How to Get Married Abroad as a U.S. Citizen:
Important Things to Know

Your guide to marrying abroad in several popular countries as a United States citizen.

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Can You Get Married in Another Country?

There are so many awesome places to elope, especially internationally. You could elope in the UK, Switzerland, Greece, Canada, Belize, Thailand, Namibia, or Norway, the opportunities are endless! After you narrow down where you might want to elope, it’s time to figure out the logistics of your trip and that can seem like a lot. Being organized and educated about the requirements of the destination you choose to elope in is the key. Here are key things to know if you want to find out how to get married abroad as a U.S. citizen.

Do You Need to Legally Get Married Abroad?

This is an important question to ask yourself before you get into the weeds of making it official in another country. Many couples decide to do the official paperwork in the United States and just have a symbolic ceremony abroad. Some officially get married the day before they hop on a plane. Others wait until they get back.

But if you are absolutely sure you want the legal paperwork and your ceremony to align, keep reading to learn tips on how to get married abroad as a US citizen.

Azores Portugal elopement
Liza & Andrew eloped in Portugal and had a quick legal ceremony just before they hopped on a plane!

Make Research Your Best Friend

Getting married outside of the U.S. does involve some extra hoops, but jumping them is worth it. You can check out your chosen country’s tourism website for details about regulations they have regarding weddings. Find out what documents will be needed and make a list of those. Obviously, you’ll need a marriage license, but some countries require much more than that: birth certificates, photo IDs, and even proof of divorce if you’ve been married before.

Special requirements can range from blood tests (not kidding) and waiting periods to witnesses and extra fees. Some countries have a waiting period or a notification of intent to marry up to a few months in advance of your wedding date. The Embassy or Consulate can help you figure out what sort of documentation is required.

Do I need to register my marriage in the U.S. if I get married abroad?

Good news! The United States recognizes marriages abroad! If you’re getting married in another country legally, you do have to check with your local county clerk, court, or records of marriages/births/deaths in order to submit any necessary paperwork to have it on their books as well.

Choose two most important things you want to focus on

It’s so easy to fall into the stress of planning an international trip, so my advice is to choose two things that are important to you about your international elopement. Is photography most important to you? If so, make that a priority. Don’t get caught up with too many things to worry about. You’re eloping to keep things easy and stress-free! 

Make a plan, but be flexible

Making a plan will provide you with peace of mind, and making a backup plan will protect your sanity. Since you can never predict what’s going to fail, emotionally accept that anything could go wrong and you’ll be better suited to problem-solve your way out of whatever situation arises. 

Decide on a religious or civil ceremony

Some countries have different requirements for civil and religious ceremonies. Decide ahead of time whether you want a religious or civil ceremony so the officials you speak to can give you the best and most up-to-date information. Some countries only allow citizens to have civil ceremonies.

If that’s the case, you can have a religious ceremony, or a non-legally binding commitment ceremony and then get married legally when you return home. If you don’t want your legal marriage to take place abroad, you can have an unofficial ceremony that lets you enjoy the scenery and romance of a foreign location, and then get married in a legal ceremony when you get home.

Feeling like Getting Married Abroad is too Complicated?

What if I told you that the United States has some epic places that look like the far reaches of places like Iceland or New Zealand?

If eloping abroad still sounds like absolute goals, read on…

Here are some of the coolest locations you can elope in and how to do it! If your ideal location isn’t mentioned here, reach out and I can help you figure out what is needed for your ideal location. I’ve made a note of the difficulty level of each potential location for you to make the best choice possible. 

How to Get Married Abroad as a U.S. Citizen

The Most Popular Countries and Restrictions

“What countries can I legally get married in?”
Below are just a few of the most popular destinations for adventure elopements.

Eloping in the United Kingdom – Difficulty Rating: 7/10

The UK is a beautiful destination for an elopement, and on top of mind for a lot of couples looking for an international elopement. You must ‘give notice’ to marry at your local registry office at least 29 days before, which includes details of your final venue. Non-religious elopements officiated by a celebrant are only legally recognized in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales and England, you will still need to marry at a registry office, which can be done before or after the elopement and won’t take more than ten minutes. You’ll also need to have two witnesses with you for your big day. Prices for getting married at a registry office start from £120 but costs can vary.

Isle of Skye Scotland elopement photographer

How to Get Married Abroad as a U.S. Citizen
Our own vow renewal in Scotland, photographed by our talented friend Robert J. Hill

Eloping in Switzerland – Difficulty Rating: 3/10

Switzerland is most of the most desired locations for couples looking for an amazing and romantic experience. There are so many backdrop options like the Swiss National Park and Lauterbrunnen. There are some very important points to be mindful of when planning your Swiss elopement. The most important one is you can not legally get married in Switzerland if you are not a citizen sadly. Plus, Switzerland doesn’t allow same-sex marriage (I know, insane!). The best way for you to elope in Switzerland is to first have your official marriage in your home country. Many couples who elope in Switzerland choose to do it this way, and that’s just as good as legally getting married in Switzerland. It is still an awesome adventure to plan that offers the opportunity to select a cool variety of backdrops for a very memorable elopement.

Castles and Alps abound in Switzerland

Eloping in Greece – Difficulty Rating: 5/10

With white sand beaches and fascinating history, Greece is a stunning elopement location. Whether you want to hike volcanoes, enjoy local food, or admire the local architecture, Greece has a lot to offer. So, let’s dive into what you need to know about having your dream elopement in Greece. Yes, doing the legal paperwork is not as fun as planning your adventures in Greece but there will be some paperwork required. You’ll need a valid passport, birth certificate (with the Apostille stamp certifying the copy), proof of freedom to marry, or affidavit of marriage, notarised, and a copy of the local newspaper where your intent to marry was published.

You’ll also need an official Apostille translated into Greek, which can be certified by a lawyer, a foreign ministry’s translation department, or a certified translator or the Greek consulate from your home country. It might seem like a lot to do but it will be worth it for an amazing epic elopement! The last step you’ll need to do is go to the town hall where you will apply for a marriage license, which you’ll get eight days later. This entire process costs an average of 307 euros or 363 USD.

Eloping in Canada – Difficulty Rating: 6/10

Oh, Canada! What an epic location for your dream elopement! It’s not too complicated to complete the paperwork to have a legal marriage in Canada, so all you’ll need is a marriage license in the province or territory where your elopement is planned. This is only valid for 90 days from the date it was issued. So you definitely want to plan when you go to apply for your marriage license to be sure it doesn’t expire before your special day arrives! You will need to visit a local town hall, city hall, or municipal court office to apply for your marriage license. When you arrive, both of you will need to show two pieces of official government documentation like a passport or a birth certificate. There’s also a fee you’ll have to pay and they vary based on the Canadian province you get your license. 

FUN FACT: US photographers are not allowed to photograph Canadian citizens in Canada. US photographers can photograph US citizens if they have evidence of all business being conducted in USD and in the United States to show at customs.

Norway in the winter has snowcapped mountains and the aurora borealis, while the summer has abundant hiking trails. Both times of year have excellent wildlife viewing!

Eloping in Norway – Difficulty Rating: 8/10

If you love frozen glaciers, and towering mountains, Norway might be the perfect elopement location for you. A huge perk about choosing Norway as your elopement location is that it has great roads and public transportation, and most people speak English – making it an easy place to get around. Before you head off to this Scandinavian country, there are a few things to know about.

To get legally married in Norway, you do not have to be a citizen, but you do have to have a legal stay. A legal stay can mean a residence permit, a visitor’s visa, or a valid visa-free stay. That can be pretty complicated, so for couples traveling to Norway to elope, I recommend doing the legal stuff at home for less of a hassle. Doing the legal stuff in your home country makes your elopement all about fun and adventure, so I strongly suggest doing that if Norway is your dream destination.

Eloping in Belize – Difficulty Rating: 5/10

A Belize elopement offers a super unique experience that can’t be beaten by many other places. Unlike in some counties, the process to get legally married in Belize is not too complicated. To take the legal marriage route during your Belize elopement, you’ll need to arrive in the county at least five days in advance to finish the process. First, you’ll need to fill out an application with the ​​ Registrar General’s Office in Belize City. You’ll need to show a valid passport or other proof of citizenship. If one or both of you aren’t American citizens, refer to Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A Belize marriage license costs $100 per couple, plus a $5 administrative fee. Plan on waiting at least two days for your marriage license to arrive after applying for it. The last step you’ll need to take is registering your marriage with the Belize Registry Department after your ceremony. Remember, it’s okay to do the legal process in your home county and just focus on having a fun and adventurous celebration in Belize if that sounds like more of your style. 

New Zealand is known for its lupine blooms

Eloping in New Zealand – Difficulty Rating: 8/10

Eloping in New Zealand allows you to have an unforgettable experience all your own! 

In New Zealand, you can choose between a personalized ceremony or a registry ceremony. Both of these options require a marriage license. Personalized ceremonies are where you’d have a more personal ceremony for yourselves and you’ll just need: a venue, a celebrant, and two witnesses. A Registery ceremony is straightforward you both attend a registry office to get the paperwork legally signed, and all you need is a venue, a marriage license, and two witnesses. The fee for your marriage license depends on what type you have ($150 for Personalised ceremonies, $240 for Registry ceremonies). Here is the government website where you can get your marriage license to begin the process.

I’m giving away a free copy of “Elope Your Life”

As a thank you to couples like the ones I get to adventure with, here is a free copy of my book that’s helped get couples hyped for an intentional adventure.

This book is full of inspiration, beautiful stories, and ACTIONABLE items to guide you to the inspirational day that’s already inside you.

*BONUS* – You’ll also receive a copy of my elopement planning and packing checklist!

Eloping in Thailand – Difficulty Rating: 7/10

Eloping in Thailand is a magical experience that will give you memories lasting a lifetime. Between the beautiful beaches and lush green forests, there are so many cool locations in Thailand to elope. There are no residency requirements to elope in Thailand which makes it a little easier. There is a process that you’ll have to follow to legally marry in Thailand.

The first step is to register your union with a local Amphur (Thai district office, similar to a county office). Be sure to arrive at least two days before you plan to elope to complete the legal process. You will be required to have a translator at the Amphur who should speak both English and Thai as well as witnesses. Luckily, the registration office can arrange this for you. The paperwork needed at the Amphur is your valid passports, your original visas, your Thai ID card (if one partner is Thai), an affidavit of freedom to marry per Thai law, an original annulment or divorce certificate (if you were previously married), and proof of income (in some circumstances). After your ceremony, you will receive two official wedding certificates which you can take to the U.S. embassy for authentication.

Namibia has a diverse landscape, including savannah, sand dunes, and mountains

Eloping in Namibia – Difficulty Rating: 4/10

The southern African country of Namibia is an awesome location to host your adventure elopement! It’s an amazing mix of adventure, nature, and culture. Namibia is home to one of the oldest deserts in the world, and some of the tallest sand dunes that make an epic backdrop to any elopement. It’s pretty easy to legally get married in Namibia, all you’ll need is valid passports, passport size photos, birth certificates, and proof of no impediment to marriage like a divorce decree or death certificate if your prior partner has passed away. Both you and your partner will have to appear before the registrar to apply, and luckily there is no fee involved. You can always opt to have a symbolic elopement in Namibia and do the legal side of it when you return home. Citizens from the U.S. can stay in Namibia for up to 90 days without a Visa. Pro tip: book your trip well in advance of your elopement date because accommodations can be pretty limited.

Big weddings aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. There are so many cool ways to celebrate your love, and so many amazing counties to do it in. Whether you choose to have a symbolic ceremony in one of these international locations or do the entire thing in another country, elopements are just as special as any other wedding no matter where it happens!

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