• Images
  • Text
  • Find a Couple + Registry
GO
Destination Weddings

Horrible Bureaucratic nightmare - International wedding

Just trying to get some thoughts.
 I apologize for this being on the long side... it's a bit complicated... And I know this is a touchy topic for some, but please bear with me, as it's important to me...

Quick background info...

I'm American, my fiance is Croatian.  We live and work in Europe, but abroad - NOT in either of our home countries.  (We are gone about 7 and a half months of the year for work.)

We are in the US each year in Nov/Dec.  We are in Croatia each year January thru mid-March.  The rest of the year is when we're away working.

We have our wedding booked (venue contract and deposit made) for next year in May in my fiance's hometown in Croatia.  (We will take a short period off from work to go back to Croatia for the wedding.)  His family and friends are NOT able to go to a wedding in the US.  My family and friends CAN go to Croatia.

Just a couple days ago we went to the office here in his town that handles weddings so we could find out what paperwork we needed.  (Wanted to give ourselves LOTS of time.)

Well, the bureaucracy is a nightmare, mostly because of our work situation creating a HUGE problem with the time line Croatia requires for the paperwork.  A nightmare!!!  His paperwork is obviously the easy part.  Mine is the colossal nightmare, because I'm the foreigner here.  It's so tough, that the people in the office just told us we'd be better off getting married in the US and just "have a party" in Croatia.  Even though that sounds easierI honestly do not think that half the guest list will make a trans-Atlantic flight and pay for a big European trip for "just a party." (So essentially, I would suspect that would mean I'd really not have any one from my side there if we chose that option.)

What's involved with the paperwork?  I need all NEWLY issued documents dated March 1st or later next year.  (Birth cert, divorce decree, notarized proof of address.)  Which means my mom has to drive all around the county to get the newly issued documents (as I'm not in the US at that time), then the next day she has to drive to the state capital to get all those documents certified with an Apostile Stamp. The Apostile stamp is crucial.  Then they must be rush delivered to Croatia.  (Anyone familiar with international shipping will understand my nervousness with that portion of the equation.)  Once they get here, we must have them officially translated into Croatian by the court.  Then we must appear before the embassy in Croatia to have the US approve the legality of our marriage.  (We'll need to make an appt 2-3 months in advance for that, NOT knowing when the docs will arrive - we'll have to guess.  The embassy is in Croatia's capital - about two hours away.)  Then we have to take all those docs to the local marriage office.  Bear in mind, all these steps will cost a big ol' chunk of change.  AND we leave for work in mid-March.  That gives us approximately a two week period for all of this!  (Not to mention the amount we'll be required to pay for the court ordered translator who must be present at our wedding because I am not Croatian.)

Just for the heck of it, we looked into eloping in Vegas.  All we need are our IDs and $60.  (Looked up flights from my home state - looks to be way cheaper than the price of the court translator we would have to pay to be at the Croatian wedding.)  My fiance's passport is the only thing he needs as a foreigner!  If we did this option, we would tell NO ONE, and then just go on with the wedding in Croatia as planned, but without all the bureaucracy that goes along with it.  We would just have someone perform a symbolic ceremony.  (But we would be the only ones who knew it was symbolic - the elopement would be kept a strict secret.)

I just feel however, that choosing that option (albeit much easier) would ruin the specialness of the day that we already have booked. And the elopement would have to be secret, or no one would come to the wedding we already have planned.  I personally feel like walking down the aisle with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it will feel fake if we're already married.  My fiance is totally fine with a secret elopement and the "wedding" six months later, I'm the one who isn't so sure.  But he is happy and ready to do whatever I want.  (He's super awesome like that!)

We're really gonna try to make the official one happen in Croatia - bureaucracy and all.  We're just understandably worried that we won't be able to make it all work within the extremely narrow time frame we have.  And when we asked if we could file for the marriage license with all my docs the week before the wedding (when we'll be coming from work), we were told that it would be too close to the date and probably wouldn't be processed in time.  (THEN what would we do???)

Anyway, just looking at all the options.  It's all so overwhelming....   Thoughts?  Opinions?  Thanks all!

Re: Horrible Bureaucratic nightmare - International wedding

  • (Let me add that it's the time window that is the problem.  If I did not need to get NEWLY issued copies of all my documents dated after March 1st, I could get them all (stamps and everything!) done when I'm home in the States later this year, then bring them with me to Croatia.  The time window is the enemy!) 
  • Jells2dot0Jells2dot0 Cowtown mod
    Moderator Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I had to trapse all over the country to get my certified copies for my marriage in Australia. My DH was living in AZ and born in NE; I was living in CO and was born in NJ. So, neither of us were Australian. Our divorce decrees were both in AZ. We gathered mostly everything upon our own, but I had my mom get my birth cert for me. Parents are able to do that because they are your parents. A lot of clerks offices may allow you to obtain birth certs via online by using verification systems. My DH just did this for his daughter who lost hers. He ordered it in NY while living in TX and had it shipped to AZ. The apostille stamps come on everything when you get them/order them. Once we had everything, we shipped via USPS with insurance and delivery confirmation to our celebrant in Australia.

    As for going to the embassy, I cannot speak to that. We had to get permission from the Australian government to marry there, but we did it via a form we filled out and had notarized. The celebrant assisted us with it. 

    My advice: 

    This is doable. Try finding a wedding coordinator that can assist. Our celebrant did a lot of work for us and again, neither of us is Australian. 

    DO NOT marry in secret. It will come out eventually and your family/friends will not forgive you for it. 

    Give people credit. If it truly is the nightmare you claim it is, people will understand it. Your family may still come. But, when you have a wedding away from home from anyone, you run the risk of people not attending, even if it is legal. 

    Consider having your ceremony in Croatia but not legally marrying until AFTER. True, it will still be symbolic, but at least you standing up there is the true first time you are committing to one another.

    Also, consider canceling things and working out a better logistical plan. The paperwork isssue probably should have been thought of before you booked things. Legalities in countries vary and it requires legwork to figure it out before you dive in head first. 

    Again, I jumped through some hoops for my wedding and I def did it in a two week time period. 

     







  • Jells2dot0Jells2dot0 Cowtown mod
    Moderator Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    Are you getting married in a church in Croatia? The civil and religious ceremonies are separate anyway. So, regardless, you'd have to have two ceremonies and when this occurs, getting married in the US first is acceptable from an etiquette standpoint. Check this out if you haven't already:



     







  • No church wedding - I'm catholic and divorced, so that can't happen.  And my fiance is not catholic.  We're planning a beach wedding, and do NOT want a winter wedding, so we have to find a time that's warm enough.
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    jensop said:

    Just trying to get some thoughts.

     I apologize for this being on the long side... it's a bit complicated... And I know this is a touchy topic for some, but please bear with me, as it's important to me...

    Quick background info...

    I'm American, my fiance is Croatian.  We live and work in Europe, but abroad - NOT in either of our home countries.  (We are gone about 7 and a half months of the year for work.)

    We are in the US each year in Nov/Dec.  We are in Croatia each year January thru mid-March.  The rest of the year is when we're away working.

    We have our wedding booked (venue contract and deposit made) for next year in May in my fiance's hometown in Croatia.  (We will take a short period off from work to go back to Croatia for the wedding.)  His family and friends are NOT able to go to a wedding in the US.  My family and friends CAN go to Croatia.

    Just a couple days ago we went to the office here in his town that handles weddings so we could find out what paperwork we needed.  (Wanted to give ourselves LOTS of time.)

    Well, the bureaucracy is a nightmare, mostly because of our work situation creating a HUGE problem with the time line Croatia requires for the paperwork.  A nightmare!!!  His paperwork is obviously the easy part.  Mine is the colossal nightmare, because I'm the foreigner here.  It's so tough, that the people in the office just told us we'd be better off getting married in the US and just "have a party" in Croatia.  Even though that sounds easierI honestly do not think that half the guest list will make a trans-Atlantic flight and pay for a big European trip for "just a party." (So essentially, I would suspect that would mean I'd really not have any one from my side there if we chose that option.)

    What's involved with the paperwork?  I need all NEWLY issued documents dated March 1st or later next year.  (Birth cert, divorce decree, notarized proof of address.)  Which means my mom has to drive all around the county to get the newly issued documents (as I'm not in the US at that time), then the next day she has to drive to the state capital to get all those documents certified with an Apostile Stamp. The Apostile stamp is crucial.  Then they must be rush delivered to Croatia.  (Anyone familiar with international shipping will understand my nervousness with that portion of the equation.)  Once they get here, we must have them officially translated into Croatian by the court.  Then we must appear before the embassy in Croatia to have the US approve the legality of our marriage.  (We'll need to make an appt 2-3 months in advance for that, NOT knowing when the docs will arrive - we'll have to guess.  The embassy is in Croatia's capital - about two hours away.)  Then we have to take all those docs to the local marriage office.  Bear in mind, all these steps will cost a big ol' chunk of change.  AND we leave for work in mid-March.  That gives us approximately a two week period for all of this!  (Not to mention the amount we'll be required to pay for the court ordered translator who must be present at our wedding because I am not Croatian.)

    Just for the heck of it, we looked into eloping in Vegas.  All we need are our IDs and $60.  (Looked up flights from my home state - looks to be way cheaper than the price of the court translator we would have to pay to be at the Croatian wedding.)  My fiance's passport is the only thing he needs as a foreigner!  If we did this option, we would tell NO ONE, and then just go on with the wedding in Croatia as planned, but without all the bureaucracy that goes along with it.  We would just have someone perform a symbolic ceremony.  (But we would be the only ones who knew it was symbolic - the elopement would be kept a strict secret.)

    I just feel however, that choosing that option (albeit much easier) would ruin the specialness of the day that we already have booked. And the elopement would have to be secret, or no one would come to the wedding we already have planned.  I personally feel like walking down the aisle with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it will feel fake if we're already married.  My fiance is totally fine with a secret elopement and the "wedding" six months later, I'm the one who isn't so sure.  But he is happy and ready to do whatever I want.  (He's super awesome like that!)

    We're really gonna try to make the official one happen in Croatia - bureaucracy and all.  We're just understandably worried that we won't be able to make it all work within the extremely narrow time frame we have.  And when we asked if we could file for the marriage license with all my docs the week before the wedding (when we'll be coming from work), we were told that it would be too close to the date and probably wouldn't be processed in time.  (THEN what would we do???)

    Anyway, just looking at all the options.  It's all so overwhelming....   Thoughts?  Opinions?  Thanks all!
    I'm sorry that you are experiencing this.  "Just for the heck of it", you checked out what would be required for a Vegas wedding.  My first thought is why you did not do this for your currently planned wedding.  You should never have booked a venue without looking into the legal requirements first.  You said many guests will not attend a wedding celebration because of the incurred costs.  How do you think your guests will feel attending a fake wedding, and wasting their hard earned money?  Starting a life together by lying to your nearest and dearest friends and family is NOT the way to do it. 

    Either jump through the hoops or change your plans. 
  • This is inconvenient, but I don't know that it is that unusual in some European countries.  I have a friend who is marrying a Spanish woman in Spain.  They had to get approval and go through an interview and paperwork.  
    I agree with others, don't have people attend a fake wedding.  Either start the tedious process or change your plans.  
  • Jelis2dot0 and kimberly0315 - thanks so much for your kind response and compassion.  This is all new to me, as I'm sure it is to others.  When I got married the first time, I was basically just a kid right outta school, and was marrying another American - it was super easy. 

    Now, my fiance and I knew there would be some bureaucracy (we are NO strangers to that in the many aspects of our lives - remember, I did say I live and work in Europe - I KNOW bureaucracy) but we did NOT expect the three-month-window rule that is messing us up.  It truly threw us for a loop and we wanted to consider every option out there.  I guess I was reaching out to other brides out there who might also be having to jump through colossal hoops.

    I'm sorry some people feel the need to respond harshly.  I was not looking to be chastised or reprimanded.  I'm not a professional event planner.  Not my expertise.  Just looking for somewhere to vent and commiserate.  
  • QueerFemmeQueerFemme member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited March 2015
    You can have your mom get the birth certificate and have her hire a service company to do the apostille and fedex it to you. They'll charge you about $100 plus fedex shipping and they'll have it done in a matter of a couple of days.

    There are lots of service companies that provide this service. Depending on what state you are in, I can probably give you a referral.  
  • thisismynickname2thisismynickname2 City By The Lake member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    OP, I think you've gotten great advice so far, so I want to focus on one part of your original post. The fact that you said you wouldn't have anyone from your side at a wedding in Croatia (or "just a party in Croatia" anyway). 
    It looks like no matter how you slice it, there will be people traveling for your wedding. I know the idea of not having people there for you in person sucks (unless you intentionally elope) but, truthfully, I don't think it's a terrible thing. When both my sister and I were married, no one on our side but our parents (and for me only, one great aunt and uncle) could come because our entire side of the family lives overseas from where we live. A lopsided wedding isn't the end of the world. I do hope that whatever your decision is, you're happy getting married regardless of who is able to see it happen. 
    ________________________________


  • Is there somewhere else you could get married where his friends and family would be able to go?  You mentioned they wouldn't be able to go to the US, but are there any other options that could work for them?

    Please do not do the elopement and lie to people.  If you have to lie about it, there's something wrong there.  If doing the elopement is the easiest solution, rock on, but be completely upfront with people. 
  • Is there any kind of waiver available for the three-month rule, or can you do a postal notification/filing for any of this? I assume you've asked all the proper questions but just wondered...we got married in Ireland and were able to do postal notification for our intent to marry (I realize the rules are different in Croatia but perhaps it is worth asking).

    I sent our registration paperwork via FedEx 2-day or overnight, expensive but worth it.
  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK member
    Seventh Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    So you have to have some documents sent, then translated, then appear before the court to verify them. Apologies, but that doesn't sound like that much of a bureaucratic nightmare. Yes, some work, but not nearly as impossible as you are making it out to be. If you are based within the EU, international fedex?UPS/DHL is as reliable as it is in the US. A lot of the documents are orderable online, or through a phone call to your county. 

    OP, why did you not look into this before you booked the venue? It isn't like they recently changed the laws.  I realise that ship has sailed, but I agree with PP. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency (ie: lying to your guests by eloping and reenacting the wedding). 

    I would consider this a tax for not doing your due diligence before booking your venue. Yes, it is annoying, however, laws exist for a reason, and your reason is not special. 

    You are welcome to change your party in Croatia to a "celebration of marriage" but certainly do not reenact your wedding, wear a wedding dress, expect gifts, or make this any part of a wedding part 2. 

    If I flew to Croatia to see you get married and found out you eloped 6 months beforehand, I would end my friendship with you. Lying to your loved ones is the lowest of the low. And lies always manage to make their way to the surface. 
This discussion has been closed.
Choose Another Board
Search Boards