Legally Get Married In A Foreign Country

Destination weddings are all the rage for many reasons: They are extremely adventurous and romantic, they can help you drastically reduce your guest list, and they are often less stressful to plan. But, despite all the advantages of a wedding at the destination, there is one drawback, especially if you plan to say “yes” in a foreign country – legally getting married abroad is a delicate matter. To clarify the details, we spoke with Beth Helmstetter, owner and artistic director of Beth Helmstetter Events, who has planned countless celebrations at home and abroad. Here she describes everything you need to know about formalizing your union when you are not at home.

Know how to get a marriage license.

The most difficult part of marriage outside the United States is that every other country has its own rules and requirements for obtaining a marriage license. If you are planning a wedding abroad for the first time, you need to conduct a comprehensive research on the requirements of marriage in the country of your choice. “Many couples think that they can get married anywhere, but each country has its own rules,” says Helmstetter.

Think about hiring a lawyer.

This one may surprise you, but it is important to understand all the legal provisions of your marriage license abroad. “If the native language is not English, couples should be willing to hire a local lawyer and translator to work with their American lawyer to make sure the documents are classified accurately,” says Helmstetter. “Not all countries are so complex, but it is enough that the couple will have to conduct due diligence before deciding whether they are ready for a legal ceremony in another country.”You want to leave room in your budget for the translator and lawyer-Helmstetter says that these fees can add around $1,000 to the total budget.

Bring order to your papers.

Just as the United States requires couples to provide certain documents before obtaining a marriage license, other countries do the same. Helmstetter says that newlyweds usually need their passports, birth certificates and divorce decrees (if any), but this varies from country to country. This is another reason why she stresses the importance of working with a local lawyer and translator to understand the requirements – you would hate to introduce yourself in the country where you are getting married in just a few weeks to find out that you don’t have the right documents to be legally married.

Determine if there is a residency requirement.

Some countries also require the couple to establish a “residence” for a certain period of time – this can range from two days to six months. “Depending on how long the country of choice takes, it is not always possible for an American couple to get married abroad,” explains Helmstetter. What for some means having a symbolic ceremony in their country of choice and then getting legally married in a court after their return is the most viable option.

Get local help.

If you feel overwhelmed, Helmstetter suggests contacting the local planners. You are the best resource and will be familiar with the local laws. “Most will share these details at an initial consultation,” explains the professional. “They want to avoid problems if the couple realizes that they cannot or do not want to comply with the requirements of the law.”

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