Each country and city has their own quirks about what documents are required and what rules need to be followed for a destination wedding to be valid.
Knowing what you will need to get legally married abroad requires you to do some research and plan ahead.
Tip: If you are planning a destination wedding at an all inclusive resort, then your wedding planner can guide you through the process.
Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the legality of getting married abroad.
Will my wedding abroad be recognized as a legal wedding in the US?
Yes. So long as you were legally married abroad, the US will recognize it as a legal wedding when you get back.
How long does it take to get a marriage license?
Marriage license is what you have to apply for ahead of time to ensure that you can legally bind your wedding at the destination. In some cities, a marriage license is instantaneous, whereas others require a day or two to issue one. In extreme cases, like Greece, just the paperwork takes a few months to process.
Regardless of where you are getting married, you need to make sure that you know how long it will take to get a marriage license and what kind of documentation will be required.
What is the required documentation to get married?
In most cases, the required documents are a passport, another ID (drivers license), and birth certificates if this is your first marriage. If not, then you generally will need proof of divorce or a death certificate to prove your eligibility to marry.
Sometimes though, passports and birth certificates are not enough. For example, in Switzerland, you need a birth certificate that was issued by your state within the last six months. What is even more bizarre is that an original birth certificate just won’t do.
Other weird, but well intentioned quirks are that all documents have to be translated into local language if you want to marry in countries like Spain, Morocco, and Thailand.
Are there special needs if I belong to a certain religion?
Many destinations can be quite strict about who you marry so it’s important to find out ahead of time if they will entertain your request to wed there. For example, if you want to have a Jewish wedding in Aruba, the couple has to they are Jewish with paperwork from their home rabbi. They also have to ask for permission from the Aruba Jewish community for a ceremony to take place on the island.
In another weird quirk, Greece will not allow many types of interfaith weddings. So if you are catholic and would like to marry a person who is Jewish, consider getting married anywhere but Greece.
What are the residency requirements?
The residency requirements means how long you have to be at the destination in order to get married. In most cases, this is not a problem as the wait is not unreasonable (1-5 days). In fact, most couples arrive a few days before their destination wedding anyway to make sure that everything is in order and to get some rest ahead of the big day.
However, if you are getting married in French Polynesia, one of you will have to live there for 30 days before you can officially marry there. Seems a bit extreme to us but them are the rules.
Are there any other legal requests that need to be met before you can go ahead with a destination wedding?
Here are some more requirements for individual destinations:
- Australia – Notice of Intended Marriage Form (available from any Australian Embassy or Consulate), to be signed by an Australian Diplomatic Officer or an Australian Consular Officer and filed with the officiant a minimum of 31 days before the ceremony.
- Mongolia – Medical proof that you don’t have AIDS, or any sexually transmitted or psychological diseases; Statement from the Police Department that you have no criminal records; Written verification of your address; Official statement from Visa Issuing Authorities that you have no visa problems.
- Switzerland – Passport; you must have a certified copy of your birth certificate, translated into German/French/Italian, issued within the last six months; original birth certificate is not accepted
- Dominican republic – Valid passports for the couple and any foreign witnesses. Affidavit stating marriage status. Original copies and photocopies of birth certificates, and adoption certificates, name deeds and decree absolute, if applicable. Original and photocopies of death certificates. First, middle and last names must show up identically on passport, affidavit declaration and birth certificate. Documents must be translated into Spanish by the Dominican Consulate or Embassy in the United Stated.
- St. Martin – Certificate of good conduct (including certificate of single standing). Medical certificate issued within three months of event; a blood test is required. French translation of English documents.
- Mexico – A blood test will need to be performed in the destination with test results of syphilis, HIV, and Rh factor (blood type). A negative pregnancy test verified by the Mexican Consulate if the bride was divorced within the last year. Some all inclusive resorts may provide this service so check with your wedding coordinator.
- Greece – Certificate from U.S. Consulate in Athens or Thessaloniki, stating that there is no impediment to the marriage; two announcements in local Greek newspaper (one announcement for each person). Greek tourism officials advise that gathering and preparing required documents could take a few months. All documents must be translated into Greek by the Greek consulate in your area. Greek law does not provide for religious ceremonies for certain interfaith marriages such as Christians to non-Christians or Jews to non-Jews. Proof of religion, such as baptismal certificates, may be required.
- Italy – Declarations sworn to by four people before an Italian consulate officer attesting that they know of no reason to object to the marriage under the laws of the couple’s home country; declaration sworn to by both parties that there are no obstacles to the marriage under U.S. law
- Aruba – A report with a special seal from the bride/groom’s country of citizenship that proves their eligibility to marry and single status
- Puerto Rico – A blood test will need to be performed in the destination by a local physician or by a certified laboratory within the United States which must be performed within 10 calendar days of the wedding date.
- Turks And Caicos – Evidence of date of arrival to Turks & Caicos (such as a boarding pass or tourist card)
- Costa Rica – Women must also take a pregnancy test, administered by the Supreme Court of Costa Rica at the Forensic Medicine Office, (506) 295-3000. If the test is negative, there is no waiting period.
- Spain – Valid passports; completed application form obtained from the Civil Registry or District Court; “apostillized” birth certificates that are translated and authenticated by the Spanish Consulate or Embassy nearest your place of residence. If one or both parties has been previously married, then an apostillized, certified divorce and/or death certificates accompanied by a Spanish translation. In addition, you may need certificate of residence and proof that both parties are free to marry.
- France – Most city halls require that you present a certified copy of your birth certificate with a certified translation. You must obtain the translation from a sworn translator (http://france.usembassy.gov/consul/guideoas/translators.pdf).
Getting married outside the US can be tricky if you don’t follow all the rules of the city or country you are getting married in. Planning ahead and making sure you know all the rules will prevent you from having to re-do the wedding ceremony back home.
What should you do next?
Check out some popular destination wedding locations,