Weddings abroad: A guide to the legal requirements

Weddings abroad: A guide to the legal requirements

The last thing you want is for your client's overseas wedding to be hit by legal problems Joanna Booth reports on the latest requirements around the world

Busy brides dreaming of their wedding abroad don’t want to be trawling through paperwork. But even more unthinkable is the possibility of a legal hitch preventing the ceremony from going ahead.

As their travel agent, you can ensure everything goes smoothly by keeping up to date with all the legal and technical requirements of weddings overseas.

You can help clients collate the necessary documents and send reminders before they leave, preventing any hiccups and making sure everything goes smoothly.

Keep hold of our checklist of requirements for popular wedding destinations to make sure you’ve got all the necessary information. Check with tour operators, tourist boards and the UK embassies of each country to make sure there haven’t been recent changes.

The information below is relevant to UK passport holders.

The basics

Every destination will require both the bride and groom to have:

  • A full 10-year valid passport with more than six months remaining before expiry
  • Full birth certificates
  • If divorced, the decree absolute
  • If widowed, the marriage and death certificates of the ­deceased spouse
  • Deed poll proof of any name change
  • Adoption certificate if relevant

Most destinations will require original documents or certified copies. Check whether photocopies are also necessary.

Other common documents

Certificates of no impediment

The bride and groom need one each and they can be obtained from the local registry office. They usually take around a month to issue and cost about £30. They are generally regarded as being valid for six months from the date of issue.

They are required in Aruba, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Lapland, Malta and Turkey.

Single Status Statutory Declaration

Each person who has never been married will need one of these, stamped and certified by a solicitor no more than three months before the return date of travel, in destinations including Antigua, the Bahamas, Cyprus, the ­Dominican Republic, Lapland, Kenya, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka.

Special requirements: European destinations


Anyone wishing to get married in Cyprus must apply in person on their arrival to the marriage officer in the municipality of their choice. Visit for more information. Tour operators often help guests apply, and most choose to apply for the more expensive special licence (€282), which allows them to marry after three working days in the resort.

Couples also need an affidavit stating a range of personal details, issued and stamped by a solicitor. Two witnesses are required, who must bring their passports. Couples can have civil or religious ceremonies.


Exact requirements vary from island to island so it’s best to check with the tour operator you book through. Many islands require copies of the couple’s passports, certified by a solicitor, and documents should be legalised by the Foreign Office – see for more information.

Most also ask for copies of the documents translated into Greek by a translator approved by the Greek ­embassy in London, and some islands need them to be sent to the embassy for checking prior to the wedding.


The minimum residency period before a wedding can take place varies between four and seven days in different parts of Italy. Two witnesses are needed and should bring their passports.

Previously married brides must have been divorced or widowed for 300 days or more before the ceremony. Local charges may apply and documents may need to be translated into Italian. For more information ask tour operators and look at the FCO website or contact the Italian embassy.


Documentation needs to be certified by the FCO and passports also need to be certified by a solicitor.


Minimum stay prior to the ceremony is two days. Forms RZ1 (Publication of Banns) and RZ2 (Declaration of Oath) must be completed no more than three months before return date of travel.

These are issued by the Maltese government and must also be certified by a solicitor, as must a third- party affidavit confirming the single status of both people. A government tax of approximately €90 is payable on weddings. For more information contact the marriage registry office in Valletta.


A marriage licence is needed and can be applied for locally after ones day’s residency. The couple should take eight passport photos each with them.

All documents must be translated at the British consulate and bride and groom may need to get a medical report or blood test locally as a formality. These will all incur extra costs.

Special requirements: Caribbean destinations

For more information visit


Documentation needs to be approved by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs in St John’s and a marriage application completed. Wedding ceremonies are conducted by the registrar or by a civil marriage officer, and must take place between 8am and 6pm.


Couples must hold a ceremony at the Civil Town House, but can also hold an additional ceremony at the beach, resort, on a boat etc. Two witnesses are required.

The Bahamas

A special licence taking 24 hours to process must be applied for from the Registrar General’s Office, Nassau and Freeport, or the Commissioner’s Office, Out Islands. All documents must be notarised by a solicitor. Visit for more.


A marriage licence must be obtained in person from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Two witnesses are needed, plus valid return tickets.


Some documents may need to be translated into Spanish by a translator approved by the Cuban embassy. All documents must be legalised by the FCO and then ­validated by the Cuban consulate in London prior to the wedding.

Dominican Republic

All documents must be legalised by the FCO, translated into Spanish and legalised by the Embassy of the Dominican Republic, from which clients will also need a tourist card.


If an application for a marriage licence is made in advance, couples can get married 24 hours after arrival. Arrangements can be made through hotels and operators or directly through the Ministry of National Security and Justice.

St Lucia

There is a no residency policy in St Lucia so couples can marry hours after they arrive. A solicitor needs to apply for a marriage licence – this can be arranged by hotels and operators.

Special requirements: Long haul destinations


A special marriage licence can be applied for with a minimum residency of three days. Written parental consent is needed if the bride and groom are under 21, which must be stamped by a solicitor.


All documents must be translated into Spanish, certified by a Spanish-speaking lawyer and legalised by the FCO. Bride and groom will need a blood test at a Mexican hospital before the wedding, and four witnesses are required.

Sri Lanka

During some public holidays alcohol can’t be served in hotels, so check in advance.


Couples who want to jet straight to the beach can only have a blessing. To legally marry, clients have to spend about four days in Bangkok.

Most operators will guide them through the process, which involves visits to the British embassy and the Thai district registry office to make applications and sign papers before moving on to the wedding location.

The US

Issuing marriage licences in the US requires just one visit to the local county court office where it is usually issued immediately and can be used straight away. The cost varies from state to state.


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