If you’re thinking about getting married abroad, you may be wondering about some of the practicalities and legalities involved. Here are some of the most important things you need to consider to make sure your destination wedding takes place when, where and how you want it and with minimum hassle!

Choosing your Destination

It’s official, more and more Irish couples are heading abroad for the destination wedding of their dreams. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFA), most of these weddings take place in other EU countries, with Italy, Portugal and Spain taking the top three spots on the list.

When you’re deciding on a location for your wedding abroad, think about how easy it is to access the country you want to get married in. Will you need a visitor’s visa or any other documentation to gain entry? Are there specific requirements regarding residency or citizenship that must be fulfilled before you can get married there?

The staff at the DFA are very approachable in this regard and can provide you with further information on this. You’ll find their information on getting married abroad really accessible, and easy to follow.

Certificate of Freedom to Marry

If you want to get married outside Ireland, you may need to apply for a “Certificate of Freedom to Marry,” (also known as Letter of Freedom/Certificate de Coutume/Nulla Osta.)  This is a document issued by the DFA to confirm that as far as the Irish State is concerned, you’re free to marry. It’s not an Irish prerequisite, but may be required by the country you want to get married in.

You must apply online for your Letter of Freedom. The link here will show you how to do that, as well as give you details of the supporting documents you’ll need for your application. There’s a window of four to six months before your wedding date in which you need to apply, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get this document drawn up, so you can produce it to the country in which you intend to get married.

The process for doing this is pretty similar in many countries. But my advice is to thoroughly research the requirements of whatever country you’re looking at and really do your homework on this. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the procedure will be the same as in Ireland. Ultimately if you want to get married abroad, you need to abide by their systems and their rules. Contact the civil registration office in the country where you want to get married to find out exactly what you need to do.

Unexpected Costs and Requirements

Only when you start researching the requirements for marriage abroad will any additional costs and steps in the process become apparent, so it pays to start planning and investigating as soon as you can. Keep a close eye on your wedding finances and remember, late application fees for documentation can be almost double in some cases.

Make it Legal and Binding

I’m a solemniser with Spiritual Ceremonies, and the ceremonies that we perform are legally-binding, which means there’s no need for a separate ceremony to make things legal and official. You have one ceremony and on the day and time of your choice.

Be aware that this may not be the case with ceremonies that take place abroad. Some countries require you to take care of the civil part of the wedding (the legally-binding part) first before your religious ceremony, which may then be just a blessing. This is important to keep in mind if you’re looking at having a church wedding abroad – do take time to check it out properly.

Personalizing your Ceremony

When you’re researching your ceremony options abroad, take time to find out how much input you can have in designing a ceremony that’s personalised and meaningful for you and your partner. Even if you’re thinking of a religious ceremony, don’t be put off by the formality of that. Ask questions and do your research. You may find you have more freedom than you expected to make it your own.

Seek Advice from the Professionals

To make sure you stay on the right track, take the word of the professionals who know their stuff in this area. There are so many wedding planners who specialise in helping couples get married abroad, so get in touch with them and make use of their expertise. Anne-Marie McDonagh based in Crete and wedding planner in DreamWeddingsCrete and Rosie Meleady who specializes in destination weddings to Italy are just a couple of wedding planners you could follow get some tips from.

Even if your friend, your sister, your brother or another family member, went through what seems to be the same process, go and do the research yourself.  Every situation is different, and laws and requirements change Just because your brother got married there without needing that piece of paperwork doesn’t mean that you won’t require it now! So do a little bit of work and lay the foundations to help things go smoothly.

I know I’ve given you a lot to think about here.  And I don’t want to add to your wedding planning workload.But doing a little research and investigation early on is going to save you a lot of  potential headaches closer to the wedding date. The last thing you want is a situation where you think you have everything in hand, only to find out that one vital piece of paperwork wasn’t submitted and your application falls through. Nightmare!

Wherever you choose to get married, I hope that your day is amazing.  And remember if it’s somewhere warmer and sunnier than Ireland, (which wouldn’t be that difficult!) wear sunscreen and wear a hat! You definitely don’t want that sunburn captured for eternity in your photos!

Are you thinking about a destination wedding? Will it be warm and sunny or a winter wonderland? A rustic farmhouse in Tuscany or on a beach in the Maldives? I’d love to hear about your plans in the comments below!