With its incredible history, breathtaking views, welcoming locals, and distinctive cuisine, Spain can be a perfect destination for you and your fiancé(e) to tie the knot. This article addresses the basics about what you need to make your wedding in Spain a reality, from the legal requirements and documentation, to estimates on costs and popular venue recommendations.
Civil ceremonies and religious weddings are both legally recognised in Spain. Same sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005.
Applications for a civil ceremonies in Spain must be made directly to the Spanish Civil Registry or district court where the marriage will be held. A civil wedding can take place at the Civil Registry office or in the local town hall. Civil ceremonies are only possible if at least one of the marrying couple is a Spanish citizen, or at least one of you meets the 2 year residency requirement.
Catholic, Jewish, Islamic and Protestant legally recognized religious wedding ceremonies in Spain. A civil marriage is not required to take place prior to these religious marriages. However, a couple must obtain a certificate to marry before the service, and the marriage must be registered with authorities in order to be legally recognised. The application process for Protestant, Islamic and Jewish weddings is the same as for civil weddings. These marriages must register with civil authorities and must be performed by a licensed marriage officer.
Under the principles in the Spanish Civil Code, both parties must be over 18 years old and be consenting individuals. Both civil and religious weddings are considered legal, but to qualify for a civil ceremony you must meet the two-year residency requirements. That means that at least one party of the couple must be a legal resident in Spain for two years prior to the wedding day.
For a civil wedding, you need to contact your local Civil Registrar office ahead of time and apply directly to them. You’ll likely need to provide the following:
- Valid passports for both parties
- Original birth certificates
- Proof that both parties are free to marry, which you may need to obtain from your home country’s Embassy or Consulate
- Divorce/Annulment/Death Certificates, if applicable
- Certificate of residence (at least one of the parties must be a resident in Spain for at least 2 years, or be a Spanish citizen to qualify for a civil marriage in Spain)
For a Catholic wedding, you'll likely need to provide the following:
- Pre-nuptial enquiry
- Baptismal, Communion, and Confirmation Certificates issued by your parish church within the last 6 months
- Letter of Freedom to Marry from your parish priest, indicating you have fulfilled your premarital course requirements
- Bishop’s special permission sent by your local priest of Archbishop
- Any other applicable documentation, such as a Death Certificate, Decree of Nullity, or dispensation letter (Talk to your local priest or Archbishop for full details)
For both religious and civil ceremonies, all foreign documents must be accompanied by a Spanish translation and be stamped with an Apostille Stamp. After you make the application, a public announcement of your intent to marry, also called the wedding banns, is displayed on a Consular notice board for a period of 15-21 days. After this, the Office of the Registrar will issue a marriage license. The whole process for a civil ceremony takes between 30-50 days, so you may want to plan to be in Spain for a month prior to your wedding.
For a religious wedding, the timeline is just as important. You should coordinate with your church of choice ahead of time. Non-nationals need to have their documents sent to the Bishop of the diocese in which they intend to marry to receive special permission. This can take up to four weeks and should be sent by your local Archbishop or priest. This, in addition to the other documents you prepare, should reach your church at least 2 months before your wedding date. After the wedding, you must deliver the marriage papers to the local Spanish Civil Registry within one week to legalize them.
For the civil ceremony you’ll incur fees on obtaining some of the paperwork. For example, the consular document which shows no impediment to marriage costs €148, and the Apostille stamp runs approximately €15 per document.
For a Catholic ceremony, you'll likely incur similar fees obtaining paperwork and you may have to pay additional Church administration fees in the realm of €250.
When considering your wedding budget, you and your guests can save money on cross border payments using TransferWise. The Borderless account allows you to hold and manage money in multiple currencies, without high bank fees or marked up exchange rates.
Residency restrictions and administrative formalities involved with having a civil ceremony in Spain sway many expat or foreign national couples go the route of a religious ceremony. But a Catholic ceremony, which is the only legal form of religious wedding, has a long planning period. Agencies and wedding planning companies can assist you with required paperwork and other planning but here are some other helpful links:
- The U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Spain and Andorra
- The U.K. Government Guide to Getting Married Abroad
- The British Embassy in Madrid
- Embassy of Ireland in Spain
- Embassy of Canada to Spain
- Australian Embassy in Spain
- Spanish Ministerio de Justicia - Civil Registry offices
- Spanish Civil Code
- List of Catholic Diocese in Spain
For a destination wedding with 50 guests, depending on the location and formality, wedding venue packages may start around €8,500. But to get your perfect church and reception venue, you may have to plan your wedding a la carte. To help, we’ve broken down some estimated costs for a 50-person destination wedding:
|3 nights accommodation for 50 guests||€3500|
|Paperwork, administrative costs||€500|
Spain is a land of many climates and cultural atmospheres. Whether you wish to marry in a castle, on a beach or in a small village in the countryside, you have many options. Here are some popular wedding reception venues in Spain:
|Son Marroig, Deià (Mallorca)||An historical setting by the sea|
|Monasterio de Piedra (Zaragoza)||An old monastery in a quiet landscape|
|Duna Arrocería (Valencia)||A famous gastronomic destination in the city|
|Almiral de la Font (Sitges)||A boutique villa near Barcelona|
|La Baronia (Barcelona)||A French-inspired farmhouse built by a Gaudi disciple|
|San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (Basque Country)||A historically strategic battle outpost on a rocky island with dramatic sea views|
|Villa Magna (Madrid)||An urban hotel in Spain’s capital|
|Hotel Mandarin (Barcelona)||An upscale luxury hotel in Barca|
|La Chumbera (Granada)||A hotel in the famous hillside neighbourhood of Sacromonte|
|Hacienda de San Rafael (Seville)||A restored olive estate now converted into a luxury hotel|
To share some local flare, you may want to include some Spanish traditions in your ceremony. Some of the most common that you might see in a traditional Spanish wedding are:
Orange blossoms: this traditional flower is used by many Spanish brides because it symbolizes happiness and fulfilment.
Mantilla: this is a formal headdress worn by the bride.
Coins: on the wedding day, the groom presents his bride with 13 gold coins which represent Jesus and his 12 apostles and symbolize his promise to provide for the family.
Wedding favors: it's customary that the bride and groom circulate around the room handing out small wedding favors during the reception.
The groom’s tie: as a symbol of good luck, the groom’s closest friends will cut his tie into pieces and auction it off to wedding guests.
A destination wedding in Spain will be exotic, romantic, and rich with culture. From the delicious cuisine to the charm of Spanish traditions, your wedding in Spain will provide a lifetime of memories for you and your guests.
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