Please note that the information provided is for British citizens only.
Q - I've heard we need to arrive a few days before the wedding - why?
A - Many countries have a legal requirement for the couple to be in the country for a short time before the wedding – usually called the ‘residency requirement’ or 'waiting period'. This is generally to allow for the licence application or for last minute processing and approval of paperwork.
Minimum residency can vary from 1 day to 1 week (more in rare cases), but it’s usually around 2-3 days. Some places don't stipulate any stay beforehand, but may require you to meet with the person who is conducting the ceremony before the event.
Q - What's a 'certified' copy of a document?
A - Some countries ask for ‘certified’ copies of documents if you aren’t able to produce the original. This is a photocopy of the relevant document, which has been stamped & signed by a UK solicitor as being a true copy of the original.
Q - What is Legalisation?
A - Legalisation is the process by which a signature, seal or stamp on a document is officially confirmed as genuine.
Some countries ask for documents to be legalised if they are in a language other than English, if they have been translated or just as an added reassurance that they are the genuine article.
In the UK, legalisation is done by the Foreign Office at their Milton Keynes offices, where signatures or stamps are checked against specimens on file, before attaching a certificate (an Apostille) to confirm they have approved it.
This service costs £28.80 per signature (2011) and is available by post only. Turnaround is 24 hours, but allow a few extra days to be on the safe side.
Very clear instructions are available on the FCO's website here or email directly:
Q - What is a 'notarised' copy of a document?
A - If your documents are required to be notorised (eg for weddings in Australia ), it simply means that they must be witnessed by a Notary. You can find one near you by checking out the Notary Society website.
Q - What is a 'Certificate of No Impediment' or a 'CNI'?
A - A few countries ask for a CNI. This is a very simple document that allows you - ie a non-national resident - to marry in their country and states there are no objections to the marriage. It is issued in the UK.
How do we get a CNI?
1) Give notice of your wedding in person to a UK Superintendent Registrar in the district where you live (just as you would if you were marrying here in the UK). Find your local registrar on the marriages pages of the UK Government website.
* You’ll need some form of ID and any relevant certificates (divorce, death of former spouse etc). Your local registry office will advise on the documents you will need.
* You usually need to have decided on your wedding venue in order to give notice and, if you change this venue, a new notice has to be issued.
2) As long as there are no objections to your proposed marriage, a CNI will then be issued between 15 and 23 days after your appointment.
* Sometimes it might be necessary to get the CNI translated into the language of your destination (eg Italy).
* Occasionally the overseas marriage authorities (eg Greece) also want your CNI legalised by the British Authorities before you present it. See information on 'legalisation' above on how to organise this.
3) It’s likely that you will then need to send a photocopy of the CNI to the overseas authority where you are marrying and take the original along with you.
A CNI costs around £30 per person.
Certificates issued in England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have a validity restriction. CNIs issued by the Registrar in Scotland are valid for three months. A couple of countries also state their own expiry (details in the Legalities pages of Where in the World).
NB If you are marrying an Irish National abroad or one of you is not a British Citizen, different rules can apply. Your local registry office should be able to advise you. Find details of your nearest one on the UK Government website.