Destination Weddings: How To Get Legally Married in Another Country

Getting married in a foreign country is romantic and exciting. But before you consult a wedding planner, you must consider the legal requirements. Failure to do so can result in an invalid marriage.

Are you dreaming of getting married on a sandy beach in the Caribbean or Mexico? Or perhaps in the south of France or Italy?

First, check the country's local laws where you plan to have the destination wedding. It is important to ensure your marriage is legal when you return to the States.

Like U.S. marriage laws, foreign marriage laws are different in every country. Most countries need proof of a valid passport, birth certificate, and proof of residency to get married. Some countries also require a blood test or medical test.

For example, France has residency requirements for marriage. But France allows non-residents to get married in their country's consulate. You can have the legal ceremony at the U.S. consulate in France and a wedding ceremony (symbolic ceremony) in another venue. 

It is important to check the marriage laws in the destination wedding location. Some countries require you to complete a marriage application months before your wedding date. Preparing ahead of time will help you avoid any lengthy and costly mistakes. You do not want your marriage invalid shortly after the wedding day.

This article explains how U.S. citizens may legally marry in a foreign country. It also includes a chart of the legal requirements for the top destination wedding countries. 

Validity of Marriages Abroad

Marriages performed legally in other countries are legal marriages in the United States.

Legal marriage in the United States requires couples to get a marriage license and a marriage certificate. Getting a marriage license requires proof of identification through legal documents, such as a birth certificate, death certificate, and driver's license.

Other countries will also need proof of identification and citizenship. Some countries may require original and certified copies of identification (passport, driver's license, birth certificate).

If you have questions about getting married abroad, contact the attorney general of your state.

Who May Perform Marriages Abroad

While some countries allow non-citizens to marry in an American embassy, American diplomatic and consular officers cannot perform marriages. Marriages abroad are usually performed by local (foreign) civil or religious officials. Make sure to check the foreign country's marriage laws.

You can still get married in a country that does not have an American embassy or consulate. But you must follow the foreign country's marriage laws to make your marriage legal. Make sure to check the country's marriage laws.

Destination Wedding Legal Requirements

The embassy, or a tourist information office, is the best resource to learn about marriage requirements in another country.

Also, American embassies and consulates have information about marriage laws. Below is a list of common destination wedding legal requirements.

  • Residency Requirements: Marriages abroad are subject to residency requirements. Note: There is usually a long waiting period. Keep that in mind before booking any travel plans.
  • Documentation and Authentication: Most countries require proof of identification and nationality. You will typically need to show the following: a valid U.S. passport, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and death certificates of former spouses. Some countries require documents to be authenticated by an apostille in the United States. An apostille is like a notary. But, instead of a notary stamping a document, the Vital Records Division of the U.S. Department of State certifies that the document is a legal U.S. document (click "How to Request an Apostille on your Consular Document"). Make sure to check the destination wedding country's marriage laws. This process is time-consuming and expensive.
  • Parental ConsentThe age of majority for marriage differs in every country. Persons under 18 must present their parents' written statement of consent before a notary public. Some countries also require parental consent to be authenticated by a consular official of the destination wedding country.
  • Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry: All civil law countries require a certificate of celibacy. The certificate proves that a person can legally enter into a marriage contract. The United States does not have certificates of celibacy. American citizens will need an affidavit of eligibility to marry that they sign under oath at an American embassy or consulate. The affidavit will state that they are free to marry. There is a fee for the American consular officer's certification of the affidavit. While the embassy or consulate official may not attest to the marital status of a U.S. citizen, they may witness your signature on an affidavit (which you provide) stating you are free to marry. Some countries also require witnesses to have affidavits stating that the couple is free to marry.
  • Other Requirements: Unlike the United States, some countries require blood tests. Countries also require you to translate the documents into the native language of that country. You may have to hire a certified translator in the destination wedding country to translate your documents.

Loss of U.S. Nationality

In some countries, marrying a citizen automatically grants the spouse citizenship. In other countries, marriage allows a non-citizen spouse faster naturalization. Naturalization or dual citizenship will not affect your U.S. citizenship.

Contact an American embassy or consulate for further information if you apply for foreign nationality.

Marriage to a Foreign Spouse

You can find information on getting a visa for a foreign spouse from these offices:

You can find general visa information by calling the Visa Office: (202) 663-1225.

Get Legally Married in the U.S. Before the Destination Wedding

Getting legally married outside the United States is complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. Getting legally married at your local courthouse or city hall is easier before you travel to your destination wedding. That way, you do not have to worry about paperwork or endless rules and regulations abroad. You can fully enjoy every moment of your destination wedding.

Top 10 Wedding Destinations: Legal Requirements



Documents and Notations



Disclaimer: The requirements differ in each state in Mexico

  • Valid U.S. passport
  • Valid entry documents (visa, migratory form, or FMT Tourist or Residence Form; must state that the purpose is to have a civil ceremony; a visa may be denied if not included)
  • Marriage permit from Mexican Immigration (names must match the names on the birth certificates)
  • Apostille birth certificate (by the U.S. Department of State; translated into Spanish by an official Mexican translator, if issued by a federal agency or U.S. or foreign consul)(if issued by your birth state, it must bear a seal issued by the Secretary of State in the state where this record may be found)
  • Photo I.D. (original and copy, front and back)
  • Prenuptial medical certificate (HIV, V.D.R.L, blood type) from a medical examination by a local general hospital in Mexico no more than 15 days before the marriage ceremony
  • Parental consent (from parents or legal guardian) if under 18 years old
  • Divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses, if applicable (original document and three copies; must bear a seal issued by the Secretary of State in the state in which this record may be found)
  • If getting married at the Civil Registry Office, schedule a marriage appointment the day before the marriage ceremony; take all the documents in this list with you (the fee depends on the Mexican state where the ceremony is being performed)
  • If getting married anywhere other than the Civil Registry Office, schedule a marriage appointment at least 14 days in advance; take all the documents in this list with you (the fee depends on the Mexican state where the ceremony is being performed)
  • Civil ceremonies must be performed by a Civil Registry Official (not religious officials) (only civil marriages are considered legal marriages; religious ceremonies are not considered legal marriages)
  • In some states: Four witnesses (two witnesses per spouse; must be over 18 years old; provide an original and copy of a valid photo I.D. front and back)
  • Some Mexican states have additional requirements

See Mexico ConsulateMexico Tourism Board: The Mexican Ministry of Tourism recommends allowing two to four days to complete all requirements. It is also recommended that you consult with a wedding planner to help you meet all the legal requirements.


24 Hours

All documents must be in English.

  • Form of Declaration completed by someone who knows the future married couple (friend or family) and signed in front of a Justice of the Peace (printed on legal size paper; sample here)
  • Minister's Marriage License Form stamped by the Stamp Duty Office at 111 Harbour Street, Kingston; processing fee of $4,000.00 JA/$50.00 USD (printed on legal size paper)
  • Picture identification (U.S. passport or driver's license)
  • Certified copy of birth certificate that includes your father's name
  • Proof of divorce or death of former spouses (original divorce decree and death certificate)
  • Name change documents (if applicable)
  • Parental written consent (if under 18 years old) from a parent or legal guardian, signed in front of and certified by a notary public or justice of the peace

Application should be made in advance of the wedding by calling the Ministry of National Security at (876) 906-4908. See Jamaica Tourist Board at (800) 233-4582; U.S. Embassy in Jamaica. The Jamaica Tourist Board recommends contacting wedding venues and wedding planners for assistance with completing all the legal requirements.

Dominican Republic


  • U.S. passport
  • Copies of passport identification page
  • Copies of last entry to the country
  • Affidavits of marital status (saying the couple are single and eligible to marry) legalized at the Offices of Procuraduría General de La República; or by a U.S. notary and legalized at the Dominican Consulate in the U.S.
  • Apostille birth certificate (by the U.S. Department of State and translated into Spanish by an official translator); if issued by the state you were born in, it must bear a seal issued by the Secretary of State in the state where this record may be found
  • Divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses (if applicable translated into Spanish by an official translator); must bear a seal issued by the Secretary of State in the state in which this record may be found
  • Two witnesses who are not family
  • Publish a notice of the wedding ceremony

Write to the American Consulate in advance for permission to marry in a civil ceremony. See Embassy of the Dominican Republic in the United States; Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism.


24 Hours

  • Marriage license and in-person interview with the Registrar General in Nassau
  • Proof of entry that the couple has been in the Bahamas for 24 hours (immigration card)
  • Certified copies of divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses, if applicable (persons over 40 years old who do not have either will need a records check for marriage; may last up to 2 weeks)
  • Certificate of consent to marriage by a minor, if under 18 years old

See Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.



  • Marriage license application
  • Interview together, in-person with an agent no more than 30 days before the ceremony date
  • Valid driver's license, passport, or state I.D.
  • Original divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses (if getting married less than 30 days after a divorce or death of a former spouse)
  • Those who are divorced must be able to provide the date, state, and county (or country) where the divorce was finalized
  • Parental consent by parent or legal guardian, if under 18 years old (government photo I.D. and documentation of relationship)
  • Name change documents (if applicable)
  • Wedding ceremony within 30 days after receiving a marriage license

See Hawaii Department of Health marriage licensing office at (808) 586-4539; the Hawaiian Islands.

US Virgin Islands


  • Notarized marriage application (submitted electronically or in-person)
  • Driver's license or passport
  • Certified copy of divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses
  • Cover letter stating the date of visit, length of stay, and preferred wedding date (if a ceremony performed by a judge is preferred)

See USVI Division of Tourism.



The following must be emailed for review and then mailed one month before the wedding date:

  • Aruba declaration of marriage intent form
  • Aruba declaration of single status form
  • Apostille long form birth certificate (including the parents' names of the couple, raised seal, and a separate document authenticating the certificate and the person who signed the certificate)
  • Affidavits of marital status (saying the couple are single and eligible to marry)
  • Apostille of divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses
  • Copies of passport picture page
  • Copies of two witnesses' passport picture page (must be 18 years or older); a local wedding planner can provide witnesses
  • Notarized letters of paternal consent (if under 21 must be signed by father unless he is deceased)
  • Couple must be 18 years old or older

Note: the above documents are for a civil ceremony in Aruba. In order to have a religious ceremony, different documents are required. See Aruba Tourism.


21 days (can be waived)

Tourists visiting for a short period of time may waive the 21-day waiting period by applying for a special license to marry.

  • Passport
  • Birth certificates
  • Divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses
  • Two witnesses with valid photo I.D.
  • Certificates of single status (saying the couple are single and eligible to marry)

See Fiji Visitors BureauFiji Embassy.



  • Valid U.S. passport or military I.D. (for active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces)
  • Apostille birth certificates (original or certified copy; translated into Italian)
  • Apostille divorce decrees and death certificates of former spouses (if a woman is divorced within the last 300 days, must have a waiver from the Italian District Attorney's Office in the city where the marriage ceremony will be held, and provide a negative pregnancy test; must be translated into Italian)
  • Dichiarazione Giurata (affidavit) sworn in front of a U.S. consular officer in Italy (this means there is no legal impediment to the marriage in your U.S. state of residence); a notary from the U.S. Consulates General in Italy or the U.S. Embassy in Rome; legalized at the Legalization Office (Ufficio Legalizzazioni)
  • Atto Notorio (this means there is no legal impediment to the marriage in your U.S. state of residence) sworn by 2 witnesses who know the couple (cannot be family, must be over 18, valid photo I.D.) at the Italian Embassy or Consulate; in the presence of an English interpreter (if one spouse does not speak Italian)
  • Declaration of Intention to Marry (Dichiarazione di Matrimonio) in front of a civil registrar (ufficiale di stato civile); with an English interpreter (if one spouse does not speak Italian)
  • If one partner is an Italian citizen, post a public announcement in town hall for two consecutive weeks (including two Sundays) before the marriage ceremony

Additional requirements apply if a partner is an Italian citizen or resident of Italy. Requirements may vary by region and city. It is highly recommended that you work with a wedding planner to help you fulfill all requirements properly. A translator may be required to attend the wedding if neither the bride nor the groom speaks Italian. Please visit an Italian consulate near you, or the Italian Government Tourist Board Office, or the local U.S. Embassy for more information.


30 days (continuous residence)

Requirements for each city in France are different. Make sure to check the city hall's website for a complete list of documents.

  • Valid U.S. passport, with a copy
  • Birth certificate (certified copy, an apostille less than six months old, and certified French translation by a sworn translator)
  • Certificat de coutumes and certificat de célibat (stating the couple is single and eligible to marry); U.S. Citizens can fill out this form to meet this requirement (a notary is not needed)
  • Proof of domicile or residence in France (rent bill, water bill, etc.); proof of attestation from the person hosting you (at least one partner must have resided continuously for at least one month)
  • Two witnesses, along with their information and an original and copy of their IDs

Note: Civil ceremonies are the only legally binding type of marriage in France, and they must take place in the Town Hall. See U.S. Embassy and Consulates in FranceFrance TourismFrance's Official Website.

Planning Your Destination Wedding? Will Your Marriage Be Legal? Consult an Attorney Today

Tying the knot in Jamaica or Cancun may seem like the perfect destination wedding location. Before you call a wedding coordinator, you must ensure that your destination wedding or elopement is legal.

family law attorney in your area will help you with the necessary paperwork, including filing your application for marriage. Working with an attorney experienced in navigating the legal complexities of getting married in another country can give you peace of mind on your big day.

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