Planning a wedding in a foreign country can be intimidating, but by following this basic guide to getting married abroad couples can exchange vows wherever their hearts' desire.
Is Getting Married Abroad for Us?
The first question a couple should answer is whether getting married abroad is right for them. Several factors need to be considered:
- Can we afford the expense of a foreign wedding?
- Will we be comfortable getting married far away from home?
- Will our families and friends be supportive of our choice?
- Do we have the time to plan a wedding abroad?
If the couple is comfortable with and excited about the idea of a wedding in a foreign country, they should review this general guide to be sure their planning covers the basics.
Basic Guide to Getting Married Abroad
Getting married in a foreign country can be simple or complicated depending on many factors, including where the wedding is held, how quickly it must be planned, and how adaptable a couple is willing to be.
Choosing a Destination
Choosing a destination is the easiest part of planning a wedding abroad. Before simply picking an exotic location, however, the couple should consider:
- Price: Some countries are very affordable for foreigners seeking to get married, while other countries are more expensive destinations.
- Distance: The further away a country is, the harder it may be for guests to join the couple on their special day.
- Setting: Not every country has an abundance of castles, beaches, cliffs, jungles, or mountaintops perfect for a dream wedding. Knowing what setting they would like to marry in can help a couple narrow down their choices.
- Language: Translations may be necessary for guests, documents, and other aspects of the wedding.
- Safety: Some countries have higher crime rates that target tourists and foreigners.
- Climate: Understanding a country's climate can help couples choose the best location.
- Holidays: Public holidays vary widely around the globe and can make the legal requirements of a marriage difficult to fulfill.
- Culture: Understanding local culture can help couples avoid social taboos and awkward situations.
Once a couple has chosen their destination, they need to investigate the legal requirements to be married there. Many countries have residency requirements for weddings, which means the couple may need to be in the country for several days or weeks prior to their event. Other countries require very specific documentation in order to perform a marriage. Documents the couple should be prepared to provide may include:
- Birth Certificates
- Divorce Papers or Death Certificates if they were previously married
- Immunization Records
- Parental Consent Letters depending on the couple's ages
- Embassy Consent Letters
- Background Checks
Each country has different legal wedding procedures that must be followed, and couples should carefully investigate paperwork submission deadlines, translation requirements, and other details to ensure their wedding is valid. Another option is to be legally married in a civil ceremony at home before traveling for a destination celebration.
Planning the Event
Once a couple knows where and how to be legally wed in a foreign country, they need to begin planning. Most couples opt for wedding packages provided by resorts, hotels, or wedding planners. These packages often include many familiar details such as flowers, officiant services, legal arrangements, catering, hair appointments, music, cultural embellishments, and more.
When choosing a package or arranging services independently, couples should carefully study service reviews, photographs, and any relevant policies to be sure they can arrange the wedding they envision. Most resorts and hotels are very willing to accommodate a couple's desires and many packages are easily flexible; some locations even provide each couple with a guide to getting married abroad in their country to make the planning easier.
For the Guests
A couple who chooses to get married abroad almost inevitably has a smaller celebration than if they were married at home: many guests will not be able to travel to exotic destinations. To help make it easier for guests to attend, couples can:
- Reserve discounted accommodations
- Arrange for group airfare
- Offer additional activities, such as group sightseeing tours or other celebratory events to make the entire getaway a vacation
- Send destination wedding invitations at least six months in advance to give guests extra time to make travel plans
- Reassure guests that they are welcome but not obligated to attend
Traveling to a foreign destination wedding can be nerve-wracking, but there are several tricks a couple can use to make it a more pleasant experience.
- Travel early in case of flight cancellations or delays, as well as leaving time to cope with jet lag.
- Keep all essential items - wedding dress, wedding rings, paperwork, etc. - in carryon bags.
- Purchase travel insurance to cover unforeseen incidents.
Enjoying the Day
The one thing a couple needs to do to enjoy their wedding abroad is to relax. There will inevitably be delays, cultural or language misunderstandings, and other glitches, but by being flexible and willing to adapt, a couple can enjoy their wedding without stressing over minutia.
Upon returning home, a couple can complete their wedding celebrations with a festive reception more accessible to family members and friends than their foreign destination. This after-the-fact reception can be as formal or informal, large or small as the couple desires, though it should be in proper proportion to their overseas festivities. If, for example, most family members were able to attend the wedding, a smaller reception is more appropriate, whereas if it was just the couple enjoying their wedding getaway, a larger, more elaborate reception would be suitable.
Every couple considering a foreign wedding should follow a guide to getting married abroad to ensure they don't miss critical details that might affect the success of their nuptials. With careful planning, an exotic destination wedding - whether it's in an Irish castle, a Thailand resort, or on a Caribbean beach, is within every couple's grasp.