Q. I’m getting married abroad – how do I get my wedding dress there in one piece? And should I change my name before the wedding?
A. First of all, congratulations on your upcoming nuptials Tina.
On the issue of getting the dress abroad, the most stress-free way to get your dress to your wedding destination without it getting damaged or lost, is to carry it hand luggage. How straight-forward this is depends on which airline you are flying with.
If it’s one of the airlines that enforce its hand luggage rules with an iron fist, like Ryanair or Flybe, you’ll have to pack the dress carefully into a bag or box of the requisite size – there are no exemptions when it comes to low cost airlines and baggage restrictions.
My advice would be to pack it in acid-free tissue paper and use a case or box that is hard-sided, then find a good dry cleaner or laundry company that will press or steam it at the other end. Most hotels will be able to direct you towards one.
On other airlines, you may be able to appeal to the crew, who will hang it in the business class wardrobe in its dress bag, particularly if it is summer time and there are fewer coats in the closet. That said, if it’s a voluminous dress, you’d be pushing your luck to get it in a wardrobe, so you’ll need to squeeze it into a bag or box and leave it there until you arrive. You could try calling ahead to "reserve" a space in the wardrobe, but don’t rely on the good nature of the crew – make sure it will fit into your hand luggage if needs be.
There are various companies selling wedding dress travel boxes that cost from £29 on this website, www.emptybox.co.uk, or try www.dressinabox.co.uk, which lists its boxes by airline (do double check before you travel though, as baggage rules frequently change). Of course, you can improvise and make your own box – just make sure it is sturdy, as you will probably be requested to pack it into the overhead lockers.
If you are worried about squeezing it into a hand luggage bag, you could get the dress couriered to your destination with a company like DHL or Fedex. If you go down this road, make sure the packaging is sturdy, waterproof, and marked fragile. Be sure to ship the dress well in advance and make sure a friend or hotel concierge is briefed to receive it at the other end.
On the name change issue, as you are getting married abroad, you cannot change your name because a bride cannot travel home under her married name.
The reason is that your current passport is cancelled to create the new one in your new name. The new passport is post-dated and will only be valid from the day of the marriage ceremony. Further to that, some countries will not issue visas for postdated passports.
It’s best to travel back, or indeed go on honeymoon, with your current passport in your maiden name, then change it on your return. You’ll just need to fill out a standard application form and send off your marriage or civil partnership certificate to the IPS.
Don’t forget that when you do change your passport name, any future travel must be booked in that name. If the passport and travel tickets don’t match, many airlines will not let you board the plane, and some countries won’t allow you to enter. Further to that – some visas in your old passport will become invalid when you change your name.
And finally – double check what paperwork and visas are required for your wedding and honeymoon abroad. If you don’t have the right paperwork, it may mean the ceremony is not legal, or worse still, can’t take place at all.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor