while the world is very slowly catching up to marriage equality, it remains tricky for a same-sex couple to just get married wherever they want. it is, however, possible to tie the knot on a tropical island no matter where you’re from, and irrespective of whether gay marriage is legal in your home country.
below is some information on international same-sex marriage on tropical islands.
our personal options at the time included new caledonia (FR), guam (US), and hawai’i (US), so there’s also a selection of country-specific (or rather, island-specific) requirements for getting married in these places.
disclaimer: information herein was compiled between 2017 and 2018. it may be incomplete and/or may have changed by the time you’re reading this. still, hopefully this article can point you in the right direction. also, don’t forget to check your home country’s specific requirements for recognizing marriage certificates.
second disclaimer: although we have received our hawai’ian apostille certificate, we still need to wait for the austrian government to fully legalise gay marriage (jan. 2019), before we can file the paperwork to get our marriage recognized here. i will update the article with further developments.
if you have any first-hand experience or other information you’d like to share on the topic, please leave a comment!
tropical islands that allow same-sex weddings
at the time of writing this article, gay marriage was legally possible on these islands:
- Australian Islands (since 2017)
- French Polynesia (French overseas collectivity, since 2013)
- Guam (US territory, since 2015) — details
- Hawai’i (US state, since 2013) — details
- New Caledonia (French overseas collectivity, since 2013) — details
- Northern Mariana Islands (US territory, since 2015)
- Pitcairn Islands (UK territory, since 2015)
- Wallis and Futuna (French overseas collectivity, since 2013)
- US Minor Outlying Islands (US territory)
- Caribbean Netherlands (Special municipalities of the Netherlands; since 2012; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba)
- Guadeloupe (French overseas department, since 2013)
- Martinique (French overseas department, since 2013)
- Puerto Rico (US territory, since 2015)
- Saint Barthélemy (French overseas collectivity, since 2013)
- Saint Martin (French overseas collectivity, since 2013)
- United States Minor Outlying Islands (US territory)
- United States Virgin Islands (US territory, since 2015)
- Other regions (Central and South America, Indian Ocean, Northern Africa)
- Ascension and Saint Helena Islands (overseas territory of the UK, since 2017)
- Brazil (since 2013; e.g. Carmen, Campeche)
- Canary Islands (autonomous community of Spain, since 2005)
- Colombian Islands (since 2016; e.g. Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina)
- Madeira (autonomous region of Portugal, since 2010)
- Mayotte (French overseas collectivity, since 2013)
- Mexican Islands (since 2010-2016; e.g. Cozumel, Isla María Madre, Isla Mujeres, Isla Blanca, Punta Gorda)
- Réunion (French overseas collectivity, since 2013)
for a maintained, up-to-date list, check out LGBT rights by country or territory on Wikipedia.
country-/island-specific requirements for same-sex marriage
below are some details and special requirements we’ve come across during our research:
same-sex marriage in new caledonia (and probably other islands under French law)
contact: mayor’s office in noumea, new caledonia
same-sex marriage must be legal for at least one of the couple, either in their place of residence or their national law. you need to register for your marriage and include the location/commune at least one month in advance and require two witnesses.
after consulting with the mayor’s office in noumea (and the austrian embassy in france) we received the following detailed response:
La loi n°2013-404 du 17 mai 2013 a modifié le code civil, afin d’ouvrir le mariage aux couples de personnes de même sexe.
S’agissant du mariage entre deux ressortissants étrangers : pour faire application de cette loi, il est nécessaire que pour au moins l’un des candidats, soit sa loi personnelle, soit la loi de l’Etat sur le territoire duquel il a son domicile ou sa résidence le permet.
Ainsi, il vous appartiendra d’en justifier au moyen d’un certificat de coutume (attestation généralement délivrée par les autorités consulaires du pays d’origine, qui reproduit la législation étrangère applicable ou expose les conditions de sa mise en œuvre).
Je vous remercie de confirmer que vous répondez à cette condition, avant de vous faire parvenir le dossier et la liste des pièces à fournir.
here’s a machine-translated copy of the above message, courtesy of google translate:
Law No. 2013-404 of 17 May 2013 amended the Civil Code to open marriage to same-sex couples.
With regard to marriage between two foreign nationals: to enforce this law, it is required that for at least one of the candidates, either their personal law or the law of the State in whose territory they are at home or residence, permits same-sex marriage.
Thus, it will be up to you to justify it by means of a certificate of custom (certificate generally issued by the consular authorities of the country of origin, which reproduces the applicable foreign legislation or exposes the conditions of its implementation).
I thank you for confirming that you meet this condition, before sending you the file and the list of documents to provide.
note: if your home country only allows registered civil partnerships (thank you, Austria!), this requirement is not fulfilled:
Je vous informe que d’après la section consulaire, « la loi autrichienne permet à deux personnes de même sexe d’officialiser leur relation, en établissant un partenariat enregistré et non un mariage ».
Votre projet de mariage à Nouméa, ne sera donc réalisable que si vous pouvez produire un document émanant des autorités du territoire sur lequel vous êtes domiciliés, attestant de l’autorisation du mariage entre personnes de même sexe.
or, in machine-translated english:
I inform you that according to the consular section, “Austrian law allows two persons of the same sex to formalize their relationship, by establishing a registered partnership and not a marriage”.
Your wedding project in Noumea will only be possible if you can produce a document from the authorities of the territory where you are domiciled, attesting to the authorization of marriage between persons of the same sex.
if you are able to legally marry in your home country or domicile and you’re NOT a resident of France or its territories, you can get married in new caledonia. you need to submit a marriage application at least one month prior to the wedding date. there’s a helpful PDF document titled “Getting married in New Caledonia – Special measures for foreign citizens who are non-residents of France and its Territories” (via rocket guide new caledonia) which lists the required documents for this application:
This application file has to include the following documents which must be attached to it:
- A letter signed and dated by the future spouses, addressed to the Mayor of the commune chosen for the marriage ceremony:
· Asking him to apply the provisions of Article 58 of Law N°2009-594 dated 27 May 2009,
· Specifying the date of the marriage ceremony
- Full copy of the Birth Certificate of both of the future spouses
· The Certificates must have been issued less than 6 months prior to the date of the marriage
· If issued by a foreign authority: the certificate must be translated and authenticated in conformity with the applicable provisions according to the country of origin
- Proof of identity of both of the future spouses
· Copy of the passport
· If need be, a copy of the visa (or request for a visa)
- Death Certificate of the spouse for widows or widowers (The certificate must be translated and
authenticated in conformity with the applicable provisions according to the country of origin)
- Proof of residence for both of the future spouses (these documents provide evidence that the future spouses do not reside in France or its territories)
- Surnames, first names, date and place of birth of the father and mother of the future spouses, their addresses and professions. (this information often appears on the full copy of the Birth Certificate)
- Surnames, first names, date and place of birth of the witnesses of the future spouses, their addresses and professions and a copy of their identification papers.)
- Any other document according to the country (see IGREC (1) N°545 to 548)
· customary, celibacy or capacity to be legally married certificate;
· for some member countries of the International Commission on Civil Status it is necessary to provide:
-Austria, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal: Birth Certificate issued for the purpose of marriage
-Germany: Certificate of capacity to be legally married
-The Netherlands and Belgium: Extract from the Population Register
-Switzerland: Certificate from the Family Register
-Turkey: Extract from the Family Register.
- Copy of identity paper and proof that the translator(s)/interpreter(s) is/are sworn under oath and his/her address
same-sex marriage in guam
contact: office of vital statistics, guam
marriage in US law always requires a marriage license (cost in guam: $30). in guam there’s a waiting period (minimum number of days you need to wait from the date the marriage license application is granted) of 5 days, which can be waived for an extra $50. witnesses are not required, but you’ll need notarized birth documentation (see below).
requirements to apply for a marriage license (copied from the PDF above):
1. BOTH APPLICANTS must be present at the time of submission of this application with a valid picture identification.
(A valid picture identification is one that contains a photograph, date of birth, an issue date and expiration date. Examples of valid picture identifications are state I.D.’s, Driver’s License, Passport, Military I.D., etc.) IMPORTANT NOTE: It is your responsibility to present the proper identification. ID’s must reflect full legal names at present.
2. BIRTH CERTIFICATES: Both applicants must present a Certified True Copy of their Birth Certificate(s) issued by the Office of Vital Statistics or Registrar from their respective state or foreign country. Baptismal or hospital certificates are not acceptable. Birth certificates, Certificate of Family Relations and Civil Registries in foreign languages must be translated by an official translator and notarized. Your Marriage License and Marriage Certificate will be prepared with your legal name exactly how it appears on the Birth Certificate presented unless otherwise stated.
3. BLOOD TEST: No blood test is required when filing a Marriage License on Guam.
4. ADOPTION: If either applicant was adopted, adoption papers must be presented.
5. NATURALIZED CITIZENS: If either applicant is a Naturalized Citizen, a Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship must be presented and accompanied by a U.S. Passport.
6. FOREIGN COUNTRY/ALIEN: If either applicant is of foreign descent, a Resident Alien or a Non-Immigrant Alien, he or she must provide a Notarized Affidavit of Foreign Birth accompanied by a notarized translated Birth Certificate, Certificate of Family Relations or Civil Registry and their respective country’s current passport. If either applicant was born abroad (in a foreign country) to U.S. Citizens (Parents), Certification of Birth Abroad (Form FS-545) must be presented.
7. PREVIOUS MARRIAGE: In case of termination of a previous marriage by divorce, death or annulment, the applicant must provide a Certified True Copy of the Final Divorce Decree, Death Certificate, or annulment document to the Office of Vital Statistics. If maiden name was restored and is not stipulated on the Final Divorce Decree, an Interlocutory Judgment must be provided. Photo or Xerox copies are not acceptable. (CC Vol. I Sec. 69(d) and Attorney General Memo, Ref. 81-0292 dated July 7, 1981) Note all Documents will be kept on file with application AND will not be returned.
8. RETENTION OF MAIDEN NAME: If a female applicant desires to maintain her maiden name after marriage, she must submit a Notarized Affidavit Statement Requesting to Retain Maiden Name, in triplicate, stating the fact that she elects to keep her maiden name after marriage and the reason. Must be submitted at the time of marriage license application.
9. HYPHENATION: Intention to hyphenate name after marriage must be declared at the time of marriage license application.
10. FEE: A fee of Thirty Dollars ($30.00) is required upon filing of this application and is non-refundable. (CC Vol. I Sec. 69, (i) Amd. 16-73, Sec. 11).
11. WAITING PERIOD: No license shall be issued/released until after the expiration of five (5) working days after submission of this application. Such waiting period may be waived through a Waiver Affidavit for a good cause shown. An additional fee of Fifty Dollars ($50.00) will be assessed for the waiver, if approved.
12. MINORS: Applicants under the age of eighteen (18) must obtain a Court Order to marry and must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian giving consent upon filing this application.
13. Processing of Marriage Applications is between Monday thru Friday 8:00am – 2:00pm.
marriage in US law always requires a marriage license (cost in hawaii: $65). there’s no waiting period, i.e. you can get married on the same day that your marriage application is granted. witnesses are not required.
requirements to apply for a marriage license
- There are no state residence or U.S. citizenship requirements.
- Proof of age is required. A certified copy of a birth certificate must be presented for anyone 18 years of age or under. A valid I.D. or driver’s license may be presented for anyone 19 years of age or over.
- The prospective applicants must appear together in person before a marriage license agent to apply for a marriage license. Proxies are not allowed.
- The prospective applicants should be prepared to provide the necessary proof of age and present any required written consents and approvals. All of the necessary documents should be obtained prior to applying for a marriage license.
- The prospective applicants must prepare an official application and file the application in person with the marriage license agent. The application may be completed online (see website below). The application will not be accepted if sent by either postal mail or e-mail.
- Upon approval, a marriage license is issued at the time the application is made.
- The marriage license fee is $60.00 (plus $5.00 portal administrative cost). The fee may be paid online or in-person at the time the application is submitted to a marriage license agent.
- The marriage license is good only in, but is valid throughout, the State of Hawaii.
- The marriage license expires 30 days from and including the date of issuance, after which it automatically becomes null and void.
with our license agent, it took us about 20 minutes or less to go through the personal information we had previously submitted online, swear an actual oath about the truthfulness of our information and receive our marriage license. this license goes to your officiant at/after the ceremony, and they submit the marriage details to the state.
we received our US marriage certificate by mail within 6 weeks of the wedding.
in order to have our marriage recognised in austria, though, we also needed a certified copy which includes an apostille stamp, which requires a separate request form + some minor fees (USD 12.50). for submission of this request via paper form and post, we received a cheat sheet with the detailed requirements from our marriage license agent:
- Request for certified copy of marriage/civil union record
- Money order of $12.50, made out to the state department of health
- Money order of $1.00, made out to the office of the Lt. Governor
- Copy of passport of the requestor
- Self adressed envelope
requests can also be made online at https://vitrec.ehawaii.gov/vitalrecords/, where you can simply pay by credit card.
it took about 5 months between the date we mailed off our paper request form and the date we received our apostille certificate by post.
although we have received our hawai’ian apostille certificate, we need to wait for the government to fully legalise gay marriage (jan. 2019), before we can file the paperwork to get our marriage recognized by the austrian state. i will update the article with further developments.
if you have any first-hand experience or other information you’d like to share on the topic, please leave a comment!