Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Terrance's experience helpful.

Did you?

We had been dating for three years when my wife and I went to see the classic romance movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Despite the fact that I fell asleep right after the opening credits finished rolling, the movie remains one of her favorites. It was so influential that she decided we would get married in Italy when the day came. I had already popped the question and she had already accepted, but we didn't begin to plan any details until after she fell in love with the movie. After a few days of research, she decided that the unique city of Venice would make a much more romantic wedding destination than any of the cities within Tuscany. We immediately began to plan our wedding in the historic country, and April 4, 2004, remains the greatest day of my life. However, we encountered several issues that could have been avoided if we'd known then what we know now.

Get Passports for Everyone in Advance

My wife and I researched all the necessary requirements before we traveled, so there were no surprises there. However, there were only five months between the time we began to plan the wedding and the actual wedding date, and many of our family members were upset about the price of international travel. We advised everyone who would be traveling with us to order their tickets in advance, but they were still more than $1,000 round-trip. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle our relatives faced was not the price of the tickets themselves, but the process of acquiring passports. Most of the airline tickets were purchased online months before the flight, but our relatives who were unfamiliar with international travel neglected to get documentation of their right to exit the United States and enter Italy. Our more responsible relatives were able to make the trip, but 38 of our 112 guests missed the wedding because they didn't have passports in time.

Susan and I traveled with her parents via cruise ship, because it's less expensive and more enjoyable. We needed her parents to accompany us, because we required a pair of witnesses to get all the necessary paperwork for our marriage license. My in-laws are both retired so it was no problem for them to travel along with us. Our Mediterranean cruise stopped at ports of call in France, Spain, Greece, and of course Italy, where we were married. The entire trip took 11 days, and we had our wedding and honeymoon on the same trip.

A Legitimate Marriage

You must make sure your overseas marriage will be recognized by the US. government. If not, you'll have to take vows here as well.

The regulations for an international marriage vary greatly from one country to another, but Italy is one of the most accommodating to international guests. Some countries actually require both parties to have been residing there for a specific amount of time in order to have a wedding there.

Breaking Down the Language Barrier

I was surprised how warm it gets in Rome during the spring. My wife and I decided to visit the ancient city before our guests began to arrive. We stopped at a nice Spanish restaurant, so she could freshen up. I took German in high school, so my Spanish is very limited. However, I know that many Spanish words are just like English words with the addition of a single syllable. For instance, “rapido” means rapid. So naturally, I was relieved when the gentleman serving ice cream outside the restaurant told me the treats were "free-o." I began to eat my fill while my wife was in the ladies’ room, and I couldn't believe more people weren't taking advantage.

When my wife returned, I thanked the nice gentlemen for the free treats and turned to walk away. Suddenly, he began to speak fluent English and he demanded me to pay him for all the desserts I had eaten. It turns out that "free-o" is actually “frio”, the Spanish word for cold. I laughed at the incident and paid the gentleman $15 for the treats. They were refreshing and they would have been twice as expensive in the United States or even in England where they don't accept the euro.

Consider the Rate of Exchange

Most European countries now use the euro as their official currency, but we chose to spend American dollars during our visit. The dollar is the world's reserve currency, so it is accepted virtually anywhere. However, it's important to know the dollar's strength versus the currency of the country in which you plan to get married. A wedding in Italy is rather affordable, because a euro is about 20 lira, the country's former currency. However, countries such as England have a stronger currency than the United States and they won't take euros. They will take dollars, but something that costs 10 pounds will cost about 15 dollars. Keep this in mind when panning an international wedding.

Avoid Costly Tourist Traps

You also need to be on the lookout for tourist traps that prey upon unsuspecting Americans. I ended up spending $500 on a rusty old sword, which a nice, Italian woman assured me used to belong to a Roman soldier. I still hang the sword from my wall and tell people the exact story the old woman told me. However, I had the sword appraised by the local Museum of Science and History curator, and he assured me the sword was less than five years old, and it's only worth its weight in rusty iron.

Knowerly Comments

white arrow
  • To make sure your marriage is recognized in the United States, the U.S. Department of State recommends contacting your state's attorney general office to find out what documentation you'll need.
  • Check with the U.S. based embassy of the country you're getting married in when you're in the early stages of wedding planning to make sure you know all of their regulations for foreigners getting married there. Click here for the contact information of foreign embassies in the U.S.
  • If your passport has less than 6 months left until it expires, it may no longer be valid for travel to certain countries. Check with the embassy of the country you're traveling to and find out what their passport restrictions are, or plan ahead and renew your passport ahead of time.

Read More Planning a Destination Wedding Stories

see all stories in this category