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The ease with which an American may marry legally outside of the United States varies by destination, with some locations requiring more paperwork than others. And while you may already be expecting to bring along the basics – passports, copies of birth certificates, etc. – your luxury elopement destination may require documents that are completely unfamiliar to you. Below is an overview of the most common documents* you probably haven't heard of (or realized some foreign countries may require), plus info on how to obtain what you need. 


Birth Cert

Why You May Need Them: Birth certificates for the bride and groom will often be required when applying for a marriage license in a foreign country, and photocopies will not suffice – original or certified copies are almost always necessary for verification even if you've sent/faxed photocopies of the documents to your planner or a government office in advance.


How You Can Get Them: If you don't have a certified copy of your birth certificate and aren't comfortable traveling with the original, you can request one from the Department of Public Health or County Recorder's Office of the state or county in which you were born, respectively. Keep in mind that online processing can take up to six weeks, and you'll need to submit a notarized sworn statement that you are authorized to receive the copy, so you may want to consider going through the motions in person. Note: Make sure that you request a certified copy that is valid for proof of identity; an informational copy will not be accepted.


Required In: Aruba; Jamaica; Turks & Caicos; Cabo San Lucas; CancunFiji; Italy

Single Marital Status


Why You May Need Them: Most elopement-friendly countries (including the U.S.) require proof that you're legally free to marry only if you've been wed before. However, some foreign destinations (and the rules may vary by city or region) also require proof if you've never been married, often referred to as a Certificate of No Impediment, a Certificate of Freedom to Marry, or, in the case of Italy, an Atto Notorio.


How You Can Get Them: The U.S. equivalent of those documents is an Affidavit of Single Marital Status, and you can obtain one before leaving the states by making a sworn statement in front of a consular officer at the nearest embassy of the country you plan to marry in. You may also have your lawyer prepare the document and have it notarized, or make a sworn statement at the American embassy or consulate once you arrive at your destination.


Required In: Aruba; Turks & Caicos; Italy



Why You May Need Them: Many foreign countries require that the signatures on your public documents be authenticated with an apostille, which draws its name from the treaty that allows documents issued in one signatory state to retain its legal status for use in another.  The apostille itself takes the form of a standardized printed form or seal obtained from a "competent authority," defined by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, which varies by the origin of the document.


How You Can Get Them: The three tiers of U.S. authorities competent to issue an apostille certificate are as follows:


  • The U.S. Department of State Authentication Office affixes apostilles to documents issued by Federal agencies of the United States.

  • The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Passport Services, Vital Records Section affixes apostilles to Consular Reports of Birth, Death and Marriage of U.S. Citizens abroad

  • The Clerks and Deputy Clerks of the Federal Courts of the United States are authorized to issue apostilles on documents issued by those courts. As an alternative, the U.S. Department of Justice may authenticate the seal of the Federal court and the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office will then place an apostille over that seal.


Required In: Aruba; Turks & Caicos; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Cancun, Mexico; Italy




Why You May Need Them: If the language printed on your documents isn't the official language of the destination you plan to elope to, you may be expected to provide translated copies in addition to the originals. In order to qualify as a "certified" copy, the translation(s) and the original document(s) must be accompanied by an affidavit signed by the translator (or representative of the translation service) stating that the translation is accurate and the translator competent to translate, and then notarized.


How You Can Get Them: You can usually obtain certified translations before leaving the United States through a translation service or agency, sometimes with same-day turnaround. However, some countries may require that their consulate certify the translations, in which case you will need to make an appointment approximately two weeks ahead of time to process it in person at the applicable consulate nearest you.


Required In: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Cancun, Mexico; Italy


*Published information is provided as a convenience to users and is for informational purposes only. You should verify all information before relying on it. See our complete Terms of Service for more details.

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