Legal How-To: Getting Married Abroad

By Betty Wang, JD on July 02, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Are you and your partner finally ready to tie the knot? If so, you may be wondering how to get married abroad.

Destination weddings are often the ideal route for many soon-to-be-married couples. They're exciting, fun, and allow for you and your closest relatives and friends to combine a vacation with a celebratory ceremony.

But before you buy those plane tickets and pack something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, here's what you'll want to do first:

  • Do your research. Planning a wedding in general is a rather daunting task, and planning one abroad is going to be even more challenging. Make sure you either know what you're getting yourself into. Consider hiring a wedding planner, or seek help from those who've "been there, done that." Many normal wedding details may need to be hashed out and confirmed even earlier if you are planning on making things international.
  • Have proper documentation. You should be prepared to show valid identification abroad, and proof of you and your future spouse's currently single status. In other words, you'll need proper documentation to get married in many foreign countries. This will likely include your passport and a birth certificate, but it may also require a divorce decree or an affidavit of eligibility to marry. Blood tests and parental consent forms may also be required, depending on your age and the country you're hoping to get married in.
  • Make sure your marriage is legal in the country you're choosing. Just because you exchanged rings and said "I do" on some remote beach in Thailand does not necessarily mean that you are now legally married. Different countries set their own legal requirements when it comes to marriage. Again, do your research ahead of time to ensure that your nuptials will be recognized in the country (and province, city, or other jurisdiction) where you're planning to tie the knot. For example, the person officiating your ceremony may need to meet local requirements, or you may need to record your marriage in the respective country's civil registry.
  • Make sure you've fulfilled the residency requirements. Most countries will also have residency requirements for couples to legally marry within their borders. This may involve being in the country for at least a week or two, or perhaps longer; there may also be some kind of waiting period. Residency laws vary from country to country, and you should check ahead of time what the specifics are in your chosen destination.
  • Make sure your foreign marriage will be valid back home. In general, your foreign marriage, if performed legally abroad, will also be valid in the United States. However, you may still have to take extra steps to get your marriage abroad recognized in your state. Check with your state attorney general's office, the State Department suggests.

Need More Help?

Still feel a little unsettled about the whole process? An experienced family lawyer can provide expert guidance and answer any additional questions you have. You may also want to ask a lawyer to draft a prenuptial agreement for you and your soon-to-be spouse, before you get married abroad. Check out FindLaw's free Guide to Prenuptial Agreements to learn more about what you'll want to include.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard