Getting married in Spain as an expat

Getting legally married in Spain / Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash
Getting legally married in Spain / Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash
1 April 2020, Emma Donaldson

Wedding bells are ringing and you’re getting married – congratulations! If you’re planning on getting married in Spain as a foreigner, whether you’re marrying a Spaniard or not, you’ll need to investigate the bureaucracy involved in tying the knot sooner rather than later, as well as Spanish wedding traditions, of course. In this guide we explain the different types of weddings in Spain and walk you through the process of legally getting married, including any documentation you’ll need.

Types of wedding in Spain

In general terms, there are three main categories of weddings in Spain

  • Civil marriage: couples in Spain may legally marry in a civil ceremony without a religious aspect.
  • Civil partnership: in Spain this is known as “pareja de hecho”. The majority of Spain’s autonomous communities recognise and provide civil unions and registered cohabitation between both heterosexual and same sex couples. Even if you don’t want to get officially “married”, this is a recommended option as the couple will gain inheritance and property rights.
  • Religious marriages: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim marriages can be celebrated in Spain without requiring an additional civil marriage. Provided the officiant is legally allowed to carry out weddings, religious marriages have the same legal status as civil unions.

How to get married in Spain

Getting married in Spain tends to involve a lot of bureaucracy, especially if you’re not a Spanish native. This can be a time-consuming process so make sure you allow plenty of time before the intended date of the wedding to get all the relevant paperwork and documentation in order.

For a civil wedding, the first thing you need to do is apply directly through your local registry office. A list of Civil Registries and further information about civil marriage in Spain can be found by region on the Spanish Ministry of Justice website.

Even if you’re planning to have a non-religious wedding celebration, this is a necessary step in order to legalise the union and get all the necessary paperwork. Things change depending on the region in Spain but you’ll likely need to provide the following documents:

  • Valid passports of both parties
  • Original full birth certificates
  • Proof that both parties are legally allowed to get married, frequently known as a certificate of no impediment (if you aren’t Spanish then you may need to obtain this from your home country’s Embassy or Consulate)
  • Divorce/Annulment/Death Certificates, if applicable
  • Certificate of residence or empadronamiento (at least one of the parties getting married must have been a resident in Spain for at least the past 2 years, or be a Spanish citizen to qualify for a civil marriage in Spain)

For a Catholic wedding, you'll need the documents mentioned above, as well as some additional paperwork:

  • Pre-nuptial enquiry
  • Baptism, communion, and confirmation certificates issued by your parish church
  • A “Freedom to Marry” letter from your parish priest, indicating you have fulfilled the relevant premarital course requirements

The process

If your documents are not in Spanish, then they must be accompanied by an official translation which is known in Spain as una traducción jurada. They must also be stamped with an Apostille stamp. Once you start the application process at your local registry office and present all of your documents in front of a witness, a file known as an “expediente” will be opened and you’ll be notified when the marriage licence (Certificado de Capacidad Matrimonial) is issued, and you’ll subsequently be able to get married. Depending on the region in Spain, this can take a month, or it can take several so plan ahead.

Are there fees involved?

Planning a wedding certainly isn’t cheap and neither is the paperwork. Once again, this partly depends on your home country as the consular document which shows no impediment to marriage can cost up to 150 euros, and the Apostille stamp tends to cost about 15-20 euros per document. Keep these costs in mind when preparing your wedding budget.

Wedding ceremonies in Spain

You’ve made it through all the bureaucracy and now you can finally get married! A civil marriage can be held in the Registry office, in the local town hall or in a notary office if you choose to officially tie the knot before the big day. The marriage is effective immediately following the ceremony.

After the wedding, normally you will receive a certificate stating the date, time and place of the marriage and the new couple will receive a “libro de familia” (family book).

A religious ceremony or blessing can be held following the civil ceremony if the couple wishes to do so. You should be aware that after a full religious ceremony, you only have one week to present the church-issued certificate to the nearest civil registry so get it done quickly before your honeymoon!

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