Wedding season is just beginning, and destination weddings are as popular as ever. Getting married abroad tends to be more complicated than their traditional counterparts because there’s so much more to do, legally-speaking, than simply picking a venue, ordering food, picking your cake, and arranging your flowers.

If you are a US citizen looking to get married in another country, there are a few things you should know. Most countries require similar documentation, but each also has its own unique specifications. In this post, we’ll cover what you need for three of the most visited wedding destinations: the Bahamas, Italy, and Mexico.

What Do You Need to Get Married in the Bahamas, Italy, and Mexico?

The most important thing you’ll need to get married in any country is a marriage license issued by the country you’re getting married in (for example, if you plan to get married in Mexico, you’ll need to get a license issued in Mexico).

The Bahamas, Italy, and Mexico have some requirements in common for the documentation you’ll need to get a marriage license and be legally married under their respective national laws.

The documents include:

  • Passport
  • Birth Certificate
  • Proof of the date of arrival to the country (like an airline ticket)
  • Written consent to marry from legal guardians if either the bride or groom is under 18 years old
  • Proof of divorce or death certificate if either the bride or groom were previously married or widowed
  • If neither partner has been married before, proof of single status like a Single Status Affidavit and/or a sworn declaration before the appropriate Notary Public or Consul in the country where you’re getting married

The tricky thing about these documents is that they must be accompanied by an Apostille, a notarized document with a special seal, from the Office of Authentications in your state so they can be considered as certified documents abroad. It can be a time-consuming process, so it’s best to start early.

Italy and Mexico require official translations of all documents (except your passport) in Italian and Spanish, respectively. The translator must sign a Certificate of Accuracy in front of a Notary Public, and the translated documents must be notarized with Apostilles along with the original English documents by an Italian or Mexican consulate. This procedure is a requirement for marriage in any country where the official language isn’t English.

Besides the basic requirements, each of the three countries also have some requirements unique to them:

For Marriage in the Bahamas

  • The bride and groom must be in The Commonwealth of the Bahamas for at least 24 hours prior to ceremony
  • The marriage license must be acquired at least one day before the wedding
  • The couple must also be in The Commonwealth of the Bahamas at the time of application for a marriage license
  • You must be married in the presence of two witnesses who have valid passports

For Marriage in Italy

  • Baptism and Confirmation Certificates are required if you’re getting married in a Roman Catholic Church
  • If the bride has been married before, her marriage must have been dissolved at least 300 days before the date of the ceremony, or she must obtain a waiver from the Italian District Attorney’s Office if the marriage is within 300 days
  • The bride will be required to prove she isn’t pregnant with medical evidence to obtain the aforementioned waiver if this marriage is within 300 days of her last marriage
  • You’ll need an Atto Notorio from an Italian Consulate; it’s a declaration that states there is no obstacle to your marriage and must be signed by two witnesses in addition to a sworn statement (it can be applied for in the US or in Italy)
  • A Nulla Osta (similar to an Atto Notorio) which is essentially an Affidavit of No Impediment, meaning you have legal status to marry under Italian and United States Law (must be applied for and issued in Italy)
  • You’ll need to make an official Declaration of Intention to Marry in front of an Italian Civil Registrar two or three days before the ceremony
  • You need two witnesses with valid passports

You may also want to hire an interpreter as the ceremonies will always be conducted in Italian. A wedding planner can arrange this for you, but if you are your own planner, it can be helpful to have either a Service Agreement or Independent Contractor Agreement handy so you’ll be able to clearly establish the precise details of your arrangement with the interpreter. These contracts are also useful if you’re bringing a photographer or hair and makeup artists.

For Marriage in Mexico

  • A tourist permit or visa is required
  • You and your fiancé(e) must be in Mexico for at least three days prior to ceremony
  • You’ll need a Civil Ceremony Form, obtained from the nearest local registry office in Mexico
  • If the bride was divorced she must present documentation with her maiden name (birth certificate) and a Divorce Certificate, and the date of the ceremony must be at least one year after her divorce was finalized
  • You’ll need four witnesses: all with valid government-issued photo ID and tourist cards; their names must be on the Civil Ceremony Form; and they must also be in Mexico for three days prior to ceremony
  • A civil ceremony must be conducted in Spanish by a Judge and translated to English by a wedding coordinator (only civil marriage is legally recognized in Mexico, so many people have both civil and religious ceremonies)
  • Blood tests are required to get married in Mexico: they must be done in Mexico within three days of arrival to the country and the results of the blood tests must be in Spanish

Some Mexican states also have other medical requirements in addition to blood tests, so you might want to check with a Mexican wedding planner or an authority to see what the requirements are in the state where you’re getting married.

Marriages abroad are considered legal in the US provided the marriages meet all of the legal requirements of the country you were married in, and the Marriage Certificate is notarized with an Apostille by the issuing foreign office.

In Wedding Planning, Timing Is Everything

The paperwork and procedures involved in a destination wedding can be extensive, daunting, and stressful. To ease some of these feelings, try to get an early start on gathering up your appropriate materials once you settle on a destination.

A wedding planner can be invaluable in these circumstances, so you might want to consider getting one who has experience planning weddings in your dream destination. Letting them handle all of the paper-pushing and bureaucracy on your behalf will likely take a heap of stress off you so you can focus on the more thrilling aspects of your wedding—like your ultimate reception playlist!

Where would you have your dream wedding?

Posted by Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is a writer whose nonfiction has appeared in Spinal Columns, The Bolo Tie Collective Anthology: Volume I, and filling Station.