For years, American and Canadian couples who dreamed of holding a destination wedding on an island in Tahiti, such as Bora Bora or Moorea, had to settle for non-legal ceremonial "I do's." But as of 2010, Tahiti has legalized destination weddings for all overseas visitors over the age of 18 who are not French citizens (with the exception of same-sex couples). Here are the details:
What is Required?
To wed legally in Tahiti you will need to begin the process at least six months in advance (as in the past, you can still opt to hold a legal ceremony stateside and enjoy ceremonial-only vows in Tahiti with far less paperwork). There are about six detailed documents that need to be translated and filed: a "Marriage of Foreign Citizens in French Polynesia" document; a letter signed and dated by both spouses and addressed to the mayor of the commune where the wedding will take place; proof of identities (copies of both spouses' passports); a certified copy of both spouses' birth certificates issued less than six months prior to the wedding date, authenticated with an "Apostile," translated into French by an approved translator and legalized by the French Consulate; a "Certificate of Non-Marital Status" signed by a lawyer, translated into French and legalized by the French Consulate; and proof of residency for both spouses (such as utility bills). For complete details, visit Tahiti Tourisme's dedicated weddings page.
Where and When?
For all couples, the actual legal marriage will take place at the City Hall on the island where they will wed. This can be immediately followed by a beach, chapel or hilltop ceremony featuring the couple's choice of traditional Polynesian vows (presided over by a priest in plumed headdress and ceremonial garb with both couples dressed in white pareus and adorned with crowns and garlands of flowers and then wrapped together in the vibrant "tifaifai" or wedding quilt) or Western ceremony (presided over by a justice or minister with the couple in a wedding gown and suit).
Depending on the locale, brides or grooms can arrive via outrigger canoe (some resorts have the bride arrive this way, others have the groom), electric cart or on foot to backdrops as varied as a glass-floored overwater chapel (shown above and located at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa), a private motu (small island) or a catamaran sailing Bora Bora's lagoon as the sun dips behind Mt. Otemanu.
Check out the Best Places to Get Married in Tahiti for samples of wedding venues and ceremonies at a variety of Tahiti's leading resorts.