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Documents required if you are planning a wedding abroad and you live in the United Kingdom.

During my career as a Registrar, probably the most common question about marrying overseas 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 both is YES and NO. So long as due and legal process has been followed in the foreign country where you marry, your marriage will be recognised as a legal marriage back home in the United Kingdom. You do not need to register the marriage with the UK authorities when you return, but it is a good idea to inform the British Embassy in the country where you intend to get married 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.

legal documents for marriage in the UK

Of course, if you choose to have a simple legal marriage at the Register Office in the UK 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 whereby 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 or abroad – in fact, where ever you want (subject to permission) without a lot of the hassle involved in having your legal marriage abroad. FIND OUT MORE

But if you really want the legal marriage to take part abroad, then on the whole, especially within the EU, you would both need to 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. There may also be a requirement of residency for a certain period before the wedding can take place so you need to check this too. It is a good idea to use a wedding planner and I would recommend that you do so. They will specialise in weddings abroad and can advise you and deal with the paperwork on your behalf.

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.

The authorities 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 from the country you are marrying in basically ask 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 their requirements for how long the Certificate of No Impediment is valid 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.

outdoor wedding ceremony flowers

If you’ve changed your name

If the name on any of your documents doesn’t appear exactly as it does on your birth certificate, you will have to provide evidence of your name change (for example, a marriage certificate or deed poll).

If you don’t do this, the foreign authority may refuse to allow the marriage to go ahead.

You will 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 carried out 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 The process shouldn’t take more than 2 working days, excluding postal/courier time.

The deal is that these requirements are ultimately your responsibility - no one else's. Not even the wedding planner, so make sure you do your homework, plan ahead, have all the required documents to hand and everything will be fine.

Of course this information is only correct at the time of writing, but I will always endeavour to maintain the information and keep it up to date.

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