Will our wedding in Spain be legally recognised and what are our ceremony options?
We receive a lot of questions about the legal requirements for getting married in Spain. In order to iron out the details, destination wedding planner Hollie Ennis has come to the rescue. Below Hollie answers some of the most common concerns surrounding how non-nationals can get legally married in Spain and the different ceremony options available.
Please keep in mind that it is intended to be a starting point and guideline only. Although much care and effort has been taken to ensure the information provided is correct please do not take it as legal advice. We strongly advise you to consult the Spanish Embassy or Consulate for first-hand information on the legal requirements for getting married in Spain. In addition, the required documentation and the legal process may vary from nationality to nationality, this should be discussed with your wedding planner.
Meeting the legal requirements for non-nationals can be particularly difficult. As a solution, most couples will usually have a civil ceremony in their own country first and then hold a religious or symbolic ceremony (wedding blessing) in Spain. So if getting married in Spain is what you dream of then I definitely believe you shouldn’t compromise! Any of the options below can work perfectly.
As a non-national, there are only two ways you can be legally married in Spain:
- Getting married through the Catholic Church
- Civil ceremony if you or your partner have been a Spanish resident for at least 2 years
Other facts to note:
- Civil and Catholic ceremonies must be carried out in legally approved locations or churches
- You may have a blessing (non legal ceremony) in your place of worship or any other location
- You may have a legal ceremony in Gibraltar (UK requirements to be met) followed by a symbolic ceremony in Spain
- Same sex weddings are legal in Spain
- Several in person visits are usually required to secure a church booking (by the couple or their planner) and some churches will require to meet the couple a minimum of a week before their wedding (if not before)
- Certain documents more than 6 months old will be classed non valid
- Blessings in place of worship will also need permission granted and not every church/other will allow this
Legality of Marriage
Marriages performed in Spain are internationally recognised and legally binding.
For civil weddings one of the parties to be married has to have been resident in Spain for a minimum of 2 years continuously, immediately preceding the marriage.
For Catholic weddings there are no minimum residency requirements.
Legal Requirements – Catholic Church
Spain is a predominantly Catholic country and some of Spain’s churches are among the best in the world. The basic requirements are straight forward.
- At least one partner in the couple has to be Catholic
- Neither can be divorced and previously married in a Catholic church
It is advisable that process is started 6 months prior to your wedding date to ensure that the required documentation is received on time and that the date is secured with the church in Spain. Paperwork must be prepared in your home country, all documentation is required to be original or certified copies and translated into Spanish by the relevant authorities (translated by an agency verified by the Spanish Consulate) and endorsed with an apostille.
Important to note:
- Wedding dates to be organised directly with the church in Spain
- Many churches in Spain will not take a booking more than a year in advance
- Documents should reach the church you wish to be married in at least 2 months before the wedding date
- Documents sent to the church must be no older than 6 months old
- To ensure that the marriage is legalised, following the wedding the Catholic wedding certificate must be delivered to to the local Spanish Civil Registry who will register the civil wedding and deliver a civil wedding certificate
Your priest or Archbishop will forward the documentation to the Bishop of the diocese where you intend to get married, who in turn will let the church you are to be married in, know that everything is in order.
- Long form of birth certificate
- Pre-nuptial enquiry – You can obtain this from your local parish
- Baptismal, Communion and Confirmation Certificates issued by your parish church
- Declaration letter from your Parish –
- A formal letter from your parish priest stating that you have fulfilled your Pre – Marital course requirements and permission that you are free to marry in a Catholic Church elsewhere.
- Fe de Solteria y Vida | Letter of Freedom to Marry –
- Bishop’s Special Permission – Non-nationals need to receive special permission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they intend to marry, this can take up to four weeks
- If widowed – Death Certificate of previous spouse
- Decree of Nullity – if applicable
- Dispensation letter if one half of the couple is not Catholic
Legal Requirements – Religious (Non Catholic)
For non-residents, it is not possible to have a legally binding religions (other than Catholic) ceremony in Spain. However, you may have a blessing in the place of worship of your faith in Spain, after a civil ceremony has taken place in your own country. In order to have a blessings in a place of worship you are required to obtain permission from the appropriate authorities.
Legal Requirements – Civil Wedding in Spain
In order to have a civil wedding in Spain you must first meet either of the criteria set out below below:
- One of you have been a Spanish resident for at least 2 years
- One of you are a Spanish citizen
Applications for civil weddings must be made to the Civil Registry, District Court or Town Hall in the place where the wedding will take place. Note: The procedure may vary depending on where you are getting married.
The following documentation for both the bride and groom is required to be presented when applying for a marriage licence in Spain. All documentation is required to be original or certified copies and translated into Spanish by the relevant authorities and endorsed with an apostille.
- Certificate of No Impediment / Certificate of Freedom to Marry
- Certificate of Marital Status (Certificado de Estado Civil)
- Full passport with minimum validity of twelve months (four copies) – to be used when you apply for the Empadronmiento, Residencia and file for the marriage
- Full Birth Certificate (showing mother and fathers names)
- If you are divorced – Decree Absolute and previous Marriage Certificate
- If you are a widower – Death Certificate of previous spouse and previous Marriage Certificate
- Name Change Deed Poll Certificate – if applicable
- Adoption Certificate – if applicable
- Spanish Town Hall Registration Certificate (Certificado de Empadronamiento or “Padrón”)
- Extranieria application form – print three copies. Complete the extranjeria form and file it at the national police station. Remember to bring with your passport and a photocopy of it.
You may want to consider having a legal ceremony in Gibraltar as an alternative option. Being part of the UK, a wedding in Gibraltar is relatively straight forward and is only a little over one hour drive from Marbella. It’s possible to marry within 48 hours under a Special Licence, however non-residents must provide documentary evidence that they will be staying in Gibraltar, for at least one night, immediately prior to or, immediately following the ceremony.
Every year, hundreds of couples chose to have their wedding abroad in Spain by having a symbolic ceremony also referred to as a wedding blessing.
One of the great advantages of a symbolic ceremony is that it gives you the flexibility to celebrate your wedding exactly where and how you want to. The ceremony can be customised by adding your own readings plus religious elements as you like. It also can help to reduce the cost and stress of dealing with the paperwork required for a legal wedding in Spain. Simply do the legal bit in your home country either before or after your symbolic ceremony in Spain.
The blessing/symbolic ceremony looks exactly like a regular ceremony including exchanging of the rings etc. and your guests will never even know the difference!
Note: Information on the legal requirements for weddings in Spain subject to change, correct as of November 2018.
Find out More – Getting Married in Spain
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