Thomas Bywater writes about the do’s and don’ts of a destination wedding. Photograph / Danielle Watt
Taking sun-drenched vows on a Greek island is the stuff musicals are made of. There is a lot of emphasis on beach ceremonies and less on wedding ceremonies abroad.
For example, engaged
Remember the “Barrier-Free Certificates”? And is the wedding recognized even in New Zealand?
I was one of those idiots who fell for the idea of tying a knot on vacation. Had I known all this, I might have had more reservations about this unexpected decision.
Overseas weddings are more dramatic than an ABBA musical. (Mama mia, here we go again!) They can also become much more complicated and costly than a home ceremony. However, this did not prevent them from becoming more and more popular.
With an epidemic that has stopped the notorious bubbles for over two years, there’s backlog of engagements, vacations, and suppressed travel. It just seems to have fed ambitions for extravagant international weddings. That’s what the growing stack of save dates says.
There are many reasons why couples choose to marry abroad. For those trying to bridge the gap between extended families in different countries, getting married abroad may be the most diplomatic move.
Then there are the hopeless romantics who rekindle the romance where they meet. Or maybe just another excuse to finally go to Aitutaki.
But for all the glamor and excitement, tying the knot overseas has its challenges. At the unexpected intersection of travel, romance and international law – formalities can get in the way of your dream wedding plans.
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Some countries make getting married much easier than others. Typically those with a roaring trade in beach weddings. However, there are outliers that may have certain legal hoops to skip or not recognize a wedding in New Zealand to be perfectly legal.
Here is the no-pink guide to getting married abroad.
Where can I get married?
The truth is, you can get married anywhere. Fear not, the French “livret de famille” you got from Tahiti still applies here.
The New Zealand government recognizes all official marriage certificates “unless it is illegal in New Zealand”, such as if one of the parties is already married. So far, it’s very easy.
However, what can catch couples is the rules of the country governing the marriage.
For example, the Maldives do not allow foreign nationals to have a marriage ceremony unless one of the parties is from the islands. While that doesn’t stop hotels and resorts from trying to sell ‘consecration’ packages, you’ll have to legally marry elsewhere.
It is very important to do your research around specific requirements. Some may take a while to complete.
One of the most common requirements of foreign registry offices is the ‘barrier-free’ certificate, although they call it something else. This is an official statement from the Home Office that there is no reason why you should not get married. It tells the marriage registry of another country that you are not binge or related.
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However, processing this background check requires 4 to 5 weeks, in addition to any additional translation or authentication required by your destination. It removes the spontaneity of exotic escape plans.
Have all the time in the world
Many countries require a formal notice period before you can even consider tying the knot.
In France, to announce a couple’s intention to marry, you must present a “publication des banns” at least ten days before your wedding. This is supposedly meant to give you a chance to object to the upcoming wedding, even if you don’t know anyone in France.
Similarly, other countries will require you to register your intention to marry – Scotland, for example, requires at least thirty days’ notice of the wedding date.
What complicates this is that – in some cases – both the bride and groom must submit it in person to a registry office. Good luck if you’re hoping to reserve any leave for the honeymoon.
Other countries, such as Mauritius, will allow you to declare your intention to marry abroad. This gives you a little more flexibility – but it is recommended that you do this at least two months before your arrival. It is also recommended to have a local wedding coordinator in place.
Do your research
You may still not be able to marry the person you want to marry. Many wedding planners who love to travel may be surprised to learn that Japan does not allow gay marriage. Last year, the country stopped a resolution recognizing marriage equality, so don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Many provinces offer same-sex union certificates and resorts allow couples to hold consecration ceremonies, but these are not legally recognized – even in New Zealand.
In a rush?
If you’re in a hurry and time is limited, there are some countries where getting married legally is incredibly quick and simple.
Yes, Las Vegas is famous for its legally binding same-day getaways, but there are plenty of other options for couples in a hurry.
In some countries, you can only get married by booking a night in a hotel.
It is possible to get married in Gibraltar on the same day, and this is open to foreign visitors and non-residents. Simply contact a registry office with:
A Gibraltar hotel bill covering the night before or after the ceremony and a resident’s statement to be a double voucher.