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Marriage in Turkey

This guide was written by Başak Yıldız Orkun, Managing Partner at Orkun & Orkun (info@orkunorkun.com) in collaboration with Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 17 June 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

This guide is about getting married in Turkey. It looks at the system of marriage, the process of marriage, and the different options available to you.

You may also want to watch the video version of this guide or download the audio (MP3) guide.

Introduction

Turkey still has one of the highest rates of marriage in the world: about 7.75 women out of every thousand in the population get married each year. We're also blessed with a low – but growing – divorce rate (20%) and many beautiful places in which to live.

No wonder that so many foreigners wish to marry here!

The number of foreign grooms in 2015 was 3,566 and they comprised of 0.6% of total grooms. When foreign grooms were analysed by citizenship, Germans (1,368 persons) with 38.4% took first place. They were followed by Austrians (282) with 7.9% and Syrians (241 persons) with 6.8%.

Under Turkish law, two foreigners of the same nationality can marry either in the offices of their own Country's Embassy or Consulate or in front of the Turkish authorities. This book only deals with marriage using the Turkish system.

The system of marriage in Turkey

IMAGE TITLEMarriage is only permitted between a man and a woman.

Polygamy is not accepted; monogamy is an essential principle of Turkish family law and anyone currently married may not be married again in Turkey.

You must be at least 18 years of age but, if they are judged to understand the proceedings, a person aged over 16 may be married with their parent’s or guardian's consent. There is no maximum age.

You need to have mental capacity and there are the usual prohibitions on marriage between close relatives.

In Turkey, all marriages take place in the presence of an authorized official from the local town hall, at the town hall  or in a place chosen by the couple. There is no restriction on the place where you can marry.

The ceremony is carried out either by the mayor in person (if you are important) or - more likely in most cases - by an official appointed by the mayor for this purpose.

Each town hall has a marriage officer appointed to deal with all the administrative steps necessary before a marriage. In smaller municipalities, the marriage officer is often also the person who conducts the marriages but in larger towns it is a separate person - a clerical officer.

If you wish to have a religious ceremony in Turkey you can do so, but this can only be carried out after you've been through the civil ceremony. It is not a requirement to have a religious ceremony.

Documents you will need to get married in Turkey

You will need to present the following documents, in person, to the marriage officer at the town hall:

Making an appointment at the town hall

Once you have all your documents, you need to attend the town hall where you are to be married and submit them to the marriage officer. If you are lucky, you will be able to see the marriage officer immediately but if this isn't possible you can make an appointment to see them, usually within a couple of days.

Note that you cannot submit these documents by post. Nor can you apply for an appointment to see the marriage officer until you have arrived in Turkey.

Your appointment with the marriage officer

You complete, and sign in duplicate, a marriage declaration (Evlenme Beyannamesi).

If the registry office is satisfied with the application, a district alderman (muhtar) certifies the documents and the stamped and dated marriage declaration gives permission to marry. This is valid for six months; the marriage can take place within 48 hours of this licence being issued.

The marriage officer will suggest some dates. These are usually several months in the future. A wedding within a couple of weeks can be difficult but not impossible to arrange. In Turkey, quick marriages are usually as a result of pregnancy.

Once you have chosen the date, you will be required to pay an administration fee to the municipality. This is currently (2017) about TRY100 (£22/€25/US$28)   if you are not using their venue. If you want to use the venue the charge is usually in the range of TRY100-TRY450 (£99/€113/US$127), depending upon the place and the day of the week.  Weekends are more expensive. There is currently no fee for carrying out the ceremony but it is customary to give the officer a present. This is not corruption!

Pre (and post)-nuptial agreements in Turkey

The basic (and default) matrimonial property regime is the "participation in acquired assets" which means that the spouses will benefit equally from all assets acquired during the marriage.

If the spouses do not want to be subject to these arrangements, they can choose an alternative arrangement: a separate property regime, a shared separate property regime or a communal property regime.

Under the Turkish Civil Code, spouses are able to make agreements about marital property, before, at the time of or after the marriage.

There are two different forms of pre-nuptial agreement. Under the first, the pre-nuptial agreement can be completed at a notary public. Under the second, the couple can declare to the marriage officer the regime that they want to use when they apply for the marriage.

If the spouses decide to choose a marital property regime during the marriage application, they must inform the marriage registrar in writing.

You should note that, as the institution of marriage is so important to public policy, in the course of matrimonial proceedings a judge has absolute discretion as to how to apply any terms in a pre-nuptial agreement.

The stag (bachelor) and hen(na) nights in Turkey

In Turkey, it is becoming customary for both the bride and groom to have a celebration with their friends the night before the marriage. These days it is increasingly common for it to take place a week or two before the marriage.

The traditional form of this is the henna night. The bride and her friends get together and paint henna on each other’s hands.

This is not compulsory.

I understand that in some countries such parties tend to involve considerable public drunkenness. This is not the case in Turkey. These events are an unofficial but important part of the marriage process and drunkenness would be thought totally inappropriate.

The marriage ceremony in Turkey

The marriage ceremony is performed in Turkish, so if the applicants do not speak Turkish, an interpreter is required. Arrange this through the registry office in advance of the wedding. There will be a fee for the interpreter.

The marriage ceremony will, typically, take about 15 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.

Most take place in the evening.

In the case of foreigners (who do not speak fluent Turkish) in most town halls extend the period reserved for the marriage to one hour. There is no extra fee for this.

This is because, by law, the ceremony must take place in Turkish - it must be open to any member of the public to attend. For this reason, if the parties do not each speak good Turkish, the marriage officer will arrange for an interpreter to be present at the marriage and the whole proceeding will be translated into the language of the parties. The parties will have to pay the fee of the interpreter. For most languages, this will be about TRY200 (£44/€50/US$56), although for unusual languages, where the interpreter may have to travel some distance, it can be higher.

We have, on occasions, had to deal with a marriage where we needed two interpreters because neither of the parties spoke the language of the other very well. It made me wonder why they were getting married!

The ceremony itself is in a standard form. The marriage officer will supply you with a script when you book the wedding. The marriage officer asks each of the couple if they agree to marry the other; after a positive response from both, the marriage is declared made in accordance with the law.

Two witnesses (other than immediate family members and the translator) are required for the procedure. These can be friends or hotel staff.

Marriage certificates

Immediately after the marriage you will be issued with a certificate of marriage. If you require further copies of this certificate they can be supplied, at the time or later, for a modest cost. People often want extra copies to supply to their bank and other institutions, so that the details of their accounts can be changed and so that they can change the legal ownership of their property into their joint names.

Note that if either of the parties to a marriage is not an Turkish national, the law requires them to supply an official copy of their new Turkish marriage certificate to the embassy or consulate in Turkey of their own country.

Validity of your Turkish marriage

Under international law, a marriage in Turkey is legally recognised and binding in most countries.

To make your life easier, it is recommended that you translate and legalise the marriage certificate for use in your own country.

Religious ceremonies

It is commonplace for people to also want a religious ceremony - and this is entirely permitted by Turkish law.

The ceremony may be of religious importance but it has no legal effect.

The arrangements for the religious ceremony are made directly between the parties to the marriage and the church in question.

The ceremony must take place after the civil ceremony. It is a criminal offence to do otherwise. This is despite the fact that, in some traditional rural areas, people have lived together for years when they have had only a religious ceremony.

Things to do after the marriage

After your marriage - ideally within about four weeks, but this is not compulsory - there are several things that you should do. For a foreigner, the most important is to notify your consulate and send them a copy of your marriage certificate. See above.

You are likely to want to change the name on the wife's passport and other official documentation. It's worth spending a few minutes making a list of all 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.

Next you need to decide which of these will require formal notification including a copy of the (translated and apostilled) marriage certificate. There tend to be very few of these. For most, a simple photocopy of your marriage certificate or letter of notification will suffice.

Don't forget to notify your tax office. You may be entitled to some additional tax breaks!

Conclusion

Marriage is common and well looked upon in Turkey, and as such it is easy to do. Just remember that things may not be the same as they are "back home" - that doesn't mean they're better, or worse, just different!

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
Click to see this guide
Cultural Differences in Turkey
Things to look out for when you arrive
Click to see this guide

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Başak Yıldız Orkun

17 June 2017


 

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