Jet-setting across the world to tie the knot in secret and style is inherently romantic. There’s no pomp and circumstance to worry about. No seating chart to fret over. No food allergies to consider.
That doesn’t mean getting married overseas is as simple as packing the rings and finding a local to deem it official. Here’s how to successfully (and legally) elope abroad.
Research your desired destination extensively
You probably already have a few dream destinations in mind. A rustic church in the Tuscan countryside? Amongst the white-washed houses of Santorini? On a private island in the Maldives? Once you’ve made your shortlist, it’s time to embark on some serious research to find out:
- The associated costs
- What documents and forms you’ll need
- Who can marry you and whether you’ll need witnesses
- Whether your marriage will be legally valid when you return home (and if not, what you’ll need to do to make it legal)
- What paperwork you may need to file with your home government
- If the destination recognizes same-sex marriage/is LGBTQ-safe
Decide what’s most important to you
An international elopement doesn’t mean you need to forego every traditional wedding convention. Know what elements of your ceremony and celebration are of the highest priority for you, so you can focus on making them special. For some couples, this might be food and photography. For others, the officiant and the accommodation.
Plan, plan, plan
Not all elopements are spontaneous Las Vegas affairs. Realizing your dream of an elopement abroad requires advanced planning, and a lot of it.
First, there’s the timing. You’ll need to figure out the best time to travel (based on budget, weather and tourism seasons) and get your flights squared away. If you already have accommodation in mind, make sure there’s availability before you buy your tickets.
Then there’s the marriage itself, and the people, places and things you’ll need to make it happen. Depending on your vision, this list will include an officiant at the very minimum, and perhaps a photographer, videographer, musician(s) or DJ, decorator, makeup artist, hair salon, restaurant and/or bar. Find these providers in advance and make bookings. Travel forums can be a great resource for recommendations, as can online wedding platform The Knot. For on-the-ground photographers, turn to Flytographer, a database of hundreds of hirable photographers from around the world.
Other key aspects of planning include obtaining any documentation or permits you may need from your home government, purchasing travel insurance and creating your itinerary and contingency plans.
Your suitcases for an international elopement will contain very precious cargo; pack accordingly. If you can, bring your most important items—the rings, paperwork and wedding outfits—on board in a carry-on to avoid disaster should your luggage be lost. In your checked luggage, pack what you need to faithfully bring your elopement dreams to life. This could mean makeup and hair styling tools, photos or small decor items, a bottle of champagne, gifts and honeymooning clothes.
Leave room for error
A wedding isn’t a wedding without a flub here and a mishap there. An elopement, especially one happening overseas, isn’t any different. When putting together your itinerary, leave buffers in your schedule in case a priest gets stuck in traffic or rain forces a delay. The best way to deal with unforeseen events: accept that they’re going to happen. It’s these moments that usually make for some of the best memories.
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