It’s easy to see why Portugal is such a popular location for destination weddings. The weather is warm and balmy, but the coastline stops the heat from getting too intense; the scenery is rugged and beautiful; the architecture is laden with picturesque history; and the food and drink are incredible. What’s not to love?
What Are the Legal Requirements for a Wedding in Portugal?
Any kind of destination wedding requires you to get to grips with the legal requirements of getting married in another country. These can often feel quite baffling at first glance! The requirements for a wedding in Portugal are no different in that respect – so let’s see if we can clear things up a bit.
Choosing the Right Type of Wedding in Portugal
There are three different kinds of wedding ceremonies you can have in Portugal, and some of them require some hefty paperwork, so it’s crucial that you decide which kind of ceremony you’re going to have well ahead of time.
A wedding in Portugal can be a civil ceremony, a Catholic ceremony, or a symbolic ceremony. For a wedding to be legally binding, it has to be one of the first two options. In Portugal, for a marriage to be recognized by the government, it has to be performed by an official government registrar or a Catholic priest with the full knowledge and approval of the parish.
A symbolic ceremony, on the other hand, is where you’ve already been married in your home country, and your wedding in Portugal is technically a symbolic celebration. For ease of planning, this is the kind of ceremony that we’d suggest. It’s what many couples who are planning destination weddings go for, and here’s why:
Reasons to Have a Symbolic Wedding in Portugal
- You can have the ceremony in the language of your choice. For a marriage to be legally binding in Portugal, the ceremony must be performed in Portuguese.
- You can have whoever you want officiate the ceremony. In a Catholic wedding in Portugal or a civil ceremony, the officiant has to be a priest or a registered official.
- You can celebrate your own religious beliefs. Non-Catholic religious wedding ceremonies are not legally binding in Portugal, and anyone who wants to hold a wedding ceremony outside of the church needs to get legally married beforehand using a civil ceremony. If you want to celebrate your own traditions in your wedding, you might as well get legally married in your own home country, rather than going through the process in foreign one.
- Beach weddings are much easier. If you want a legally-binding beach wedding, you need a separate license from the local Port Authority on top of the other requirements. It’s easier to simply hold a blessing or celebration ceremony on the beach.
What You Need for a Civil Wedding in Portugal
If you decide that a symbolic wedding just isn’t your style, here is what you need to know about preparing for a civil ceremony in Portugal:
If any of these official documents are international, they need to be accompanied by Portuguese translations that have been translated by a service that is approved by the Portuguese Consulate. Your documents are also going to need to have what’s called an “Apostille”, which is an official stamp issued by your home government that confirms that they are valid and can be used internationally.
Considering you may need to apply for new official documents, get them translated, and receive Apostilles all before you even land in Portugal, you should start this process at least six months before your wedding in Portugal.
Getting a Portuguese Marriage License
Before you can have a civil ceremony, you need to get a Portuguese marriage license. You can do that at any Civil Registrar Office, but it does take four to six weeks for the request to be processed. If you can’t go into the Registrar Office in person yourself, a license can also be requested by someone with your power of attorney, or by a religious leader (in this case, a Catholic priest) who is qualified to perform legal marriages in the area.
The wedding has to take place within six months of the license being granted, or else you’ll have to go through the whole process again. If you’re planning to have your civil ceremony take place at the Registrar Office during office hours, the fee is €120. If you are planning to hold the ceremony somewhere other than the office, or outside of office hours, it’ll be €200.
Documents Required for A Civil Wedding in Portugal
Once you have the license, you can book the date of your civil wedding, which will include scheduling in an official registrar to conduct your ceremony. You may have a civil wedding in Portugal either at the registry office or at a different location – here are the documents you’ll need to make it official, though:
- A Certificate of Non-Impediment: This is a document you can get from your local clerks’ office, stating that there is no known impediment to your marriage in your home country.
- Passports: the expiration date must be more than six months away from your wedding date.
- Full-length birth certificates: They must show your parents’ full names, and they must be issued within six months of your wedding date.
- A divorce or death certificate of any previous spouses.
Planning Your Wedding in Portugal
If you would like a legal wedding in Portugal, there are a few different ways to arrange your ceremony. Sometimes couples choose to open with the official registrar, performing the ceremony in Portuguese – often with a translator – and then bring in a celebrant of their choice to officiate a celebration service in English. This works best when the celebrant can function as the translator, too, but this kind of service can equally be used if you want a friend or family member to preside over your ceremony.
We hope that this has been a helpful resource for you as you plan your wedding in Portugal. Whether you go for a civil ceremony, a Catholic wedding, or a symbolic celebration, you’re never going to regret tying the knot in this vibrant and beautiful nation. Best of luck with your planning!