Musings of a Beachside Bride

I was married seaside with my toes in the sand under a cloudless Caribbean blue sky. As a former destination bride and a lover of all things weddings & travel, I've married these passions into a rambling of my thoughts, ideas & dreams... enjoy!

Destination Wedding Ceremony: Symbolic vs Legal

I originally posted this in February of 2013...

Destination Wedding Real Wedding

Many of my couples considering a destination wedding are often confused over whether they should have a symbolic or a legal destination wedding ceremony. Each couple needs to decide for themselves which would work best for them.

As a destination wedding specialist I find that each country usually has one option that is easier. Some countries are very easy to get legally married in, while other countries have many and lengthy requirements that often it’s nearly impossible for foreigners to marry there.

The following is a guide to help see the pros and cons of each option so you can make an informed decision about your own destination wedding!

Symbolic Wedding Ceremony

When you choose a symbolic ceremony you’ll need to get married at home prior to departing on your trip. This way, you really do have the most flexibility for where and what you include in your ceremony. Note that some countries do require proof of your marriage on your arrival at the hotel.

Destination Wedding Real Wedding, thumbs up

pros of a symbolic ceremony

  • translation of documents not needed
  • less legal & document fees required
  • usually have more time choices since not determined by officiant availability or minimum stay in country
  • can have a friend or family member ‘marry’ you
  • easier to incorporate any special ceremonies or traditions in ceremony

cons of a symbolic ceremony

  • guests might feel slighted they are not seeing the ‘real’ ceremony
  • you’ll need to pay for a legal ceremony at home prior to departure
  • usually officiated by the wedding coordinator at the resort
  • your legal wedding date will be different from your ‘wedding’ date

legal wedding ceremony

When you choose a legal ceremony, you’ll be following the requirements and traditions of the country you are marrying in. This may require translating your documents to the country’s official language and having your ceremony translated, and there may be restrictions where or when you can get married. For a legal ceremony it’s extremely important to do your homework and be sure you give yourself the time to correctly complete all the documentation and requirements, or your marriage may not end up being legal!

Destination Wedding Real Wedding

pros of a legal ceremony

  • guests will attend your ‘real’ ceremony
  • you’ll have an authentic destination marriage experience
  • you’ll only have one ‘wedding date’ to remember

cons of a legal ceremony

  • you may have to start paperwork months before your wedding
  • you’ll pay fees for translation, courier fees, legal/judge fees & possibly more fees to have your home country recognize the marriage
  • may have to alter ceremony times to the officiant’s availability
  • if you need copies of your marriage certificate, you’ll have to apply back to the original country
  • you may have a lengthy wait for your marriage certificate

At the end of the day, when it comes to destination weddings – there is no right or wrong way to get married. It’s important for you as a couple to decide which option will be the best. And as your Destination Wedding Specialist, I will help guide you through the process!