all the Turkish wedding dances, I am very excited about the warmth and richness that comes from celebrating two cultures coming together. This will make our wedding uniquely ours and I rejoice in these beautiful additions.

The care and hospitality of the Turkish culture is felt throughout all aspects of the planning process. Turkey is a culture centered on caring and hosting other people which means they know how to throw a party! From the wedding venue, to the hotel, to the wedding village preparations, there is a strong awareness for hosting guests built into the Turkish culture.

As we learn more about planning this large event, we are also learning about ourselves, each other and our respective cultures. So while my wedding does not fit into the confines of a "traditional" American celebration, I find that I am learning the same lessons as other couples who come from a shared culture background. I can see that there are more shared commonalities than differences for couples who choose to walk this path of wedding planning. For just about everyone, planning a wedding is a hard, unfamiliar task and we are all trying to keep it together.

So what's the takeaway? Pick a few things that matter the most and then adjust expectations for everything else. What advice do you have for expectations or for wedding planning?

Art work by Alessandra Olanow © alessandraolanow.com


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©2020 by Jocette Lee.

All photos are the property of Jocette Lee unless otherwise noted.