Seven things to consider before getting hitched abroad
Ideas to think about before you get married in another country.
1. Getting the correct documentation
Every country has its own requirements as to the documentation you need to present in order to get married. For example, some countries (such as the Republic of Ireland) will require you to present a Certificate of No Impediment issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO recommends that you consult the relevant country's embassy in the UK to find out what is required. It can take some time to organise the documentation (some of which may need to be legalised) so you should be sure to allow yourself plenty of lead time.
2. You cannot get a British marriage certificate if you get married abroad
Although you cannot get a British marriage certificate for a foreign marriage, you can deposit your foreign marriage documents with the General Records Office. That is not required, but it will, at least, enable you to get copies of your marriage documents if you need them in future.
3. Will your foreign marriage be recognised as legally valid in the UK?
In general, the UK will recognise a foreign marriage if (i) it was legally valid in the country in which it took place, and (ii) the parties would have had the capacity to get married in the UK (meaning that they are not, for instance, too closely related to get married under UK law). If in doubt, you should check with a solicitor to confirm that a foreign marriage (or civil partnership) that you are planning will be valid under UK law.
4. Whether a church wedding will be legally valid
Although many countries recognise church weddings, some do not. In many countries, a couple getting married in church will also need to comply with certain civil requirements if the marriage is to be legally valid. If you do not comply with those requirements, and your marriage is therefore not legally valid in the country in which you married, then it almost certainly will not be recognised in the UK either.
5. What if you plan to move to a country other than the UK or the country in which you got married?
If you got married in a country that is party to the Hague Convention on the Celebration and Recognition of Marriages (the "Hague Convention"), then any other country that is party to the Hague Convention should recognise your marriage – provided it complies with the Convention. You should note, however, that not all countries are party to the Hague Convention, and in particular that the USA is not party to it.
6. Medical examinations and blood tests
Some countries require that each of the parties has a medical examination and a blood test – with the correct outcome – before they will be permitted to get married.
7. Has either party been married before?
If one or both of the people getting married have been divorced, then they will not be able to get married in some countries until a certain period of time has elapsed.
** Getting help **
If in doubt as to what you need to do in order to get married abroad or as to whether your marriage will be valid in the UK, there are several places where you can get more information. As to UK requirements, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and local registrars of marriages may be able to provide you with answers. For the requirements of another country, that country's embassy in the UK may be able to assist.
Some UK-based solicitors specialise in family law with an international dimension. You can look for such solicitors by searching in our Solicitor Directory, and/or using a quality-assured solicitor matching service such as Contact Law.