Stop a dream destination becoming a legal nightmare

April 30, 2018

Rebecca Harbron Gray, head of  wills, trusts and probate at  Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP, highlights the key things to remember when tying the knot abroad

Getting married abroad is becoming a much more common occurrence for couples looking to escape the unreliable English weather or for a more economical way to make the ultimate commitment to one another.

But aside from choosing the location and venue, preparing wedding invites and securing a catering service, there are some important legal issues and procedures that must be adhered to should a couple choose a destination wedding.

The most important thing to do is check out the legal requirements for getting married or entering into a civil partnership in your chosen country. Often, it is required that a couple be in the country for a minimum period of time before they can give notice of their intent to marry. Couples should ensure that they carefully check the requirements and fees for the giving of such notice to be sure that they can actually get married once they are there. It is worth noting that the notice fees often have to be paid in the local currency too.

Secondly, many countries require couples to complete a formal Statutory Declaration to Marry in the UK before they travel. Ordinarily, the tour operator, wedding venue or wedding planner will provide the requisite wording, but a solicitor will need to prepare and check this for the bride and groom and swear it as the truth in the UK before travel.

It is also important for couples to check that they have all necessary documents before travelling abroad to marry. Of course, a passport is essential, but often the bride and groom will also need their original birth certificate with parents’ names shown, as well as any original decree absolute or final order of annulment or civil partnership dissolution if applicable. If either party has been widowed, they would need their late partner’s death certificate and marriage certificate to prove their ability to be married. If it is a religious ceremony, proof of baptism or christening may also be required.

It isn’t just their own essential travel documents which the bride and groom must consider, they should not forget to gently remind their guests and wedding party about the validity of their own passports. A common mishap occurs when people get caught out by not having enough months left on their passport at the point they are due to travel. Most countries require six months beyond the completion of the trip. Remember to check the entry requirements for the country of your choice at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Finally, marriage revokes a will, so remember to ensure any existing wills are not revoked before travelling by adding a codicil that confirms the intended marriage will not revoke the will. Or, if the couple doesn’t have a will, they should get one made ahead of their big day in contemplation of their marriage. For those who prefer to wait, one can be written up following the wedding.

Gordon Brown Law Firm can assist on matters of wills, trusts and probate, preparing brides and grooms for their wedding no matter what country they choose to marry in. The firm’s team of expert solicitors are experienced in this area, delivering bespoke advice and guidance to engaged couples.

Gordon Brown Law Firm

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