We’ve all seen those idyllic romantic shots of the bride and groom on the beach in bare feet wandering into the sunset in some gorgeous foreign clime. Getting married abroad complete with white sandy beaches and sunny surrounds is an increasingly popular choice for Brits.

Organisation is key to creating your perfect wedding

Organisation is key to creating your perfect wedding

Organisation is key to creating your perfect wedding. This is especially true when it comes to planning a wedding abroad, not least because you want to be sure the marriage itself will be recognised back home.   Here are five things you should consider if you are dreaming of the perfect wedding abroad.

Legal requirements

The legalities for getting married vary from country to country. Some countries have residency requirements, for instance, as well as rules about what type of ceremony and who carries out such a ceremony. So it is worth checking the necessities with the embassy or consulate in your chosen destination to be absolutely clear.

To be able to marry in France, for example, you would need to have a civil marriage before a religious ceremony. Indeed, to even get that far one of you would have to have lived in France for at least 40 days prior to the wedding to comply with the residency requirement.

One way some couples use to cut through some of the red tape, is to get married in the UK first and then have a blessing or symbolic ceremony overseas.

Papers

It is common that you will have to submit official documentation to allow you to have a wedding in another country. This tends to mean birth certificates, any divorce documentation and a Certificate of No Impediment (a document which states that you are free to marry). Again, you should contact the local consulate or embassy for details. You should also check if any of the documents require to be legalised, authenticated or translated. There is a helpful tool to check the requirements for each country on gov.uk/marriage-abroad. 

After the ceremony, if possible, obtain several certified copies of the extract marriage certificate locally, as you may need these in the future and they can be difficult or time-consuming to obtain from the UK. 

Will your marriage be valid in the UK?

Generally speaking, if you follow the legal requirements for a valid marriage in the country in which you marry your marriage contract will be considered valid in the UK. That is so long as you had capacity (that is, legal ability in terms of your age, consent and mental awareness) to marry in the UK at the time of the foreign nuptials.

A foreign marriage does not need to be, nor can it be, registered in the UK.   

A Prenuptial agreement - or not?

If marrying abroad, you need to be very careful that you don't inadvertently enter into a pre-nup!  Some countries have a "tick box" on the marriage application form to enter into a particular maintenance or statutory matrimonial property regime.  Due to international conventions, this could be recognised as a ‘maintenance agreement’ which might adversely affect your ability to make claims in the future. 

If you do choose to enter into a pre-nup, whilst the thought of this can seem unromantic, it could be invaluable should your marriage break down in the future. It is a practice that, while still relatively rare, is increasing in popularity. If you or your partner has pre-established wealth, a pre-nup could be of particular relevance. A pre-nup should be drawn up in accordance with the law of where you intend to live once you are married. So you should consult with a local family law solicitor in the UK at least six months prior to your wedding to avoid adding to any pre-wedding stress!

Location, location, location

Without wanting to be negative, not all relationships end happily ever after.

There is a common misconception that where you get married impacts upon where you would get divorced should your marriage break down. In actual fact, it is the country that you live in or that you are domiciled in when the marriage breaks down that is relevant in terms of a divorce. Subject to the comments above about unintended ‘pre nups’, choosing to marry abroad will therefore not affect your future legal rights should you separate or divorce in the future.

By Anna Maitles, International family law specialist at Morton Fraser