Weddings abroad have become more and more popular in recent times. White-sand beaches and luxury resorts attract the imagination of many couples when planning this special day. Globalisation has also seen an enormous increase in the number of couples with an international background. Marrying at the home village of one member of the couple might mean a marrying in a foreign country for the other.
Celebrating a wedding abroad can add to the occasion’s excitement and double up as a holiday, but some aspects of the planning can be slightly more complex. Some additional paperwork for visas and wedding licences might be required depending on the destination. Quite often, the services of a notary public and/or an official translator will be required when preparing the documents that need to be submitted to the authorities of the place where the wedding will take place.
Apart from the usual visa procedures required to travel to the chosen destination, each country will apply its own law and requirements for the celebration and registration of the marriage. If one of the spouses is a national of the country where the marriage will take place, the requirements could be different than if both parties to the marriage are tourists.
Typically, the authorities of the relevant country will need proof of identity, often including the couple’s birth certificates. If you were born in the UK, it is easy to obtain a copy of your birth certificate online. If you have been married before, they could ask for proof of the dissolution of the previous marriage, such as a divorce decree issued by a county court.
Many foreign authorities also request an additional document to show that you are free to marry. This document can take the form of a ‘certificate of non-impediment to marry’, which in the UK is issued by your local register office and bears the signature of a registrar. Many countries also accept a sworn declaration or ‘affidavit of single status’, signed by each of the parties to the marriage. This normally needs to be signed in the presence of a notary public. For example, the Italian authorities normally ask British citizens to present a sworn declaration (dichiarazione giurata) confirming their single status when they apply to get married in Italy. The website of the Italian Consulate in London offers a bilingual template that can be used for this purpose, once signed in the presence of a notary public.
Where the foreign destination is not an English-speaking country, translations of all the documents will often be required. These translations will almost invariably need to be certified or notarised. Cuba, Mexico or the Dominican Republic are some of the most popular wedding destinations and a translation into Spanish of all the documents is always required. However, each of those countries has its own requirements as to how the translations have to be certified and legalised. Our notaries public can discuss with you the usual translation, notarisation and legalisation requirements for marriages taking place in these countries. Also, if you wish to learn more about certified translations, you can check our popular post ‘What is a certified translation?’.
If you are a UK citizen and you are getting married in a country which is a party to the Hague Convention of 1961 (e.g. Germany, Spain or the Netherlands), your documents will probably need to be legalised by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. For countries that are not members of the Convention (e.g. Brazil, the UAE or China), you may also need to send the documents to their consulate or embassy in London, who will add their own stamp. In some cases, the first step of the process is to have the documents certified by a notary public, and the notary will normally also be able to advise about legalisation procedures and handle the legalisation process for you.
The UK government publishes a useful guide, which is updated regularly, to help couples find out the usual documentation requirements when planning to get married in a particular country. You can check the guide out at https://www.gov.uk/marriage-abroad.