Making your destination wedding legal, can be complicated and quite frankly a pain in the butt depending on where you’re getting married. The process can be overwhelming. But here’s the worst kept secret among destination wedding couples: You can have the destination wedding of your dreams without the legal hassles required in your destination.
Many couples (myself included) have gotten legally married at home before or after their symbolic destination wedding. This post will guide you through all the different options for making your destination wedding legal, along with pros, cons, and tips for each.
Getting Legally Married at Your Destination
Marriage requirements vary from country to country. And with a few exceptions, it’s usually complicated.
For example, to make your destination wedding legal in Mexico, you have to get a blood test and provide a lot of paperwork including original birth certificates that have to be translated into Spanish by a certified translator. If you’re divorced/widowed, be prepared to hand over even more documents. Not to mention that you have to then legalize your marriage license in your country of residence.
- Some couples like the idea of having their destination wedding, be the “real” and only wedding. This is really the only advantage I can think of. If you have others, please let me know in the comment box below.
- The cost of translating documents and getting blood tests can range anywhere from $150-500 or more in some countries.
- It takes extra time and effort to schedule blood tests away from home and get documents translated.
- If you’re divorced, countries like Mexico and Costa Rica have a waiting period between your divorce and wedding.
- Research your destination’s marriage requirements on their Tourism Board’s website, or ask your wedding coordinator as soon as you get engaged.
- Make sure you have all your paperwork in order as far in advance of your destination wedding as possible.
- Arrive in your destination a few days before the ceremony and confirm that they have everything they need to make your destination wedding legal.
Getting Legally Married at Home
If you read the above and got a panic attack, chill out for a sec because you have options for making your destination wedding legal – at home.
You can do what I did and skip all the paperwork, translations, notarization, and blood work, by doing the legal part the good ole’ fashion way – in city hall or by an officiate/judge in your home town.
All you have to do is get a marriage license at home, then go to city hall or hire an officiate who is allowed to perform legal ceremonies in your state/city/country. If you live in the United States, US Marriage Laws is a great resource for getting marriage requirements for each state.
You can also contact your city or town clerk’s office who will guide you in this (much less complicated) process.
If you get legally married at home, you can then select a “symbolic wedding” package for your destination wedding. A symbolic wedding will look to all your guests exactly like a legal wedding. You will exchange vows, rings, etc. The only difference is that you will sign a paper of no legal significance (but that can be your little secret). As an added bonus, symbolic wedding packages are typically more affordable.
You can get legally married either before or after your destination wedding.
Getting Legally Married Before Your Destination Wedding
- No need for blood tests in a foreign country (I don’t know about you but just the thought, gives me the heebie jeebies)
- You don’t have to translate any paperwork
- There’s no waiting period to get your legal marriage certificate
- It’s less complicated
- It’s cheaper
- Did I mention that it’s cheaper?
- Your friends & family could feel duped into flying out for your wedding, only to find out later that you were already legally married (read my tips below for ways around this).
- If you’re old fashioned and traditional, you might feel a little weird about having “two wedding dates” (read below for tips on how to get over it).
- Worried about how friends/family will react? Just keep your legal ceremony a secret. Unless you tell them, no one has to know that your destination wedding is not the legal one, because the entire ceremony will look exactly the same.
- Feel weird about having two wedding dates? Celebrate your destination wedding as your official wedding date and just think of the legal ceremony as “legal paperwork”. You don’t even have to exchange rings or vows at your legal ceremony. I personally don’t even remember when I got legally married – we only celebrate our anniversary on the date of our destination wedding.
- Don’t change your name! This is a biggie. The name on your plane ticket and ID (passport or license) must match, in order to avoid any issues at the airport. I highly recommend changing the name on all your documents (passport/license) after you return home from your destination wedding.
Getting Legally Married After Your Destination Wedding
- It’s one less thing to worry about before your destination wedding, plus…
- All the same advantages of getting legally married before your destination wedding apply here as well.
- If you’re having a catholic destination wedding, a legal marriage license is required before the ceremony. See here for more on Catholic Wedding requirements.
- If you’re having an at-home reception after your destination wedding, you can combine it with your legal ceremony for ease and budgeting reasons.
DISCLOSURE: None of the information provided on this page is meant as legal advice. This is simply basic information to get you started and show you that there are different options for legalizing your marriage when you are planning a destination wedding. You should consult with your local wedding planner regarding legal and religious marriage requirements. You can also consult your destination’s tourism board for more information on your specific destination’s requirements.
How will you make your destination wedding legal? Will you make your destination wedding legal at home before/after – and why? Are you telling your family? Tell us in the comment box below.