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Getting Married Abroad: What You Need to Know

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Saying "I do" in a ruined church in Tuscany, or on a pristine beach in Negril, is a moment you'll never forget. Nearly a quarter of weddings are destination weddings, according to TheKnot.com's most recent survey. Some of the most popular destinations for destination weddings overseas are Mexico, Jamaica and Italy, according to Conde Nast Traveler.1 But as romantic as it sounds, getting married in one of these countries isn't simple.

Rules and Requirements for Getting Married Abroad

For American citizens, getting married abroad isn't as simple as showing up at the chapel. Every country has its own rules about paperwork, residency requirements and medical tests. Some places recognize same-sex marriages, while others don't. When you're planning a destination wedding overseas, it's wise to consult the local U.S. consulate for guidance. While the consular officers can't officiate at your wedding, they can tell you what to expect.2

Is your overseas destination wedding legal in the United States? Unfortunately, there's no quick and easy answer. "In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States," according to FindLaw.3

The solution, in many cases, is to make your wedding ceremony a symbolic one and have the legal wedding performed in the United States. But if you're set on getting married abroad, here are the requirements for three popular wedding destinations.

What You Need to Know About Getting Married in Mexico

There's no shortage of resorts that provide romantic beach weddings in Mexico. Wow your guests with a stay at the ultra-luxe, cliffside Resort at Pedregal on the Baja Peninsula. Or seek some solitude (and enjoy complimentary wedding services) at the Palace Grand Resort on the picturesque Isla Mujeres.

Getting married in Mexico takes planning, however. If you and your spouse are both Americans, you're going to need all of these documents:4

  • A marriage request form
  • Originals and copies of your birth certificates, translated into Spanish by a certified translator
  • Original prenuptial medical certificates that shows you and your spouse are both HIV-negative, issued less than 15 days before the wedding
  • Both passports
  • A divorce or death certificate for your previous spouse(s), if applicable. In Mexico, you must wait a year after divorce before remarrying.
  • Tourist cards issued when you entered Mexico
  • Originals and copies of four witnesses' IDs

Destination weddings in Mexico can't be rushed. The bride and groom should plan to arrive at least three days before the ceremony in order to get their medical tests. For your wedding to be recognized in the United States, you'll need to have the wedding certificate processed to receive an official Apostille seal. It will then be mailed to your home address in a month or two.5

What You Need to Know About Getting Married in Jamaica

Jamaican resorts have perfected the art of the destination wedding. In Jamaica, you can get married on a mountain or on the beach, with a cannon salute or with a candlelight dinner.6

Getting married in Jamaica is a whole lot easier than getting married in Mexico, but there are still legal requirements to fulfill. At least two weeks before the wedding, the couple must obtain a license by contacting a Jamaican wedding planner or the Registrar General and providing some basic documents and information:7

  • Both birth certificates, which must each include the father’s name or information substantiating same
  • Official photo identification such as a passport or driver’s license
  • The occupations of both bride and groom
  • Certified final divorce papers or death certificate of deceased spouse, if relevant
  • The required fees

All documents must be translated into English. No blood test is required, and marriages performed under Jamaican law are recognized as legal in the United States.8 To streamline the process, it's best to hire a local wedding coordinator — your resort may even have one on staff. Just give the coordinator plenty of time, ideally a few months, to organize everything.

What You Need to Know About Getting Married in Italy

If you're a meticulous planner who appreciates a challenge, try getting married in Italy. (If you're not this type of person, hire someone who is.) While a destination wedding in Italy can be the pinnacle of romance, it also requires a lengthy scavenger hunt. Here's what you need to do.10

  • Gather the documents you need. These include your U.S. passports or active military ID card, original or certified copies of birth certificates, and evidence that any previous marriages were legally terminated. If you're a woman and your marriage ended in the last 300 days, you must present medical evidence that you're not pregnant to the local Italian district attorney's office, which will give you a waiver.
  • Have your birth certificate and divorce documents translated into Italian, and also send them to the Secretary of State in the state where the documents were issued to be authenticated with an Apostille stamp. Don't do this too far in advance, because Italian law says these documents are valid only for six months from the date of issue.
  • Before you leave the United States, if possible, go to the nearest Italian consulate to obtain an "Atto Notorio," a statement which declares there's no legal obstacle to your marriage. You need two witnesses to accompany you; they must know you, but they can't be family members. This document can be obtained in Italy, but you'll face long delays and may have to hire an interpreter.
  • Schedule an appointment with the local U.S. Consulate General in Italy to swear before an American consular officer that there's no legal barrier to your marriage. The officer will then give you a "Dichiarazione Giurata." Don't lose it!
  • Legalize your "Dichiarazione" by purchasing a special revenue stamp from a tobacco shop and presenting the document to the Legalization Office of the local prefettura.
  • Don't give up yet. Remember, you're getting married in Italy! One day you can tell this story to your grandchildren.
  • Bring all your precious documents to the Marriage Office of the city where you'd like to get married. There you must make a "Declaration of Intention to Marry" before the registrar.
  • Schedule your civil ceremony, which will be performed by the mayor or one of his deputies. You'll need an interpreter if you don't speak Italian. A Roman Catholic religious ceremony requires additional documentation, including baptismal and confirmation records. To plan a religious wedding in Italy, consult the local priest for guidance.
  • Congratulazioni agli sposi! (Congratulations to the bride and groom!)

Wherever you plan to get married, don't forget to protect yourself and your soon-to-be spouse with travel insurance. A comprehensive travel insurance plan from Allianz Global Assistance includes not only trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, but also emergency medical and dental coverage, emergency medical transportation benefits, lost luggage, trip delays and other benefits. Safe travels!

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Mar 28, 2017