Overseas weddings – get the right paperwork

There's more to a wedding abroad than booking a flight then turning up to say "I do"

Legal requirements for weddings abroad

If you’re planning a wedding abrod, make sure you satisfy all the legal requirements of your chosen country.


Most countries have a residency requirement of a few days; others, like France, expect you to be resident for 40 days prior to the wedding.

That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your special day in France, but it does mean you need to do your homework. You could, for instance, have a civil ceremony in the UK, followed by a blessing and reception abroad.

See our country guides for requirements for individual countries.

Booking your whole day through a specialist tour operator or wedding planner is by far the easiest solution. They will ensure you meet all the legal requirements before you depart, or help you make the necessary arrangements once you arrive.


Whether you buy in some help or go it alone, you’ll need to make sure you have some, if not all, of the following documents:

  • A valid 10-year passport
  • A Decree Absolute if one or both of you is divorced
  • A Death Certificate if one or both of you has been widowed
  • Affidavits/statutory declaration stating you’re both free to marry. These are legal documents and need to be arranged through a solicitor authorised to authenticate oaths
  • Parental consent if you’re deemed underage in your chosen country.

You also might need a Certificate of No Impediment. That means you’ll need to give notice in your local registrar’s office in the same way you would if you were having a civil marriage in the UK. After 21 days, the office will give you a Certificate of No Impediment, which some countries may ask to see.

Some countries will want all your documents translated into the local language (if not English). Sometimes this needs to be done locally – again, check this.

A legal marriage abroad should be valid in the UK, but contact the British embassy in your chosen country for up-to-date advice.


It’s a good idea to get a few copies of your marriage certificate while you are abroad, as it can be hard to get extra copies once you get home. Most countries issue either full or ‘abridged’ certificates on the day of the marriage. However, if you need to apply for a full or ‘unabridged’ version, it’s usually easy to do this via the celebrant or wedding officer who conducts the ceremony.