What you need to know about getting married abroad

Thinking of getting married abroad? There’s a lot to consider. From where to have the big day, to how to cut costs and what to do about travel insurance. You’ll also want to make sure your marriage will be recognised in the UK. To find out what you need to know, read our guide.

Thinking of getting married abroad? There’s a lot to consider. From where to have the big day, to how to cut costs and what to do about travel insurance. You’ll also want to make sure your marriage will be recognised in the UK. To find out what you need to know, read our guide.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Josh Daniels
Travel Insurance expert
3
minute read
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Posted 31 JANUARY 2020 Last Updated 5 APRIL 2022

Can I get married abroad?

You certainly can – and many people do. According to government figures for 2015 – the most recent available – more than 50,000 Brits got hitched overseas.

A destination wedding is a chance to tie the knot somewhere warm and exotic, as well as a good excuse for a holiday with your closest friends and family. And of course, it means you can start your honeymoon straight away.

However, there’s a lot to consider when getting married abroad, including the complexities and legalities of getting hitched in another country. But with careful organisation and the help of our guide, you can have the destination wedding of your dreams.

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What are the benefits of getting married abroad?

As well as a better chance of good weather on the day, with some careful planning, getting married abroad could also end up costing you less:

Take advantage of big-day bargains

Head to a popular wedding resort, such as a Caribbean Island, and they’ll often throw in a few wedding package freebies. These can include flowers, cake, champagne and room upgrades. If you have lots of family and friends flying out to celebrate with you, you may also be able to get group discounts on travel and accommodation costs.

Other ways to cut your costs include travelling in low season – although don’t risk having your day ruined by a monsoon downpour!

Benefit from exchange rates

A wedding in Europe or the US might set you back more than it would’ve done a few years ago. For this reason, it’s worth looking around to see if you can find a country where you can still get a good exchange rate and make your wedding budget stretch a little further.

What will I need to sort before getting married abroad?

You’ll need to do a bit of extra legwork before your big day if you want to get hitched in another country:

Get wedding travel insurance

If you’re getting married abroad, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got travel insurance. We all want our big day to be perfect, but if for example you become ill and need medical treatment, or your trip is cancelled or delayed, travel insurance can make sure you’re not out of pocket. Group travel insurance may work out cheaper for your wedding party.

Specialist overseas wedding insurance can cover everything from the rings to the gifts to the dress to the photographer. Some providers offer it as an add on to travel insurance, or you can buy a standalone policy. Whatever you choose, make sure you arrange insurance as soon as you can to cover yourself for anything you’re paying for up front.

Get your paperwork in order

The documents you’ll need vary according to your destination, but to get married abroad, you and your partner will normally need to show:

  • A passport with six months’ validity
  • A full birth certificate 
  • If you’ve been married before, a divorce certificate 
  • If you’re a widow(er), the death certificate of your previous spouse 
  • Any relevant visas needed to enter the country.

Some countries have more demanding requirements. For example, to get married in certain countries you may need to get a certificate of no impediment (CNI) from the UK government to prove that you’re free to marry. To do this you’ll need to give notice of marriage at your local council office.

You’ll normally need to show original documents rather than photocopies. And if you’re getting married in a non-English speaking country, you may need to get your documents translated by an official translator. In some countries you may also be asked to get certain documents legalised by attaching a stamped official certificate, called an ‘apostille’, to confirm that they’re genuine. 

Check what’s required for your chosen wedding destination on the GOV.UK website.

Check the legalities

Different countries have different laws about getting married. Some require you to spend a certain amount of time there before you get married. In Sri Lanka, for example, you have to be resident for four days before the ceremony. In France, the conditions are more demanding - you, your partner or one of your parents must live in the town you’ll be married in for at least 40 days before the ceremony.

Bear in mind that not all countries will recognise same sex marriages or civil partnerships. GOV.UK can advise on wedding legality for same sex couples or direct you to the correct High Commission for clarification.  

Will my marriage be recognised in the UK if I get married abroad?

If you’re tying the knot abroad, your marriage will be recognised in the UK, so long as:

  • You follow the local laws of the place you get married

In France, for example, a civil ceremony needs to take place before a church service can happen. Over in Italy, divorced women can’t remarry until 300 days after their decree nisi. Even getting hitched at the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas requires a marriage license.

  • It’s allowed under UK law

That’s to say you’re over 16, free to marry and not closely related to your partner.

Where can I get married abroad?

Again, it depends on the law in the country you want to marry in. As a foreign national, you can’t legally marry in the Maldives, for instance. But you can have a ceremony there and do the legal part elsewhere. Or you could get married in Sri Lanka and head over to the Maldives for your honeymoon.

Bear in mind that some countries will not recognise same sex marriages. If you have your heart set on a destination but marrying there isn’t legally possible, you could consider taking care of the legal formalities in the UK before you go and having a symbolic ceremony abroad.

How can I organise a wedding in another country?

Consider getting a wedding planner

Wedding planners might seem like an extravagance. But if you’re getting married abroad, they can really earn their keep, especially as you’re unlikely to be in the country in the lead-up to the big day. A good wedding planner will get you deals with local suppliers and help overcome any language barriers, so you can just focus on having a great day.

Get to know your destination

If your budget allows, it’s a great idea to visit your dream wedding destination country before the wedding to get a feel for the place and speak to local suppliers.

Try to arrive at least a few days before the wedding so you have time to settle in, deal with any last-minute organisation or red tape and relax before your big day.

Check the local weather

Make sure you check the local climate in your country of choice before you book anything. Look out for average temperatures and daily rainfall and make sure you’re not going to be tying the knot in monsoon or hurricane season, or during a horrendously uncomfortable heatwave.

Speak to your family and friends

Getting married abroad with all your loved ones in attendance can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be a big ask. Have a conversation with the people you want at your wedding and get an idea of their budget and needs. It’s your big day but it’s also their holiday, so try to be considerate in your choice of venue and activities.

Send out your save the dates as soon as you can so everyone has time to book holiday and save up. Setting up a wedding website with all the key details could save you time updating everyone individually.

Think local

It’s harder to research online, but if you use local florists, chefs and staff you’ll often get a far better deal than if you use suppliers in the UK. Plus you’ll be boosting the local economy.

Research local marriage customs in your chosen destination and get ready to go with the flow. The order of the day and the cuisine may be different but that’s part of the fun!

Ready to tie the knot abroad? Compare travel insurance now.

Frequently asked questions

Will I be able to have a same sex marriage abroad?

Unfortunately, it depends on where you plan on getting married. Check the legal requirements carefully for the country you want to get married in.

Can I also have a wedding in the UK if I get married abroad?

You can’t have two legal weddings in two different countries. There’s nothing to stop you having a symbolic celebration in the UK though, with any friends and family who are unable to make the trip abroad. Alternatively, you can always take care of the legal formalities here and have a symbolic celebration abroad.

How can I have my marriage abroad recorded in the UK?

You can apply for a UK marriage certificate through the General Register Office if your marriage was registered abroad. You’ll need to complete an application form and pay a fee.

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