Wedding travel is a journey by a couple about to get married, so as to have a wedding far from home. These are often called "destination weddings" and can serve as a reason for the couple's friends and relatives as well as the marrying couple to have a vacation elsewhere.
Other reasons for wedding travel include more liberal marriage legislation at the destination, and cases where the wedding destination is easier for some friends and relatives. Getting married on a trip without friends and family is an elopement.
There can be many reasons why couples marry away from their home town: legislation, costs, getting closer to their friends and family (or further away from them), being in a place of sentimental or religious value to the couple, or enjoying great scenery.
The destination might have more liberal laws for same-sex marriage or marriage across ethnic or religious groups. Historically, some couples have established legal precedents through Supreme Court cases demanding local recognition for marriages from distant but liberal jurisdictions. Loving v. Virginia earned a Washington, D.C. interracial marriage recognition by the state of Virginia; US v. Windsor earned a Toronto same-sex marriage US federal recognition. Both landmark cases made the types of marriage involved legal in all fifty states.
Recent immigrants or mixed-nationality couples may choose to have a ceremony in "the old country" or in a location relatively easy for guests to reach. Legal requirements for marriage may also be a lot less onerous in some third country.
Conversely, eloping to a distant tropical beach some Valentine's Day may merely be a way to get away from a cold Northern Hemisphere winter. Elopements may be spurred by reasons ranging from a dislike of being the center of attention, to keeping the costs down, to avoiding all of the fuss and bother and work of planning a large social event. They are also chosen by people who want to avoid unpleasant scenes with a difficult family member, such as when the parents' marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce or key loved ones are not on speaking terms. The classic reason for elopement is parental disapproval of the match, but this is much less common nowadays, as many fewer places require parental approval for marriages between adults.
The requirements to be wed (as foreigners) at the destination will usually differ from those at home. Make sure you can be wed there and that all needed paperwork is ready in time. You should also carefully check that your marriage is recognized at home – or what your status is if it is not recognized.
Research your chosen country's laws carefully. Some countries (such as France) impose a minimum residency requirement for couples before marriage. In Kenya, the minimum age to get married is 21. Mexico requires a tourist permit to get married, with only a civil marriage recognized as legal. Especially when both partners are from different countries, a marriage in a third country - sometimes not even the country of residence of the couple - may be a lot easier and less bureaucratic hassle. Even inside the European Union or strongly federal countries marriage law may differ significantly on such points, so research ahead carefully.
In many countries marriage usually includes both a religious procedure and a civil one, while in others the religious procedure is recognized by the civil authorities and an alternative to civil marriage (or the only procedure recognized). Where civil marriage is enshrined in law there is often a mandate or very strong social tradition that the civil marriage be done first and religious institutions may refuse to schedule a religious wedding before the civil wedding. Also where clergy have the mandate to wed, clergy of other denominations may not have it. In some countries the church will wed only members, or only heterosexual couples, while still offering a similar procedure to bless a civil marriage between persons they would not or did not wed. Know what procedures you want and what the possibly differing requirements are. Another issue may arise from marrying when a former spouse is still alive as some denominations refuse to recognize some or all forms of divorce and annulment.
Most countries require some sort of license be obtained a specified amount of time in advance, which in turn requires documentation of identity and evidence that neither partner is already married. Some may require your documents be translated into the local language. Local laws vary in the amount of time required between the license and the ceremony; while some allow the license to be obtained a few days in advance or even same-day, lodging a Notice of Intended Marriage in Australia incurs a one month minimum notice period. Minimum age (or minimum age to marry without parental consent) varies between jurisdictions. Divorced in one country and looking to remarry in another? You may need a lawyer's opinion before you do anything.
If you are not local (or have your hearts set on eloping in great secrecy or on the spur of the moment), the English traditional practice of reading the banns of marriage in a house of worship ("if anyone dost know any reason why these two should not be joined together in holy matrimony, thou art to declare it...") is not a viable alternative due to its reliance on the persons already being known in the local parish.
Only a small minority of countries legally recognize same-sex marriages or marriages conducted by captains of ships at sea. Depending on the ship's flag and port of registry, even the authority of a chaplain aboard a ship in international waters to solemnize marriage is uncertain. Recognition of religious officiants from non-mainstream denominations varies widely. Some countries may restrict the ability to marry someone of another religion, limit the ability of divorcées to remarry, or impose a waiting period before widow(er)s and divorcé(e)s can wed another. In some countries, laws vary between provinces or federal states.
A wedding often includes a changed family name. A name in a passport or an ID card which differs from the name in the booking, might cause trouble, especially on flights and visas. The safest option is consistently using the name in the passport.
- Italy is one of the most popular destinations to get married in, especially the historic and beautiful Florence, situated in Tuscany.
- Cyprus is popular for travellers from a few Middle Eastern countries which forbid interfaith marriage at home.
- Scotland was a popular place to elope in an era when English law forbade anyone under 21 to wed without parental consent; Gretna Green was a first easily-accessible point across the Scottish border.
- Amsterdam was one of the early adopters of legal same-sex marriage (in 2001); see LGBT travel#Same-sex marriage for other popular destinations.
- Las Vegas is known for weddings on short notice (no waiting period, no blood test) and novelty weddings (including Elvis impersonators for officiants). Nevada was also one of the first US states to liberalise divorce law; a Reno divorce is available to any couple, providing that at least one of the partners has lived in Nevada for six weeks.
- Niagara Falls is known primarily for honeymoon travel, but also offers destination weddings.
- In contrast to common belief, ship's captains typically have no authority to officiate marriage. However, Bermuda and Malta allow masters of ships registered under their flags to conduct weddings at sea. Another option is a wedding on a cruise ship in port, with a local officiant from that port.
- Denmark is much easier for non-Germans to get married in than Germany and is thus a popular destination for civil marriages of couples resident in Germany that include at least one non-German spouse.