There can be a lot of confusion for foreigners wanting to get married in the USA – the internet is full of conflicting information. This particular post applies to my own wedding as a British national, getting married in Miami Beach, however it can be used to apply to anywhere in Florida (for other states rules do vary).
Being a foreign visitor (or even a USA citizen living in a state outside of Florida), getting married in Florida is a lot easier than it is for a Florida resident. As a Florida resident anyone applying to get a marriage licence must do so at least 3 days prior to the wedding or needs to have taken a course (don’t ask me what they learn – I think lesson 1 is most likely “she’s always right” and that’ll get you through). If you are not a Florida resident these requirements are removed, and in theory you could get married on the day you arrive in the state.
There are a number of important steps to follow to ensure that you can get married whilst in the states and for your marriage to then be valid when you get back home:
1 – When you arrive in the city where you are going to be staying when you get married you need to find the courthouse or county clerks office in order to obtain a marriage licence. This can take some time depending on how busy the courts are, and there are fees involved, which can be checked online before you travel. It is important that you do not get your licence in a different place to where you will be staying after your wedding. Even though the licence is valid everywhere in Florida you will need to return to the exact place you got the licence from in order to get it certified… We almost decided to save time in Miami by getting our license in Sarasota – that would have cause a whole heap of problems!
2 – Make sure that you bring your passports with you when you apply for your licence.
3 – You will need to have a ceremony in Florida once you have your marriage licence. This can often be done at the same place as where you got your licence from, or you can get married in any number of buildings, parks and beaches. Companies such as Affordable Beach Weddings (which we used, and they were super helpful and fun) are able to organise beach ceremonies for parties of 2 through to 100+ on some of the most beautiful beaches and properties in Miami for any budget. Locations such as South Pointe Park in particular are very beautiful for the ceremony and photos which follow. This is the location where we got married (there is ample parking, loads of cool photography locations and the locals are so friendly – we even had people stop their cars to congratulate us)
5 – Bring the marriage licence back to the place you got it from, preferably on the same day of the wedding, or as soon as you can afterwards. You usually get 1 or 2 copies of the certified licence, however if you are a UK citizen you should ask for 3 copies. This will leave one copy for each of the participants and a third one which you will need as below.
6 – 1 copy of the licence needs to be sent off to get an apostle stamp. This is best done using a third party such as Florida Marriage Licence Express (whom we used and gave us the tip about having to bring the notarised license back to the same office) who can even have the stamped copy sent back to you in the UK. If you are sending the licence to get stamped, the best service to use is FedEx (which most people will use to send it back to you in the UK), please note however that they will not accept a UK address as the sender if you use one of their offices to send your documents. When you go to send your documents make sure you have a USA return address (such as your hotel) to give to the FedEx employees.
No matter where you get married in the world your marriage will be recognised in the UK, however the documents you receive abroad differ from those in the UK (especially in the USA where they may differ between states as well), and as such the passport office, DVLA, banks etc may not be familiar with the wedding certificate. The apostle stamp serves as a way for people to be reassured that the document they have been shown is a legal document and wasn’t just printed in your home when you got back from your holiday!
If you are getting married in Miami you can get your wedding licence in 2 different locations (depending on where your hotel is and where you are getting married):
Miami Dade County Courthouse, 73 W Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33130
- Miami Beach District Court, 1130 Washington Ave, Suite 200, Miami Beach , FL 33139 – (a tip for this location is that there is a multistorey car park behind this building, which is often quiet but very cheap)
Whether you do it alone with just the two of you, which is what we did at the end of a great holiday (and lets face it if you get married on your second to last day of the holiday it doesn’t count as a honeymoon and you will have to go on a proper honeymoon after your return) – in Florida you don’t even need to have any witnesses, or you fly your whole family over, getting married in Miami is fairly easy once you get your head around it.
Just be ready to get hot (I sweated through my shirt AND waist-coat), spend a fair amount of time in the courts or clerks office and finally to return home with some of the most beautiful wedding photos you can imagine – even if they make you do some really dumb poses – you might look like an idiot like I did but hey…! I don’t know anyone else who looked like an idiot whilst getting married on a stunning beach in 30 degree heat.
And most importantly if you get married with just the two of you remember to throw a huge party for everyone when you get back home!