Some wedding specialists suggest either choosing a location that you have already visited or visiting the location before your wedding to ensure that the place meets your expectations-but that can be expensive. If you have plenty of good information on the location, you've received recommendations from other couples or from travel agents, and you don't mind taking risks, you might want to forgo the visit. If you won't be comfortable making wedding plans without having set foot in the chosen location, visit it first.
Six steps to choosing a suitable location
Start early. It's important to nail down a few possibilities early on. Some wedding specialists suggest you start planning six months to one year in advance. The sooner you can start planning your wedding the better. If you plan well in advance, fewer places will be booked up, and you may be able to take advantage of cheaper prices on flights and lodging. Planning ahead will give you more time to research locations. You will also be able to give your guests plenty of notice so they can schedule vacation time and save up for the trip.
Learn about the legalities. Once you have a few possible locations, find out about the marriage laws in each region. France, for instance, has a forty-day residency requirement, whereas Jamaica has only a one-day residency requirement. Several Caribbean islands have residency requirements of one to ten days. If you want to get married in Cancun, you and your sweetie will be required to submit blood tests and copies of your birth certificates or passports.
In the U.S., laws vary from state to state. Hawaii, for example, simply requires driver's licenses. You can get information about what documents and health tests are needed by contacting the county marriage license bureau. Make sure you ask how long paperwork processing takes.
Many resorts and hotels throughout the world provide wedding coordinators who can help you understand the region's legalities. Some coordinators will even assist you with filing the required paperwork. To get the necessary information on your own, contact the location's tourist office or U.S. consulate or embassy in that country. Some government Web sites and some travel agents are other possible sources of this information. Ask the following questions prior to selecting a location for your wedding.
- What types of documents are needed? Do they have to be translated and/or notarized? Are originals required, or are copies okay?
- What documentation do you need to produce if you are divorced or widowed?
- Is there a residency requirement?
- Are any other waiting periods required?
- Are blood tests or other medical tests required? If so, can your own doctor perform them, or must they be done in the country of marriage?
- How many witnesses are required?
- Are religious wedding ceremonies considered legal, or must they be preceded by a civil ceremony?