In Turkey, a civil ceremony is the only legally recognised type of marriage ceremony.
It is still possible to have a religious ceremony in Turkey; however this must take place after your civil ceremony.
In Turkey, only a civil wedding ceremony, conducted by the municipal authority (local marriage registrar) or by the census officer, has legal validity.
The ceremony will be conducted in Turkish and unless either party speaks Turkish you are required to have a translator present. As some registrars will only accept a sworn translator you should contact your relevant embassy for an official list of Turkish translators. If you arrange your wedding through a wedding planner / tour operator, they will usually make the necessary arrangements to have an interpreter present.
The ceremony usually takes up to 10 minutes and may be conducted just about anywhere, provided it is not a religious or cultural heritage site, although certain cultural heritage sites may be hired if the necessary permits are obtained from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
You are required to sign application forms (2 copies) and the marriage registry book. Some registrars also ask for either the bride or the groom to sign a log book to show that they have received their marriage certificate. The marriage certificate is only signed by the official that marries the couple. Two witnesses are required to be present; they must not be immediate family members.
If you wish to personalise your wedding ceremony you may exchange vows or incorporate readings once the registrar has finalised the official ceremony. As the exchange of the rings is not a part of the Turkish civil ceremony, you may also wish to include this at this point.
In Turkey a religious ceremony is not legally binding.
If you would like to have a religious ceremony you must first have a civil ceremony. Many couples choose to have their civil ceremony the day before their religious ceremony or have their civil ceremony in their country of residence prior to arriving in Turkey. However, it is possible to organise a religious ceremony to immediately follow a civil ceremony.
Most religious ceremonies must take place in the relevant place of worship, and may require more time to prepare than a civil ceremony as some specific authorisation may be required from the local clerics.
You may be required to prove that you are already married so ensure that you bring your civil marriage certificate with you.
My husband and I “secretly” got married in the United Kingdom prior to our wedding abroad and had a Humanist wedding ceremony on our wedding day. Our civil ceremony in the United Kingdom was purely to take care of the legalities and our wedding day is when we considered ourselves married. Our guests were not aware that our civil ceremony had taken place and our very personalised wedding ceremony is when we and our guests felt that we became husband and wife.
For information on the legal requirements for getting married in Turkey click here.
Note: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the above information is current and accurate, please check with the local authorities to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.