Though some couples are choosing to get married in the United States, destination weddings abroad are still a highly popular choice among the couples who aren't afraid of adventure.
These couples are the kind who've had it on their mind for a long time to get married in Australia no matter how long of a flight it is. They also don't care if they have to deal with customs a few times as long as they can have the South Africa wedding of their dreams.
And these hindrances are quite real. While the couples who refuse to deal with them simply stay in the United States, the soon-to-be spouses who purposefully choose destination weddings abroad accept the fact that the problems just come with the territory (physical and metaphorical!).
If you're one of those couples who wants to get out of the U.S. for your wedding, you need to make sure all your legal, medical, and logistical bases are covered. Many wedding planners and even travel agents won't know all these things about destination weddings abroad, so to help you out, we've done some of the research for you.
Here's a list of 10 necessary questions to ask as you consider a non-U.S. wedding:
1. Will my marriage be legally recognized in the United States?
The U.S. Department of State's travel site says this about marriages performed outside the U.S.:
"Marriages performed overseas are considered valid in the country where they take place if they are entered into in accordance with local law. Recognition of the validity of marriages performed abroad is dependent upon the laws of the place in which the marriage is to be recognized."
So in short, yes, your non-U.S. marriage will most likely be recognized in the U.S.
However, make sure you do more specific homework and ask deeper questions once you've decided on the country you're getting married in to cross-reference your marriage's validity in the U.S. Many of the embassies are good places to go when you have questions about local wedding traditions and requirements.
2. Who can perform the ceremony for destination weddings abroad?
U.S. embassies and their workers aren't allowed to perform or host your marriage ceremony in your country of choice (though they can authenticate your foreign marriage documents).
Most non-U.S. weddings are performed by local civil or religious leaders. Again, you can ask the nearest embassy for more information, and you can most likely talk to wedding vendors and locations about what previous couples have done.
However, keep in mind that if you only talk to vendors and venues, they might have a package deal in place with some of the local officiants that will end up costing you more than if you'd hired an officiant separately.
3. How long do we have to be in the destination before we're allowed to get married?
Unlike jetting off to the snowy Rocky Mountains and having a lovely Colorado wedding, destination weddings abroad are different.
Some countries require you to have been a resident in that location for a specific amount of time before a marriage can be legally performed. At minimum, there's likely to be a waiting period.
Again, make sure you look up this requirements according to your country of choice specifically, and plan accordingly for the length of time required.
4. What documents will we need to bring to get married abroad?
In general, when you're flying to a different country you will need your passport and possibly your birth certificate. Before you leave, make sure these don't need to be approved by an official of your destination country at an embassy in the U.S. (not at an embassy in the country itself). You may even need religious documents if you're going to have a religious ceremony.
More importantly, though, is the possibility of needing to obtain an affidavit of eligibility to marry.
Some countries require you to show proof that you're free to marry, but this type of document doesn't exist in the U.S. The U.S. Department of State says you can obtain an affidavit from the embassy or consulate, which is usually good enough for local officiants to accept as proof that you can get married. Check to see if you'll need a local witness for the affidavit, too.
5. What if I've had a previous spouse but don't any longer (through divorce or death)?
As you can see from #4, documentation is very important, especially if you've been married before.
You'll probably need documents to prove you're no longer married, such as a divorce or death certificate. It's likely that this won't take the place of your affidavit of eligibility to marry, and that you'll need both documents.
Check into local laws to make sure this is all you'll need, though. Sometimes countries won't perform weddings abroad unless these documents (even some of the ones mentioned in #4) are translated into the local language and authenticated.
6. Are blood tests required? Do they have to be from the country we're going to?
Yes and no.
Most countries will require you to present blood tests and other medical documentation to prove you're not going to ravage their country with disease, but local laws decide what these look like.
Some countries are okay with accepting blood tests and documents performed in and authorized in the United States, but others will want you to have that done in their country so they can verify everything.
7. Are there minimum age requirements or necessary parental consents?
Just like the U.S. requires you to be 18 years old to get married (without parental consent), other countries might have similar requirements.
Again, the best place to inquire about these laws would be the U.S. embassy in the country of your choice, or even a travel information bureau.
If we haven't said it enough already, do your research. Destination weddings abroad are tricky businesses!
8. How easy will it be to get married in the location I'm interested in?
Lots of logistics for weddings abroad have nothing to do with legal requirements.
You'll need to get comfortable with asking lots and lots of specific destination wedding questions to your intended vendors. The more you ask, the more likely you'll be able to figure out if you're comfortable with your destination wedding location.
You'll be asking for information such as:
-- How often have they done foreign weddings?
-- Have previous couples been happy with their work?
-- How do they handle cancellations or emergencies?
-- Do they have a translator if it's a non-English-speaking country?
9. What fees are we going to incur getting this all lined up?
Weddings abroad are not necessarily cheap in terms of legalities and logistics.
Though you might have gotten a good deal with your venue or vendors, you'll still need to take into account extra fees. This includes processing fees for things like the affidavit for eligibility to marry, or the price of getting local blood work done, or getting all your documents translated. Check with the U.S. embassy or travel bureau in your country of interest.
And like we warned above about hiring your own officiant, if you're worried about unnecessary costs, don't let vendors trick you into paying for items or things you don't need that you could do or buy on your own for cheaper.
10. How does citizenship work?
If you're marrying a non-U.S. citizen or vice versa, what happens after the wedding?
The laws about citizenship are very tricky, even in the U.S. Usually, a spouse of an American gets citizenship extended to them, but they still need to apply for the necessary documents to get this finalized.
Other countries have similar stances, but we can't guarantee this at all. It's best to check with the specific laws of the countries you're dealing with; their immigration and citizenship departments will have more information.
When it comes to weddings abroad, there's no simple guide to getting it all done.
However, the more you know, the more equipped you'll be to deal with the planning stages and the less likely you'll be stressed as you leave for your wedding day!
Which one of these questions are you least worried about for your destination wedding abroad? The most?