Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

International Weddings: Getting Married Abroad

It takes more than an exchange of rings and heartfelt vows to officially tie the knot.

Oct 3, 2011
Marriage certificate
As you plan your wedding abroad it helps to make sure you're familiar with the paperwork and requirements.
Photography Nerida McMurray Photography/Getty Images

During weddings at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, the officiant concludes the ceremony by bestowing a tapa, or native “wedding certificate,” on the bride and groom. Made from local tree bark, the tapa is considered by Polynesians to be a symbol of wealth. Still, it is only symbolic and not a legally binding document. Couples who want to obtain a legal marriage certificate must visit the Council House of Bora Bora and present the necessary documentation.

Requirements to authenticate your marriage in a foreign country can vary widely and sometimes be tricky and time consuming to satisfy. Many couples sidestep the process altogether by marrying officially in their home country and opting for a symbolic ceremony somewhere else.

If you do decide to get married abroad, a Four Seasons wedding specialist can help you make the necessary arrangements to ensure that it’s considered official, but there are some general guidelines you’ll need to follow.

Know the Basics

The process for obtaining a marriage licence abroad can be unpredictable, so find out what’s required well in advance. The embassy or tourism bureau of the country where you plan to marry is the best resource for learning the specific requirements, and most are easy to find online.

Have the Proper Paperwork

Some countries require that your passport be valid up to six months beyond your visit, so make sure yours is not only current but complies with the requirements of your destination, which may request a tourist visa as well. Most also ask for birth certificates, divorce decrees and death certificates (depending on your circumstances). Some destinations may require that these documents be validated by the marriage registrar’s office in your home country; some even may request that forms be translated into their native language.

Ensure Your Eligibility

All civil-law countries demand proof from your country of origin of your freedom to wed. For example, American couples can obtain an “Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry,” from the consular office (in the U.S.) of the country where you will marry or from the American Embassy or consulate abroad. In some countries, such as Ireland and Thailand, the document is known as a “Certificate (or Affirmation) of Freedom to Marry.” In Australia and several other countries, it’s called a “Certificate of No Impediment.” A witness may be required to sign the affidavit, so it’s a good idea to bring a friend or relative with you to acquire the certificate.

Make Sure It’s Legal

Generally, nuptials that are legally performed abroad also are valid where you live, but the procedures for verifying the marriage vary. If you’re a citizen of the European Union and marry abroad, you should register the marriage at the consular office in your home country. In the U.S., consular offices can verify your foreign licence upon your return, but it’s also important to check with your state attorney general’s office to see about any additional requirements.


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