Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular with people seeking sun, sea, overseas culture and something a bit different. Many countries make it easy to host both your civil and religious ceremonies, which simply adds to the increasing buzz around the luxurious and tropical destination wedding concept. It is easy to get wrapped up in the logistics of planning your destination wedding, such as how to get your dress there and yes, it is actually a widely known practice to book it a seat on the plane!
When planning your dream wedding there are multiple things to consider and work out, but one of the main ones is what type of ceremony you wish to have. If you are having a destination wedding, then you will possibly need to have your civil ceremony first in your home country. However, you might also be considering the option of having your legal civil ceremony at your chosen destination.
The paperwork required and the legalities vary depending on the chosen destination and the country of origin of the couple getting married. Sometimes this information can seem overwhelming and so we have compiled and condensed the essential information with everything you need to know about the formalities for a UK and European wedding in some of the most popular European destinations.
Culturally beautiful, rich in heritage and steeped in history, the UK is one of the most popular places for weddings, whether that be for British nationals or overseas visitors. The good news is that both civil and religious weddings are recognised in the UK. Civil ceremonies must take place at a registry office or an approved venue.
For couples who are non-UK nationals, then there are varying requirements which must be met in order to get married. Firstly, it is necessary to obtain a visa if you wish to get married in the UK. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the visa process and requirements are not the same for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If either the bride or groom is based in the UK already or a UK citizen, then the non-UK national may need to apply for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visa or a Family of a Settled Person Visa.
Once the visas (if applicable) have been arranged, it is vital that the couple (as individuals) register the Notice of Intent to Marry. The process is not that lengthy, but 28 days notice of your intent to marry or form a civil partnership must be given at your local register office before you intend to marry and you must marry within a year of giving notice. Regardless of whether either or both of you are from outside of the EU or Switzerland or subject to immigration control, the same process applies. Both the bride and bridegroom must be resident in England or Wales for seven days prior to giving notice of their intent to marry.
Notice must be given at the local register office in the district within which you intend to marry and the following documentation will need to be provided for both parties:
- Proof of name (e.g. a valid passport)
- Proof of age (e.g. birth certificate)
- Proof of address (this can be in the form of a valid driving licence or a recent utility bill and often two proofs are required)
- Proof of Nationality (e.g. a valid passport or national identity card)
- Entry Visa (if applicable)
- Details of where and when you intend to get married
Additionally, if you have been married previously, it will be necessary to provide a decree absolute or final order and if widowed, the death certificate of your former spouse.
Finally, the requirements for overseas couples wishing to marry in the UK might change after Brexit and your wedding planner will be able to advise you of any changes as and when they become applicable.
A country known for its sunny climate, colourful culture and expansive coastline overlooking the deep blue sea, it is no wonder that Spain is one of the top wedding destinations in Europe. Whilst Spain does not allow non-residents to have their legal ceremony in the country unless either the bride or groom has Spanish residency, it is perfect for a religious ceremony or a symbolic ceremony.
So, if you dream of getting married overlooking the beach or in the stunning Spanish hills, then simply have your legal ceremony in your country of residence prior to your wedding in Spain. That said, you could of course choose to have both your legal ceremony and religious ceremony at home and then celebrate with a true Spanish fiesta and no formalities.
If you truly intend to have your civil ceremony in Spain and you do not meet the requirements of you or your partner being a citizen of Spain or a resident of the country for at least two years prior, then there is one other option. Gibraltar is part of the UK and so having your civil ceremony there is quite easily facilitated and it is less than an hour from Marbella. It is also possible to marry within 48 hours with a Special Marriage Licence which can be applied for between 3 months and 24 hours before the wedding day. The only stipulation with getting married in Gibraltar is that you must provide evidence that as a couple, you will be residing there for at least one night before or after the wedding.
The azure blue sea, the historic architecture and the wonderful Mediterranean weather all make Italy a wonderful choice for a destination wedding. Italy allows civil ceremonies to take place as well as religious or symbolic ones. The process can be quite complex, but with the right guidance then the paperwork can be dealt with without any problems.
Ultimately the requirements vary depending on the couple’s country of origin. It is imperative that all documents are fully translated and sealed by the Italian courts prior to the wedding day itself.
As with everything wedding planning related, this is something which takes time and should be accounted for in your timeline. This process can take up to six months and due to the complexity and potential language barrier, we strongly advise that you talk to your wedding planner for guidance.
If you are planning on going ahead with the process, then you will need your birth certificates and a Certificate of No Impediment. Italian law states that you must have a specific document which states that you are free to marry according to the laws of your country and nationality.
If you have been married previously, then you may also need to provide divorce certificates, death certificates of former partners or previous marriage certificates.
This might all sound overwhelming, but with the right guidance and with enough time, then this process is easily managed.
With its beautiful beaches and the wonderful climate of the Algarve, Portugal was once referred to as “the garden by the sea” by Luis de Camões, a 16th century poet and writer, and it is an idyllic destination to say “I Do”. A couple can choose to have both their religious ceremony and their Legal Civil Ceremony in this picturesque country.
You will need to provide both parties’ Birth Certificates, together with a Certificate of No Impediment. It is Portuguese Law that you must provide proof that you are both free to marry as per the laws of your home country and nationality. Additionally, you might need to provide divorce certificates, death certificates if you are widowed and any previous marriage certificates which you may have.
All documents which are provided must be translated in to Portuguese and notarised locally. Furthermore, you will need a translator for the civil ceremony and your wedding planner can arrange this for you.
In order for your marriage to be legally recognised in your home country, then you must lodge a copy of your wedding certificate with your local Registrar upon your return from your magical wedding day.
If you have always dreamt of getting married amongst the architecturally beautiful buildings and ruins of Athens, then the good news is that you can have your legal civil ceremony in Greece.
There are various legal requirements and it necessary for you to provide the following documentation:
- Passports for both the bride and groom. Copies will be sufficient at first, but you will need to provide originals at some stage.
- Birth Certificates of both the bride and groom. These must show the couple’s maiden name and surname, as well as the father and mother’s name and surname, the mother’s maiden surname, the date and place of birth and nationality.
- An official Certificate of No Impediment or single status for both the bride and groom.
Another essential requirement is that all documents must be translated by Greek authorities only. This can include the Greek Consulate or Embassy (in your city or country), the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or the Local Lawyers Association at your chosen destination in Greece. This means that you cannot employ an independent translator who will provide a notary stamp. Quite simply, all translators should be approved by the Greek Consulate or the Greek Embassy.
Additionally, you must also provide a copy of the local newspaper where your intent to marry was published. This must be done at least eight days in advance of your wedding day.
The next point concerns “The Apostille”. The Apostille is an official government issued certificate which, when presented in another country will be legally recognised. The Apostille stamp must be present on all official documents sent, except from citizens from the following countries: Austria, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Turkey, Poland and Greece.
It is also worth noting that the Certificate of No Impediment (form 268 for UK residents), which is obtainable from your local Registry Office can take over a month to process and in most cases is only valid for three months. You must therefore ensure that the timing of your application and the processing will mean that the certificate is still valid at the time of your wedding. It is also essential that both the bride and groom have one of these certificates as one does not act as a joint certificate for both parties.
Once all the celebrations have ended and you return to your home country, it is essential that you lodge a copy of your wedding certificate with your local Registrar. This will ensure that your marriage is legally recognised in your country of origin or residence.
A Planner’s Wisdom
It could be said that we are biased as we are Wedding Planners, but the truth is that the topic of this blog is one of the main reasons why you should hire a planner. Navigating the legal requirements in a foreign country can be challenging, especially when you may not speak the language fluently or have experience with weddings abroad.
As Wedding Planners, we make it our duty to know every little detail, both legal and otherwise about each and every beautiful destination and have years of experience dealing with local authorities and vendors. Guidance is never essential, but is also never a bad thing when planning your dream destination wedding. It will ensure that every little detail of your chosen wedding, the destination and all the legal regulations which go alongside it are accounted for.
Disclaimer – The advice offered in this blog is for guidance purposes only. Whilst we have taken time and consideration in our capacity as Wedding Planners to try to ensure that all of the information provided is up to date and correct, please do not consider it as legal advice.