Desktop and Tablet header image Mobile header image

helping brides create beautiful weddings without breaking the bank

Destination Weddings

Okay, this is something destination brides are probably familiar with, but probably not so much if you are getting married locally (read: in the same country in which you live).

Turns out, legal requirements of a wedding are different everywhere. To get legally married in most countries requires paperwork (and often the ceremony) to be in the official language of that country. That can be interesting when you do not speak the language (for example, I only know “traveller's Spanish – “Where is the restroom?” “No, I do not speak Spanish,” and a few other key phrases). Some countries require blood work (looking at you, Mexico) and most require you to be in a country a specific number of days prior to saying your “I Do's”.

All of this stress and confusion and paperwork and such leads most – if not all – destination couples to sit down and wonder, “Should we get married before our wedding?”

I know what you are thinking. “Wait? What? What does that mean? Legally married BEFORE your wedding? How does that make sense?”

Basically, this means that your license and everything is taken care of before you leave for your destination wedding, so, technically, you are already married when you have your actual wedding at your destination.

Legally married BEFORE your wedding

To begin with, Brandon and I swore that would NOT be happening. We wanted our wedding to be our only wedding. Then we started looking into the requirements, discussing options, looking at prices… and changed our minds. We talked about doing a legal ceremony as a way to include grandparents, since they would not be able to travel, but some drama started to develop, so we nixed that plan. But the more we looked into it, the more our practical sides shoved themselves forward. So we boiled it down to the following:

PROS: It is easier and cheaper to do our legal ceremony ahead of time.

CONS: It could take away from the “specialness” of Dominican wedding.

The more I talked to previous destination brides, the more our minds were swayed. Every single one we talked to who got legally married ahead of time did not regret doing it that way, and we talked to a few who did their legal “stuff” at their location, who did regret it (lost paperwork, problems with the language, judges and ministers, and so on). We became convinced that we could have a legal ceremony and have it add to, not take away from, what we see as our actual wedding on the beach. We are really viewing it as part of the planning process, another thing on the “to-do” list leading up to our actual big day. This is how we are trying to keep it that way:

1. We are only having two witnesses – the requirement. We are either going to ask his parents or a couple who are good friends of ours. Our dog may also be joining us.

2. We are not buying new clothes. I have a white simple sundress (I actually wore it to my bridal shower already) and Brandon will also wear something out of his closet. We will keep it nice, but casual. Not too fancy!

3. We pared down the ceremony to as short as legally possible. While we agreed to do the ceremony outside, in a nice place where we have gone hiking here in the city, it will probably take longer to walk to the site from the parking lot than the actual ceremony. We have the legal statements, shortened vows (they are required), and signing the certificate. All in all, it might take 6 minutes.

4. We are not exchanging rings until our wedding on the beach.

5. We are thinking of July 18 – our beach wedding date – as our anniversary.

6. We chose to get legally married after work one day. We might go out for supper after. Maybe. We decided to have the ceremony a couple weeks before we leave on our trip, so we can focus on planning and last minute details afterwards.

7. We are not having traditions, really. I am not walking down the aisle, we are not having music, and so on.

8. We are not broadcasting to the world that we are doing the “legal stuff” ahead of time. If people ask, we do not lie, but we are pretty discreet and vague in general about it all. We do not want to lie, but we also know that it is hard for people to see our actual wedding – on the beach – as a real wedding when they know we are technically legally married ahead of time.

9. I will be changing my name, but I am not going by my new name until after the Dominican.

10. We are referring to our legal ceremony as our “legal day”, and our destination day as our “wedding”. It is amazing the difference it makes just to think of them with different labels.

So what do you think of this idea of being married before our wedding? Would you do it this way too, or would you “bite the bullet” and go through everything else to get legally married on that day?

Share this post:

About Krysta

Krysta is a 28-year-old teacher living in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. When she is not planning or marking essays and poetry, she loves reading, watching tv and movies, crafting, hanging out with her pets, and of course, her fiancé. She is planning a destination wedding for July 18, 2013 in the beautiful Dominican Republic.

Connect with Krysta
  • Rachel

    Sounds like a good plan to me!

    This is actually quite common in other parts of the world — the only way to get married is with a civil ceremony (a religious officiant cannot make you married in the eyes of the law). So the couple has their civil ceremony one day and the wedding on another. For my friend in Uruguay, her civil ceremony actually ended up being several months after her wedding! There was a list and she just got assigned a date.

    So never fear, tradition is different everywhere. So you choose the traditions / set up that works for you. Your wedding date/wedding is what/when you choose to make it!

  • Alexis

    My fiance and I are planning on doing something similar, though we are not having a destination wedding. We’re having a friend officiate – a non-minister/judge/whatever – and the legalities of having someone ordained online perform a wedding are tricky in Pennsylvania.

    We also don’t want to get married before we get married but if it’s the only way to guarantee our marriage will be legal, well, what can we do? We’re planning on doing it much the way you and you fiance are and I think both ceremonies can still be special and meaningful without the first overshadowing the second.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!