Have fiancé, will travel - to get married on the cheap

As average cost of UK wedding hits £17,000, more couples are heading overseas
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The cost of the traditional ceremony-and-reception wedding in Britain has grown so high that thousands of couples are opting to get married abroad at a fraction of the price.

The cost of the traditional ceremony-and-reception wedding in Britain has grown so high that thousands of couples are opting to get married abroad at a fraction of the price.

The average British wedding now costs £17,000 - a 60 per cent rise since 1995. The result is that this year one in 10 British couples have sought value for money by marrying abroad. More than 50,000 couples will be tempted by packages for prices as low as £1,200.

Many will travel to the popular destinations of Cyprus, Florida, the Greek islands and the Caribbean.

Carole Hamilton, editor of You and Your Wedding magazine, said: "It's a growing industry, particularly in Europe, where changes in the law mean it is now easier for British couples to get married. It's also easier to invite friends over for the ceremony because of cheap flights. Nowadays you can have a really lavish wedding for £1,000."

All of the major tour operators, including Thomas Cook, are now offering "instant" wedding packages. A dedicated ceremony co-ordinator, employed by the travel agent, will sort out local paperwork, an interpreter, champagne, the cake, the bride's flowers and even a local mayor to officiate.

Tour operator Cosmos's best-selling package is in Cyprus and, for £1,200, a couple get a civil wedding, including paperwork and champagne, followed by a week in a hotel. A church wedding, Anglican or Catholic, costs £500 more.

A wedding in a snow dome in a Lapland forest, with three nights in a a three-star hotel costs £3,000 from Cosmos.

But such deals are not for everyone. Claire Glasgow, 30, and Clive Lewis, 32, married at Bath Assembly Rooms yesterday, at a cost of £16,000.

Claire said: "I wouldn't ask my friends and family to take precious holiday time travelling abroad."

But for many the promise of sun and savings is irresistible. Natasha Weafer and her fiancé, Corin Davies, will be married in Mauritius on 12 May. She is saving £5,000 compared to a wedding in her home town of Worcester. She said: "We've lived together for six years and by then you can think of better ways of spending £15,000."

The cost of the ceremony covers the minister, a wedding cake, bouquet and champagne. The couple plan to use some of the money they save for a party back home.

Natasha said: "Neither of us was that keen about a church or a civil ceremony. And getting married in Mauritius and having a party at home means I get to wear the dress twice."

Additional reporting by Robert Dex and Fiona Ford

'It costs too much to do it in Britain'

Vicki Warren and Steven Lloyd agreed almost as soon as they were engaged that they didn't want to marry in Britain. Instead, the couple from Crosby, Merseyside, settled on Cuba - thanks to the cost and the sunshine.

"To get married in this country would have been too much hassle, too much expense, and too much organising," said Vicki, 27. "This way, it'll be a lot cheaper, but also much more personal and more romantic. And we'll have guaranteed good weather for the photographs.

"The best thing about getting married abroad is that you're celebrating as soon as you get off the plane.

"The hardest thing will be not having my family there," said Vicki, who marries 31-year-old Steven on 3 June.

Jonathan Thompson

'We had a budget, but it went out of the window'

Mel Georgiou, 28, a civil servant, and Mario Pantelli, 28, a mortgage adviser, from north London will have a church wedding in Wood Green next Sunday, before celebrating at a nearby banqueting hall. Mel said: "We did start out with a budget but it got thrown out of the window. It's one very special day and we wanted it to be perfect. We were born in England, it's our home, and it wouldn't have been right to marry in Cyprus."

Fiona Ford