The romance and mystique of an overseas wedding can beckon many. But just how much is involved in actually making it reality? An overview of the legalities and logistics of getting married in a foreign country.
There’s a lot to be said for tying the knot overseas—the glamour, the romance, the mystique! Not to mention that the money saved from not having to feed 300 mouths at a stateside reception can be put to better use; specifically, your honeymoon.
Before you and your beloved pack those passports and head for the nearest castle, however, there are some legal and logistical issues you need to consider first. Fortunately, the accessibility of information available via the Internet can make the entire fairy tale come true without ever leaving your keyboard!
DON’T GO IT ALONE
Unless you’re especially intrepid or one of you is already well versed in the laws of your country of choice, it’s well worth the cost to retain a solicitor who practices there or a bridal consultant who specializes in overseas nuptials. Retaining the services of either one for the duration of the planning stages can be a godsend in navigating bureaucratic hoops and filing all of the necessary paperwork. With everything else you’ll have to think about as the date approaches, the last thing you need is to travel 6,000 miles only to discover upon arrival that you’ve left one of the requisite documents back home!
IS THIS LEGAL?
When in Rome, or anywhere else for that matter, it’s important to learn the rules before you go. Marriages performed outside the United States are recognized as ‘valid’ under the laws of that particular country but may not necessarily be ‘legal’ everywhere else. If in doubt, be sure to request information from the pertinent consulate regarding the current rules, regulations, and who is authorized/licensed to perform marriage ceremonies in that country.
RESIDENCY AND NOTICE REQUIREMENTS
Certain countries require that one or both parties actually reside there for “x” amount of time prior to the nuptials. Belize, for instance, requires 3 days of residence; England and Ireland call for 15; France is high with a total of 40. Likewise, there are differences in how long the notice period must be, not unlike the tradition of “posting banns,” in which adequate time is allowed between the announcement of the impending union and the chance for anyone to step forward with objections. How one applies for a foreign marriage license is also subject to variation. While many countries allow for application by mail; others, such as Barbados, Germany, and Italy need a live body present to file the appropriate paperwork.
CIVIL v. RELIGIOUS?
Do your homework in deciding the type of ceremony you want. Vows exchanged before a county magistrate are easier to arrange than those which require, literally, a church blessing. You’ll also need to research the various permits and payments required for ceremonies conducted in public settings as opposed to a private home. Two additional considerations to be aware of when using public facilities involve the use of flash photography and the selection of your own caterer. Woe to the newlyweds who “assume” that it’s permissible to take photos in a vintage chapel or that having two dozen pizzas delivered to the castle’s Great Hall isn’t a big deal. Due to the increasing popularity of historic and exotic locations for American lovebirds, the hosting cities have grown wise to the practice of insisting that their own staff provide the needed services (for a very large fee). It is prudent to either inquire at the outset whether this will be the case in your circumstances or else have additional funds on hand for the last-minute “gotchas.”
WHO TO INVITE
As stated earlier, tying the knot at some distant location has the distinct advantage of not having to feed and entertain hordes of well-wishers. (If you really feel the need to throw a party, you can always do so when you return and have settled down into married life.) On the other hand, perhaps one or both of you have relatives who live overseas and who might not have been able to attend a wedding in your hometown. Another alternative is to pick a spot on the globe that’s neutral territory for everyone to converge on. Weddings, after all, are a wonderful excuse to plan a vacation and get out of town to someplace new.
A FINAL NOTE
There is just as sound reasoning behind the concept of simply marrying in the US first, then using the trip for glamorous photo ops. Not to rain on the matrimonial parade, but transportation disasters are a reality. In the absence of marriage—or a will—a surviving fiancé could be displaced by the deceased’s next of kin. Stress is another huge factor in orchestrating transcontinental details. The knowledge you’re already married can lift the pressure of missing paperwork, unforeseen expenses and inclement weather.