Europe

My Lake Bled Slovenia Wedding

I got married at Lake Bled Slovenia. What a great place for a destination wedding!A picturesque alpine lake at the base of the Julian Alps. An overlooking castle, high on a lakeside cliff. A small island in the lake’s center, upon which sits an old church.  Perfection!  Let me walk you through our somewhat complicated, but doable process of pulling together a Lake Bled wedding as American citizens. Plus, I’ll show you some of the other great attractions in the surrounding area.

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A Destination Wedding for Us – Definitely

How did I settle on a Lake Bled wedding? Since this wasn’t the first marriage for either of us, and since our kids are all grown, we figured why not get married on an epic European adventure – just the two of us? 

I scoured the internet for all the info I could find on easy destination wedding locations for Americans. We didn’t want to hit the city hall for a quick service and then get on a plane for a second ceremonial wedding somewhere else.  We wanted our destination wedding to count!  

Turns out you can’t do that just anywhere without a great deal of red tape.  In fact, it’s hard to do most places. Fortunately, there are a handful of countries that make the destination wedding process relatively easy.  We considered both St. Lucia and Fiji strongly enough that I preliminarily tripped them both quite extensively. Ultimately though, when it came right down to it, we really wanted to get married in romantic Europe.  

Slovenia?

I hadn’t really given Slovenia much thought – didn’t know a lot about it.  I knew where it was and I knew that Ljubljana was an up-and-coming travel destination.  In fact, one of my aesthetic lasers is made in Ljubljana. But we were more focused on better-known destinations like Greece or Croatia.  As I was researching the marriage requirements for Croatia – a destination long high on my bucket list – I excitedly discovered that it was much easier to legally marry there than in most European countries.  I also discovered that the process was very similar in neighboring Slovenia. 

At that point, I started looking for possible locations within those two countries.  It didn’t take long to come across Lake Bled. Just google Slovenia Weddings and you will find that Lake Bled pretty much dominates the first page.  It was immediately obvious that a Lake Bled wedding would be perfect. So in September 2018, me and Mrs. Thorough Tripper married at Lake Bled Slovenia. 

View of Bled Castle and island church across Lake Bled

Why Lake Bled is Perfect for a European Destination Wedding

1. Again – a picturesque alpine lake at the base of the Julian Alps, with an overlooking castle high on a lakeside cliff. A small island in the center, upon which sits an old church.  Hello!! Perfect spot for a wedding!!  

2. Because it’s such a perfect spot for a wedding, there is a well-established wedding industry in the area.  Everything is already there to put together the exact type of wedding you want, whether it be a small private affair like ours, or a larger event with many guests at one of the lakeside hotels.

3. Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is only 45 minutes away.  This is very important, because in our case, a visit to the American embassy for documentation was required.  

4. Slovenia is a small country, beautiful in its own right, but within a few hours drive of Austria, Italy, and Croatia.  This central location makes for a great honeymoon. 

Castle overlooking the old town in Ljubljana Slovenia
Old town Ljubljana

Preliminary Steps for our Lake Bled Wedding

I needed to find someone in Slovenia to help me.  Even though Slovenian red tape, compared to other places in Europe, is minimal, there is still red tape, and you need someone in Slovenia to help manage that. 

There are several wedding planners in the Lake Bled area, and they will all help you navigate the legal requirements for your Lake Bled wedding. Google led me to Melita Pretnar Kofol at Dream Wedding Slovenia, and I ultimately hired her to take care of our wedding arrangements. She and I conducted all our communication via email. She took excellent care of us from afar, and in the end, we were hitched without a hitch. 

We did not want anything fancy.  We wanted a private ceremony, just the two of us, in a beautiful spot.  We didn’t need flowers, a photographer, or a DJ – though Melita could have arranged those for us.  She was happy to help us with our simple needs.

For us, her role was to help us navigate through the various legal requirements from afar, schedule our venue and arrange for the officiants,  arrange official Slovenia translation of the required documentation I sent her via FedEx, take us to the necessary government offices once there, and accompany us to our wedding. She even took our wedding pictures – with my iPhone 🙂  Her fee for all of this, including the various legal fees and the venue fee, was less than $1000. 

We could have chosen one of several locations for our ceremony, including various hotels along the lake, or even Bled Castle high above the lake. Weddings are also conducted at Queen Mary’s Church (the church on the island).  However, church weddings in Slovenia aren’t considered official. Your legal ceremony must be civil in Slovenia, so for those marrying at Queen Mary’s Church, two ceremonies are required.

A popular place to get married, for those looking for a simple Lake Bled wedding like ours, is the Bled Town Hall. It’s a popular choice for simple weddings, because it’s the least expensive option in Bled. But, you are not selling yourself short by having your ceremony there.  It’s a stately building located right on the lake. We were married in an ornate room with large French doors opening onto a view of the lake with the island church in the far distance. 

Lake Bled Town Hall where our wedding was conducted
Bled Town Hall

1. Certified Birth Certificates with Apostille of the Hague Convention

We were able to obtain the certified birth certificates from our County Clerk’s office.  I was able to order these online and have them mailed to me. I then sent them to Utah’s Lieutenant Governor’s office, where the Apostille was attached to the birth certificates, and mailed back to me.

2. Copies of our Passports

3. Certificate of No Impediment

This one was the most difficult document to obtain.  No such document can be obtained at a local government office within the United States (and believe me, I tried!) It can only be obtained at a US Embassy or Consulate. This is why Bled’s close proximity to Ljubljana is so important.

We had to physically visit the US Embassy, fill out some paperwork, and swear in front of the consular officer that we could legally marry.  The only documentation we needed to show was our passports. There is a fee of $50 per person to obtain this document. Here is a link to the Getting Married in Slovenia page on the Embassy’s website. I referenced it many times during my preparations.

Getting an appointment at the Embassy is tricky though.  You have to book the appointment online for what is called Notarial Service.  It is only offered on Monday and Wednesday mornings. There are only 4 appointments available on each day, and the online appointment calendar only opens a month ahead of time.  Our wedding was on a Friday, meaning that our only chance to get that document was on the Wednesday before.  

Given that there were so few appointments, I was concerned about the possibility of not getting one, and very concerned about what kind of wrench that would throw into our wedding.  I contacted the embassy by email several months in advance and asked if I could book the appointment any sooner. Denied! I was assured that it wouldn’t be too hard to get an appointment if I did it as soon as the calendar opened. 

So exactly 1 month before, first thing in the morning, I pulled up the embassy calendar, and…..all appointments taken! Ljubljana time is 8 hours ahead of Utah time, and I had forgotten to take that into consideration. I emailed the embassy and begged for an appointment explaining that our dates were set, etc, etc. And…. they graciously assured me that we would be seen that Wednesday morning, but to bring a copy of the email for proof that they said so.  

When we arrived that morning, the guard did not have our names on the embassy entry list.  More nausea. After explaining everything to him, he went inside for a bit, and…..returned with Visitor passes!  Cerificate of No Impediment successfully obtained.

1. Visit to the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Our newly obtained Certificate of No Impediment had to then be notarized by the Slovene government at the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This office is conveniently located just around the corner from the US Embassy. Melita met us outside the Embassy, waited for us while we were inside, and then took us to the Ministry. Once there, she took care of everything that needed to be done, with us, looking lost, standing by. 

2. Visit to the Local Administrative Unit in Radovljica

After our Ljubljana red tape was completed, we met Melita in the town of Radovljica, just a few miles south of Bled.  Here we went to the equivalent of the county office in the US. This is where we received our actual wedding license.  Melita again took care of everything. We just had to confirm correct name spelling and sign our licenses. The US Embassy website indicated that we would need to show our divorce decrees here, but Melita had already told me ahead of our trip that they would not be necessary, and they weren’t. Trust your wedding planner 🙂

3. Wedding Day Paperwork

We signed additional papers at our wedding.  I think those were mostly ceremonial.

4. After-Wedding Translation and Apostille

We left the morning after our wedding for our “honeymoon” in Croatia. While we were gone, Melita had our marriage certificate translated into English, and took it to another government office in Ljublana where the Hague Apostille was attached.  This final step ensured that it would be recognized as our legal marriage certificate in the United States. She did have to wait 7 days to complete this step. This conveniently fell on the day we were driving back through Slovenia on our way to the Munich Airport. She met us off the highway near Bled and delivered these most important papers.   She would have mailed them to us otherwise.  

We checked with our County Clerk’s office when we returned.  No further certification of our marriage was required to make it legal in the US.  We sent them a copy of our Slovenian marriage certificate with the Apostille and they simply recorded it in the county record.

Our Wedding Day

The Ceremony

Our ceremony was scheduled for 2pm in the afternoon.  Melita met us at our hotel and escorted us to the Bled Town Hall, showing us the way and where to park (so we didn’t have to deal with those little potentially stressful details right before our ceremony).  Upon arrival, we were shown into a large ornate room with large doors open onto the lake view.  

Three officiants stood at the head of a long table.  Two were administrative officials and one was a translator. At first, they asked us to sit in front of them. They both had quite a lot to say.  One took care of the more official legal wedding talk. The other talked more poetically about love and marriage duty. They both spoke for about 20 minutes combined.  It was easily the most beautifully-worded civil wedding that either of us have attended – glad it was ours 🙂 

Our wedding inside Lake Bled Town Hall

They then asked us to stand, exchange rings, and kiss for the first time as husband and wife.  Rather than “you may now kiss the bride’’, he said something like “although you have kissed many times before, this kiss will be your most meaningful ever.”  Awhhhh….

After-Wedding Tradition

The tradition after your Lake Bled wedding is getting on a small boat, crossing over to the island church, climbing up the long flight of stairs, and ringing the bell inside.  Most tourists to Lake Bled participate in this tradition, wedding or not. The weather had been cloudy and threatening all day. Within one minute of ending our ceremony and walking through the doors onto the balcony as husband and wife,  there was a great thunderclap and the rain started to pour. We said goodbye to Melita and stood waiting for the rain to clear. It rained harder. All the boats came back from the island and no boats were leaving for the island. We waited some more.  It still rained.  

View across Lake Bled in the rain to the church on the island
View across Lake Bled in our post-wedding rain

We decided to wait it out.  We wanted to ring that bell!  We walked down to a lakeside restaurant where we ordered a piece of Bled cake – the town’s ubiquitous dessert and our de facto wedding cake –  along with some wine for our first husband-wife toast.

Wine and Bled Cake alongside Lake Bled

We waited about 1.5 hours. The rain showed no signs of stopping. There was champagne and our wedding dinner at one of Slovenia’s best restaurants waiting for us back at the hotel.  We decided the bell-ringing would be saved for our future anniversary trip.

Our Bled Lodging

Bled is not a big town but is a popular place to visit.  For the most part, the beauty of the lake is preserved, without lots of development along its shores.  There are nice hotels that dot the shoreline here and there. There is also a small town center adjacent to the lake with small hotels as well.  But demand can exceed supply. I started tripping our wedding 8 months ahead of time. I could not find any rooms at any of the lakeside hotels, even that far in advance.  Plan way early if you want to stay lakeside.

I could have booked a room at the town’s Best Western which appeared to have decent rooms along with lake views, but Best Western wasn’t special enough for our wedding.  Bled has quite a few AirBNB and VRBO rentals with plenty of availability that far out, but I still couldn’t find quite what I was looking for on those sites. I ultimately widened my search and did find the perfect spot for us on Booking.com.  It was 11 km away, just outside of Radovljica (the town where we obtained our wedding license).  

Vila Podvin

We stayed at Vila Podvin. This small hotel and restaurant is located on the grounds of Podvin Castle.  The castle (which is really just a very large villa and dates to the 14th century) has fallen into disrepair, but the former stables have been restored and converted into a restaurant,  along with 8 or so hotel rooms on the top floor. This facility is set in idyllic Slovenian countryside within walking distance of a charming small village called Mosnje. Vila Podvin also hosts weddings in its courtyard.

View of Podvin Castle from Vila Podvin
View from our balcony across to Podvin Castle

Our room was the largest suite.  We had a large living area, separate bedroom, adequately-sized bathroom, and a balcony with a view across the grounds to the castle.  The room and its furnishings were a bit dated, but the views, setting, and restaurant below were all fantastic. Plus the staff were all very nice and very helpful.  I was concerned that staying above a restaurant could be noisy, but it was not. It was a very peaceful location. It cost us $170 per night.

The Restaurant

The restaurant at Vila Podvin is considered one of the best in Slovenia and the chef Uroš Štefelin is highly regarded.  Breakfast was included in our room-rate and was very good. It always included cooked-to-order eggs along with an assortment of breads, cheeses, local jams, fruits.  

We ate dinner at Vila Podvin twice.  Their food features local ingredients and modern interpretations of traditional Slovenian cuisine. Our first night we ordered their prix fixe course menu. It was all excellent and the service was top-notch as well. We were stuffed after that first meal, and so decided to go a little lighter after our wedding, ordering only a la carte entrees.  These were excellent as well. (I only recently decided to start writing this travel blog, so unfortunately I don’t have pictures of this restaurant’s great food. Future trips will feature more food pictures. Food plays a major role in why I travel).

2022 Update: Vila Podvin was awarded a Michelin star in 2020 which doesn’t surprise me at all. And the restaurant has moved to a new location inRadovljica.

Things to do Around Bled

We spent four nights in Slovenia.  One day was wedding day and one day was visit-Government-offices day, but with the rest, we were able to spend time relaxing at Vila Podvin and seeing other sites in this beautiful part of the world.

The Castle

Bled Castle sits on a rock outcropping high above the lake.  It is the oldest castle in Slovenia and dates back to medieval times. It offers spectacular views out over the lake and surrounding areas.  You can walk about the various castle buildings. There is a popular restaurant inside the castle with stunning views, but I was unable to secure a lunch reservation with two day’s notice (so plan ahead).  The castle parking lot is at the top of the road next to the castle. There is also a small parking lot at the base of the hill leading up to the castle that is less likely to be full, but requires a steep although short climb to the castle entrance.

View across Lake Bled from Bled Castle
View From Bled Castle out to the valley on the other side of the lake
Views from Bled Castle

The Lake

Of course the big draw here is the Lake.  A paved road circumnavigates the lake with the occasional (crowded) parking area.  Park and stroll along the lakeside paths and take in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.  And if you aren’t waiting for your wedding day, take a local pletna boat out to the island church and ring that bell.

If you are a morning person, then consider a hike to watch the sun rise over the lake. In this post, my friend Lannie shows you how on her blog LanniesFoodandTravel.com

Vintgar Gorge

This river gorge is located just 4 km from the castle.  There are road signs pointing you in the right direction and I also used Google Maps.  There is a large parking lot just outside the trailhead. I read that it is often full, but we had no problem securing a spot mid-afternoon on a weekday in early September.  At Vintgar Gorge, you follow a well-maintained trail through the narrow canyon, much of it on boardwalks out over the rushing river. It’s an easy, mostly-flat hike covering just a little over 3 km round trip, and well worth a visit. 

Rushing Waters of Vintgar Gorge near Lake Bled Slovenia

Opportunties for other adventures abound in the Lake Bled area. You can check out many of these on Viator:

Ljubljana 

I would highly recommend trying to spend at least a day in Ljubljana.  It’s located only 45 minutes south of Bled. We drove straight from Salzburg Austria to Ljubljana (a 3 hour drive), arriving in the early afternoon.  This gave us the rest of the day to explore the city. We stayed there that night, before spending the next morning taking care of our pre-wedding paperwork at the various government offices in Slovenia’s capital city.  

River running through the old town in Ljubljana Slovenia

Ljubjana’s central old town sits along a river with bridges, cobblestone streets, brightly colored buildings, churches, and lots of restaurants. A castle sits on the hill just above.  We stayed in old town, right along the river, at Apartment and Rooms Mečšanka – a small quaint apartment hotel with a perfect location. I found it on Booking.com and our studio apartment only cost $115 for the night.

A view across old town Ljubljana Slovenia with the castle dominating the city

We spent our late afternoon and evening in Ljubljana on a food & wine tour.  Food tours are one of my favorite things to do in Europe. It’s a great way to learn about a city’s culture & history with a knowledgeable guide, while learning about and tasting the local cuisine. 

We took Roundabout Travel’s 4-hour Ljubljana Food And Wine Walking Tour.  With our Slovene guide and three other couples, we toured the town center, learned about Ljubljana’s history, received an extensive lesson in Slovenian wine (with tasting and food pairing), and ate small portions of 9 different types of local cuisine at various eateries around old town.  It was the best way to experience a lot of Ljubljana in the relatively short amount of time we had there.  

We really liked Ljubljana and wished we could have spent another day there. Next time….

Piran

A small bit of Slovenia touches the Aegean Sea, nestled in between Italy and Croatia. Here, you will find the Slovenian coastal town of Piran. Piran was part of The Republic of Venice for 500 years and it’s architecture reflects that history. It’s well worth the 1.5 hour drive from Ljubljana, especially if you want a taste of the Mediterranean on your trip. Some couples choose to have their Slovenian destination wedding here, by the sea. We stopped in Piran on our way to Croatia and spent several hours wandering it’s medieval alleys and eating fresh seafood.

Town Center of Piran Slovenia
Harbor at Piran Slovenia
Fresh Seafood in Piran Slovenia
Freshly grilled fish and squid in Piran

An Extended European Wedding Trip

Our Lake Bled wedding was ideally located to allow us the chance to see a lot more of this part of Europe, and we took full advantage. We flew in and out of Munich Germany where we rented a car. Before our wedding, we spent one night in the small Bavarian village of Bad Tölz Germany before driving the short 90 minutes to beautiful Salzburg Austria for two nights. You can click here to read my favorite things about Salzburg Austria

From Salzburg, we drove to Ljubljana. This is a stunning 3-hour drive through vibrant green hills dotted with one hilltop castle after another.  (If you choose to fly directly into Ljubljana, a side-trip to Salzburg absolutely needs to be considered.)

After our wedding, we honeymooned in Croatia.  It’s only a 3 hour drive to Croatia’s Istrian peninsula from Bled.  In Croatia, we stayed three nights inside the ancient Venetian coastal city of Rovinj, and 3 nights in a hillside VRBO-rental looking across to the hill-top town of Motovun. Click here to read all about our week visiting these two beautiful towns in Istria Croatia.

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