Getting Married in Vietnam: The Legalities
Grab a cup of tea. This one is tricky as it depends on your circumstances.
Broadly speaking, a wedding in Vietnam between two foreigners is unlikely to be recognised by your home country. Boo! I will explain why in a second. Before you ditch your romantic notion of jumping on a plane bound for Vietnam, having a picture-perfect wedding under the palm trees, on the sand with the waves lapping at your feet, read on. It’s not the end of the world.
A few years ago I officiating a beach wedding for two Australians on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. It has some of the most beautiful beaches I've seen. The sky is blue, the water is crystal clear and the sand as white and squeaky as snow. The couple married at the JW Marriott Resort (look it up, it's fab). The told me they could not imagine getting married anywhere else. Surely Australia has its fair share of jaw droppingly beautiful beaches with squeaky white sand, so why do it? Especially if it’s not likely to be recognised in Australia.
The couple has their own reasons - couples who choose to get married in Vietnam always have their own unique and personal reasons. The legalities for them are always a minor point to be addressed either before or after their wedding in Vietnam.
An overseas wedding isn’t for everyone. It might be for you though; that’s why you are here, investigating. Regardless of the reasons the question remains, will your Vietnam wedding be recognised in Australia (or any home country internationally)?
In short, for just about all the countries I have researched, marriages will be recognised in your home country as long as your wedding overseas was recognised as a legal marriage in that country. Basically as long as your wedding in Vietnam is a legal one in Vietnam, it will be recognised as a marriage at home. (I’m not saying I’ve researched every country on earth, however, this is broadly what I am finding.
The not so great news is that Vietnam, like most countries takes a fairly robust, complex approach to marriage.
In Vietnam for a marriage to be legal, it must comply with the law (obviously..)
There are three kinds of legal marriages in Vietnam:
A marriage between two Vietnamese nationals who have complied with all the legalities for a legal marriage,
A marriage between a Vietnamese man or woman and foreign national, where the foreign national has jumped through a number of hoops to demonstrate their fitness for marriage under the law, and;
A marriage between two foreign nationals where at least one (I’d prefer to be conservative and say two because it depends on who you ask) foreign national has residency status (temporary residency card, not a visa) in Vietnam and has jumped through the hoops to have a legal wedding in Vietnam.
I’ve officiated for one couple from England who lived in Vietnam and spent nearly one year ticking all the boxes so they could have a wedding in Vietnam that was recognised here and in the UK. They nearly gave up a few times, though they got there in the end. They finally had their legal wedding in Vietnam. Three months later they fell pregnant and returned to the UK!
Essentially, unless you live in Vietnam and have some residency status it is highly unlikely your marriage will be recognised at home.
so, as in most countries, it will mean completing the civil process in our home country either before or after you arrive in Vietnam.
Having said that, I had a couple from New Zealand have a wedding here last year. They took my wedding certificate to the government office and were told the marriage was legal, so please ask around first!
Same-sex weddings in Vietnam
Love is love! No truer words were spoken.
Vietnam has happily changed its law on same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages are no longer prohibited in Vietnam, though they are not recognised under the law. In terms of being legal here and therefore recognised at home, unfortunately, it’s still a nope. Having said that, we celebrate many same-sex marriages in Vietnam, though if you are from a country where same-sex marriage is lawful, you will need to formalise it there if you want to have your wedding in Vietnam. I guess the great news here is same-sex marriage is no longer prohibited - Small, though great steps.
If you want to have a destination wedding in Vietnam and also have a recognised marriage at home, you will need to go through a process in your home country to legalise the marriage there. Each country has different rules about doing this, and it’s typically quite painless.
Why would you bother to get married in Vietnam if you also need to get married at home as well?
This is a really personal question. Every couple I marry has their own reasons for choosing to tie the knot in Vietnam. While just about all of them has asked about the legalities, I haven’t had any couples choose not to have a wedding here because it won’t be legal - in Vietnam or at home.
Their desire to marry here overwhelms the legalities they need to complete at home.
For all the couples, the wedding in Vietnam is their “real” wedding. I’m always very curious to hear about their reasons.
Usually, a prior holiday, a love of the food, and the culture draw people back to this amazing country. Some people see the financial benefits of marrying in a country that is relatively inexpensive compared with home and love the idea of having their honeymoon at the same time. Some couples view Vietnam as a “central” point, where guests can afford to fly for the celebrations, rather than forfeit a more expensive air ticket to their home country.
It's more and more common these days that our friends are scattered across the globe and it’s a nice way to balance the financial burden and have a great party. Some couples even choose Vietnam so they can control the guest list and avoid the politics of having a wedding at home. Some, regretfully, have wed here because they knew certain guests they felt obliged to invite would not come for the trip!
The couple who wed at the Marriott in Phu Quoc has travelled the world. They fell in love with Phu Quoc on their last trip to Vietnam. They wanted an island wedding and Phu Quoc was top of the list.
It was a great base for their friends and family from all over to travel to and enjoy an extended long weekend together. And boy, oh boy, did they have a great time!
Any questions at all relating to getting married in Vietnam please drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org or visit weddingcelebrantvietnam.com