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How to Legally Get Married in Portugal - And Why You Shouldn't

 Photo by Phil Drinkwater
Why You Shouldn’t Register Your Marriage in Portugal

I know I know, strange topic to start off this guide with but I wanted to get straight into the act of registering to marry in Portugal so you can make an informed choice. Here I will show my one piece of bias throughout the whole blog and that is because, dear reader, I want to save you the headache. I once ignorantly said that the process of marrying in Portugal as a foreigner is fairly simple. That’s because on paper - it absolutely is! As you’ll see in the sections below, the paperwork that you need is pretty standard and as you don’t need to have a residency period in Portugal to get married there, it’s one of the “easier” places to get married in Portugal and probably the entire world as a foreign national.

HOWEVER, I know couples who have one Portuguese partner who still didn’t opt to have a civil ceremony and register to marry in Portugal. This is purely because of Portugal’s infamous problem with bureaucracy. Everything to do with government or council services in Portugal involves a monstrous amount of red tape which is made even more frustrating by officials taking a long time to reply to emails and generally making things just a little harder. Now dear readers, get married in general is going to be a new, exciting and, at times, stressful endeavour. Now add on the stress of trying to contact the consular officials, appointing a solicitor, appointing an official translator and the endless waiting games and back and forth between yourselves and this band of professionals just to get the “okay”. Let’s also not get into how Brexit could affect this if one or both of you are British - yikes. I feel your migraine forming through the screen.

And then there's the ceremony itself. All I have to say is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Your civil ceremonies in Portugal would effectively be delivered by a lawyer called a "conservador". Your wedding would be a long boring spiel of legalese in Portuguese with no romance whatsoever. The only bit of personalisation would be your name. You would also need to hire an interpreter if you'd like to understand any of your service in any other language than Portuguese. Double yikes.

So what can you do? My advice is to register to marry and legally have a civil or religious ceremony in your country of residence and then opt to to have a humanist/celebrant-led ceremony or blessing in Portugal. This not only saves to the rigmarole of doing the legal paperwork and the stress this adds, but it also boosts the economy of the Portuguese wedding industry as there are some extremely talented wedding celebrants in Portugal who can create the ceremony you want (which I discuss in this blog). But of course, in the interest of being fair, I’m going to detail below the paperwork and processes needed to obtain a marriage license in Portugal.  

Civil Ceremonies

The easiest thing to do when attempting to grace this minefield, is to get a local lawyer or wedding planner and apply for them to be your Power of Attorney so that they can submit the paperwork and apply for your marriage license on your behalf. You can indeed do this yourself but remember that this is an option for you and could make the process much simpler.

An important thing to note is that all of the paperwork listed below needs to be original copies and approved with an apostille stamp. Any documents that are not originally Portuguese need to be translated by an accredited translation service which your lawyer or planner can help you to source.

You will both need:

  • Birth certificates - issued no earlier than 6 months prior to your wedding day.You can get a new birth certificate printed by the registry office local to where you were born or, in many countries, you can order one online.

  • Power of Attorney - if you choose to have one. This will be issued by your planner or lawyer and must be signed in the presence of a notary public. This must be issued no earlier than 6 months before your wedding day.

  • Passport or Resident’s Card - If you are living in Portugal then you only need your residency card. If you are having a power-of-attorney apply for a marriage license on your behalf then you don’t need your original passport to be submitted but you do need a valid notarised copy of both.

  • Divorce Certificate - If you have been divorced then you need to present a certified copy of your divorce certificate or final papers, that have been issued no earlier than 6 months before your wedding day.

  • Death Certificate - If you are widowed, you need to present a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate, This needs to be issued no earlier than 6 months before your wedding date.

  • Certificate of No Impediment - How to get this document completely depends on your nationality. For example, if you are an American, Canadian or Australian couple, you can’t get this from a US Consulate but you can give a statement of eligibility front of a consular officer at the US Embassy in Lisbon and then show it to the local Civil Registry office that your wedding will take place. However British, Irish and EU couples you can go to your Consulate in Lisbon and fill out your Certificate of No Impediment.

Religious Ceremonies

The first thing to note with religious ceremonies is that only Catholic weddings are legally recognised in Portugal. For any other faith you will need to carry out the legal ceremony at home or have a legal civil ceremony in Portugal and then have a religious blessing in Portugal.

If you do want a Catholic wedding in Portugal, you will need all of the documents in the Civil ceremony section plus the following list. All of these documents need to be translated into Portuguese by a verified translator and stamped by your local bishop’s office :

  • Two letters of permission - one from your parish priest and one from your bishop allowing you to be married in your chosen Portuguese church. These should be on formal letterheads.

  • Pre CANA certificate - this is a certificate from your priest to confirm that you have fulfilled your PRE CANA procedures.

  • Prenuptial inquiry form - this has to be issued by your parish priest on letterheaded paper.

  • Baptism certificate

  • First communion certificate

  • Confirmation certificate

  • Permission of mixed religions - this is only needed if one of you is not Catholic and confirmed Catholic. You can get this from your priest.