Thinking about getting married abroad? Having your wedding in a beautiful, meaningful location appeals to many couples, but how easy is it from a legal point of view? Here’s the how, where and what’s needed to get married abroad legally.
How do I get married abroad legally?
As well as ensuring that your marriage is legal in the UK, you need to contact the local authorities where you want to get married. They will be able to advise you on the legal requirements of getting married abroad in their country, the process, and the documents needed. Different countries need different things, and documents may need legalising if you want to use them abroad. Read on to find out why having the right documentation is important, and what you may need to dig out.
Legal requirements of getting married abroad
Getting married abroad legally is important – if you don’t follow the country’s legal processes, your marriage might not be recognised as legal there, or once you get back to the UK! Legal requirements of getting married abroad can include:
- Having / bringing the correct documents with you
- Ensuring documents are certified, or translated if needed
- Meeting minimum age and same-sex marriage laws
- Ensuring you meet the legal residency requirements
It’s important to understand that your marriage needs to meet legal requirements of both the country you’re getting married in, and your country of residence. Plan your wedding abroad way in advance – you could even hire a planner.
Documents needed to get married abroad
If you’re getting married abroad, you will need to bring important documents with you. These can include:
- Your passports – make sure they’re valid and have at least 6 months left before expiration
- Full birth certificates from both parties (they need to be the originals, or certified copies)
- If divorced, the decree absolute, if widowed, the marriage and spouses’ death certificate
- If you’ve changed your name, you will need deed poll proof of the name change
You will also need to buy two Certificates of No Impediment (CNIs) from the UK government to get married abroad legally. A CNI costs about £30 each, takes around one month to issue, and expires around 6 months after it is issued.
Often, these documents will need to be originals, and also check whether certified copies are acceptable. Many documents need notarisation before being used abroad, and some may need an apostille stamp or further legalisation. This will depend on the country you’re getting married abroad in – countries have different rules on what makes a document ‘authentic’.
It’s also sensible to make photocopies of these documents for your own reference and peace of mind.
Some countries require the document to be translated into the language of the country you’re getting married in. Luckily, many document certification services (including ours), can offer a streamlined process of translation and legalisation in one.
What countries can I legally get married in?
Many countries allow UK couples to get married, and the easiest way to find out is to use the GOV.UK tool. Just enter where you want to get married abroad, and it will tell you whether it’s possible and what you will need to do.
If you’re looking for the easiest places get married abroad legally, here are a few of the most popular countries:
The most popular country for UK couples getting married abroad is Italy. The legal requirements are relatively easy, and there are no minimum residency requirements. In France and Spain, you need to have lived there for a while.
Las Vegas is known as the ‘wedding capital of the world’ and with good reason. It’s easy to get married in Vegas, all you need to do is show your (valid) passports at the courthouse, get a marriage license, and find a venue to get hitched.
New York is easy too – you can get married 24 hours after getting a standard marriage license there. Obviously, you need to take into account any difficulties getting to the USA in the first place, but once you’re in New York or Vegas it’s simple.
Want a beach island wedding? Hawaii requires no residency or waiting times, and many companies offer easy wedding packages. Ensure you leave time to sort a beach permit, and ensure you bring valid ID and documentation.
Another stunning Mediterranean choice, Cyprus is a popular country for UK residents getting married abroad. The legal requirements are relatively easy, but you will need to apply in-person for the marriage beforehand, and you will need to bring all the necessary documentation. Some Cyprus holiday packages incorporate a stay, a wedding, and a honeymoon.
Find out more about getting married in Cyprus here, at Tie the Knot Cyprus.
Compared to many other countries in the EU to get married abroad, Denmark is relatively straightforward. You will need to apply for a licence online a couple of weeks before you want to get married, but this can be done online from anywhere. Couples only need to be in Denmark a couple of days before the wedding. It’s known as “The Vegas of Europe”.
On the border of Spain, Gibraltar offers a more simple legal process than its neighbouring country. There is no long residency requirement, and you have the option to hold a Spanish wedding reception after you’re married.
Interested in living in Spain long-term? Read our blog about applying for Spanish citizenship.
New Zealand’s easy legal requirements are nearly as famous as its scenery – you don’t even need to show your ID to get married here. If you have been married before, ensure you bring the relevant documentation. Like many countries, you will need to bring a Notice of Intended Marriage, and arrange for a marriage license and certificate before the ceremony.
Obviously, travel regulations change regularly and you should always double check the current legal requirements of the country you want to get married abroad in. Read on to find out how we can help you make the right choice. We can advise whether the above countries need a simple notarisation, an apostille stamp, or a more complex consular legalisation.
Can we help with getting married abroad?
MSC Notaries offer translation, notary services and document legalisation for a variety of countries. We can help you gather documents needed to get married abroad, translate if needed, and make sure they’re properly certified for that country.
Countries overseas need different ‘levels’ of legalisation for documents, so while some countries may only need documents to be notarised by a notary, others may need an apostille stamp from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Some countries, for example outside the Hague Convention, will need an extra level of legalisation on top of this. It’s a confusing process, but basically an apostille stamp certifies the public officer (e.g. notary’s or registrar’s signature), and then consular legalisation certifies the apostille stamp. We can ensure it’s done correctly and your documents will still be legal once they’re overseas. It’s often quicker and easier to translate, notarise and legalise documents all-in-one.