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Destination Wedding Logistics: The Nitty-Gritty Details of Marrying Abroad

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.

Planning a destination wedding in Cuba, France, or even Kenya? Before you and your guests enjoy the wonders of the world, there are administrative details and restrictions to look into. Here are a few pointers to consider before saying “I do” at your dream destination.

1. How long do I have to wait to get married when I arrive?

Certain countries require couples to spend a designated number of days in that country before getting married. Rules differ from country to country so make sure to thoroughly research your chosen destination.

  • Las Vegas, Jamaica, Caymen Islands, St. Lucia, Costa Rica or Dominican Republic: You may get married upon arrival.
  • China: At least one spouse must reside in the country.
  • Cuba: You must be on the island for at least 72 hours.
  • France: At least one member of the couple must be in the the country for 40 days.
  • Mexico: You both must be in the country for at least four business days, plus take a blood test upon arrival.
  • St. Maarten: You both must be in the country for at least ten days. Divorced women may not marry until 306 days have passed since getting their divorce finalized.

If you don’t want to wait days or weeks, you can perform a symbolic destination wedding. You can legally marry in Canada and have a ceremony in the exotic locale of your choice to avoid the hassle.

2. When should I book my destination wedding?

In some destinations, you must sign appropriate legal papers before getting married. For example, if you want to get married in Australia, you must get a notice of Intended Marriage form from the Australian embassy or consulate and it must be signed by an Australian Consular Official or an Australian Diplomatic Officer, and filed with your officiant a minimum of one month before your wedding. Typically, you should book your destination wedding a year ahead of your desired ceremony date. This gives you, your guests and the staff at your venue of choice ample time to get organized.

3. How do I figure out marriage contracts and what papers to bring?

Marriage laws differ all over the world but countries that allow you to marry upon arrival will likely require the least amount of paperwork. That said, be mindful of the fine print. Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic require translation of legal documents into Spanish, which can be a hassle. If you want to wed in Cuba and you haven’t been married before, you need your birth certificate, passport and a tourist card (which you can get through your travel agent of airline). If you were divorced, you must also produce a divorce certificate. If widowed, you must produce a Certificate of Marriage and a Certificate of Spouse’s Death.

Before you go, make sure to check with your chosen destination’s tourism board to see if any paperwork requirements have changed. Make inquiries about marriage laws with your travel agent before you book and get friendly with your venue’s onsite wedding coordinator to make sure all of the details have been handled well ahead of time so your wedding abroad is completely stress-free.

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