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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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!