Considerations When Eloping to a Foreign Land

It’s a romantic idea to ditch the big wedding plans and elope to Paris, Tuscany or an Isle in Ireland, isn’t it?  Going to Vegas is always an option, but if Elvis chapels and drive-thru style weddings aren’t your thing and you don’t have the desire or stomach to sort through guest lists, tastings and registries, eloping to another country may sound like a dream wedding and honeymoon in one.  Just make sure you check and double check all requirements in both your own domicile and your wedding locale BEFORE you go.

A marriage performed anywhere is recognized legally anywhere else, as long as you didn’t circumvent laws to marry outside your own domicile, generally.  So if you aren’t hopping the state line to get married to your third husband (without divorcing the first and second) or your wife isn’t 15, or something like that, as long as you follow the local laws to make your marriage legal you will come home man and wife.

You generally need:

  • Original or certified birth certificate
  • Divorce decrees
  • Passports
  • Proof of residence
  • Death certificate of deceased spouse


  • If you want to be married in a church, you must first prove you’ve had a civil service, because church weddings are for fluff in France
  • You may do a civil service at home and bring the paperwork with you to do a blessing ceremony in a church in France
  • You may have a French mayor perform a civil service in France and call it a day, you’re married
  • Make sure the locality doesn’t have any specific rules.

This is because even couples in France have a civil service before they may have a church service.  Wonder what couples do when they don’t want a church service at all?  Evidently, in France, only 3 out of 4 couples ever have a church service because it has no legal significance there.


  • First contact the vital statistics office in the locale where you wish to marry, because rules may vary
  • You must bring with you your birth certificate, your passport and 4 witnesses who know you well to attest that there is no impediment to your being married and take all of that to the Italian Consulate…omgosh, really?
  • Then you must go to the American Consulate to have them create a sworn statement that certifies that you are not marrying in Italy to violate or avoid any law in your domicile
  • Next, you must get the sworn statement authenticated at the local immigration office
  • Next, if you’re both not from Italy, you must go to the Civil Registrar in the locale where you will marry with an interpreter and declare your intent to marry with all of your documents, and set a date for your civil ceremony
  • Then the registrar will post a notice on the commune for 1 – 12 days (presumably, if no objections, you can marry); some locales waive it, check your intended locale
  • The mayor or an assistant will then perform your civil ceremony on your date when you appear together with your interpreter and two witnesses over 18 years old with identification
  • If you want a religious ceremony as well, that can be arranged, but Italy does not legally recognize non-Catholic religious wedding ceremonies, so you will be required to do a civil ceremony for your marriage to be legal.
  • If you wish to have a Catholic ceremony, it will take a month minimum to get the correct paperwork, including documents from your local parish, and approval from the Italian archbishop, however, this marriage is legal, so a civil ceremony isn’t necessary if you are both Catholic or if one of you is not Catholic but your local parish sent a Non-Objection Declaration and if neither of you is divorced, unless you have a valid annulment recognized by the Catholic church.  What a mouthful.  Gives me  a headache to read the requirements

Italy looking good to you about now?   How about…


  • Officials in Ireland want to know 3 months before you plan to marry, notify the local officials.  They will inform you about paperwork, fees, and any other requirements of their locale
  • Weddings are only allowed in a church or a registry office, otherwise you can do a civil ceremony first and then a blessing outside
  • Paperwork must be perfect or you have to start over, 3 months, remember?
  • Residency – you must live where you intend to marry for at least 7 days, even foreigners.  Even then, they impose a 21 day wait period after you meet the 7 day residency to apply for a license.  Long pre-honeymoon?
  • Bonuses – Ireland is full of castles, and they come cheap for a wedding blessing ceremony or reception…but you’re eloping, right?

Makes Napa Valley sound pretty nice right about now, doesn’t it?  Maybe a honeymoon in Paris, the Irish Countryside or the Amalfi Coast would be more relaxing?

Wherever you elope, make sure you know before you go.


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