Three ceremonies in three countries or just elope and send everyone a MOV file?
July 20, 2007 7:53 PM   Subscribe

InternationalMarriageFilter: So The Dark Princess has consented to marry a Mutant. We think three ceremonies in three countries are needed. Looking for tips / opinions / advise on the whole sheebang lest we say the hell with it all and elope.

I'm American and live in London. The Dark Princess is Dutch and lives in Amsterdam. We work for the same bank and met during one of my biweekly trips to Holland. Things developed quickly and we're getting hitched. A few questions:

Her family lives in Holland. Mine in the US. To simplify matters we're thinking a single ceremony for the "official" act would take place in a small French town. Her and I thought this would most effectively be accomplished alone, or perhaps accompanied by one or two friends each.

Later there would be civil ceremonies with receptions for each family in a different domicile (i.e., US and The Netherlands).

A few questions:
  • I'm sure we're not the first to struggle with this issue. Is this, the obvious approach, optimal?
  • We're not clear on the EU wide legality of a ceremony held in France. We know it must be so, but does this truth hold if a non EU national (myself, the aforementioned American) is included?
  • What are the legalities of holding multiple ceremonies, if they are in fact civil or "ceremonial"? Intuitively we suspect no problems, but across national boundaries is this true?
  • Logistics? Back to back, get them over with fast! and get on with our lives - recommended or not? Seems like delaying one or more would cause family members undue concern. Again, how have others handled this?
  • Loot? We don't need nor want any. How to convince folks of this? The international aspect makes reutrning - or even accepting - unwanted gifts expensive and time consuming
In general, any tips or advise that you might be able to pass along would be welcome. I believe we may be a unnecessarily intimidated by this but even so, I want to make sure we don't overlook something blindingly obvious in retrospect.

Many thanks!
posted by Mutant to Human Relations (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
say the hell with it all and elope.

Trust me on this one. Do it.
posted by mkb at 7:55 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife and I both agree we should have eloped but YMMV.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:03 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I never regreted eloping.

I, a US national--my husband, a Bosnian. We got married by the justice of the peace in Croatia, accompanied by two witnesses, one Serbian and the other Palestian. Our families dealt with it fairly well, some better than others.

Good luck to both of you!
posted by subatomiczoo at 8:19 PM on July 20, 2007

Elope and then plan a nice party/reception/celebration with each family the next time you visit them. Maybe you can video the 'elopement' and show that as the highlight of the party. That way, everyone gets to witness the special moment without having to go to the expense of being there. Best wishes to you both!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:28 PM on July 20, 2007

yup, we eloped. gotta say, it saved a WHOLE lot of pain. you could throw a party in the other countries.... but i'd eschew the civil ceremony part. weddings are exhausting to organise, and inevitably one or two noses are put out of joint. times that by three and you've got a real nightmare.

i didn't even invite my parents to my elopement... making it a true elopement for me.... but you might want to invite your and your other half's parents to the french thang, and have a party in their home towns.

if it's only a party, there will be no maid of honour/best man jealousy/snubbing. truly, elope.

have fun, married is way cool.
posted by taff at 8:38 PM on July 20, 2007

I did the quirky marriage as partial prank. Got my mother-in-law and her husband to the courthouse on a pretense and whipped out a civil ceremony with both of them as witness. Had a very nice dinner later and then receptions on both coasts for friends and family.

Weddings are always exhausting and truly only do it if the consequences of not having one are severe i.e., mother will not speak to you for years. The thing is to have a VERY nice reception afterwards in the main locations of both families.

You are sharing your happiness at this, a very important stage of your lives. Receptions and parties are a way of sharing that happiness. Any wedding is a good wedding when love is around (sorry, getting mushy) and it is a petty heart that wont see beyond that.

Congrats, its a great adventure.
posted by jadepearl at 8:59 PM on July 20, 2007

Congratulations, Mutant, and best wishes to The Dark Princess. I hope you will be very happy together.

As for weddings, they can be a source of romance and shared memory, that carries you through awful times. And they can bring families together. The trick with having a good wedding is to make it about people, and not about ceremony, cakes, dresses, tuxes, gifts, dances, speeches, or locations. If you can gather those who will wish you well, and help you through troubles, and call upon you as friends, to share some happiness, you would be lucky to be able to do so, whether in one, two, or three places.

But you do what she wants, Mutant, with a good face and a generous heart, and you'll be well launched, whatever that is.
posted by paulsc at 9:00 PM on July 20, 2007

One (pretty big) thing about getting married in France: you've got to be a resident of the commune where you want to get married for at least 40 days prior to the date, and you've got to have proof of that residence, like an electric bill or something. I don't think, then, that it would be possible to elope there.

Additionally, in France you cannot have a non-civil ceremony before the civil ceremony; you've got to get a marriage certificate first.

Most countries, it seems, have paperwork/residency/waiting-period requirements that go beyond the Las Vegas-show-up-and-get-hitched style we've got in many states in the US. The State Department has posted info on marriage laws in many countries; here's what they say on Italy and Spain.
posted by mdonley at 9:01 PM on July 20, 2007

Better State Department website with more countries listed here.

And congratulations!
posted by mdonley at 9:03 PM on July 20, 2007

Loot? We don't need nor want any. How to convince folks of this?
You cannot. Don't try. You must find a way to guide the loot givers towards something you want. Is there a charity you particularly love? Tell people to give to that. List only consumables (good wine, fancy meats, stuff like that) on an Amazon wishlist. But you cannot decline all gift giving. If you don't give folks guidance, you'll end up with 3 s'mores makers and 7 mismatched placemat/napkin sets.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:06 PM on July 20, 2007

Some more research turns up non-EU member Switzerland as a viable spot to get married; no residence is required (so I imagine formalities can be completed via post in advance, but I don't know). Details.
posted by mdonley at 9:16 PM on July 20, 2007

If you don't want "loot" just say so on your wedding invitations (or announcement of your eloping), and include a list of charities people can donate to instead. You'll probably still get some off-the-wall gifts but hopefully not too many!

My husband and I eloped (with a small family get together later), and it was perfect for us. Think hard about what is perfect for you and your fiancee and do that. If you really want weddings in three places then do it, but if you don't want to deal with the stress that will entail (and trust me there will be a lot!) then elope.

Good luck!
posted by jenne at 9:31 PM on July 20, 2007

On the 'no loot' topic, perhaps you can have guests donate to help cover the costs of having multiple ceremonies and receptions.
posted by jjb at 10:10 PM on July 20, 2007

Elope. I'm American. My husband is Australian. We got married alone in Vegas (well, except for Elvis and the minister) and scheduled the wedding for a time when all friends and family could watch live on the Internet. The big international wedding thing would've just cost us - and everyone else - way too much money!
posted by web-goddess at 12:22 AM on July 21, 2007

Greece is another option in addition to mdonley's suggestions. There's loads of services that hadle the paperwork for you, apparently.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to harrumph that you have the chance to get married in the Netherlands, which is where the SO and I were originally thinking of. But the 30 day residency requiement for at least one party of the couple nixed that idea; a month long bachlor/ette party in Amsterdam sounds like fun, but ain't horribly practical from a work point of view. So: harrumph.
posted by romakimmy at 1:43 AM on July 21, 2007

Congratulations! My husband and I had a similar situation - I'm Colombian, he's Ukranian and we live in Poland.

Having a separate reception for each family is great if you don't want to deal with the logistics of planning an overseas wedding, especially if you have a large family.

Here's how we did it:
- Civil wedding in Poland (EU) with mutual friends, his friends and his family.
- A few month's later we had a religious ceremony in Colombia with my family and Colombian friends.

For legal puposes, the civil wedding (wherever you have it) is the "real thing". You just need to register it at your consulate for it to be recognized in your country. A civil wedding in France will be recognized anywhere in the EU even if you're not an EU national.

In terms of multiple ceremonies, only one of them needs to be a civil one and the rest will be "ceremonial". You can't really have multiple civil weddings (at least in Europe) because one of the requirements of getting married here is that you have to prove you aren't married already.

Good luck!
posted by juva at 2:10 AM on July 21, 2007

You just need to register it at your consulate for it to be recognized in your country.

Ah, this is a fun one I've had to explain to my SO. We don't have a national record of civil status.

I think, as a US citizen your marriage certificate just has to be translated into English & authenticated as a valid translation by the US Embassy for it to be recognized stateside. All documentation I've researched regarding if a marriage abroad willl be valid Stateside refer one to 'check with the Attorney General of your State.' Of course, my Attorney General has no relevant information on his afterbirth of a website.

As mentioned above, to obtain a marriage licence in some countries, you'll need an official declaration of civil status, which generally states that your are single/widowed/divorced for 300 or somesuch days (The latter two cases requiring more documention and proof) and free to marry.

Since there's no official registry for this, you usually can obtain the acceptable declaration from the US Embassy in the country where you are getting married. Check the applicable US Embassy websites for details; they're usually fairly informative.
posted by romakimmy at 2:33 AM on July 21, 2007

Oops, hit post too soon. Another location possibility is Gretna Green in Scotland, widely (self?) touted as the Las Vegas of Europe for 'quicky' weddings.
posted by romakimmy at 2:41 AM on July 21, 2007

# What are the legalities of holding multiple ceremonies, if they are in fact civil or "ceremonial"? Intuitively we suspect no problems, but across national boundaries is this true?

I suspect it would be a problem to have multiple civil weddings. If you're already married, you don't need a civil marriage, and judges etc know that. What you want is to find people who are willing to give you some sort of ceremony that isn't intended to have any legal effect. Churches often have rubrics for this.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:27 AM on July 21, 2007

I concurr with the elope + throw multiple parties afterwards idea. The US, however, seems to be the easiest place to get married in!

My Mother married my swedish stepfather in Portugal - it wasn't too difficult, but I had to be appointed as translator and translate everything the lady said into English during the ceremony. Also, none of my british friends could be a witness at my own wedding in Portugal unless a translator was present, so you might want to look into regional differences when it comes to being a native speaker or not..
posted by Andorinha at 6:36 AM on July 21, 2007

There are quite a few discussions on the Indiebride forums where people talk about the logistics of having multiple ceremonies in different countries.
posted by belladonna at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2007

"Another location possibility is Gretna Green in Scotland, widely (self?) touted as the Las Vegas of Europe for 'quicky' weddings."

Just a note: as a non-citizen living in the UK, you'd need to get a Certificate of Approval in order to get married here (unless you have ILR already).
posted by wayward vagabond at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2007

Only one of these is going to be the "real" one. The rest are just ceremonial parties, and those in attendence know that. It's like a sort of stage play they are pretending to believe in. Get video or good pics of the real one, and then have as many parties as you like. As long as those present get to see the images, they will be happy; happier than if you had a staged ceremonial thing just for them. If you want to make sure no one is overlooked, just put up a web site with the images or video, and invite everyone to go see.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:24 PM on July 21, 2007

Many thanks for comments and advise everyone; it reiterated what we'd already suspected; eloping is by far and large the easiest approach. With, of course, parties / receptions in New York / Amsterdam / wherever else we've got friends or kin to catch up with.

And we appreciate all the positive messages and well wishes sent our way.

Take care, and we'll be sure to MeTa notify everyone when we've done the deed!
posted by Mutant at 3:15 AM on July 22, 2007

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