Legal & practical issues of getting married abroad

Make sure you’re prepared for all the legal requirements paperwork and practicalities of getting married abroad… .

Make sure you’re prepared for all the paperwork and practicalities of getting married abroad…


Residency and legal requirements

Most countries have rules about residency ‐‐ the time you need to have been there for ‐‐ before you can get married (check the detailed breakdown for each destination), but this is usually only a few days. If you are using a tour operator, the legalities of your wedding will be dealt with by them. However, it’s a good idea to check that all legal requirements will be taken care of. If you are arranging everything yourself you will need to get accurate advice from the consulate or embassy of the country concerned.

You will most certainly need to supply copies of the following before you travel, taking the originals with you to be produced before your ceremony:

  • birth certificates
  • valid 10‐year passports
  • affidavit/statutory declarations confirming single status
  • Decree Absolute (if you are divorced)
  • previous spouse’s death certificate (if you are widowed)
  • parental consent if you are under 18 (21 in some countries)

What are Affidavits/Statutory Declarations?

An affidavit or statutory declaration is a legal document that can be obtained from a commissioner of oaths (a solicitor authorised to authenticate oaths). It’s important to note that the requirements for a Single Status Statutory Declaration are per person (not a joint declaration). These must state that you are both free to marry, that you are single, divorced or widowed and must be signed and stamped by a solicitor. The declaration should also contain your full name, address, nationality, religion, passport number and occupation. This document must be obtained within three months of your intended date of wedding and must also state your intent to marry in the destination you have chosen. The cost will vary from area to area depending on court charges.

A sample affidavit might read:

I (name, nationality, passport number and occupation) do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows:

I declare that I have always been known by the name ……….

I also declare that I understand that I am free to contract marriage according to the legal requirements for marriage in (destination), and I make this Solemn Declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declaration Act 1835. Declared by (name) at (address) and (date) signed by (solicitor’s name and official stamp).

To find out more see Getting married abroad

Certificate of No Impediment

Some countries ask you for a Certificate of No Impediment, which is obtainable from the Register Office in the area where you live. You will have to give notice of your marriage in the same way as you would for a civil wedding in the UK and after 21 days you will be issued with the certificate. You will then most likely be required to send a copy of the certificate to the authorities where you plan to marry, taking the original with you when you travel.

Is my marriage legal in the UK?

As long as your marriage is legally recognised (validly contracted) in the country in which it takes place, it is deemed to be valid in England and Wales. However, in the light of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall’s wedding in Bali, which was found to be invalid in the UK, the Law Society advises that anyone getting married abroad should contact the local British embassy or consulate for up‐to‐date advice. Do not rely on travel agents or any third party to ensure that the ceremony is valid: check it for yourself and be sure of what you are doing. If you are not completely satisfied that your marriage will be recognised in this country then visit a Register Office in Britain to be doubly sure. On your return home you do not need to register your marriage with the Register Office. You can use your foreign marriage certificate to change your name on your documents and with your bank, as you would if you married in the UK. It’s a good idea to obtain several copies of your marriage certificate, just in case you lose the original, as it is very difficult to get further copies at a later date.

Marriages solemnised in a foreign country cannot be registered in the UK. However, it is possible, in some instances, for a record of your marriage to be kept at:

The ONS General Register Office
Overseas Section
Trafalgar Road
Tel: 0151‐471 4801 email:

This is not done automatically so it is up to you to contact the office to arrange to send any necessary documentation.

Passports and visas

You should ensure that you have a valid 10‐year passport and, as many countries require expiry dates on passports to be a considerable length of time after the return from holiday, it is recommended that your passport is valid for six months after your return to the UK.

In most cases, where it is indicated that visas are required, you are responsible for obtaining these yourselves. The cost, method of obtaining a visa and time necessary to process applications vary considerably between countries and are subject to change. Contact the relevant embassy at the earliest opportunity for the most up‐to‐date information.

Marriage blessings

If you are already married, many companies offer tropical blessings and renewal of vows services to celebrate your union. The only legal requirement is that you take along your original marriage certificate for authentication, although some destinations will require a photocopy of your certificate to be sent at least six weeks before you travel. Most of the services that are provided for weddings can be requested for your blessing service.

To find out more see Getting married abroad

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