Is a wedding in Vegas only legal in Vegas?
Dear Hadrien and Marijn,
My boyfriend and I just got back from our Tet holiday in the US. We visited Las Vegas and one night we had so much fun winning at the casino that we went to the Little White Chapel and got married – even Elvis was there – unforgettable! The next day we talked it over with the help of a few aspirins and decided to stay married. I’m Vietnamese and he’s Swiss. Would our marriage be recognized in Vietnam, or will we have to get married again as in a “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” kind of situation? Does Vietnam recognise a Vegas wedding?
First of all, congratulations on your Vegas wedding and especially on your decision to stay married after all. What a great way to start the New Year! We had a look at Vietnam’s Law on Marriage and Family of 2014, Decree No. 126/2014/ND- CP and it states that a marriage between a Vietnamese citizen and a foreigner conducted by a competent authority overseas shall be recognized in Vietnam but under certain conditions.
This means, firstly, that your marriage must comply with the provisions of the law of the foreign country (or state) where the marriage was concluded (in your case, the State of Nevada, US) and, secondly, that the two of you must comply with the conditions for getting married under the Vietnamese Law on Marriage and Family.
We are not experts on family law in the US in general, and of the state of Nevada in particular, so we will not be able to give definitive advice on the first condition aforementioned. However, considering the popular permissiveness of Nevada’s marriage law, we are pretty confident that you are covered there. It is safe to assume that as long as you obtained your marriage certificate in Las Vegas, and a wedding official performed the ceremony, your marriage qualifies to be recognized in Vietnam.
The second set of conditions can easily be met. In order for a marriage that was conducted overseas to be valid under Vietnamese law, the couple must satisfy the same conditions applicable to those getting married in Vietnam, described below.
In order to legally marry in Vietnam, a man must be 20 years or older, and the woman must be at least 18. Furthermore, the marriage must be conducted on a voluntary basis and with neither of you having lost your civil capacity to act. Finally, the marriage must (naturally) not fall within the category of prohibited marriages such as sham marriages, underage marriages, bigamy, or same direct bloodline marriages.
On the other hand, if your marriage took place outside the opening hours of the Little White Chapel without the certificate and without a wedding official involved, the first condition for recognition in Vietnam would not be met and you will need to conduct the standard procedure for registration of marriages under Vietnamese law, as if nothing happened in Las Vegas.
If this applies to your case, you will first need to submit an application for marriage registration to the Department of Justice at the place of your residence in Vietnam. Then you will both be invited for an interview during which, among other things, your personal background, the voluntariness of both you and your partner, the purpose of the marriage, and the understanding of each other’s family background will be discussed.
After having concluded the interview stage, the Department of Justice will report to the provincial People’s Committee, thereby enclosing a set of application documents for the marriage registration. Within five working days of receiving the report, and provided the application meets all the legal requirements, the Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee will sign the marriage certificate and return the documents to the Department of Justice.
Subsequently, within five working days from the date the marriage certificate is signed, the Department of Justice will hold a marriage registration ceremony at its office. Both of you need to be present and a representative of the Department of Justice will act as the marriage officiant.
We fully understand that this procedure is not as exciting and extravagant as your recent adventure in Las Vegas however, as the two of you decided to stay together, we are confident that obtaining the legal proof of your marriage will be worth the extra trouble.
* Disclaimer: At the time of publishing, we were still investigating whether Elvis Presley really needs to be there in person. And to find a little bit of that Las Vegas magic here, you can still hire Elvis Phuong to sing at your wedding!
We wish you lots of happiness together and we are looking forward to receiving a postcard from your honeymoon destination!
Every month, Hadrien and Marijn answer legal questions from Oi readers. If you have any legal question you want answered, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
*A member of the Paris Bar, Hadrien Wolff has been practicing law in Vietnam for more than seven years, currently as a partner of Audier & Partners based at its HCMC office. Having gained extensive legal experience in the Netherlands and Cambodia, Marijn Sprokkereef is an associate at the Hanoi office of the same firm. Audier & partners is an international law firm with presence in Vietnam, Myanmar and Mongolia, providing advice to foreign investors on a broad range of legal issues.
2 thoughts on “Does Vietnam recognise a Vegas wedding?”
My VN wife and I were married in Vegas (planned). There is nothing different about it than any other wedding in America in the eyes of Vietnam. There is some paperwork involved once coming back to VN, but nothing unusual.
Based on my understanding of your response I have concluded the following.
Irrespective of whether you have a legally valid Marriage Certificate from any country Vietnam does NOT recognize that marriage and requires the couple to basically complete all the same Vietnam marriage requirements as if the couple were never married.
Kindly confirm my understanding is correct.