Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Every year Odyssean Travel has a hand in planning a number of destination weddings. I myself was married abroad in beautiful Saint Lucia last April. I know firsthand how it can seem that the more important a document is, the less enjoyable it is to secure!
If you're planning a destination wedding then the legality of your marriage is undoubtedly a consideration of great importance to you. I'm not a lawyer or marriage attorney, so please seek out advice therein should you have specific legal questions. I'm just hoping to help smooth the planning process with a few tips to help keep your wedding day a stress-free one.
1. Plan the correct documentation before you go
You'll likely have to have a passport to travel in the first place, but as always, make sure it is in good working order and that the validity period is sufficient for your travel before you go to the airport or cruise terminal.
Speak with your travel advisor or the local wedding planner (that can also be a resort or shipboard director) to coordinate additional documentation. For example, a declaration that you are free from impediment to marriage - that you aren't already married, basically!
You may also need a birth certificate, blood tests, or other such interesting items. In the most popular destinations you should be prompted by the planning staff with a current list. If you're currently planning your wedding and you've not received this, make sure you request it at the earliest opportunity.
2. Double check your documentation, keep it somewhere safe but where you won't forget it!
You want everything to look marvelous. You've got enough to worry about, you don't need to be replacing lost documents.
I like to remind my clients twice about documentation. Even if you think your passport isn't due to expire have a look through it for tears and damage. It takes time to replace and you won't have much relaxation on your day of departure if you're applying for emergency documents.
Once you've checked everything over, put it somewhere safe but where you won't forget it! We love our kids, our pets, and our coffee - but they aren't to be trusted with your passport at this time!
If you know you need to replace something. Do it now. Do not wait. A shutdown, postal strike, or other unforeseen delay can cause you more stress than you need.
Apply these double checks to all of the documentation necessary from step 1!
3. Plan to arrive early and stay for a long enough duration
5 days in-country may be more than enough for some of your guests, but if you're doing the official business overseas you may need closer to a week: A travel day each for arrival and departure, a day for the wedding itself, a day after the wedding to just relax, and 2-3 days in advance of the ceremony to attend the required meetings and have documents processed.
Saturday-Saturday packages are popular, for example. But you won't be able to get into the municipal offices the day you arrive and Sundays are often days for church, particularly in the Caribbean.
Some people don't like the idea of being legally married a week or more before the ceremony, but if you think about it, you might be saving yourself a lot of time and stress by just going to city hall before you depart and then you can enjoy more of your trip without appointments and meetings with officials.
Just be aware that wedding perks offered by some resorts are conditional upon your full wedding being achieved in destination. That you may void your own wedding perks or complimentary ceremony bonuses if you don't get your official marriage documentation done during your stay.
It may seem a bit unfair, but the reasons behind this is to keep would-be guests from scamming the resort for a free party when they're not actually getting married.
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