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Getting Married Abroad: What You Need to Know

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Saying "I do" in a medieval church in Tuscany, or on a pristine beach in Negril, is a moment you'll never forget. Nearly 20% of weddings are destination weddings, meaning the couple’s getting married in a place that’s not one of their hometowns or where they currently live.1

Whichever wedding destination you choose, you and your spouse-to-be need travel insurance to protect your finances and your health. Destination weddings cost $35,600, on average.2 While travel insurance doesn’t cover the expenses of the wedding itself, it can provide:

  • Trip cancellation/interruption benefits (in case a hurricane wrecks your resort)
  • Baggage delay/loss/damage benefits (in case the airline loses your baggage)
  • Emergency medical/dental and emergency transportation benefits (in case one of you falls seriously ill)
  • 24-hour assistance (in case you need help in a hurry)
  • And many other benefits

See the best travel insurance plans for destination weddings and honeymoons.

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.3

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.4

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 really, truly, getting married abroad, here are the requirements for three popular overseas wedding destinations: Mexico, Jamaica and Italy.5

What you need to know about getting married in Mexico

There's no shortage of romantic wedding venues in Mexico. You could get married at the top of a pyramid, in the Chapel of Todos Los Ángeles at Hotel Xcaret Mexico. Or on the lush green grass of Lovers Meadow at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach. Or in the stunning former convent of San Hipólito in Mexico City.

Getting legally married in Mexico takes planning, however. Only civil marriage performed by the Registro Civil is recognized as legal. (As of 2022, same-sex marriage is legal in all of Mexico’s 32 states.6

If you and your spouse are both American citizens, you're going to need all of the documents required by the state where your wedding is being held. These may include:

  • A completed marriage application
  • Tourist permits issued when you entered Mexico
  • Both valid passports
  • Apostilled birth certificates, translated into Spanish by a certified translator. (An apostille is a certificate that shows your original document is authentic.)
  • Medical certificates that show you and your spouse are both HIV-negative and have received chest X-rays, issued shortly before the wedding
  • A divorce or death certificate for your previous spouse(s), if applicable. In Mexico, you must wait a year after divorce before remarrying.
  • Written permission granted by the parents or guardians, or a legal emancipation document, if one or both parties are under 18
  • Originals and copies of four witnesses' IDs

Destination weddings in Mexico can't be rushed. The spouses-to-be 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.

Before you travel, you’ll also need to get travel insurance that includes emergency medical benefits. That’s because most hospitals in Mexico do not accept U.S. health insurance; instead, they require payment up front.7 Consider the OneTrip Basic plan, an affordable option that includes trip cancellation, emergency medical and emergency medical transportation benefits.

What you need to know about getting married in Jamaica

With its dreamy beaches and lush mountain forests, Jamaica is a top wedding destination for Americans. But if you plan to get legally married there, you’ll need to do some prep work. To streamline the process, it's best to hire a local wedding coordinator—your resort may even have one on staff.

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:8

  • Certified copies of 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
  • Occupations of 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. It’s important to know, however, that in Jamaica, as in almost all other Caribbean nations, same-sex marriages are illegal as of 2023.9

Do you need travel insurance for Jamaica? Yes. The State Department strongly recommends insurance, because in Jamaica, “public health facilities do not meet U.S. standards. Private facilities require large up-front payments even in emergencies.”10 Medical evacuations can be extremely expensive as well, so consider protecting your Jamaica wedding trip with OneTrip Prime, our most popular plan for vacations.

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. 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.11

  • 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 current or future 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 according to the laws of the state where you live. The officer will then give you a "Dichiarazione Giurata." Don't sign it yet!
  • 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.
  • Exhausted? 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.
  • A public announcement of your intended marriage may have to be posted at the town hall. This requirement is sometimes waived for non-Italians, although that depends on local laws.
  • 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. You’ll also need to pay a fee to rent the marriage hall, ranging from €500 to €9,200.
  • 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. The good news: The priest will register your marriage with the civil authorities.
  • Auguri agli sposi! (Congratulations to the newlyweds!)

As of 2023, same-sex marriage is not legal in Italy, although civil unions are. The process for entering into a civil union in Italy is similar to that of planning a marriage, but is slightly simpler. 

Travel insurance for Italy is a must. You’ll need trip cancellation/interruption benefits, because your destination wedding travel won’t be cheap! You’ll also need emergency medical/emergency medical transportation benefits, as private hospitals require you to pay for all services up front and evacuations can be really expensive.12 We recommend the OneTrip Prime plan, which gives you peace of mind for your long-awaited Italian wedding trip.

Whether you plan to get married overseas or in the U.S., don't forget to protect yourself and your soon-to-be spouse with travel insurance. We’ll help make sure your married life gets off to a great start, even if you run into a few travel hiccups on the way.

See all available travel insurance plans.

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