Can Australians Get Married in South America?

Fancy a totally epic destination wedding in South America? Read on to find out the legalities involved with kicking off your married life in the most exhilarating continent of all

Given the sheer number of idyllic and utterly unique locations in South America, it’s not surprising to learn that the continent is swiftly becoming one of the most coveted picks for destination weddings. Gone are the days when everyone simply dreamed of a romantic ceremony in a remote tropical beach (although yes, you can have too in South America!), nowadays, adventurous and discerning Australian couples dream of taking it up a notch, choosing startling locations to kick off their married life. From historic wineries and picturesque cliff-top lodges in Patagonia to magical Andean-themed ceremonies near Machu Picchu and spellbinding eco-lodges in the Galapagos, not to mention a host of grandiose hotels in all the major cities throughout the continent, South America offers some truly unforgettable wedding destinations.

The bride in the desert on a high plateau Altiplano, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

Beautiful bride on desert plateau of Bolivia, gazing into camera Credit: Shutterstock

Yet romanticism aside *sigh* it’s important to get the bureaucratic manners just right. It would be a travesty to plan and execute your dream wedding in South America, only to find out it isn’t recognised back home in Australia.

What must you do and research before planning a South America destination wedding?

Read on to find out!

What the Australian law states

Generally speaking, Australian laws regarding overseas weddings are quite straightforward: if the marriage was legal where you had it then the Australian government will recognize it, as long as the marriage would have been legal if it had been carried out in Australia. This basically means that the following Australian laws supersede those of the country in which you marry:

  • Both participants must be at least 18 years of age on the wedding day (except if both lived abroad at the time of the wedding, in which case they must be 16 years of age)
  • Both participants were NOT married to someone else at the time the wedding took place (polygamy is illegal in Australia)
  • Both participants fully consented to the marriage (ie. They did not marry under duress or mental incapacity)
  • The participants are not related by blood (there are certain restrictions)
  • At least one participant must currently live in Australia
  • A valid marriage certificate was issued abroad

Do note that you should contact the embassy of your chosen country to ascertain any specific requirements they demand for foreigners to marry there. Some may require you to lodge a Single Status Certificate, for example. Visit the SmartTraveller for more detailed information.

What about same-sex marriages?

Same-sex marriages carried out abroad have been recognised in Australia since new laws were implemented, on the 9th December, 2017 @wiki-same-sex marriage Australia, so as long as it’s allowed in the destination country, it will also be recognised back home. In South America, at time of writing, countries that allow same-sex marriages are Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, whilst civil ceremonies can be held in Chile and Ecuador. Laws in regards to same-sex marriages are evolving all throughout the continent, so do keep checking official websites for the latest change.

Recognition VS registration

It’s important to ascertain if your marriage in South America is valid in Australia before making any plans and it’s even more important to understand the difference between recognition and registration.

Although some people may choose to register their overseas marriage in Australia, this is not always possible nor is it necessary. Your original marriage certificate – the one you received abroad – is recognized in Australia and does not need to be ‘transferred’. If you do wish to have your marriage registered in Australia then you will have to have a marriage ceremony back home too, which could well be a simple service at your local registry office. Refer to this comprehensive guide on Recognition of an Overseas Marriage for further details.

Please also note that whilst we’ve taken great care to collect all the information on overseas marriage recognition in Australia, this guide by no means covers every situation nor does it take into consideration changes which may occur in the near or far future. Do not take this guide as legal advice and do not consider it exhaustive. Please seek independent legal advice before going ahead with your South America wedding.

Why do Australian couples want to marry in South America?

Destination weddings have been a growing trend in the last decade, with many Australian couples choosing to ditch the traditional ‘big and expensive do at home’ in favour of a small, upscale do in some sumptuous South American location. Aside from the desire to marry outside the box, the benefits are many. Not only do couples offer their loved ones a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit a part of the world they wouldn’t have otherwise visited, but they share the most important day in their lives and an unforgettable travel experience, with the people closest to them. Moreover, most destination weddings are designed to replace material gifts with experiences. Rather than spend thousands on a gift or new dress, the engaged couple ask their guests to spend it on airfares and accommodation instead, to spend it on themselves. They ask friends and family to dedicate their holiday time to a magnificent experience in South America rather than a fancy set of crockery.

For the couple themselves, the benefits are even greater. The wedding and honeymoon can be combined to create a truly startling travel experience. For the price of an average wedding back home, couples can indulge in a spectacular journey together.

What better way to start your life of wedded bliss?

Honeymoon at the sea. Back view of loving couple walking away

Honeymoon at the sea. Back view of loving couple walking away with footprints in the sand Credit: Shutterstock

South America is brimming with an array of hotels, lodges and resorts that cater to destination weddings. They’ll take care of all the logistics so all you have to do is follow their prompts, pack your wedding dress and head to the airport. And once the formalities are done and dusted, you’ll be in one of the most magnificent honeymoon destinations of all.

Some of the most popular choices include:

The wine-growing region of Mendoza, Argentina

Organic vineyards near Mendoza in Argentina

Organic vineyards near Mendoza in Argentina with the stunning Andes in the background. Credit: Shutterstock

Sensational Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

view of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

View of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with people enjoying the beautifully sunny day. Credit:Shutterstock

The grandiose hotels of Buenos Aires, Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA-MARCH,11: view of the plaza hotel

BUENOS AIRES,: view of the stunning, eccentric and historical looking plaza hotel. Credit: Shutterstock

The mystical Andes mountains near Machu Picchu, Peru

Refugio in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile.

Refugio in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile’s stunning display of beautiful accommodation mixed with astounding nature. Credit:Shutterstock

An exclusive lodge on Santa Cruz, the Galapagos, Ecuador

A saltwater lagoon in the town of Puerto Ayora

A saltwater lagoon in the town of Puerto Ayora with stunning light teal waters and jungle surrounding. Credit: Shutterstock

At ChimuAdventures, we organise private group tours that are ideal extensions of South American destination weddings. You choose where you’d love to go and where you dream of staying, and we’ll create a bespoke itinerary for your honeymoon or your entire wedding party! For amazing itinerary ideas and to know more on South American honeymoons, do contact us, right here.

Author: Laura Pattara

“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”