Walking down the aisle abroad: How to prepare for an overseas wedding

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No one wants to wake up to a dull and cloudy sky on their wedding day. It won’t affect your special day, but it’s annoying all the same. Along with losing the wedding rings, messing up the catering, and guests not showing up, couples everywhere dread the weather not being on their side. Overseas weddings are now more popular than ever before, with the number of couples opting to tie the knot on foreign shores steadily increasing – and with sunny skies pretty much guaranteed, it’s easy to see why.

Many couples already have the location of their dreams in mind, but it’s always wise to check local laws and regulations before you make your final decision. Here are some rules which apply to some of the world’s most popular wedding destinations.

1.      France

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Pictured: A couple who tied the knot in Paris

You can only legally marry in France if it’s in a civil ceremony at the mairie (or local council office). A religious ceremony can follow this afterwards but getting married in France can be difficult if you don’t have a clear connection to the country. The paperwork required for non-French nationals to marry in the country involves applying for a special dispensation, but without a clear connection to the country this can be difficult to secure. Common requirements are that you or your partner have a link to the area by either living there or having a parent who lives there (since 2013).

There’s also a 30 day minimum stay requirement before you can legally get married. You can’t avoid paperwork with weddings abroad, and in France you’ll need an Affidavit of Law, stating that you are able to marry and that the union will be recognised at home. At least 10 days before you wed, you’ll need to contact the mairie and submit a marriage application, where documents will be supplied and stamped with an Apostille stamp. After the application passes, you’ll need to marry no less than 10 days and no more than 1 year after the application has qualified. Remember to apply to the mairie again to receive your official wedding certificate! Alternatively, some couples choose to legally marry in their home country at a registrar’s office, then hold a religious or symbolic wedding in France at any venue.

English-speaking priests are available in some French churches so that you don’t get mixed up during the vows. In terms of French custom, the tables turn in France and the groom walks his mother down the aisle before greeting his wife-to-be! There are also no bridesmaids or groomsmen in French tradition, with only witnesses required. Keep the drinks flowing and opt to have a classic French champagne tower — we’re sure your guests will enjoy this! The French also have a way to help fend off that impending hangover, and the solution is by serving onion soup to your guests later in the night.

2.      Italy

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Italy is extremely popular with Brits as a wedding destination. The Italian countryside and guaranteed sunshine makes for a magical and picturesque ceremony. The Amalfi Coast, Umbria and Venice are all popular choices for couples looking to add a quintessentially Italian charm to their special day.

You can hold a legally recognised civil ceremony or a religious ceremony in Italy, and symbolic/humanist weddings are also allowed in the country. Although Catholicism is the dominant religion in Italy, weddings of all faiths are acknowledged. In non-Catholic cases, a civil ceremony must be an element of the marriage ceremony in order to confirm legality. There are no residency requirements in Italy, but as per the required documentation is mandatory — the Affidavit is a standard requirement, stating that there is no legal impediment of your marriage in your home country. If your partner happens to be an Italian citizen, then you also won’t need to apply for a visa in order to get hitched. An Atto Notorio is required in Italy though, and this will need to be signed by two witnesses.

You’ll also need to head to the town hall three weeks before the wedding in order to declare your intent to marry. After you have done so, you can officially set the date! Once again, an Apostille stamp will be used to verify your marriage license in law, and you can then relax and enjoy plenty of Italy’s finest produce — wine! In terms of traditions to follow, take heed of the Italian’s belief that Sunday is a day of good fortune, perfect for weddings! Pack a satin pouch and invite guests to exchange money for a dance with the star of the show, and then get everyone up and moving to the ‘tarantellla’ a notorious ‘dance of the spider’. Vase breaking is also a part of custom in Italy, as the number of pieces it breaks into are regarded as symbols of many happy years of marriage.

3.      Spain

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Picture taken in Fuertaventura, Spain

Get your pre-wedding glow started and take your ceremony to Spain, where Malaga, Palma and the Cadiz countryside have hosted many stunning ceremonies. Most British couples will choose to have a civil ceremony at a registrar’s office in the UK, then travel to Spain and have their ceremony. Having all the necessary paperwork is a given, but you might be required to obtain proof that both parties are able to marry provided by your home country’s embassy. It could also be worthwhile to check how long the processing of documentation will take. If you are having a civil ceremony in Spain then there is an application process to account for and some Spanish registrar offices will require that you are in the country for as much as a month prior to your wedding day!

There are a few wedding conventions to account for in Spain, including having orange blossoms, the traditional flower which many Spanish brides choose as a symbol of fulfilment and happiness. Mantilla’s are also the headpiece of choice, a lace garment to consider adding to your outfit on the big day. Make sure you have enough room in your luggage for wedding favours, as it is customary for the new couple to greet guests after the ceremony with a little something to say thanks. Also, grooms heading off to marry in Spain shouldn’t be too precious with the tie they choose, as Spanish tradition dictates that the tie is a symbol of good luck and should be cut into pieces at the wedding reception, auctioned off to guests in the crowd.

Also, make sure you have plenty of change handy — if you want to follow Spanish custom, then the husband will need to present his new wife with 13 gold coins, representing Jesus and his 12 apostles, but this also acts as a symbol of the promise of the groom to provide for the family.

Of course, there’s still a place for traditional country house weddings in the UK – but if you fancy something a little different it is entirely possible to fulfil your dream of getting married abroad. Just ensure that you’ve planned in advance — and if you want to feel like a local, then add a unique twist to your big day by following one of the traditions of the area!

Main header image by: Orlova Maria via Unsplash. We’re very proud to bring you this feature in association with Angelic Diamonds. For more features, please pay a visit to our lifestyle page.

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