While having a destination wedding brings with it a lot of advantages – like warmer weather, a picture perfect destination and possibly a reduced cost – it also takes a bit of forward planning.

When you decide to tie the knot on foreign shores there are some legalities you need to be aware of beforehand. You don’t want to turn up for your dream wedding to discover that you don’t have the right documents, or that you haven’t been resident for long enough, you haven’t had the right vaccinations or that you can’t actually legally marry in that country.

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If you’re getting married from a hotel and have booked through a reputable company who specialises in weddings abroad, like Thomson Holidays or Sandals then you’ll be taken through every step of the process and you can be confident that you’ll have everything in place.

But if you’re organising and planning your own destination wedding, then you need to be aware of local laws and customs.

Laws for getting married abroad

Some destinations don’t allow foreigners to legally marry there – in the Maldives non-Muslims are not allowed to marry, although you can have a blessing. Check out the local requirements in your destination.

Some locations require you to be resident for a certain period there before you can legally marry. For example, in Thailand you’ll need to stay in Bangkok for four working days to sort out the paperwork before your marriage. You can’t just fly off to a Thai beach and expect to tie the knot immediately. In France you have to be resident for 40 days before you can be legally married there (but you could have a legal wedding in England and then go to France for a blessing – or you could have your wedding reception and honeymoon in France). In Singapore you need to be resident for 15 days before you can apply to marry there. You then need to wait 21 days after filing the application before you can get hitched.

If you’re divorced, some countries require you to have been divorced for a certain period before you can marry there. Thailand requires 310 days from the date of your decree absolute and in Italy it’s 300 days. In the USA it depends on what state you are getting married in – in some you can get married immediately after a divorce whereas in Texas you’d have to wait 30 days.

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If you’re widowed, some countries will need some time to have elapsed before you can get married again. In Egypt it’s four months.

If you were adopted as a child you’ll find some countries require you to show an adoption certificate – Hawaii for example.

If you’re somebody who likes to get things done in advance, some countries (like Italy) state that you cannot start the wedding documentation more than six months before your wedding day if you’re a British national and live in the UK. So you’ll just have to be patient!

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Remember that your name on your passport will have to be exactly the same as the name you put on your paperwork. So if you’re always known as ‘Jo’ and put that on your paperwork but your passport says ‘Joanne’ then you could have a problem.

Some places require you to have your legal documents (birth certificates, divorce decrees etc) translated into the local language. This could take a while, so check and build it into your timetable.

Whilst in the UK you are legally considered an adult at the age of 18, certain countries require you to be a bit older before you can get married without your parents’ consent (which needs to be in writing). These include Turkey (you’ll need to be 19).

A local law you may find unusual… Tahiti may require you to supply a certificate of celibacy (not sure where you’ll get hold of that to be honest).

But we’d just like to point out that if you want to get married abroad and you want to just get on with it, there are plenty of places you can ‘elope’ and tie the knot, if a whirlwind wedding is what you’re after. We’re thinking Las Vegas for starters!

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There are some fantastic travel agents about like Perfect Weddings Abroad who can take you through the whole process and make it straightforward. Companies such as Kuoni or Thomson will find your dream destination and you might also want to investigate a resort designed especially for couples such as Sandals or Couples Resorts.

The British Government has an excellent website with information on getting married abroad, whether you want to tie the knot in Mauritius or Morocco, Monaco or Mexico.

If you’re looking for more advice on getting married overseas, our Weddings Abroad section has everything you need to help you plan the perfect ceremony.

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