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Should you have a legal wedding or a symbolic wedding?

As a destination wedding specialist for all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, I'm very familiar with the planning process and I know that one of the first decisions that you’ll want to make about your destination wedding is whether you want to have a legal wedding ceremony or a symbolic wedding ceremony.

Your guests usually won’t be able to tell the difference between the two, though, so it’s really just a matter of which one you prefer.

A legal destination wedding ceremony is legal in the country you get married and is also recognized legally back here in the U.S.

In comparison, a symbolic wedding is not legally recognized at all, so you would take care of getting legally married at home before (or sometimes after) leaving and then you’d have a symbolic ceremony in destination.

It's important to know that each country has its own legal wedding requirements, so it’s good to decide if you do want to have a legal wedding early in the planning process as it will often have an impact on which destination you choose.

All Inclusive Destination Wedding Mexico Unico Resort

Aside from the legality issue itself, here are some other differences to consider:

Legal Destination Weddings (aka Civil Weddings)

  • Performed by a judge

  • Can be required to arrive up to three or four business days prior to ceremony

  • Need to follow country’s legal wedding requirements (e.g. blood tests in Mexico)

  • Ceremony may be performed in another language (e.g. Spanish in Mexico and the Dominican Republic)

  • Typically more expensive - involves legal fees like: the officiant’s services, translation/processing of paperwork, translator for ceremony, etc.

EXPERT TIP: Jamaica is one of the least expensive and easiest countries to have a legal wedding ceremony

Symbolic Destination Weddings

  • Performed by a non-denominational minister

  • Typically required to arrive 48 hours prior to ceremony

  • Hassle-free with less documentation required

  • Usually less expensive because there aren’t any additional legal fees

  • Most popular type of ceremony

Besides each country having its own legal wedding requirements, each resort also has its own requirements for both types of ceremonies to consider as well.

I know this can all start to feel a bit overwhelming, but as your destination wedding travel agent I’m here to help you sort through all of these details and make sure nothing gets overlooked.

I’ll help you break it all down and use my expertise to advise you on which options are going to give you the type of experience you’re specifically looking for!

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Planning guide created by destination wedding travel agent in Rogers, MN.
Planning guide created by destination wedding travel agent in Rogers, MN.
Planning guide created by destination wedding travel agent in Rogers, MN.
Planning guide created by destination wedding travel agent in Rogers, MN.

Don't know where to begin? Just start here - I poured all my best destination wedding planning tips into this 13-page step-by-step guide for you!

Destination Wedding Guide

You're in love with the most amazing partner—and you're so ready to celebrate your love with an ultra romantic, utterly indulgent destination wedding shared with your family and friends.

What you're not so in love with? Just how dang hard it is to plan the "I Do" escape of your dreams.

Destination Wedding Travel Agent Jodi Schlichting.


I'm Jodi Schlichting


I founded EverAfter Travel to help more couples embark on their dream destination weddings to the Caribbean and Mexico with total ease (can you feel yourself saying ahhh already?).

In fact, I only take on a limited number of clients at a time, so I can ensure every couple I work with gets the individualized attention they deserve—because that’s what leads to a dream-come-true “I Do”!

Say "I Do" to Destination Wedding Planning Made Easy

Let's get this planning party started—click below to schedule your complimentary call!

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