Wedding Ceremonies

Many couples considering a destination wedding are often confused over whether they should have a symbolic or a legal destination wedding ceremony.  Each couple needs to decide for themselves which would work best for them.

Some countries are very easy to get legally married in, while other countries have many and lengthy requirements that can often make it very complicated to marry there.

The following is a guide that has been put together by destination wedding professionals to help illustrate the pros and cons of each option so that you can make an informed decision about your own destination wedding!  


There are two types of Symbolic ceremonies.  One is a Renewal of Vows ceremony and the other is a true 'symbolic' non-legal ceremony.  When you choose a Renewal of Vows ceremony you’ll need to get married at home prior to departing on your trip.  This way, you really do have the most flexibility for where and what you include in your ceremony. Note that some countries do require proof of your marriage on your arrival at the hotel.   

Pros Of A Symbolic Ceremony

  • translation of documents not needed

  • less legal & document fees required

  • usually have more time choices since not determined by officiant availability or minimum stay in country

  • can have a friend or family member ‘marry’ you

  • easier to incorporate any special ceremonies or traditions in ceremony

Cons Of A Symbolic Ceremony

  • guests might feel slighted they are not seeing the ‘real’ ceremony if there is no officiant

  • you’ll need to pay for a legal ceremony at home prior to departure

  • usually officiated by the wedding coordinator at the resort

  • your legal wedding date will be different from your ‘wedding’ date 


When you choose a legal ceremony, you’ll be following the requirements and traditions of the country you are marrying in.  Check out the tab for  Destination Requirements!  This may require translating your documents to the country’s official language and having your ceremony translated, and there may be restrictions where or when you can get married. For a legal ceremony, it is extremely important to do your homework and be sure you give yourself the time to correctly complete all the documentation and requirements, or your marriage may not end up being legal!

Pros Of A Legal Ceremony

  • guests will attend your ‘real’ ceremony

  • you’ll have an authentic destination marriage experience

  • you’ll only have one ‘wedding date’ to remember

Cons Of A Legal Ceremony

  • you may have to start paperwork months before your wedding

  • you’ll pay fees for translation, courier fees, legal/judge fees & possibly more fees to have your home country recognize the marriage

  • may have to alter ceremony times to the officiant’s availability

  • if you need copies of your marriage certificate, you’ll have to apply back to the original country

  • you may have a lengthy wait for your marriage certificate

Ultimately, when it comes to destination weddings – there is no right or wrong way to get married.  It’s important for you as a couple to determine what best works for your individual situation.  Part of my work as a Destination Wedding Specialist is to take the stress out of your wedding planning and I will certainly help to guide you through the process.