As destination weddings grow in popularity, so too do the complexities of ensuring a marriage is legal. Marriage laws can vary widely in different states, regions or countries. In many Caribbean nations, for example, legal requirements are relatively straightforward: in the Bahamas or Barbados, applicants must produce passports, a driver's license and birth certificates - just like home. But to be married in Aruba, U.S. citizens must first be legally married in the U.S. and have a U.S. marriage license; Jewish couples must obtain verification of Judaism from rabbi at home and petition to the Aruba Jewish Community; and Catholics must obtain a marriage permit from priest at home, baptism certificate and official form stating neither party was ever married in a church. (source: http://www.caribbeaninspired.com/caribbeannexus/11a-island-weddings.htm )
Mexico, another popular wedding destination, poses a different set of legal requirements -- although Mexican marriages are honored in the U.S. The first thing you'll need to do is to get your necessary documents translated into Spanish -- birth certificates, divorce decrees (if you've been married previously, you must have been divorced for at least a year before remarrying in Mexico) or death certificates for those remarrying, and tourist permits. You will also need a passport, blood tests and possibly chest x-rays (depending upon the region), which must be performed in Mexico. For the wedding itself, you will need four witnesses to participate in the civil ceremony.
What could be more romantic than getting married at sea? In fact, this type of ceremony is a rarity, as ship's captains generally do not have the legal right to perform marriages at sea (one must be a judge, a justice of the peace, a minister or an officially recognized officiant such as a Notary Public). Even then, only two cruise lines actually perform weddings at sea: Princess and Cruise West. On the Grand Princess, the Golden Princess and the Star Princess, you can be married in international waters by the ship's captain because these Princess ships are registered in Bermuda and the ships' captains have Bermuda licenses, allowing them to perform these weddings. Cruise West captains can also perform a wedding at sea, but only within Alaska waterways in the areas surrounding Haines, Ketchikan, Juneau, LeConte Glacier, Misty Fjords, Petersburg, Skagway, Sitka, Tracy Arm and Prince William Sound after the captain obtains a temporary permit to officiate your wedding.
For those who seek the style if not necessarily the substance, however, a romantic alternative is to have your wedding aboard ship while it is docked in a port. You need to follow the port's requirements for such a wedding. All cruise lines offer this option. Or you can plan your wedding at a land site on shore while the ship is in port, where local marriage requirements apply.
Back in the U.S.
Of course, destination weddings here in the U.S. are a bit less daunting. For quick and easy, there's nothing quite like Las Vegas -- where there is no waiting period, no blood tests, you can marry on any day of the week and you only require photo ID. Tying the knot at Disney World's wedding pavilion (if you can afford it), is likewise easy: couples wishing to be married in the state of Florida must obtain a license at any courthouse within Florida; proper identification is necessary, as is a certified copy of a birth certificate, but no blood test or waiting period is required. Both bride and groom must be present to obtain the license.
But if you have your heart set on getting married in another state or even abroad, the best advice we can give is this: contact local authorities - either personally or through an intermediary -- well in advance to make certain you've obtained all necessary documentation. That way, when you arrive at your destination you'll be able to relax and enjoy the experience.