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A Legal Wedding Abroad

Posted on 22/05/2019 at 3:59 PM by in Blog

Making it legal.

If you have decided you want to be legally married abroad then it’s important to check if this is possible at your destination and venue.

Legal or symbolic?

In some destinations such as Spain you are only allowed to have a symbolic ceremony if you’re not a resident, the only type of legal wedding possible is a Catholic one and for this you have to be baptised and it’s helpful if you are practising as you will need your church to prepare your wedding paperwork.

Even if you are marrying in a country that recognises foreign weddings you need to check the venue you are marrying at is permitted and licensed to hold weddings. if not you may need to have a legal wedding a few days before in the town hall and this can be a deal breaker for some.

So before getting your heart set on a destination and venue be sure to check which type of ceremony you are able to have before booking.

Religious weddings

Official religious weddings are typically held inside a church or sacred building, however there are some exceptions to this,  I’ve come across Greek islands that allow Orthodox weddings outside whilst still on the grounds of the church and this can happen in some parts of Italy too, but it very much depends on the person performing the ceremony. It’s important to realise they do have the final say, and I’ve witnessed weddings that have been arranged to take place outside suddenly have to take place inside because the priest has changed his mind. The truth is there is nothing you can do about it, so it’s worthwhile being patient and keeping them onside, get your paperwork to them on time and have it prepared correctly.

The paperwork

Once you’ve booked your legal or religious ceremony there are a few things you need to consider, if you have a wedding planner or have hired help with your paperwork then you should find this part quite easy or at least straight forward, if not these points below are important to find out in the early days of booking your wedding.

Is there a minimum residency period?

In some destinations a minimum residency period is required so it’s important to check with your wedding planner or local embassy to see if this applies to you.

When does your legal paperwork need to start?

Some documents such as the certificates of no impediment/ notice of marriage or nulla osta as it can be known, have an expiry date when marrying abroad. It’s important that you do not obtain documents earlier than necessary, otherwise you will have to go through the whole process again and even have to pay twice. Check with your wedding planner or local embassy and follow any instructions carefully given by them as to when to apply for your legal documents.

When does your paperwork need to be completed by?

Is there a date in which your paperwork needs to be completed and presented to the church or local authority by? Do you need to present the documents in person? These are both questions you need to ask your wedding planner or local embassy so that you are on track with timings and can make sure all of your legal paperwork is completed in time. Don’t panic if paperwork has to be completed before you arrive, just find a trustworthy courier to send the documents in advance.

Appointments with the town hall or religious body.

It’s not uncommon for the town hall or religious office to request a meeting with you before the wedding. This can be as easy as submitting your legal paperwork in person and signing a few forms to having an interview with the person performing your ceremony. Make sure you ask if this applies so you can arrive in plenty of time before the wedding

How many days after the wedding do you need to stay in that country?

You may find you have to attend the town hall after the wedding to complete the paperwork or collect your marriage certificate, so check to see if this applies in your destination so you can book your flights home accordingly! Town Halls are typically only open on weekdays


Although in some destinations the paperwork can at first seem straight forward and easy to process it can be still be a stressful part of the wedding for some, especially if your paperwork is none straight forward. My advice is to attempt to do it yourself but if at any point you are worried about communication or you’re not sure you have the right documents then ask for help. For the few hundred Euros it will cost it’s worth the peace of mind of having someone help you.

If you need help then checkout these specialist suppliers in our directory

Did you or will you be having a legal wedding abroad? How did you find the paperwork process?

Lisa Luvana

Photo Credit – Storystudios 

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