Spain vs. Portugal: where should we elope?

When it comes to culture and scenery, Portugal and Spain are not so different. Both have historic spots for a unique wedding, scenic beaches for a special honeymoon, and amazing feasts with great food that couples from everywhere would love to experience.

However, the most notable difference between the two countries is that Spain is five times bigger than Portugal, which means more scenes to enjoy and more spots to visit. But for most couples whom we helped with wedding planning, the country’s size is never an issue

A destination wedding in Europe is best spent in one specific region or city where you can enjoy the ceremony and the honeymoon. It could be a gorgeous beach resort in Algarve or a luxury hotel in Seville. The choice is yours. But for now, we’ll walk you through the similarities and differences of Portugal and Spain as wedding destinations. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you can make a wise decision on where to get married.

Legal weddings in Portugal vs. symbolic ceremony in Spain

The basic and most important difference between the two European countries is that it’s easier to have a legal wedding in Portugal than in Spain. Read below to know some important facts about legally-binding weddings for non-residents in both countries.

Legal wedding in Portugal

One of the best things about getting married in Portugal is that it provides minimal to no requirements at all for non-residents. You can have a legal wedding ceremony anywhere you want, and the venue does not need to hold a special wedding license. If you want a sunset wedding along the Algarve coast, no problem! Legally-binding beach weddings, which is one of the top reasons to get married in Portugal, are allowed here. You only need to secure one requirement - a maritime police license which can be secured easily.

Symbolic ceremony in Spain

Having a legally-binding wedding in Spain can be a bit complicated because of the strict Spanish legal requirements. Unlike in Portugal, the Spanish government does not allow non-residents to have a legal wedding ceremony here unless one of you is a Spanish national or at least a resident for two consecutive years. However, that’s not a huge obstacle to picking Spain as a wedding destination. Why? Read our tip below so you will know why the difficulty of having a legal wedding in Spain is almost a non-factor.

Our tip

The choice between having a legal wedding or a symbolic one varies from couple to couple. For those who want a legal wedding in a destination with strict requirements, we suggest having a symbolic.

Get all the legal paperwork done in your home country and hold a simple legal ceremony there if required. You can do that before or after traveling to Europe, and then have a symbolic or non-legal wedding in the European destination of your choice.

With this option, you can do away with all the legal requirements abroad and enjoy a symbolic ceremony in Europe. After all, a wonderful ceremony (whether legal or not) in a breathtaking venue is what couples are dying to have when they choose Europe for their destination wedding.

Beach elopements: Algarve vs. the South of Spain

Hands down, Algarve and the southern coast of Spain are some of the best coastlines that we’ve ever seen in Europe. There are slight differences between the two but they’re both worthy options for a beach wedding.

Algarve wedding

The 1860-kilometer western coastline of Portugal is dotted with some of the most amazing beach elopement venues in Europe. If you’re dreaming of a sunset wedding with a perfect ocean view in the background, consider the long stretch of golden coastline in Algarve. You can tie the knot in a boutique hotel, a luxury resort, or an elegant villa along the coast. Some of these venues offer beachfront spaces or restaurants with glass walls as ceremony spots so you can have a perfect view of the North Atlantic ocean while reciting your vows.

Elope to the South of Spain

Málaga and Cadiz are top spots for beach weddings in Spain. They’re both located in southern Spain along the Andalusian coastline with serene turquoise waters, Carribean-like shores, and scenic views of rock formations and waterfalls. The island of Ibiza, on the other hand, is a dream come true for brides and grooms who are in love with boho-, mountaintop-, and minimalist-themed beach locations with crystal clear waters. Here at the south of Spain, you will not only get married with a stunning beach backdrop, you can also visit historic sites hidden in thousand-year-old villages for your honeymoon.

Our tip

Portugal beach spots are gathered in one stretch of its western coastline while Spanish beaches are scattered across different southern regions and islands of the country. The choice between Spain and Portugal depends on what you're looking for. Spanish beach locations have warmer waters and a livelier ambiance because of their proximity in some cities. Portuguese beaches, on the other hand, are calmer and quiter while offering an epic scenery.

Historic elopement venues: Sintra vs. Spanish historic venues

Rich history and culture is a prevailing reason why many tourists visit Spain and Portugal. Spain has 48 UNESCO heritage sites while Portugal has 17. There are more sites in Spain because it is five times bigger than Portugal. But that doesn’t mean that Spain wins in this area. Read on to see which of the two is more suitable for a history-lover like you.

Portugal’s Sintra historic venues for elopements

Travel to Sintra if you want an adventure wedding in a mountaintop palace surrounded by woodlands. In this romantic Portuguese city, there are so many historic places where you can tie the knot. There’s a special and popular historic spot which poets, artists, and architects long to see because of its splendid library and beautiful works of art! In the same romantic city, you’ll find historic venues with chapels for a religious ceremony and spacious ballroom halls. Most of them offer a scenic view of the ocean for a more dramatic ceremony.

Spain’s historic elopement spots

If you want to experience Spanish history at its finest, visit century-old churches and huge museums in the country. Like France, Spain is dotted with unique religious wedding venues that are unparalleled anywhere else in Europe. These religious sites are perfect for solemn wedding ceremonies, especially for the Roman Catholics who want something grand for their ceremony.

Spanish Catholic churches are prominent because they are some of the oldest ones in the world. They’re scattered in regions like Andalusia, Madrid, Altea, Mallorca, and Barcelona. Aside from old churches, you can also get married in old Spanish vineyard venues, historic fortress ruins, or age-old castles. Here’s a full list of our wedding venues in Spain for your reference.

Our tip

If you're looking for an old Catholic church to get married in, Spain could be a better choice for you. This country is pretty much unbeatable when it comes to historic religious sites. But if you want an adventure elopement with fortress ruins and scenic beach views, Portugal offers amazing options for you.

Laidback elopement spots: Portuguese quintas vs. Spanish vineyards

Most couples want to get married in a peaceful spot away from the noise and the crowd. Here are interesting facts that you need to know about a quiet and laidback elopement in Portugal and Spain.

Marry in Portuguese quintas

One thing you have to know about quintas is that they’re privately-owned estates that have served the needs of Portuguese families since time immemorial. The Portuguese converted hectares of lands into huge estates with spacious family residences and vineyards or farmlands. They are often located away from buzzing cities and crowded beaches, offering tranquil views of the Portuguese countryside.

It’s a perfect setting for laidback elopements in the midst of a farm, surrounded by rolling hills and nature-rich lands. Imagine reciting your vows with views like these and spending your honeymoon in this peaceful place.

Spanish vineyards for weddings

Winemaking is at the heart of Spanish history and culture, and vineyards are some of the best outdoor elopement spots here. You may have heard that Spain is popular for amazing wines made in Spanish vineyards and wineries that have been standing for hundreds of years.

Choose from among the huge selection of vineyards and wineries that also guarantee an authentic destination wedding experience. An amazingly rustic winery in Haro that dates back to 1859, a winery and museum elopement venue in Andalucía, and a vineyard, hotel, and spa in Salamanca are some of the best ones we know. You can literally have an intimate ceremony inside the bodegas of these venues.

Our tip

Laidback Spanish venues cover bigger tracts of lands and more activities to explore while Portuguese quintas are smaller and more homey since they are privately-owned. Despite this difference, both offer a tranquil setting for a peaceful elopement in Europe.

Unique cuisines for your wedding: Portuguese cod vs. Spanish tapas

What are the best-tasting dishes that you should first get hold of when getting married in Spain or Portugal? We say Spanish tapas and Portuguese cod!

Portuguese cod on your wedding

If it’s your first time traveling to Portugal, you must not miss out on their Portuguese cod or "bacalhau". Cod in Portugal can be dried and salted or fresh and unsalted. No matter how it was prepared and served, they all make wonderful traditional dishes that you can only taste in this side of Europe. The Portuguese have around 1000 recipes for cod, which is a testament that it has been around for many many years. You definitely should make it part of your wedding dinner.

Elope with Spanish tapas on the side

As a wine-making country, tapa in Spanish cuisine certainly makes sense. Tapas are appetizers or snacks served with cocktails, but as the years go by, tapas have also become part of a full meal.

For us, the best way to enjoy tapas is to pair them with wine while talking the night away. They may be served cold with olives and cheese or hot such as fried seafood. We’ve seen intimate weddings in Spain where the couple, together with their small group of guests, spent the night having dinner in the restaurant of their venue, enjoying tapas until the wee hours of the night… with special Spanish wine of course!

Our tip

Both Portuguese cod and Spanish tapas are interesting delicacies that are native to the two hispanic countries. However, tapas are pretty much served even outside Spain. It’s not hard to find a restaurant or two outside of Europe with tapas on their menu. Portuguese cod cuisines, on the other hand, are hard to find outside Portugal, and so are other Portuguese dishes. So if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, we’d say Portuguese cod is more worthy to try.


We know that the overall cost is one of the main considerations of couples when choosing a wedding destination. We’re here to tell you that Spain and Portugal are similar economy-wise, so you can expect fees, prices, and accommodations to be almost the same.

This makes choosing between Portugal and Spain for your destination wedding a lot easier. But if you want to get a better idea of the cost of getting married in either country, get an estimate here, and schedule a consultation call with our wedding planner for Spain and Portugal.

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