Marry in the USA

Are you planning a wedding with an American, or do you want to get married in the USA? Then you should know about traditions, procedures, and the paperwork. Here's what you need to know:

American wedding: how it works

At first glance, a real American wedding is not easy to distinguish from the traditional wedding in Europe. There is often a wedding dress, a church or registry office, a wedding cake, and many tears. But if you look closer, you will find some differences.

Wedding traditions USA

American wedding traditions

Traditions and customs surrounding the wedding include the obligatory bridesmaids and best man as well as a party befitting the occasion. However, modernizations of the old rules are frequent, and the classic division of roles (bride and groom) has also long been outdated.

The Bride's Maid

The job of Bride's Maid is very popular in the USA, but it also comes with many duties. The responsibilities of a Bride's Maid include assisting with wedding preparations, helping to choose the wedding outfit (e.g., wedding dress), and organizing the Bridal Shower (bachelorette party).

The dress code and sometimes even hairstyles of Bride's Maids are determined by the bride. By the way, married Bride's Maids are called Maids of Honor.

Best Man

"Best Man" is the term used in the USA for the groom's male witness. This role - similar to that of the Bride's Maid - is heavily charged with emotion and brings several obligations.

The Best Man helps with the wedding preparations, organizes the Bachelor Party, pays the wedding speaker or minister, and keeps the wedding rings. Of course, the Best Man also signs the marriage certificate and gives a pointed, movie-like speech at the wedding reception.

Bachelor Party or Stag Party

The depiction of the wild American bachelor party in Hollywood movies is (almost) not exaggerated. In the circle of best friends, there's a lot of alcohol flowing at the Bachelor Party and a lot of surprises - sometimes with strippers, a fixed day program, or even a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas.

Bridal Shower

The American bachelorette party for the ladies is usually much more civilized than the Bachelor Party for the men. The bride welcomes her best friends and closest female relatives at home and is showered with gifts at a tea party.

At the Bridal Shower, much revolves around the perfect photoshoot, which is why matching outfits are mandatory here as well. How the day progresses towards the evening varies greatly. Sometimes it turns into a real party ("Hen Night").

The Bridal Brunch

The Bridal Brunch usually takes place one day before the wedding and serves to thank everyone involved for their months of support during the wedding planning. Friends and relatives are invited to a nice meal and are given appropriate gifts by the bride.

Wedding gifts in the USA

As wedding gifts, the bride and groom are usually happy to receive money or items for the home. Unlike in some other countries, however, it can cause great irritation in the USA if the bride and groom decide on the subject of gifts. So, in the USA, the guests decide for themselves what and how much they want to give.

Rehearsal Dinner

One day before the wedding ceremony, the selected wedding food must be tested extensively. The Rehearsal Dinner is a great opportunity to prepare your favorite guests (i.e., close friends and beloved relatives) for the upcoming wedding in a cozy atmosphere.

At the rehearsal dinner, of course, adjustments in the menu can be discussed so that on the following day, everything is perfect.

The wedding ceremony

It is said to bring bad luck at American weddings if the bride and groom meet before the wedding ceremony. The guests and one of the future spouses (usually the groom) therefore wait in the chosen church in the late afternoon, while partner No. 2 (usually the bride) is led into the chapel by the father, according to tradition.

During the wedding entrance, the wedding march (Here Comes The Bride) is traditionally played. After the rather short wedding ceremony with the traditional wedding vows and an exchange of rings, the couple leaves the church for the wedding reception under thunderous applause.

The wedding party

After the wedding ceremony, a splendid, Hollywood-style wedding celebration takes place in the American tradition. Decorations, food, and alcohol are not spared, and there is unrestrained dancing - but not until dawn, but usually only until midnight.

We start the wedding celebration with a cocktail hour. This is followed by dinner with various speeches, in which the Best Man is always given special attention. Towards the end of the celebration, the bride and groom make off and start their honeymoon.

Wedding cake in the USA

The wedding cake

Cutting the wedding cake together is a tradition in the USA. Each guest gets a piece of cake. For those who could not join in the celebration, the cake is sent home by mail.

The bridal bouquet

Like in many other countries, the bridal bouquet is thrown at an American wedding, too (fierce female fighting over the best place to catch it included).

Honeymoon

After an official wedding dance, the bride and groom make off. Many couples travel directly from the wedding ceremony to their honeymoon.

Thank you notes

Immediately after returning from the honeymoon, the newlyweds write thank-you notes to everyone involved. A deadline of four weeks after the celebration is appropriate here - anything more is considered rude.

How much does a wedding in the USA cost?

There is no saving at an American wedding. Even families with less money invest a lot - if necessary with a loan. According to the WELT magazine, Americans spend an average of $31,000 on a wedding.

Most of the money is spent on the venue, the food, and the rings. Therefore, the actual price for an American wedding depends heavily on your location and the number of guests. The US state in which you are getting married also makes a difference.

Marriage license in the USA

Where can I get married in the USA?

The diversity of the United States and the creativity of Americans make the USA one of the most exciting countries to get married. From adventurous celebrations in wild nature to romantic hula beach ceremonies and kitschy Hollywood celebrations, you have unlimited options here.

Good to know: In the different US states, you sometimes have to comply with different regulations and deadlines. Check with your local embassy or the State Department for the requirements to get married in the place of your dreams.

Wedding in the USA

You want to get married in the USA, but are not yet sure where to go? Let our partner VEGAS inspire you to wedding options in Las Vegas.

Wedding in Las Vegas

Las Vegas wedding

An iconic Elvis wedding or adventure ceremony in Las Vegas is one of the absolute classics in America. The casino metropolis in Nevada is considered the wedding capital of the USA and offers an overabundance of all-inclusive packages for you and your wedding guests.

Florida wedding

A tropical wedding in Miami or the Florida Keys is a very special experience! With gorgeous weather and breathtaking decorations, you can get married all year round at legendary locations in the Sunshine State, such as on a sailing yacht, in a luxury restaurant with an ocean view, or on a plane over Sanibel Island.

New York wedding

Wedding celebrations in New York City are usually spectacular but also particularly expensive. On average, Americans spend $76,000 here. But for that, you get only the best of the iconic Big Apple!

By the way: If you want to get married secretly in New York, you can go to the City Clerk with your partner, your marriage license, and your passports and draw a number.

Documents for a wedding in the USA

To get married in the United States, you need a license, which requires you to provide various documents. However, the procedures and types of proof often vary from state to state.

Apply for a marriage license for the USA

The Marriage License is the permission to get married in the USA. You can apply for it regardless of where you live in the state where you plan to marry.

Before planning your wedding, check the rules in your county because, in some states, you have to go to the district court, sometimes to the city hall in the county, and sometimes to the marriage license bureau of the city government.

To save some time, you can mail the application of both spouses, including all documents, in advance. However, to finally apply for a marriage license, you will need to make an appointment in person and bring the following documents with you:

  • a current photo ID (driver's license or passport)
  • proof of your citizenship
  • a proof of your residence
  • your birth certificate
  • if you are widowed: the death certificate of your spouse
  • if you are divorced: the divorce decree
  • English translations of all listed documents made by a certified translator

After the official signature, the certificate will either be sent by mail or you can take it with you in person (often, it will be ready the same day). Your marriage license, including application, costs a maximum of $200 and is valid for 60 days.

After the marriage license is issued, you usually have to wait 24 hours before you can get married, unless you have an exemption.

Is the US wedding recognized in other countries?

As a rule, a marriage contracted in the USA is recognized in Germany, provided that both spouses fulfilled the legal requirements at the time of the marriage. Here, the so-called "home country law" applies. This means that the requirements for a legal marriage in your home country also apply to a marriage in the USA.

Apply for recognition of US marriage in your home country

You might need a special marriage certificate and apostille to make your American marriage valid in your country. During this recognition process, you will most likely go through the following steps:

  1. Apply for a marriage certificate in the USA and have it translated
  2. Apply for an apostille in the USA
  3. Apply for a certified copy from the birth register of your home country
  4. Make an appointment at the registry office in your home country
  5. Present marriage certificate, apostille, and birth register transcript at the registry office
  6. Wait for your documents to be sent or an appointment to pick them up
  7. Report changes in marital status and name to all relevant authorities

Apply for a marriage certificate in the USA

After your wedding in the USA, you will need to apply for a special version of the marriage certificate that you can use as an official document outside the USA. This document is called "extended version for foreign use" and costs $35.

Apply for an apostille in the USA

To use an American document in your country, you might need an official authenticity guarantee from the US authorities. This so-called apostille is attached to the paper by the responsible consulate general.

You apply for the apostille within the US state that issued your marriage certificate. Depending on the state, the office of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the City Archives, or the State Capitol is responsible.

Note: Various service providers (mostly attorneys) charge additional processing fees for obtaining certificates and apostilles.

Same-sex wedding in the USA

Since 2015, same-sex married couples in the US have had the same rights as straight couples. LGBTQIA+ marriages are therefore fully recognized. The traditional roles of the American wedding such as "Best Man," "Bride's Maid," and "Maid of Honor" are therefore interpreted much more creatively nowadays:

  • The use of the classical terms can be replaced by "Wedding Attendants" or "Honor Attendants."
  • A groom can also be escorted down the aisle instead of a bride. You are also welcome to have two brides simultaneously - and it doesn't matter which relative or friend accompanies them.
  • Bridesmaids may also be male or nonbinary.
  • A groom can also host a Bridal Shower and a Bridal Brunch.
  • "Stag Night" and "Hen Night" are no longer literal, as all genders are welcome at both events.
  • A traditional wedding dress is no longer purchased at all in many cases.
  • The bridal bouquet can also be thrown by a groom and caught by wedding guests of all genders.
  • The "Best Man" may also be a "Best Maid," a "Best Friend," or a "Grooms Honor Attendant." In addition, many other new wedding customs are gradually becoming more popular.

The fact that LGBTQIA+ people are allowed to marry their partners in the USA has another advantage: same-sex married couples thus also benefit from the double chance for spouses in the Green Card Lottery.

Double your chances of winning a Green Card
Since the spouse also receives a Green Card if they win, married couples have the opportunity to double their chances of winning. All they have to do is register both spouses with the Green Card Lottery.

Checklist for your wedding in the USA

Have you thought of everything? To be on the safe side, go through our checklist for your dream wedding in the USA:

Before the wedding

  • Get valid passports for bride and groom and witnesses
  • Apply for an ESTA or visa for entry into the USA
  • Get a divorce certificate (if applicable) to obtain a marriage license
  • Get a death certificate (if applicable) to obtain a marriage license
  • Apply for a marriage license

After the wedding

  • Request a marriage certificate
  • Request an apostille
  • Present marriage certificate and apostille at the registry office
  • Notify all relevant offices of the marriage/name change
ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Instant wedding in the USA: Watch out!

Have you fallen madly in love with an American and want to marry them right away? It is tempting to imagine a life together in the USA after a spontaneous wedding. However, such an impulse wedding comes with certain risks.

Can I live in the USA after the wedding?

If an American and a non-American marry after only a short time of knowing each other and then want to live together in the USA, they are first of all under general suspicion. The US authorities suspect that they have entered into a marriage of convenience for the purpose of immigration.

You can dismiss this suspicion if you provide the USCIS with really good evidence of the seriousness of your marriage. However, this is a very complicated process full of pitfalls and oppositions, so we would recommend you the assistance of an immigration attorney for this task.

You will face a long procedure, and you will be allowed to stay in the USA only after a special visa (K-3 visa for spouses) is issued at first.

Entry for the wedding with a US citizen

Before entering the US, if you already know that you will marry a US citizen, you must notify the US authorities and apply for a special visa (K-1 visa for engaged couples).

You do not have a work permit with a K-1 or K-3 visa and must apply for one separately. Expect long waiting times! Your life will be easier with a Green Card, which gives you almost all the rights of a US citizen.

Marrying for a Green Card

Although it sounds tempting to get a Green Card for a family reunion by marrying a US citizen, we would not recommend this approach because it is illegal.

A much better way to live in the US is through the Green Card Lottery, where the US government gives away 55,000 Green Cards every year.

Do you want to live and work in the USA without restrictions? Then enter the lottery now - it's just a few clicks!

Green Card CheckAre you eligible?