Dear Ace, My fiancé and I live in Charlottesville, but we plan to get married in Italy next summer. Will we need to have a ceremony in Virginia as well? My mother is already being a nightmare about the first wedding; I don’t want to have to go through it all twice.—Ida Due
Dear Ida, When Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger married in 1990 in a Hindu ceremony in Bali, the bride might have thought she was making things legal. But years later Indonesian officials couldn’t find the proper written documents, and it turned out the couple had never technically been married. Ace recommends that you play it safe with your own wedding abroad by: a) not marrying Mick Jagger, and b) consulting an attorney or an embassy before you fly your whole family across the ocean to eat cake.
First things first, make sure that your ceremony will be valid in Italy. Typically a marriage that is legally binding in one country is also transferrable to another. Each country’s laws differ, however, with regard to residency, documentation, eligibility, age of consent, and other concerns. You might be required to have your documents authenticated by a consular officer in the U.S. before you leave, or you might have to remember to pack not only your something blue but also your birth certificate, passport, divorce decree (if this is not your first marriage), or death certificate (if your first husband mysteriously died soon after you met Mick Jagger). The attorney general of Virginia will be able to tell you whether or not your marriage in Italy is valid on home soil. You might have to pay $32 to authenticate foreign documents.
Sometimes a wedding is invalid even if you marry in your hometown. In a recent case in Connecticut, a couple was married by a friend who had been ordained in the Universal Life Church. Unfortunately for the couple, Connecticut doesn’t recognize these types of one-shot ministers. They would’ve been better off getting hitched by a fake Elvis in Las Vegas. Filmmaker John Waters, who is ordained by the Universal Life Church, has been known to marry Baltimore couples for $7, as well as offer them marriage counseling. As far as Ace knows, these marriages are both valid and off to an auspicious start.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.