No matter where you’re getting married, you’ll have to follow the local marriage laws, which can differ from state to state, even from country to country. Getting married in another country isn’t for the faint of heart. Although some countries, including several Caribbean destinations such as the Cayman Islands, make it easy to get married on their soil, others are notorious for red tape and requirements that differ from one town to the next. If you’re determined to make your union legal under another country’s flag, here are some general guidelines and strategies for choosing a destination that’s friendly to conduction foreign marriages. One complicating factor is that legislation regulating overseas ceremonies isn’t consistent from state to state. There are varying degrees of legwork involved, depending on what state you’re from and in what country you wish to get married. Check with the office that handles marriages or the state attorney’s office. The U.S. State Department’s website gives basic guidelines under the section “Marriage of U.S. Citizens Abroad.”
If you choose to tie the knot in a foreign country, you’re most often talking about a civil ceremony. Some countries don’t permit foreigners to get married in a church or synagogue unless they have some kind of special connection. And even if you can have a religious ceremony, many foreign countries, including Mexico and France, require that it be preceded by a civil ceremony. When evaluating places to get married, check with the country’s U.S. tourism office, consulate, or embassy for laws regarding marriage in that country. Look out for the residency requirements. France’s thirty-day residency requirement for at least one of the couple, plus another ten days for publishing the marriage banns at city hall, prevents many to plan a romantic Paris wedding. Find out what documents you need to provide and whether you’ll need witnesses. Documents may need to be authenticated. Determine what paperwork you’ll need to provide. Countries that follow civil law require you to bring a certified document stating that you are free to marry.
This precise document doesn’t exist in the United States, so what you typically have to do is request and pay a small fee for an “affidavit of eligibility to marry” at the American embassy or consulate in the country where you’re getting married, alternately, the state where you live might provide you with a certificate stating that there exists no record of a precious marriage. On top of whatever documents are required, many countries will require that those documents be authenticated by what’s called an “apostille” a separate document that legalizes your paperwork internationally. Be on the lookout for hidden fees. In many countries you will have to pay to have your documents translated into the local language. You may need to arrive several days early, which will up your lodging and food costs. And if you’re taking out a wedding insurance policy, there’s often a 10 percent premium for a wedding outside of the country. Call your local marriage bureau to find out if you need to file any additional paperwork once you’re home. If your overseas ceremony is religious, find out from your home church or synagogue whether you need to take any final steps to be sure the marriage is recognized on your home turf.