We hope the photos on this page may inspire you to think about getting married abroad. If so, Bride-Buddy’s job is to arm you with the knowledge you need to navigate the legalities of getting married if you are a UK Citizen. Bride-Buddy has written this article assuming you are a UK Couple, living in the UK who want to get married abroad. Contact your local register office to find out what you need to do if you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey as the rules are slightly different.
There are 3 ways to have a wedding abroad. You can avoid all this hassle with our third option….. Read on to find out how….
Are you thinking about a legal civil ceremony? A legal religious ceremony? Or a wedding celebration ceremony following a legal marriage in the UK or legal registration abroad? The last option is probably the easiest and is becoming more and more popular with couples and you can find out more on Bride-Buddy’s Personal Ceremonies page, but I am also going to go over all 3 options here.
As a Registrar, the most common questions about marrying abroad I was asked was ‘Will my wedding abroad be legal in the UK? Will I have to register the marriage in the UK?’
The short answer to these are YES and NO. So long as due and legal process has been followed in the foreign country where you marry, it will be completely recognised as a legal marriage back home in the UK. There is no need to register the marriage with the UK authorities at all. It is best to inform the British Embassy in the country where you intend to marry as this can make it much easier to obtain further marriage certificates in the future should you need them. For this reason, another major tip is to order and pay for several original marriage certificates on the day.
In the main, especially within the EU, you would both attend the local Town Hall for a Civil Ceremony or the Priest at the Church to do the legal parts required in your country of choice. Most often, there are wedding planners who specialise in weddings abroad who can advise you and deal with the paperwork on your behalf. It is a good idea to use a specialised wedding planner and I would recommend that you do so.
Generally, the original legal documents they will want to see will be the same as if you were marrying in the UK but go to Bride-Buddy’s Legal Documents Checklist for an absolute guide.
You will probably need to fulfil a period of residency in the country too before your wedding can take place. Your wedding planner or embassy will be able to inform you of the requirements, and they will probably ask for an original Certificate of No Impediment and for the documents to be Apostilled. We will cover these items now as they are very important.
Certificate of No Impediment
If you marry in the UK you have to Give Notice of Marriage. This is to prove you are who you say you are and that you are legally free to marry. You do this at your local Register Office. If you marry abroad, the authorities there are basically asking the UK Registrars to check everything about you is legal and above board and to send them a certificate to say the Register Office in the UK has checked you and your documents are in order. It confirms they can find no legal impediment to the marriage going ahead. It costs £35 each to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment and just as Giving Notice of Marriage you MUST attend the Register Office local to where you live taking all the required documents with you. (see Bride-Buddy's page Giving Notice of Marriage and the Legal Documents Checklist)
Countries can differ on how long the validity of the Certificate of No Impediment is for. You MUST get this information from your wedding planner or ring the UK Embassy of the country you intend to marry in. It is NOT the Registrars responsibility to know this. It is yours. After attending the Register Office, your Certificate of No Impediment will be available 28 days later and WILL ONLY BE VALID FOR 6 MONTHS (3 months in Scotland) You need to think about when your country of choice want your Certificate. Some countries will only accept a Certificate with 6 months validity, others only 3 months, so your timing is crucial.
If you’ve changed your name
If your name on any of your documents doesn’t appear exactly as it does on your birth certificate, you’ll need to provide evidence of your name change (for example, a marriage certificate or deed poll).
If you don’t provide evidence, the authorities may refuse to allow the marriage to go ahead.
You’ll also need to get a certified translation of your Certificate of No Impediment through an approved translator.
(Getting your documents ‘legalised’ or ‘certified as genuine’)
Quite often, your country of choice will require all your original documents including your Certificate of No Impediment to be legalised. This is done by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) based at Milton Keynes. They do not take personal callers, so make sure you allow enough time. Follow this link for all the information on this service including fees https://www.gov.uk/get-document-legalised. The process shouldn’t take more than 2 working days, excluding postal/courier time.
HEY!! You can avoid all this hassle with our third option….. Read on to find out how….
By having a simple legal marriage at the Register Office first, perhaps just you and two witnesses, there is nothing in law stopping you having a big wedding celebration ceremony anywhere you want to or abroad. You MUST still comply with the law in where your marriage is legally registered but you have the option of a further celebratory ceremony in a location of your choice. So, here is a way to have your ‘wedding’ in your garden, on your allotment, in the woods, on the beach, abroad etc – where ever you want (subject to permission) FIND OUT MORE
‘Trust me – I’m a Registrar’ These ceremonies are purely celebratory and have no legal status and although I refer to using them as ‘your wedding’, this is not really your legal wedding, this is just a ceremony. In law, if you get married twice, you put the first wedding in jeopardy, so you can only marry once. Also, in law, you can only legally marry in the UK at a venue or church approved and licenced by the General Registrar’s Office to carry out weddings.
There is a great tool on.gov.uk which asks where you live and in which country you want to marry and takes you through the documents you need. https://www.gov.uk/marriage-abroad/y
Maybe you live in the UK but your partner lives abroad and you want to marry abroad, check out the link above.