If you plan on getting married in Spain, you’ll need to know not only the wedding traditions but the bureaucracy involved, which depends on where you live.
In this guide we explain the different types or weddings in Spain and walk you through the process of arranging a marriage, including any documentation you’ll require.
Weddings in Spain
Broadly speaking, weddings in Spain fit into one of these three categories:
- Civil marriage: couples in Spain may legally marry in a civil ceremony without a religious aspect. This provides for rights of property, inheritance, pensions and adoption and can be between heterosexual or same sex couples.
- Civil partnership: most of Spain’s autonomous communities recognise and provide for civil unions and registered cohabitation between same-sex people. These allow for kinship, inheritance and property rights.
- Religious marriages: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim marriages can be celebrated in Spain without requiring a second civil marriage. Provided the celebrant is legally allowed to officiate at weddings, religious marriages have the same legal status as civil unions.
Gay marriage in Spain: the rights of same sex couples
Same sex couples may register their partnership in Spain and this allows them to gain access to a number of legal rights, including in the areas of adoption and inheritance tax.
These include rights to survivor pensions, recognition for immigration purposes, equal treatment for tax purposes, including inheritance tax, protection from domestic violence.
Failing to register a civil partnership can have serious consequences. For example, a couple receives exemptions from Spanish Inheritance Tax, but this would not be available if a couple had not registered their civil partnership.
Religious marriages in Spain
Requirements for religious marriages vary according to the denomination and area in which an applicant lives.
Religious marriages are recognised as legal under Spanish law, but to obtain an official marriage certificate, the marriage must then be registered with the local civil authorities.
Therefore, it is important to confirm that the officiator of the marriage is licensed to marry and to establish arrangements for civil registration.
You should check whether the officiator will register the religious marriage on your behalf or whether they will provide you with the paperwork to do so yourselves.
Documents for religious marriages in Spain
Couples marrying in a Protestant, Islamic or Jewish ceremony will need to first obtain authorisation from the Civil Authorities.
For Catholic marriages, the documents listed below must be presented to the priest performing the ceremony. If you wish to have a Catholic ceremony and either you or your betrothed is a foreigner in Spain, you must contact the Bishopric in the area where you plan to marry.
Arrangements for a Catholic marriage generally take from one to three weeks, and the following documents are generally required:
- Long form of birth certificate, notarised with a Spanish translation
- Baptismal certificate: this must be issued within the six month period prior to your wedding, and authenticated by the issuing Bishopric. A Spanish translation must be attached.
- Proof that both parties are free to marry
Getting married in Spain: how it works
An application to get married in Spain usually involves a lot of bureaucracy and can be time-consuming, so applicants should allow enough time before the intended date of the marriage for the paperwork to be completed.
In the first instance both parties must first certify, in a file processed in accordance with the legislation for the Civil Register, that they meet the requirements established by law.
Residency regulations for Spanish marriages
When neither of the parties is a Spanish citizen one of them must usually be legally resident in Spain for the previous two years. If one of the couple is a Spanish citizen no residence period requirement applies.
There may be variations across Spanish regions and so it is advisable to check with the Civil Registry Office in the area where you wish to get married as to their specific requirements.
A list of Civil Registries and further information regarding civil marriage in Spain can by found by regions on the Spanish Ministry of Justice’s website.
Obtaining permission for a civil wedding in Spain
The process for civil marriage begins with the application for a certificate of permission to marry (Certificado de Capacidad Matrimonial).
Couples wishing to marry must apply for this certificate in advance of the wedding. It is issued on condition that the applicants fulfil the legal right to marry and affords proof of permission to marry.
Applications for civil marriages must be made to the Civil Registry (Registro Civil – see the Spanish Ministry of Justice’s website for contact details), District Court (Juzgado) or Town Hall in the place where the marriage is to be celebrated.
Applicants for civil ceremonies will be asked for a variety of documents. To obtain an official marriage certificate, the marriage must be registered with the local Civil Registry. Therefore, it is important to confirm that the officiator of the marriage is licensed to marry and to establish the arrangements for civil registration. The officiator may obtain the marriage certificate on your behalf.
Getting married in Spain: step by step
Step 1: Getting your documentation together
You’ll usually need the following documentation to get married in Spain:
- Long form birth certificate, notarised and translated into Spanish.
- Valid passport and at least four copies – to be used when you apply for the Empadronmiento, Residencia and file for the marriage.
- Certificate of Marital Status (Certificado de Estado Civil)
- Certificate of No Impediment (Certificado de No Impedimento), which can be obtained from the registrar office of the home country.
- Divorce degrees (Certificados de divorcio) – if applicable
- Spanish Town Hall Registration Certificate (Certificado de Empadronamiento or “Padrón”)
- Extranieria application form – print three copies. Complete the extranjeria form and file it at the national police station. Remember to bring with your passport and a photocopy of it.
This is the process of registering yourself as a resident in your province. This is required in some provinces but may not be applicable everywhere.
It is best to check beforehand. Fill out the form (it’s the same as the extranjeria form) and take your passport and a photocopy of it along with you. As you are registering yourself as a resident of your province you will need to have an address. This can be a rented address and you will need to show your rental contract.
Check our guide to registering for El Padron for more information.
Step 2: Submitting the paperwork
Bring along a photocopy of your passport along with the necessary documents when you file for your marriage at the local registry office. You will also need one of your two witnesses to accompany you and to bring his/ her passport.
The officials will then process your information and register you on their system. The intent to marry is then displayed on the public notice board in their office for 21 days. After 10 days, you can call the office to request an interview date – part of the marriage process.
If you do not speak Spanish it is advisable to either hire a Spanish solicitor or to get someone who speaks Spanish to help you with all of the paperwork so that the process runs smoothly. Also, registry offices can be quite busy and it is usually better to go earlier rather than later in the day.
Step 3: Waiting and going for the interview
Once the 10 days are up, you can call to arrange an appointment for the interview process. Be advised that you may have to wait up to six weeks for the appointment date.
At the interview you may be interviewed separately and asked to answer a number of questions to make sure that you are genuine applicants.
Wedding ceremonies in Spain
A civil marriage can be held in the courts or the Town Hall of residence, performed by the Mayor or a designated councilor. The marriage is effective immediately following the ceremony.
After the wedding, it will be registered in the Civil Registry and a certificate stating the date, time and place of the marriage will be issued.
A religious ceremony (or blessing) can be held following the civil ceremony if desired. You should be aware that after a religious ceremony, you have one week to present the church-issued certificate to the nearest civil registry. If you fail to register the marriage will not be recognised.