May 21st, 2020

Legal Requirements For Destination Weddings

This guide to the legal requirements for destination weddings provides an introduction to the legal requirements for weddings in the most popular overseas wedding destinations.

This guide is for you if you are a busy bride or groom dreaming of a wedding abroad and you don’t want to be trawling through endless paperwork or you are ready to do some forward planning.

In many countries there are strict laws around marriage which means all your paperwork must be in order to prevent the unthinkable and the possibility of a legal hitch preventing the ceremony from going ahead.

Here is a basic checklist for UK passport holders of requirements for popular wedding destinations :

Every destination will require both the bride and groom to have:A full 10-year valid passport with more than six months remaining before expiry

>Full birth certificates

>If divorced, the decree absolute

>If widowed, the marriage and death certificates of the ­deceased spouse

>Deed poll proof of any name change

>Adoption certificate if relevant

On top of this, some countries will have their own minimum residency requirements for destination weddings which can be found below. If you have a particular destination in mind not included below contact us for more information.

Destination Minimum Residency 
Italy 4-7 days
Spain Difficult to satisfy legal requirements for non-residents
Malta2 days minimum stay before wedding
Greek IslandsRequirements vary from island to island
Cyprus3 working days subject to conditions being met
TurkeyMarriage licence needed after 1 day residency
BahamasSpecial licence required which takes 24 hours to process
JamaicaCouples can marry 24 hours after arrival
St Lucia No residency policy
Kenya3 days including application for a special marriage licence
Thailand 4 days 
USANo minimum but marriage licence required 


Most destinations will require original documents or certified copies. Check whether photocopies are also necessary.

Also of course check with tour operators, tourist boards and the UK embassies of each country to make sure there are no changes. Other common documents which may be required include:

Certificates of no impediment

The bride and groom need one each and they can be obtained from the local registry office. They usually take around a month to issue and cost about £30. They are generally regarded as being valid for six months from the date of issue. They are required in Italy,  Malta, Turkey, Aruba, Cyprus, Greece and Lapland.

Single Status Statutory Declaration

Each person who has never been married will need one of these, stamped and certified by a solicitor no more than three months before the return date of travel for designated destinations including Antigua, the Bahamas, Cyprus, the ­Dominican Republic, Lapland, Kenya, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka.

Special wedding legal requirements for European destinations

Italy

The minimum residency period before a wedding can take place varies between four and seven days in different parts of Italy. Two witnesses are needed and they will need to produce their passports.

Previously married brides must have been divorced or widowed for 300 days or more before the ceremony. 

Local charges may apply and documents may need to be translated into Italian. For more information ask tour operators and look at the FCO website or contact the Italian embassy.

Spain

Couples intending to marry in a Spanish civil ceremony who are not residents of Spain may find it even more difficult or impossible to satisfy the documentary and legal requirements. 

This is why many couples choose to legalise their union with a civil ceremony or ‘paper wedding’ at home or in Gibraltar, before enjoying a celebration of their marriage at a beautiful Spanish venue surrounded by friends and family. 

This celebration can incorporate a blessing officiated by religious or non-religious personnel.

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and so the legal requirements to marry there are similar to those in the UK.

Malta

The minimum stay prior to the ceremony is two days. 

Forms RZ1 (Publication of Banns) and RZ2 (Declaration of Oath) must be completed no more than three months before return date of travel.

These are issued by the Maltese government and must also be certified by a solicitor, as must a third- party affidavit confirming the single status of both people. 

A government tax of approximately €90 is payable on weddings. 

For more information contact the marriage registry office in Valletta.

Greece

Exact requirements vary from island to island so it’s best to check with the tour operator you book through. 

Many islands require copies of the couple’s passports, certified by a solicitor, and documents should be legalised by the Foreign Office

Most also ask for copies of the documents translated into Greek by a translator approved by the Greek ­embassy in London, and some islands need them to be sent to the embassy for checking prior to the wedding.

Cyprus

Anyone wishing to get married in Cyprus must apply in person on their arrival to the marriage officer in the municipality of their choice. 

Visit ucm.org.cy for more information. 

Tour operators often help guests apply, and most choose to apply for the more expensive special licence (currently €282), which allows them to marry after three working days in the resort.

Couples will also need an affidavit verifing a range of personal details, issued and stamped by a solicitor. Two witnesses are required, who must also of course produce their passports. 

Couples can have civil or religious ceremonies.

Lapland

Documentation needs to be certified by the FCO and passports also need to be certified by a solicitor.

Turkey

A marriage licence is needed and can be applied for locally after ones day’s residency. 

The couple should take eight passport photos each with them.

All documents must be translated at the British consulate and bride and groom may need to get a medical report or blood test locally as a formality all of which  will all incur extra costs.

Special requirements for Caribbean destinations

The Bahamas

A special licence taking 24 hours to process must be applied for from the Registrar General’s Office in  Nassau , Freeport, or the Commissioner’s Office on other islands. All documents must be notarised by a solicitor. Visit weddings.bahamas.co.uk for more information.

Jamaica

If an application for a marriage licence is made in advance, couples can get married 24 hours after arrival. 

Arrangements can be made through hotels and operators or directly through the Ministry of National Security and Justice.

Antigua

Documentation needs to be approved by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs in St John’s and a marriage application completed. 

Wedding ceremonies are conducted by the registrar or by a civil marriage officer, and must take place between 8am and 6pm.

Barbados

A marriage licence must be obtained in person from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Two witnesses are needed, plus valid return tickets.

St Lucia

There is a no residency policy in St Lucia so couples can marry hours after they arrive. 

A solicitor needs to apply for a marriage licence – this can be arranged by hotels and operators.

Dominican Republic

All documents must be legalised by the FCO, translated into Spanish and legalised by the Embassy of the Dominican Republic, from which clients will also need a tourist card.

Aruba

Couples must hold a ceremony at the Civil Town House, but can also hold an additional ceremony at the beach, resort, on a boat etc. Two witnesses are required.

Special requirements for long haul destinations

Kenya

A special marriage licence can be applied for with a minimum residency of three days. Written parental consent is needed if the bride and groom are under 21, which must be stamped by a solicitor.

Mexico

All documents must be translated into Spanish, certified by a Spanish-speaking lawyer and legalised by the FCO. Bride and groom will need a blood test at a Mexican hospital before the wedding, and four witnesses are required.

Sri Lanka

During some public holidays alcohol can’t be served in hotels, so check in advance.

Thailand

Couples who want to jet straight to the beach can only have a blessing. 

To legally marry, clients have to spend about four days in Bangkok.

Most operators will guide them through the process, which involves visits to the British embassy and the Thai district registry office to make applications and sign papers before moving on to the wedding location.

Bali 

All couples intending to have a legally binding ceremony in Bali are required to declare a religion with the Civil Registry Office. 

The only religions accepted are Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian-Catholic and Christian-Protestant and partners must also declare the same religion or submit a change of religion via written declaration.

Couples who do not follow an Islamic faith must also file a Notice of Intention to Marry with the Civil Registry Office and present a consular representative Letter of No Impediment to Marriage. 

To obtain the Letter of No Impediment, couples must present the consular representative with their passports which must be valid for longer than 6 months as well as any Certified death certificates or divorce decree (absolute) for the dissolution of any preceding marriages.

The USA

Issuing marriage licences in the US requires just one visit to the local county court office where it is usually issued immediately and can be used straight away. The cost varies from state to state.

Conclusion

As you can see this whole area is a minefield and it is absolutely essential that all clients acknowledge an are aware of their responsibility  to comply with all up to date requirements and to provide all necessary certified and stamped paperwork 

All of the above information is provided by us in good faith and at the time of posting is believed to be correct 

Every situation however is unique and accordingly any reliance by clients on such information  must be at the clients’ own risk for which we do not accept responsibility

Subject as aforesaid we and our dedicated legal team are here to help so if you are looking to plan a Destination wedding or special events look no further than our in house legal team. They can ensure everything goes smoothly by keeping up to date with all the legal and technical requirements of weddings overseas.

We help clients collate and submit the necessary documents and send out reminders before they leave to prevent any hiccups and to make sure everything goes smoothly.

The last thing we want is for our client’s overseas weddings to be hit by legal problems