As a destination wedding planner in Portugal, it saddens me that, to some, a wedding abroad can seem like an unobtainable dream. Sometimes it’s the expense that scares people off. Sometimes it’s the logistics. By far the biggest issue I see with couples who come to me is that venue sourcing is such a headache. You trawl through Google for hours and hours, into the backpages of websites that are poorly designed and written in a foreign language. Argh! Where do you start and how can you make it easier?

Don’t worry! It’s perfectly possible to find the outdoor wedding venue of your dreams and I’ve broken it down into 4 simple steps. Let’s dig in!


Choosing the right destination

So it is the planner’s way to have as many things figured out internally before you go out into the big bad world for what you want. You need to know your criteria first before embarking on your search and this is what the first two points are about.

I am extremely vocal about the fact that I think destination and location should be a higher priority than one specific venue when it comes to destination weddings. Though I agree, sometimes there is one venue that is super unique and you may want to go with that one no matter how inconvenient or isolated or humdrum the location around it may be. Fine. But what I advise is the better approach is to look at your destination wedding as a whole travel experience for you and your guests.

You need to factor in:

  • Accommodation options
  • Nearby activities
  • Lansdcape
  • Language barriers
  • Accessibility to airports
  • Public transport options
  • Currency
  • Climate
  • Relaxation factor
  • Emotional connection

Take a macro view at all of these factors and work out what is going to be the best thing for you and your wedding party. Maybe you do want your family to relax and have peaceful surroundings so a remote venue with accommodation on-site for everyone will be ideal. In Portugal, this would be The Alentejo where you get hot, dry climes, tranquil countryside and large venues, but you compromise on nearby activities and accessibility.

Maybe you want to be right in the heart of cultural activities and tourist attractions, so you’ll want a venue in or around a major city. In Portugal, this would be the buzziness of Lisbon or Porto with amazing accessibility and tons of cultural activities, but there would be less of a relaxing vibe and less of an open landscape for an outdoor wedding.

So don’t just pick a country, pick a region that ticks your boxes and it’ll make the research process much more targeted.

The different types of outdoor venue abroad

Another preparatory step you can take is choosing the type of outdoor wedding you want! Do you want a tipi or marquee wedding? Are you after a venue with a scenic garden to host you? Are you into castle cloisters and manicured gardens? Or are you into open fields, rivers and valleys? Would you love to be by the sea or lakes or rivers or waterfalls? What kind of outdoor wedding is really speaking to you.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can see if you shortlist of countries and then regions would accommodate a wedding like this, demoting the places that won’t into the “maybe” pile. An example is that, in Portugal, there isn’t really a culture of tipi weddings the same way that there is in the UK (sorry Emily and Alan!). There are a couple of tipi companies but the elusive dry hire venue or, even more mysterious, dry hire field, is still pretty rare. This is because the local Portuguese market much prefer their “all inclusive packages” (vom) when the venue or “quinta” does everything. So a tipi wedding here is a tough one. That’s not to say that other European destinations or further afield, like in America, wouldn’t jump at the chance to host your tipi wedding.

What Portugal can do well is a wedding by open countryside or with views, and an outdoor ceremony, reception and meal under twinkly festoon lights as the sun sets *swoon*. The regions could be the Douro valley up North, The Alentejo, Estremadura or even quite close to Lisbon. In terms of other countries, Italy and Malta are also great for this.

Defining your venue type is another preparatory step that cuts your research work in half.

How to target your research

So you have your shortlist of destinations and you know the type of outdoor wedding venue you want. Let’s dive into the maze that is Google and get to work with your venue sourcing.

Now googling a term like “portugal wedding venues” would basically be undoing all of the beautiful work you’ve done so far to decide what you really want and where you really want it. It’ll also lead to thousands upon thousands of maddeningly useless results to you that you really want to filter out.  Targeted research is super important and we have laid the groundwork to do this now.

So say you want to base your wedding party in Lisbon and want an outdoor wedding near a vineyard.

 “Lisbon wedding venues”

“Outdoor lisbon wedding venues”

“Garden lisbon wedding venues”

“vineyard wedding venue lisbon”

 These will all yield results. Yes it’ll still take quite alot of patience to go through the pages, but because you know what you want, you’ll find it alot quicker and easier to get a shortlist going. Targeted keyword searching will also point you reliably in the right direction.

Getting expert help

So you’ve done the internal work of figuring out where in the world you want to get married and what type of outdoor wedding you want. Maybe you’ve dipped your toe into the ocean of search results, even with the targeted keywords and still find it maddening – what then?

First I want to say, this isn’t the case for everyone by any stretch. Alot of couples really enjoy the process of venue sourcing and happily set aside time to sit with a glass of wine and pour over the nitty gritty details and shiny photos of what their venue could be. You could well be one of those couples so I suggest starting the process of finding a wedding venue abroad and see how you go.

This step is for those who have given it a go, but maybe three pages into Google think “ugh why are we doing this!”. The good news is, in every corner of the world there is someone that can help. Wedding planners are like ants. Lift any rock and you’ll find us there in droves, ready to rescue you with heroic might. Many wedding planners have a specific service for venue sourcing where they deliver you options that match your brief which simplifies the whole thing.

As a wedding planner in Portugal, I offer venue sourcing too as I know it can be a really tricky thing for couples in the beginning. I hope that these steps have helped steer you in the right direction to finding your perfect outdoor wedding venue abroad, and if you should need help, remember that’s what we’re here for.

Happy planning!

Olivia x

Olivia is a destination wedding planner working with colourful couples to help them plan their dream wedding in Portugal. Venue sourcing is a key part of her work and is a completely bespoke service, tailoring each recommendation to your specific requirements. If you’d like to know more about venues in Portugal, do get in touch for a free consultation.

Find out more about Olivia’s business, Nulyweds, here.


All images courtesy of The Quiet Wolf Photography

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