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Getting Married Abroad? Mistakes to Avoid!


Article by Joanne Major

It might soon be possible to get married on an EasyJet flight out of Newcastle, which would certainly bring a new meaning to walking down the aisle! If you can resist the romance of saying “I do” in seat 17G and can manage to wait until you get off the plane then you’ll be like many couples choosing to marry abroad. The attractions are many, from more predictable weather and avoiding the in-laws to taking advantage of lower costs and combining the ceremony with the honeymoon. But beware, it may not be entirely happily ever after.  

 Make sure your marriage will be recognised in your own country

The validity of your marriage abroad and whether or not it is recognised in your own country is important.  Invalid marriages have far reaching implications for children’s legitimacy; financial considerations should the marriage break down and your own immigration status.  Only a court can recognise a marriage which took place outside of the UK under foreign local law. Generally speaking a marriage will be recognised providing that it complied with the law of the country where it took place and the couple have the legal capacity under the laws of domicile.  For example in France, having bought your renovated chateau in the Rhone Valley it may be an obvious choice for your religious ceremony but be warned, the civil marriage needs to take place first and foremost.  If you get the ceremonies the wrong way round then zut alores! your marriage will be invalid.

 Consider the split between Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, after the High Court ruled that their six hour Hindu wedding in Bali was invalid under both Indonesian and English law. This so called “marriage that never was” was thus annulled rather than dissolved and Jagger and Hall were found to be cohabitants rather that husband and wife. As a result Mick Jagger’s lawyers reduced Jerry Hall’s claims from a rumoured £30m to £10m of his £160m fortune.

Have your paperwork in order at least 8 weeks before the wedding ceremony

 If you are planning a wedding abroad you should contact the embassy of the country you are visiting and find out which documents you need to take. You should ensure all paperwork is in order at least eight weeks prior to your departure and check to see if any official documents are required, as sometimes documents need to be certified by a qualified solicitor.  Otherwise those long awaited nuptials could prove an expensive business if you are having to make a return trip to collect a copy of your Decree Absolute, the legacy following the breakdown of your “first happy ever after event”.

 Couples should seek legal advice about the validity of their marriage and retain all official documentation as evidence of their marital status. While it is not possible to register an overseas marriage in the UK, marriage documents from some countries, including translations, can be deposited with the General Registry Office, via the Foreign Office, to form a record. It is often the case that the more exotic the location of the wedding the more expensive it is to get hold of replacement documents. 

Even if the EasyJet option isn’t for you, it would be “plane stupid” not to get some legal advice on your wedding abroad.

 If you are unsure about the validity of your marriage or are planning on getting married abroad and have any questions concerning this article, then please take legal advice

 Guest article by  Joanne Major of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists.

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