One in four couples are now marrying abroad rather than in the UK. The reasons for this range from cost-saving and enjoyment of more temperate climates through to avoiding unwanted relatives’ attendance! Marrying abroad enables couples to combine the wedding experience with their honeymoon and to do something a bit different which can be tailored entirely to their own preferences rather than exposing them to the pressures to conform, or to appease the extended family.

What are the legal requirements for marrying abroad?

Legal requirements will vary from country to country. Many foreign countries will require sight of a ‘Certificate of No-Impediment’ for each party prior to the marriage, which can be provided by your local Registrar. This document proves that you are not in any way prohibited from marrying due an existing marriage. Examples of top wedding destinations that require the CNI are; Italy, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. However please note the following:

  • The Registrar will only have notice of foreign marriages where they have been registered in this country;
  • Your CNI must match exactly your name as it appears on your passport;
  • You may also need to arrange for this certificate to be certified (proved genuine) with the British Consulate or Embassy in the chosen country;
  • When marrying abroad, you will need your CNI or declaration to be professionally translated into the local language, in accordance with that country’s requirements.

The Registrar will not produce CNIs for commonwealth countries such as St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Jamaica, it is therefore important in these cases to seek legal advice from a lawyer local to your wedding destination.

Some countries instead require a Statutory Declaration or Affidavit to say that you are not already married in this country or elsewhere. You will be required to ‘swear’ this declaration to say that the content is true in the presence of a solicitor in British Consulate or Embassy in that country. It is helpful to consider the website which has useful guidance on the rules for British citizens marrying in each country.

Each country imposes its own time period for which you must have been living in the country prior to the wedding. In the case of popular marriage destinations this is usually only a few days, however, as an example of where this is not the case, in France the requirement is 40 days.

Will my marriage be valid?

Generally speaking, a marriage which is legally valid in the country it takes place will also be valid here, but the process of registering the marriage here is not automatic and requires couples to produce their marriage certificate to their Local Registrar upon their return. If the certificate is in another language than English or Welsh, it will be need to be professionally translated by a recognised translation service.

If there is any discrepancy over the validity of marriage, for example there may be concerns about the nature of the ceremony itself (whether it was a legally valid ceremony), or whether the parties consented to the marriage and therefore whether it was potentially unlawful, the Courts will consider the following factors when asked to determine the validity of a marriage:

  • The facts of the individual case;
  • The behaviour of the parties in relation to the marriage itself;
  • Each of the parties pre-marital domicile;
  • The law governing capacity to marry in that place of domicile.

The question of domicile is a complex one and your domicile does not simply mean the country that you are a citizen of or live in at the time.

The consequences of a void marriage can be hugely detrimental to the parties, therefore it is prudent to ensure that any marriage entered into abroad will be valid and that the formalities are complied with. For advice on domicile in respect of issues related to marriage, it is important speak to a family lawyer.

If you need to speak to a family law solicitor, give me a call on 0161 930 5124 or send an email to Alternatively you can fill in our online contact form and we will give you a call when it is more convenient.

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