Friday, February 23, 2007

First things First – Is it legal?

As we planned our destination wedding, our first question was whether a foreign marriage was recognized in the U.S. Is it legal? Are we really going to be married?

The U.S. State Department actually has a website for U.S. citizens interested in getting married in a foreign country.

You need to follow the legal procedures of the country where you will be married. Most countries have residency requirements (the length of time before the wedding you need to be in the country). In the Bahamas, the residency requirement was one day.

You will need to show legal documentation (usually your passports), but could also include birth certificates, death certificates (widow/widower) and/or divorce decrees. Since this was the first marriage for both us, we only needed our passports and copies of our birth certificates. In the Bahamas, we also needed to go through a brief interview with a local official (about 10 minutes). We did not need to do a blood test, which can be a major issue for some people getting married in some countries.

The other major issue that people encounter is getting their marriage certificates/licenses translated into English (which is required for your marriage to be legal in the U.S.). The official language of the Bahamas was English, so we did not have any troubles.

We wisely obtained multiple notarized copies of our license, which has come in handy since we got home. We needed extra copies of the license for Laura to change her name with various companies, with the government on her passport, etc.

In the Bahamas, we received our official government marriage license, but we also received two copies of the ceremonial Bahamian wedding registry. The signing of the Bahamian registry is actually part of the wedding ceremony (see photo at right).

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we did not need to register our marriage with the state. We have had no problems buying a house, changing Laura’s name or changing our health insurance/401ks with our employers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi I got married in 2002, sandals Bahamas. Unfortunately I have now separated from my partner, but hes saying as we only have a Bahamas register we r not legally married? I've noticed from ur pic signing the same book as us, did u get a marriage certificates also?