Pros and cons of a legal wedding in Portugal
Before deciding whether to have a civil ceremony or a symbolic wedding in Portugal, here are the pros and cons that you should consider.
First off, Portugal has a very lenient and uncomplicated process for a legal wedding. In fact, you don’t need to be a resident or a citizen to be legally married here. Neither do you need a property in Portugal or a relative residing here to qualify for a legal wedding.
Unlike in other European countries, including France and Germany, you don’t need to get married in a wedding venue in Portugal with a special license to hold legal weddings.
Even beach weddings can be a legally-binding in Portugal with only one requirement - a marine police license that needs to be secured before your wedding day. Other than that, only the regular documents need to be submitted when getting married in Portugal.
Having said that, we always advise our couples that it's best to have a symbolic rather than a legally-binding ceremony for their destination wedding in Europe.
We are leaning towards a symbolic wedding rather than a legally-binding ceremony because symbolic weddings mean no legal paperwork and zero bureaucratic processes. With a symbolic ceremony, you can focus on enjoying your special day in Portugal without having to worry about submitting documents or authorizing a Portuguese lawyer to handle the paperwork.
It's true that a legal wedding in Portugal is a lot easier than a legal wedding in other European countries, but it still requires the submission of documents prior to your wedding day. You also need to comply with the requirement that the ceremony is in the Portuguese language.
For a more detailed discussion of the processes and requirements for a legal wedding in Portugal, read the sections below.
Portugal legal wedding paperwork
Just like in most European countries, and any country for that matter, you need to submit some legal documents to the registry office of Portugal if you want your wedding ceremony to be legally binding. Under international laws, the law of the country where the ceremony happens dictates the legal requirements to be followed.
In the case of Portugal, here are the documents that you need to submit:
Birth Certificate - it has to be the original certified birth certificate of each spouse, issued within the past six months.
Passport and/or Resident permit (autorização de residência) - for residents in Portugal, you need to present your resident card and your passport, but if you’re not a resident, you only need to show your passport as proof of identity. Take note that being a resident is not a requirement to get married in Portugal.
Divorce or Death Certificate - for persons who are divorced, you need to secure a certified copy of the final divorce papers, or a certified copy of the death certificate of the previous spouse for those who are widowed, both issued within the last six months.
Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (Certificado de Capacidade Matrimonial) - this document proves that you have the legal capacity to get married.
Take note that all documents above must be translated to Portuguese and notarized locally, and the ceremony must also be in the Portuguese language so you will need a translator on the day.
For some countries, state-issued documents need to be certified with the “Apostille Certificate” of the issuing country.
Detailed process for Portugal legal weddings
In order to have a legally-binding wedding in Portugal, and almost everywhere in the world, you first need to obtain a marriage license. The process of obtaining a marriage license will begin as soon as you submit the official documents mentioned above.
Timeframe: Take note that it usually takes at least four weeks from submission until you are issued a marriage license, and once the license is issued, the wedding must take place within six months.
Beach weddings: If you’re getting married in a beach venue in Portugal, there’s an extra step that you need to comply with. That is obtaining a marine police license for your special day.
Once the marriage license, and the marine police license in case of a beach wedding, are granted, you’re ready to tie the knot in your favorite Portuguese venue.
Marriage certificate: After the wedding ceremony, you will receive a marriage certificate issued by the Portuguese Civil Registry. This is the official record of your marriage in Portugal that you can present in your home country so you will be registered officially as a married couple.
How our local wedding planner in Portugal can assist you
The legal paperwork and all the processes may seem daunting, but the good news is that you just need to send the required documents to us, and we can do all the legwork here in Portugal.
Assistance with legal paperwork is one of the essential services that you can add to your elopement package in Portugal, and you won’t need to fly all the way to Europe prior to your wedding day just to do the paperwork.
Once you send the official documents to us and sign a Power of Attorney for the solicitor, we can take care of everything. Send the documents to us at least a month and a half before your wedding day to give us enough time to make the submissions for your marriage license.
While we can do the legwork here in Portugal, we still advise that you arrive a few days earlier in the rare case there are issues requiring your presence in the Embassy.
Other wedding ceremonies in Portugal
If you don’t want to go through all the paperwork and processes for a legal wedding in Portugal, you can always choose to have a non-civil ceremony that is equally beautiful. Below are some of them.
As the term implies, a symbolic wedding carries no legal weight but it’s a great choice if you want full customization of your wedding ceremony and zero legal paperwork. Symbolic weddings mean no rules or requirements, and no extra effort to request and submit documents.
If you want to get married in a beautiful Portuguese church, you can have a Catholic wedding in Portugal, and that ceremony will be considered legally binding.
The process is slightly different because you need to secure approval for the religious ceremony from a local priest of a Portuguese church. The ceremony must happen within three months after getting the priest’s approval. Just like a civil wedding in Portugal, your ceremony must be conducted in the Portuguese language, with a translator.
Other religious ceremonies
Unlike Catholic weddings, wedding ceremonies of other religions are not considered legally binding in Portugal without a separate civil ceremony. Marriage ceremonies of other religions do not enjoy the same privilege as a Catholic wedding so if you’re planning to have a non-Catholic religious wedding in Portugal, you’d have to hold a civil wedding first to give your union a legal effect.
That’s about it. Those are the details that you need to know about a legal wedding in Portugal. Now it’s all up to you if you would prefer a legally-binding ceremony or a symbolic wedding in this scenic country. What’s great about a wedding in Portugal is that the cost for accommodation and venue reservations are relatively cheaper than in other more popular European destinations.
Check out our enquiry page to get an estimate of the cost, and tick the schedule a call with our planner box so you can have a more in-depth discussion with our planner. You can also browse through our selection of wedding venues in Portugal and choose the one that you love the most so we can hit the ground running should you decide to plan your wedding with us.