It was written on 10 May 2016. The law and practice in Spain change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.
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This guide covers the steps needed when getting married in Spain and some of the cultural and practical considerations that need to be taken into account when doing so.
It describes, in particular, the process of marriage in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one "autonomous community" (comunidad autónoma) to another.
The formalities of marriage in Spain are not too complicated; and you can decide to get married under the law of your home country or the Spanish law.
Although statistics show a significant decrease in marriages for the last decade – around a 25% drop in civil marriages and 52% in religious ceremonies - this is mostly due to changes in customs and lifestyle rather than a result of legal or bureaucratic difficulties. Many couples simply live together, and some others register as de facto couples in order to increase their security and rights – especially when they have children.
Even so, marriages are not in danger of disappearing, and a high number of couples marry every year in Spain. As we are blessed with such good weather most of the year, outdoor ceremonies accompanied by large groups of family and friends are the favourite of both Spanish and foreign couples.
Same-sex marriage has also been legal in Spain since 2005 and, although the law was very controversial at the time, it is normal practice nowadays and same-sex couples have the same rights and obligations as any other married couple.
See our Guide to Sex and Sexuality on the Costa del Sol for more details.
The minimum age for marriage in Spain is 16. There is no maximum age!
The paperwork for the marriage is always submitted to the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) , but the ceremony can be carried out by the following authorities:
The Judge in charge of the Civil Registry, who can also appoint the “Judge of Peace” for this task.
The Mayor or City Councillor of the municipality where the marriage will be celebrated.
The Court Secretary or Notary Public freely chosen by the couple, that belong to the jurisdiction where they will celebrate the marriage.
The civil servant in charge of the Civil Registry in a foreign country when getting married abroad
If you wish to have a religious ceremony in Spain you can do so, but this must be as well as registration of the marriage with the Civil Registry.
You will need to present the following documents in person to the Civil Registry:
A copy of your ID – also bring your original one to show the official.
Your birth certificate, legalised (see here for information about legalising a document in Spain) and translated.
An Empadronamiento certificate, which is a document issued by your local Town Hall stating your Spanish address, and is free of charge.
A certificate showing your marital status, issued by the relevant authority of your own country – in Spain this is issued by the Civil Registry.
A completed and signed form that the Civil Registry provides.
If you are divorced, a marriage certificate with registration of the divorce, and divorce decree.
If you are an EU citizen, a certificate in accordance with article 39 of regulation 2201/2003 for European sentences issued after 01/03/2001 (issued by the Court that passed the divorce sentence). See an example certificate in English here.
In case you are a widow/er, the certificate of your first marriage and the death certificate of your first husband/wife.
The documents above cannot be older than three months; after that they will not be accepted by the authorities and a new copy will have to be obtained, legalised and translated. This can get expensive, so try to organise well!
All documents that are issued by a foreign authority need to be legalised – either by the Apostille of the Hague or through Consular legalisation - and then translated by an official sworn translator registered with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The list of official sworn translators can be found here.
Legalisation costs and translation costs vary depending on the nature and length of the document.
The average cost for an Apostille is around €30, but Consular legalisation depends on the country and on how many middle steps are required.
A sworn translation for a one page birth certificate can cost between €80 and €100, but a more lengthy document such as a divorce decree can be much more expensive.
In all cases, before making the appointment you need to go to the Civil Registry and submit your documents for the file to be processed. At this stage, the Civil Registry will do their research and decide whether you can getting married. Once they have finalised and returned the file to you, you can make an appointment for the wedding.
Each municipality, Town Hall, Registry and Notary works in a slightly different way, so be sure to confirm the details in your town or village.
In all cases, you will need two witnesses - they can either be relatives or someone else. They will sign the marriage act, together with the couple, in the presence of the marriage officer. This document includes your personal details and states that you each consent to the marriage.
The marriage act needs to be taken to the Civil Registry for their records, and they will give you the Family Book (libro de familia): a booklet where the details of the couple are included. In the future, if you have children, they will also be recorded in this Family Book.
The legal marriage will take place before the marriage officer. However, it is compulsory to register it with the Civil Registry within three months.
The document the Civil Registry issues is the Family Book. If you need a marriage certificate, you can request it in person in the Civil Registry where the marriage is registered, by normal post, or online if you want a digital certificate. This certificate is issued for free. If you request it in person, they will let you know when it can be ready; if you request it by post, it can take around 15 days; the online one is issued immediately.
If you wish to use these certificates in another country, you will need to get them legalised and translated. See our individual country guides.
Depending on the country where it will be used, you can get it 'apostilled' or you will need Consular legalisation. The process of apostilling a document is a brief legalisation procedure accepted by the signatory countries under the Hague Convention of 1961 and those that joined afterwards. It involves the responsible authority applying a deal to the document confirming that it is a legal document.
In Spain, the authority responsible is the Ministry of Justice, and documents can be apostilled in any of their territorial offices or High Court Government Secretarial offices. The cost is €25 per apostille.
You can request a multilingual certificate if you will need it for any of the signatory countries of the Vienna Convention of 8th of September 1976 . This certificate can be issued in all the languages of the signatory countries (Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia, Poland, Montenegro, Moldavia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria).
At the moment, there is no cost for the marriage certificate, but the Ministry of Justice has been considering charging a small fee for the issuing of certificates by the Civil Registry – between €15 and €20.
It is commonplace for people to want a religious marriage ceremony - and this is entirely permitted by Spanish law.
If you marry through the Catholic church, which is by far the most common in Spain, they will deal with the file from the beginning and you will only need to submit your marriage act to the Civil Registry within the three months after the wedding takes place.
In the case of other religions, you must initiate the file with the Civil Registry (as above) and, once that is resolved, you can celebrate the wedding. Afterwards, you also need to submit your marriage act to the Civil Registry within three months.
The arrangements for the religious ceremony are made directly between the parties to the marriage and the church in question.
In some cases, civil marriage is inconvenient - it is only possible on week days, and maybe the ceremony is too short and full of legal wording for your preferences.
The wedding officer can be asked whether marriages can be officiated in a more attractive venue or even on the beach, and they can do beautiful speeches and emotive ceremonies.
This will entirely depend on the individual circumstances, but many couples simply marry in the Town Hall or at Court with their witnesses at the times available, and then celebrate a ceremony somewhere else with family and friends, hiring a professional speaker for the occasion.
In Spain it is customary for both the bride and groom to have a celebration with their friends a couple of weeks before the marriage.
This is not compulsory, but it is normally a lot of fun!
In some cases, the bride and groom take the opportunity to make a short trip with their friends (it all depends on the budget!), and dinner and a party are usually part of the plan. It is the normal practice that all the expenses of bride and groom are paid for by their friends. Other couples just do this together, with all their common friends and closest relatives.
It all depends on where you marry. For example, in the Town Hall the ceremony can take about 15 or 20 minutes. Usually, a time slot of 30 minutes is allocated to the ceremony. Do not be surprised if you arrive and find that you have to wait until the marriage of a preceding couple has been concluded or if there is another couple waiting in the waiting room as your marriage is concluded.
If you are foreigners who do not speak fluent Spanish, you will need the services of an interpreter. The cost will entirely depend on the language you speak – interpreters normally charge an average of €100 per hour.
It is customary for a newly married couple to hold a wedding lunch or dinner immediately following the marriage ceremony.
Hotels and restaurants are very familiar with this, and they will offer you special menu arrangements, table and room decoration, and a separate table for the bride and groom and the “godfather and godmother”, as we call the witnesses in Spain.
The wedding lunch or dinner is normally extended by a big party afterwards, with dancing and drinking until late at night.
Alternatively, there are a number of companies that specialise in arranging weddings so, if you are only going to be in Spain for a short time, they can arrange everything for you in advance and before your arrival. This can be pricey but does save a lot of stress.
Photography is permitted at your marriage, whether it takes place at the Town Hall, at church or elsewhere. There are many photographers who specialise in providing this service, and most of them will also accompany you on your wedding lunch or dinner. You can choose between traditional or modern style, depending on your preferences.
There are websites which specialise in weddings where you can find different choices for all that you may need in your wedding – venues, photographers, clothes, weddings favours, etc - where other couples leave reviews, and you can find suppliers within a specific area.
It is customary for the newly married couple to go away together for at least a few days on a honeymoon.
If you're already here on the Costa del Sol you're not likely to want to go elsewhere!
Most likely, you will plan your honeymoon before you travel to the Costa del Sol, and you can contact a travel agency for giving you some ideas - or planning the whole thing, so you just need to enjoy your trip.
After your marriage, there are a number of things that you should do. First of all, you must register your marriage in the relevant Civil Registry. As a foreigner, you must also notify your consulate and send them a copy of your marriage certificate - this is required by law.
In Spain, women do not typically change their surname as in some other countries; however, depending on your nationality, you may want to change the name on the wife's passport and other official documentation.
If you do change your name, it's worth spending a few minutes making a list of all of the places where the name is stored and to contact them all at once. Typical examples would be the bank, the mobile phone company, your doctor and dentist, any companies who've provided loans to you, any store or credit cards that you use, the residential community of which you are a member, any professional bodies to which you are affiliated and any social groups to which you are affiliated. It is surprising how many will end up on the list.
As your Spanish marriage certificate will only include the wife’s maiden name, you need to check with your Consular authority what steps you need to follow in order to get your name changed in other documents.
Don't forget to notify your employer. You may be entitled to some additional holiday time – if you're employed in Spain, you get two weeks extra!
Thousands of foreigners have now married on the Costa del Sol.
Some had already moved to Spain but others came here just to get married in a beautiful place with more or less guaranteed good weather for much of the year.
If you're thinking of getting married here, you have so many possibilities and venues, and there are wedding planner companies that can do the hard work for you!
|Regional Guide to the Costa del Sol
The basics of the Costa del Sol: facts and figures, tourism and culture.
|Cultural Differences on the Costa del Sol
The main differences you're likely to notice in day-to-day life.
|Expatica - Getting Married in Spain
An overview of getting married in Spain
We hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact us.Manzanares Abogados S.L. 10 May 2016