Getting married in Spain

Marriage in Spain
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Updated 2023-07-22 19:53

Congratulations! You have found the partner of your dreams and want to get married in Spain. And why not? The country is an idyllic destination to tie the knot. As an expat, you are entitled to marry in Spain. The process is a little bureaucratic with a few formalities, but it's not too complicated. We recommend you enquire with the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country before proceeding. Moreover, you will have to request specific documentation from your native country before saying "I do" in Spain.

Bear in mind that at least one member of the couple has to be a Spanish resident registered with the nearest municipality to their home. Both people should also be at least 18 years of age.

Important:

Civil and religious marriage ceremonies are both legally recognized in Spain. Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish marriages can be celebrated without an additional civil wedding as they have the same legal standing. 

Good to know:

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005. Couples benefit from the same marriage, legal, inheritance and adoption rights as spouses in heterosexual unions.

Also, the majority of Spain's autonomous communities recognize civil unions and registered cohabitation for heterosexual and same-sex couples (pareja de hecho). Even if you don't intend to get formally "married," this option is a good idea as couples will have similar property and inheritance rights as married people.

Wedding paperwork and administration in Spain

To make your application for a civil wedding in Spain, get in touch with the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) or district court where your marriage will be held. This will be the registry or court nearest to where you live in Spain. You'll obtain the expediente matrimonial, the document where the couple show they meet the requirements to marry.

As a Spanish resident, you are required to produce the following documents:

  • NIE (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero), your passport or identity card and photocopies.
  • Birth certificate. 
  • Empadronamiento. This is the official certificate stating your place of residence. You can obtain yours from your local town hall. At least one partner should have been a Spanish resident for the last two years.
  • If you are a divorcee, copies of your previous marriage and divorce certificates.
  • If you are a widower or widow, a copy of your marriage certificate and your late spouse's death certificate.

Note that formalities can vary from region to region. Applicants should check with their local authorities which documents they will need to present, and which are unnecessary.

Many of your documents must be legalized in your home country and stamped with an apostille stamp. They must also be presented in Spanish, translated by an official sworn translator.

Be sure to check the issue dates of your documents. Some authorities may require them to be issued within the previous three or six months.

The expediente matrimonial document is only valid for six months. During this time, you'll need to present it to the town hall in the area where you would like to get married. Before authorizing the papers, a witness may be required. This person does not necessarily have to be a witness on your wedding day.

If you are going to marry in a church in Spain, contact your local parish at least three months in advance. You will also need to provide baptismal certificates issued within the last six months to process your application. If you decide to get married in a different parish, just ask for your documents to be transferred.

Good to know:

When you have found your soul mate in Spain, you are said to have discovered your media naranja (half an orange). Couples in love will often refer to the other person as their media naranja.

Celebrate your wedding in Spain

Once you have obtained all the required documentation, you can proceed with your wedding celebration in Spain. Two witnesses will have to sign the marriage register, and you will receive your marriage certificate within 30 to 120 days if Spanish authorities have accepted your application. You may want to get married at the town hall or district court. The date for this will be agreed upon by the mayor or district court judge.

In general, district court or town hall weddings are free of charge. If you prefer to marry in a church, a donation of a few hundred euros is standard.

You can also marry by proxy if one member of the couple is unable to move to Spain (in case of disability, illness or hospitalization). A proxy marriage document has to be signed by a public notary.

Once you have celebrated your wedding, you will have to go to the Civil Registry to request a Libro de Familia, which records the marriage and other important family matters, such as the birth and adoption of children in Spain. You will also have to notify your home country's embassy or consulate in Spain.

Good to know:

As an expat living in Spain about to get married, you may end up organizing two or more ceremonies. For example, one in Spain, then one back with your old friends in your native country, especially if they cannot travel to be with you on the day you tie the knot.

Tips on planning a wedding in Spain

Without a doubt, a wedding is one of the most important days in any couple's life. The planning that precedes it is hardly ever a walk in the park, so to ensure your very special day goes without a hitch, here are a few essential tips:

  • Start your wedding planning early. You might have summer the following year in mind, but don't think that means you can wait a while to start planning. The earlier you start, the easier and less stressful everything will be. Having a clear plan ensures you stay on top of every detail so that important things are not missed out.
  • Set a Budget. Be realistic about what you can genuinely afford. For your budget to work, you need to factor in every single detail. This may include the cost of putting up people in hotels and apartments if they are flying over to Spain for your ceremony. Try not to leave anything out.
  • Be selective with your guest list. You may want to invite the world and his wife to celebrate with you, but costs per head will most likely be your most significant expense. Choosing the guests will probably be the hardest decision in the whole planning process for the both of you to make.
  • If you're going to have a big wedding with many guests, consider hiring an experienced wedding planner. They can take a lot of the work off your shoulders and typically have good connections with local florists, hair stylists and photographers.
  • Research possible location. Would you like to get married in a church, on the beach, in a rustic finca or a luxurious hotel resort?
  • When you're drawing up a shortlist of wedding venues, consider the following questions to help you make your final decision: How many weddings are taking place on the same day? Does the venue offer discounts for weekday or out-of-season weddings? What do they include in their wedding packages?
  • Anticipate challenges and have a plan B. There will always be challenges with planning a wedding, so it's a good idea to anticipate them and know what to do in these situations. For example, what will you do if the weather changes on the day of your ceremony and is not as forecast? What will you do if there are delays with deliveries of the bridesmaids' outfits?
  • Book the best photographer you can. You'll want to relive cherished memories of your wedding many times over the coming years, so it's essential to have a photographer who can deliver what you want. Carry out lots of research and read testimonials and online commentaries. If you have engaged the services of a wedding planner, they will most likely know excellent photographers.
  • Get the best menu your money can buy. Food is such an essential part of the festivities, and you don't want your guests to go hungry or turn up their noses at poorly cooked or presented food. Therefore, attend tasting sessions at your wedding venue to help you choose the best menu for you and your guests.
  • Don't fixate on wedding trends. Wedding trends come and go, such as getting married under a pastel floral arch. Don't obsess over them. Instead, let your style dictate the wedding you truly want.
  • Hire a translator: If you marry someone from Spain and/or are inviting Spanish guests to your wedding, you may need the services of a translator. As a happy couple, you don't want to spend your entire day translating conversations or speeches for everyone.

Pros and cons of big and small weddings in Spain

Wedding planning involves making a lot of decisions. One of the first will be whether to host a big or small ceremony. There are plenty of pros and cons to both. Here are a few to consider:

Pros of a small wedding

  • A greater choice of venues
  • Less expensive
  • Less stress

Cons of a small wedding

  • It can be difficult restricting the guest list to just a select few
  • People may be offended at being left out
  • You will receive fewer gifts

Pros of big weddings

  • You don't have to restrict the guest list
  • You can share your big day with everyone you love
  • You'll receive lots of gifts

Cons of big weddings

  • There are fewer venues that cater to large crowds
  • It is more expensive
  • You will have to spend more time planning the day

Good to know:

According to Statista.com, the average cost of a wedding in Spain is 22,000 euros. This encompasses expenses related to the banquet, clothes, music and invitations.

Spanish wedding traditions

Countries all over the world celebrate weddings in many different ways. Here are a few wedding traditions that you may come across in Spain and might want to adapt for your nuptials:

  • When you receive a wedding invitation, don't be surprised if it comes with a bank account number. In Spain, it is customary to give cash, not a gift. You can transfer funds to the couple's account or provide them with money in an envelope on the day of the ceremony. How much to give usually depends on your relationship with the happy couple. One of the most common search terms involving weddings and money is "How much money should I give at a wedding? If you are a close family member, you may be expected to pay around 500 euros. Work colleagues, distant relatives and friends give about 200 euros. Weddings are very expensive in Spain as they are in many other countries, and your monetary gift is expected to cover the cost of the meal at least.
  • Spanish women wear their engagement ring on their left hand and the wedding ring on their right hand.
  • In some Spanish weddings, the groom's best friends may cut up his tie and sell pieces to guests to raise extra funds for the couple.
  • As the newly married couple leaves the ceremony, guests throw dried rice or rose petals, symbolizing fertility and prosperity.
  • Be prepared to party hard because many Spanish weddings can last for 12 hours or more. Whether the wedding starts mid-morning or early afternoon, it will go on late into the night and beyond. And the food will keep coming.
  • Some Spanish weddings keep the tradition of the bride and groom exchanging 13 coins, known as arras or unity coins. They represent sharing the goods they have now and in their joint future.
  • Usually, Spanish weddings don't have bridesmaids, groomsmen, best man or maid of honor. In their place are padrinos, typically the father of the bride and the mother of the groom. Their principal functions are to accompany the bride and groom and sign as witnesses to the marriage.

Saying adios to the single life in Spain

In Spain, a "despedida de solteros/solteras" refers to stag or hen parties, a traditional way of bidding farewell to the single life before entering into the world of marriage. It's a special occasion filled with excitement and surrounded by close friends and family members.

Despedidas de solteros in Spain are known for their vivacity and energy. These celebrations usually occur a few weeks or days before the wedding and are often organized by the bridesmaids or groomsmen. They carefully plan a memorable day or night with surprises, activities and entertainment to honor the bride or groom.

Typically, these fiestas are marked by various fun-filled events such as bar hopping, partying at nightclubs, or enjoying a day by the beach. There are also more unique and adventurous activities like paintballing, go-karting, or even themed treasure hunts.

Useful link:

Autorización - Inscripción de Matrimonio - Trámites y gestiones personales (mjusticia.gob.es)

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