Getting married in Turkey

Marriage in Turkey
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Updated 2024-02-24 17:14

 Türkiye, with its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, has become a sought-after wedding destination for expats. The appeal lies in its unique blend of East and West, offering a variety of beautiful settings for every kind of wedding. Whether it's the bustling cityscape of Istanbul, the serene beaches of the Aegean coast, or the historic allure of Cappadocia, Türkiye provides a backdrop for every taste.

Practically speaking, Türkiye is an attractive choice for expats due to its straightforward marriage laws and the relative ease of organizing a wedding. The country's cost-effectiveness compared to other popular wedding destinations is another significant draw. Additionally, its central location makes it a convenient meeting point for guests traveling from different parts of the world. Intrigued? Let's see how to plan your wedding in Türkiye.

Turkish marriage laws

Navigating the legal landscape of marriage in Türkiye is an essential first step for expats planning their wedding here. Understanding the local laws not only ensures compliance but will also help with the smooth and efficient planning of your wedding.

Let's address this first: can foreigners get married in Türkiye?

The answer to this question is yes. And as a matter of fact, getting married in Türkiye is a relatively straightforward procedure for expats.

To register your marriage in Türkiye, you will need to prepare a set of essential documents. These generally include standard paperwork, such as your passport and a birth certificate. Additionally, you will be asked to provide the following:

A ‘Certificate of No Impediment' (CNI) or a similar document from your home country's embassy or consulate in Türkiye. This certificate confirms that there are no legal impediments to marriage in your home country. For instance, that you are not currently married. Note that polygamy is illegal in Türkiye.

Turkish authorities also require a standard health certificate for both the bride and the groom. This report should include blood samples for basic infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, C, HIV, etc. Note that this certificate is valid for 6 months. For couples who are over 60, a more specific health report may be required by a health committee.

For those who have been previously married, additional documentation is required. A divorce decree or a spouse's death certificate must be provided, depending on the circumstances.

Couples of different nationalities need to pay special attention to the regulations of both countries. While Türkiye might not impose additional requirements for international marriages, your or your partner's home country's laws might have specific demands. It's advisable to consult both Turkish authorities and respective embassies to ensure that you have all legal bases covered.

It's important to note that all foreign documents must be translated into Turkish and notarized. This can be done in Türkiye, where you can find a wide selection of certified translators and notary services. Also, remember that some documents might have an expiration date, such as the CNI, which typically is valid for a few months.

Civil marriage vs. Religious marriage in Türkiye

In Türkiye, the legal framework for marriages distinguishes clearly between civil and religious ceremonies.

Civil marriage is the only legally recognized form of marriage in Türkiye. This means that for a marriage to be legally binding and recognized by the state, it must be conducted by a Turkish government official, typically at a local municipality's marriage office. Even if a couple opts for a religious ceremony, it does not hold any legal status unless accompanied by a civil marriage.

Religious ceremonies are optional and often take place after the official civil ceremony. These are purely ceremonial and hold no legal weight in Türkiye. Couples who wish to incorporate their religious beliefs into their wedding can certainly do so, but this must be seen as an addition to the civil marriage.

Arranging a civil marriage in Türkiye

If you've made the decision to get married in Türkiye, it's best to start preparing for your ceremony well in advance. Whether you are marrying another expat or a Turkish citizen, there may be paperwork on both sides that takes time to obtain.

Here's your basic action plan for preparing for a civil marriage ceremony in Türkiye:

Gather all necessary documents, such as passports, birth certificates, and, if applicable, divorce decrees or death certificates of former spouses. Non-Turkish documents should be translated and notarized.

Apply for marriage at the local municipality where either the bride or groom resides. If both are non-residents, you can apply at any municipality where you plan to conduct the ceremony.

As mentioned earlier, Türkiye requires a brief medical examination, which can usually be done at a local state hospital.

Once you've gathered and submitted all the documents and have your medical check results, you can go on to make an appointment for your marriage ceremony. The civil marriage ceremony is typically brief. All you will need to do is exchange vows, sign the marriage register, and receive your marriage certificate. That's it! You are now married.

Important:

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Türkiye. The Turkish legal system and norms are predominantly influenced by traditional values, and as a result, there are currently no provisions for the legal recognition of same-sex unions. This lack of recognition means that same-sex couples cannot legally marry within the country, nor are foreign same-sex marriages recognized under Turkish law. It's important for LGBTQ+ individuals considering a union in Türkiye to be aware of these legal limitations and the broader social context. While Istanbul and some other cities have increasingly vibrant LGBTQ+ communities and events, the country as a whole maintains conservative views on this issue.

Religious marriage ceremonies in Türkiye

If you are also thinking about organizing a religious ceremony to celebrate your marriage in Türkiye, it's important to note that such ceremonies do not replace the legal obligations of civil marriage. You are, thus, free to arrange a religious ceremony according to your or your partner's faith either before or after the civil marriage. However, for the marriage to be recognized legally in Türkiye and internationally, the civil ceremony is a must.

Each religious group in Türkiye has its own traditions for wedding ceremonies. For instance, Islamic weddings may include a "Nikah" ceremony, while Christian weddings may involve a church service. It's best to get in touch with the relevant religious organizations in Türkiye to understand the specific customs and requirements for marriage ceremonies.

Wedding traditions in Türkiye

Just like in any other country, the wedding traditions in Türkiye may differ from region to region and from one family to another. However, there are still several staple traditions most households observe:

Henna night (Kına Gecesi): This is one of the most iconic Turkish wedding traditions. Held usually the night before the wedding, the bride-to-be wears a red dress and a red veil. Her hands and feet are decorated with intricate henna designs. The event is filled with dancing, singing, and emotional moments and signifies the bride saying goodbye to her single life.

Gold and money as gifts: At Turkish weddings, it's customary for guests to present the bride and groom with gold coins or cash. This tradition, known as “takı töreni”, helps set the couple up for their new life together. Guests pin gold or money onto the sashes worn by the couple, symbolizing prosperity and good fortune.

Car convoy: After the wedding ceremony, a car convoy is formed to escort the newlyweds to their reception or home. The convoy is loud and festive, and often involves honking horns and decorated vehicles.

Expats marrying in Türkiye can embrace some of these local customs to enrich their wedding experience.

Legal considerations after getting married in Türkiye

Once you've fully lived through the excitement of your Turkish wedding, take some time to consider the legal considerations that follow, particularly concerning changes in your residency status in Türkiye and the registration of your marriage in your respective home countries. These steps are crucial in ensuring that the marriage is legally recognized worldwide and any subsequent legal matters are handled properly.

Changes in your residency status

Marrying a Turkish citizen can impact your residency status as an expat. Once your marriage has been officially registered, the non-Turkish spouse becomes eligible for a residence permit, which can be a pathway to long-term residency or even citizenship in Türkiye. It's a good idea to apply for this permit with the local migration office post-wedding with your marriage certificate and other required documents.

The change in residency status may have various legal implications, such as tax responsibilities or property ownership rights. It's advisable to consult with a legal expert to understand these changes comprehensively.

If you (as an expat spouse) plan to bring your family members to Türkiye, you can explore the country's family reunification laws. Türkiye has specific regulations and requirements for family reunification visas, which might have been altered by the marriage.

Registering your marriage back home

To ensure that your marriage is recognized in your home country, you need to register it with the relevant authorities. This often involves submitting the Turkish marriage certificate to your country's embassy or consulate in Türkiye.

The Turkish marriage certificate will likely need to be translated and possibly apostilled or legalized to be valid in your home country. This process can vary depending on the country, so it's essential to check the specific requirements.

Contact your home country's embassy or consulate in Türkiye for guidance on the process. They can provide specific instructions and any forms that need to be completed.

Registering your marriage in your home country might have implications for various legal aspects, including taxation, inheritance, and name changes. It's crucial to understand these implications and make any necessary legal adjustments.

The best wedding destinations in Türkiye

When it comes to selecting a wedding location in Türkiye, the options are as diverse and enchanting as the country itself. Each region offers its own unique charm and ambiance, catering to a wide range of preferences, from historical richness to natural beauty.

Urban wedding

As a city that straddles two continents, Istanbul offers a mesmerizing blend of history and modernity. It's perfect for couples who want a vibrant city backdrop for their wedding. Venues range from luxurious palaces along the Bosphorus to chic rooftop restaurants with stunning city views.

Coastal wedding

Known as the Turkish Riviera, the Aegean coast has lots to offer to those looking for breathtaking natural landscapes, sunny skies and luxury beachfront resorts. Whether it's a small sunset beach wedding or a lavish ceremony in a 5-star hotel, Turkish coastal towns such as Bodrum, Fethiye, Antaya and others offer a romantic natural setting – with a touch of luxury if you want one.

Unique backdrops

For those looking for a truly unique location, Cappadocia is unmatched with its fairy-tale landscapes of rock formations and cave hotels. A wedding in Cappadocia can be a magical experience, especially with the option of a hot air balloon ride as part of the celebration.

You may also want to hold your wedding ceremony in Pamukkale, a natural site in Denizli province known for its ethereal white travertine terraces and warm, mineral-rich waters. This natural wonder in southwestern Türkiye, often referred to as the “Cotton Castle”, offers a dreamlike backdrop that is both unique and visually stunning. When planning a wedding ceremony in Pamukkale, timing is essential, as the area tends to get very busy with tourists in the summer months.

Planning a wedding in Türkiye

Planning a wedding in a foreign country can be complicated, especially with a language barrier in place. With that said, having a good strategy and the right people by your side should make the process substantially smoother.

If this is within your budget, hire a local wedding planner. Their help can be instrumental in navigating the legalities of getting married in Türkiye, such as paperwork and civil ceremony arrangements. They can also handle logistical aspects like guest transportation and accommodation.

Work with a wedding planner who has experience working with expats. Look for someone who understands both your cultural background and the local Turkish customs. Reviews and recommendations from other expats can be invaluable when making this decision.

If you're not fluent in Turkish, consider hiring a planner who is bilingual or can provide a translator. This will be essential for clear communication with vendors, officials, and staff. Request that contracts and documents be provided in both Turkish and English to avoid misunderstandings.

Sometimes, language is not the only barrier; cultural differences can also lead to confusion. Choose a planner who can act as a cultural interpreter, bridging any gaps and ensuring that your wishes are understood in the context of Turkish customs.

If you are planning a wedding with a lot of guests, you may need to look into venues, catering and decor.

When selecting a venue, consider factors such as location, size, accessibility, and ambiance. Consider the logistics of getting your guests to the venue, especially if it's in a remote location. Also, assess the facilities and services the venue offers, such as catering options, accommodation, and transportation.

Turkish cuisine is rich and varied. Work with your caterer to create a menu that includes local dishes, offering an authentic experience for your guests. However, also consider any dietary restrictions or preferences of your international guests.

Good to know:

Alcohol is available but not universally consumed in Türkiye due to religious reasons. Discuss with your planner and caterer how to handle alcohol at your event, ensuring that there are other options available for all guests.

Turkish decor can be vibrant and ornate. If you wish to incorporate local elements, consider traditional Turkish patterns, lanterns, or even a color scheme inspired by the local landscape. However, ensure that the decor respects cultural sensitivities and venues' rules. It may be a good idea to opt for local flowers and materials to not only support local businesses but also to reduce your carbon footprint.

Cultural adaptation after getting married in Türkiye

If you have married into a Turkish family and plan to build your life in the country, you may be going through a period of cultural adaptation. During this time, you may be experiencing a whole range of feelings as you are getting used to your new life.

Understanding the dynamics of family relationships in Türkiye can be crucial for a smooth transition and avoiding spontaneous faux-pas:

  • Turkish family structures can be close-knit, with extended family playing a significant role in daily life. Understanding and respecting this dynamic, including regular family gatherings and the importance of elders, can help in fostering harmonious relationships.
  • Be aware of traditional gender roles that may exist in Turkish families. While modern Turkish households may have evolved, some traditional expectations may still prevail. Communicating openly with your spouse about these roles and how you both envision your life together can help navigate these nuances.
  • Turkish culture places a high value on hospitality and socializing. Engaging in social activities, inviting people to your home, and accepting invitations are important aspects of life in Türkiye. These practices not only demonstrate a willingness to integrate but also open doors to deeper cultural immersion and forming meaningful friendships.

Cultural integration is a journey that requires patience and open-mindedness. Approach cultural differences with curiosity and a willingness to learn. This attitude not only eases the adaptation process but also enriches your personal growth and understanding of the world.

Expats who have gone through a similar process have found these strategies helpful:

One of the most impactful ways to adapt to your life in Türkiye is learning the language. Even basic proficiency in Turkish can significantly enhance daily interactions and deepen your connection with local people and your spouse's family.

Türkiye is known for its vibrant festivals and rich traditions. Participate in local festivals like Ramadan Bayramı or Kurban Bayramı, and observe customs like the preparation of special meals or visiting relatives. These practices are a window into the Turkish way of life and are a great way to bond with your family, friends, and neighbors.

Religion plays a significant role in some Turkish families. Showing respect and understanding towards religious practices (such as prayer times, dietary restrictions, and fasting during Ramadan) can go a long way in harmonizing family relations.

Learning to cook traditional Turkish dishes and enjoying them with your spouse and family is a delightful way to embrace the culture. This not only shows respect for the local customs but also adds new flavors to your culinary repertoire.

Divorce in Türkiye

Things happen. Sometimes, love just doesn't work out. If this happens, you may want to get a divorce.

The legal procedure for getting a divorce in Türkiye is governed by family law. One or both spouses must provide reasons for the divorce in a petition for divorce filed with the local Family Court to start the procedure. Both fault-based and no-fault grounds for divorce are recognized in the country.

Fault-based grounds typically involve specific reasons such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment, where one spouse can attribute the breakdown of the marriage to the actions of the other.

On the other hand, a no-fault divorce does not require proving wrongdoing; instead, it acknowledges that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and the spouses seek separation amicably.

The choice between fault and no-fault grounds can impact the legal proceedings and outcomes, influencing matters like alimony, child custody, and the division of assets.

Alimony and child support in Türkiye

In Türkiye, the Civil Code and applicable family law laws control issues related to child custody and maintenance in the event of a divorce.

Nafaka, or alimony

In Turkey, alimony is seen as a kind of post-divorce financial support that one spouse might be obliged to give the other. The length of the marriage, the demands and resources of each party, and the income gap between the spouses are some of the variables that determine a person's eligibility for alimony.

Alimony comes in two primary forms: post-divorce alimony and temporary alimony, which is paid throughout the divorce process.

  • Temporary alimony is given to the less wealthy spouse to help them through the divorce process.
  • Post-divorce alimony depends on the situation, such as the receiving spouse's age, health, and financial situation; this could be either permanent or long-term.

The standard of living during the marriage and the earning potential of both parties are factors that the court considers when determining the amount and duration of alimony.

Child custody

Turkish law places a strong emphasis on the welfare of children, as well as their mental and physical health and the value of a stable environment for their growth. The court takes into account a number of variables while determining custody, such as the kid's age, health, emotional attachments to both parents and the parent's capacity to raise the child.

Although Turkish law does not traditionally favor joint custody arrangements, recent legal reforms and court decisions have shown a growing acceptance of shared parenting responsibilities, provided it serves the best interests of the child.

More commonly, one parent is granted sole custody, with the non-custodial parent receiving visitation rights. The custodial parent is responsible for the child's daily care and decision-making, while the non-custodial parent often contributes financially through child support payments.

Good to know:

The court may consider several criteria in situations involving foreign or non-Turkish citizens, including the couples' habitual residency, the location of the marriage license, and the laws of the nation where the spouses have the strongest ties.

It is crucial to remember that although the law is impartial in and of itself, people's experiences with the legal system might differ, and case circumstances, legal representation, and legal interpretation can all have an impact on the way cases turn out. Getting proper legal advice and information from a lawyer with experience in Turkish divorce processes is important, particularly when foreign components are involved.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.