A few conversations I've had recently, and a flick through Cosmo Bride, has led me to realise that most of us have more idea about the details of a wedding than the practical/legal side of it. This feels a bit scary to me, but I think I see how it happens.
A friend of a friend is getting married in the UK in July. Like us, she lives in NZ. She booked her wedding before she realised that UK law requires you to be in the country almost a month before your wedding. Luckily she's managed to sort that out and is flying back early, but why didn't her venue tell her that? (I see what they didn't tell her before she paid a deposit, but why didn't they tell her after?)
A couple we are friends with also had no idea that this was the case, and mentioned that it means losing out on your honeymoon time if you wanted to get married back home. France has similar rules, but Cosmo Bride completely fails to mention it when discussing an American couple's french Chateaux wedding. They do, of course, mention the love letter and lace details that ran through the day.
The other side to this was when I told some Kiwi friends that you can't get married outdoors in England (turns out you can in Scotland). This is the backbone of the NZ wedding industry, and my friends were horrified. It seems that England has some of the strictest, most old fashioned rules when it comes to weddings. Even the USA (which hasn't managed to legalise same-sex marriage in many places) is more relaxed - if you want the priest to marry you in the park that seems to be ok. Not in England - not only can you not have the park, if you want the priest to marry you you're stuck with a church, and if you're outside a church your ceremony can't be in any way religious.
In Spain, the first step in the wedding planning seems to be an appointment with the registrar to sort out the licence. In the UK, you can't start this until (I think) 3 months before the wedding, and you can't even speak to the Registrar's office until a year before your wedding. So if you want a summer wedding, you have to book the venue first.
In other words, the system is actually set up so that you have to decide on details before arranging the legal side. How crazy is that?