How to apply for a legal civil marriage in Spain

by | Aug 6, 2020 | Weddings | 0 comments

Not all experiences of getting married in Spain are the same. The legalities of registering your civil marriage with the Spanish “registro civil” depends on your civil status, your nationality and the region that you live in.

Top tip: Use this tool to find out the documents you need to get married in Spain.

Here is one couple’s experience of applying for a civil marriage in Spain where one partner has citizenship.

Civil marriage in Spain and symbolic wedding

Photo Toni Bonet

How to get married in Spain – a real life story

To get legally married in Spain, at least one of the partners needs to be a Spanish national or have  Spanish citizenship – “residencia” or residency is different.

One partner in our real life couple, has Spanish citizenship and the other is from northern Europe with Spanish residency. This is their experience as they applied for the paperwork necessary to contract their marriage in Spain.

Toni Bonet Photographer Spanish Wedding Cordobes Celebrant Spain

Photo Toni Bonet

Register your intention to marry in Spain

Our couple was advised to apply to the nearest “ayuntamiento” or town hall to where they had “empadronamiento” similar to an electoral roll.

They applied for a “cita” or appointment and were advised to bring along the following documents in order to complete a form registering their intention to marry

  • passports
  • birth certificates
    (the northern European partner did not need their birth certificate translating , but they did need a printed form from the EU website)
  • personal tax identification
    NIE for the European partner and NIF for the Spaniard
  • empadronamiento documents
    (valid within the last 3 months)

As with any registration of marriage the couple were then interviewed and asked questions to ascertain that they were freely entering into the marriage.

Questions may vary but are likely to be along the lines of

  • what is your civil status?
    (divorced, single, widowed etc)
  • have you been married before in this or any other country?
  • how long have you been together?
  • how long have you lived together?
  • have you met your partner’s family?
Fun Spanish wedding ceremony officiated by Celebrant Spain

Photo Toni Bonet

What is the process to get legally married in Spain?

As long as one of you is a Spanish national or has had Spanish citizenship for two years (this period may vary regionally), go to the council office when you live and ask to register your intention to marry.

Take with you all documents of identification listed above and be prepared to answer questions to confirm that you are freely entering into the marriage.

You will complete a form which is submitted to the “Registro Civil” or civil registration office who then publish it for a period of no less than 15 days – this is to give other people time to object to your union similar to reading the banns.

You will receive notification to make an appointment with an appointed official to legally marry you witnessed by two other persons and a formal entry is made to a register and a certificate of marriage issued to you as your copy of that entry.

Note that your marriage is registered in the country in which it is contracted.
You cannot get married in Spain and register your marriage in the UK for example, or vice versa.

Boda civil or legal civil marriage in Spain

Photo Toni Bonet

Who can legally marry us in Spain?

In Spain, articles 49 and 51 of the Civil Code establish, clearly and precisely, who has jurisdiction for the celebration of civil marriages.
The appointed officials who can legally marry you in Spain are
  • the Judge in charge of the Civil Registry
  • the Mayor of the municipality where the marriage is celebrated, or the councillor delegated by the Mayor for that function
  • an authorised religious minister.

Note that many religious ministers do NOT have the legal authority to register your marriage.
A religious minister can officiate a religious wedding ceremony for you (as can an independent wedding officiant like me), but you may still need to contract your marriage before a judge or mayor as described above. It’s worth checking!!!

There are other people to whom the law also grants jurisdiction to officiate a civil marriage, namely
  • diplomatic officials in charge of Spain’s Civil Registry abroad
  • the captain or commander of ships or aircraft

Note, in most cases, the law requires certain special conditions to marry on a ship or aircraft such as the state of necessity, or that one of the contracting parties is seriously ill or in danger of death.

Boda civil or civil marriage in Spain

Photo Lara Jackson

The real wedding comes after your marriage in Spain

So that’s it!

As you can see, contracting a legal civil marriage in Spain is not a romantic process and the majority of couples seek a beautiful wedding ceremony after they are married to celebrate their union.

Remember that a marriage and a wedding are two different things – the marriage being the legal contract and the wedding being the ceremonial celebration.

You can have your marriage and your wedding at the same time, or on different days… and in different countries (that is what we call a “destination wedding”.)

For the ultimate wedding ceremony in Spain that blends together what is important to both of you in terms of

  • not having anything religious but still wanting something meaningful
  • perhaps blending two different religions to please both sides of the family
  • including traditions and rituals that are important to you
  • acknowledging your own personal backgrounds and love story
  • whatever will make your wedding day special to you…

…contact me soon as your independent wedding celebrant right here in the Spanish sunshine, to craft your wedding day!

Debbie Skyrme is Celebrant Spain award winning bilingual wedding officiant

Photo of Debbie Skyrme, Juanma Segura

Author bio: Debbie Skyrme is an award winning bilingual wedding celebrant officiating weddings, elopements and vow renewal ceremonies across southern Spain

Celebrant Spain web site

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Supplier credits:

Wedding planner: @mar_aday
Hair accessories: @calabylilian
(c) Debbie Skyrme 2021 This content was authored by Debbie Skyrme and originally published on
Unauthorised publishing of the text or image content in part or in full is strictly forbidden.

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