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What you need to know about getting married abroad

If you’re dreaming of the perfect wedding abroad, there’s a lot to consider. From where to have the big day, to how to cut costs and what wedding travel insurance you’ll need. 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.

If you’re dreaming of the perfect wedding abroad, there’s a lot to consider. From where to have the big day, to how to cut costs and what wedding travel insurance you’ll need. 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.

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
17 MARCH 2023
3 min read
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Can I get married abroad?

Yes, and many people do. 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.

What are the benefits of getting married abroad?

As well as a better chance of good weather on your wedding 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. Speak to your tour operator for further information.

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.

How much does it cost to get married abroad?

The cost of a wedding can vary significantly, based on various things, including:

  • Location
  • Type of wedding venue
  • Number of guests
  • Food and drinks
  • Photography/videography
  • Music and entertainment
  • Suits and dresses
  • Hair and make up
  • Flowers and decorations
  • Transport

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider and all these things can affect the cost of your wedding. Of course, all these things can be negotiated, and you can choose to not have certain features at your wedding.

However, the location is one of the biggest factors. For example, getting married in New York City is naturally going to be more expensive than getting married in a remote region of Greece. The cost of goods and services are higher, it’s further away and the accommodation will be more expensive.

You should also think about how much it will cost your guests to fly out to your destination wedding. If you’re having a Caribbean beach wedding, that’s an expensive flight and hotel stay for them to attend. If you’re planning on paying for people’s travel, you need to think carefully about how many guests you can afford to pay for.

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 married in a foreign country. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

Do I need 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.

What documents do I need to get married abroad?

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’re adopted, an adoption 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. 

You can check what’s required for your chosen wedding destination on the GOV.UK website.

Legal requirements for getting married abroad

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. 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 wedding ceremony abroad.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

Will my marriage be legal 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 and local authorities in the country you want to marry in. Some may have residency requirements. For example, 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.

Examples of popular destinations to marry abroad include:

  • Greece
  • Cyprus
  • The Amalfi Coast, Italy
  • Malta
  • Las Vegas
  • The Caribbean

Bear in mind that some foreign 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 wedding ceremony abroad. 

How can I organise a wedding in another country?

Do I need 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 the 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.

How far in advance do I need to book a destination wedding?

Couples tend to book a wedding a year in advance. 
 
Depending on the type of day you want; weddings can take a lot of planning. If you’re getting married abroad, this can be slightly more complicated, because you’ll have to make extra arrangements. For this reason, it’s best to book as far in advance as possible, to avoid any unnecessary stress. 

How many times should we visit the destination before the wedding?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but you should visit at least once or twice ahead of your destination wedding. 
 
The first time, you’ll want to scout out potential wedding venues. Once you’ve found one you love, you can start planning properly. Then, once the arrangements are made and suppliers are booked, it’s good to go out to the destination and meet with them to confirm plans. 
 
For example, you can group together the tasting of the wedding menu, have a hair and make-up trial, meet the photographer etc. 
 
Obviously, flying back and forth to a far-flung, exotic destination can be expensive, but it’s important that you are familiar with the area before the big day, to avoid any stressful surprises. 

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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