Tag Archives: Symbolic Ceremony

Destination Wedding Ceremonies: Understanding the Difference Between Legal & Symbolic Weddings

When planning a destination wedding, there is a lot more to consider than just deciding where you’ll hold the ceremony. One of the first questions many couples ask about planning a destination wedding is whether they will be legally married when they tie the knot in their chosen country. Destination weddings are huge in popularity at the moment, it’s important to know exactly what your options are as far as a legal wedding versus a symbolic wedding ceremony so that you can make the best decision for your happily ever after.

If you want to know: what is a legal wedding, what is a symbolic wedding ceremony and which one should you choose, then this article below will help give you your answers. It’s important to understand the options you have so that you can make the best decision for you. We will go into detail on how each style works, and why choosing one over the other could be right for you. And, if you have any questions about this topic, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Destination Weddings Are More Popular Than Ever

In the past couple of years, destination weddings have experienced a surge in popularity. So much so that the trend is making its way across to those who would otherwise not have considered it.

If you’re planning to get married in a different country, you will probably be faced with the decision between a legal and symbolic wedding and may be wondering, “what the heck is a symbolic wedding?” or, “is a symbolic wedding legal”, or “what’s the difference between a symbolic ceremony and a civil ceremony?”

This article is going to give you the deets on both a legal (civil) destination wedding ceremony and a symbolic destination wedding ceremony so that you can decide which is best for you.

What is Required For a Legal Ceremony Away?

Documents You May Need

Just like you would experience in your State, there will be documents and proof of identity required, along with any licensing fees. Some countries require notarized copies of your passport, divorce decree, or legal name change. Others will require translation of the documents into their language.

Ceremony Officiated in Language of That Country

Additionally, when doing a legal ceremony in a country where English is not their native
language, there is no guarantee that your wedding will be officiated in English. In this case, a translator (usually the onsite wedding planner) will translate what the officiant says.

Government Fees

Then there will be government fees involved, and possibly a blood test done on-site.


Some countries will require witnesses (who are not related to you) to arrive with you on the same day.

Residency Requirement

Beyond that, most countries will also require a residency. For example, a requirement may be a 4-day residency and only business days (Monday-Friday) count toward your residency. Others may have a requirement of 48 hours and you can arrive any day of the week.

A Legal Ceremony is Nothing to Worry About

Don’t let this scare you! Some countries are super easy to get legally married in. It all varies, so I generally advise my clients to do what is best for them based on the country they decide to get married in.

Be Flexible

I also suggest being flexible. You may be going into planning a legal destination wedding
abroad assuming that you’ll be able to make it legally binding in the destination. Don’t let this pigeonhole you into only a handful of options.

Benefits of a legal/civil marriage:

  • The moment you say “I Do” in front of your friends and family is the real deal.
  • You won’t have to decide which day to celebrate your anniversary.
  • In my book, it’s kind of cool to say you were legally married in “Mexico!”

What You Need to Know About A Symbolic Ceremony

Second, let’s discuss the mystery of the symbolic wedding and what you need to know.
Essentially, a symbolic wedding looks and sounds just like a civil wedding, it just isn’t legally binding. It is like a commitment ceremony or a renewal of vows.

Avoiding Extra Hoops to Jump Through

The purpose of choosing a symbolic destination wedding would be to avoid the legal
requirements to get married in another country. Maybe due to the hassle, or possibly due to the cost.

Can Ensure Everyone Can Celebrate

Sometimes, couples will have certain family members who won’t be able to travel with them, so they choose to get married in the States before heading to their destination so that those family members can be a part of the union.

You Will Need Proof You Are Married

No matter your reason, with a symbolic destination wedding you will want to get married before heading to the destination because the country you are heading to will want a copy of your marriage records. To them, your ceremony is like a vow renewal, and they want to ensure you are legally married before officiating your ceremony. Make sense?

Benefits of a Symbolic Wedding Ceremony

  • Less expensive
  • Not as much paperwork
  • No residency requirements
  • No translation of documents
  • Ceremony can be officiated by a family member or friend

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember about your destination wedding ceremony, is to do what will make you and your soon to be spouse most happy. It doesn’t matter how you decide to get married; what matters is that it is done in a way that makes you both comfortable. After all, a wedding isn’t all about the paperwork.

Both a legal and a symbolic wedding ceremony can be valuable in different ways. If you like the idea of getting married without a lot of extra legal and financial hoops to jump through, then a symbolic ceremony might work for you. On the other hand, if you want or need to make your union official the actual day you get married in your destination, then a legal wedding is going to be better for you!

If you are in the midst of planning your destination wedding and feel like you’re stuck
and not getting very far, I encourage you to use this link, to schedule a free 30-minute
strategy session with me
! I would be honored to help your figure out everything
you need for an amazing destination wedding (legal or symbolic)!