Getting Married in Spain – The Experts Tell All

Destination Weddings

Calling all couples who are considering getting married in Spain – this is for you! You’ve probably already seen some of our Spanish real weddings and articles, and even checked out the amazing Spanish planners, venues and celebrants in our directory. You know the weather is more likely to be sunny than not, and the food will be just the right side of exotic. Fantastic!

Before you set the date and buy some new suitcases (maybe even a new camera…), allow us to share a few practicalities about getting married in Spain to help you avoid some of the pitfalls of planning a wedding abroad. Ready? Let’s go!

Photo from Niamh & Paddy’s real wedding planned by Marcella Doran, Your Dream Wedding in Spain

Getting married in Spain – how do I do this?

The best advice anyone will ever give you – and of course, so will we – is hire a wedding planner. They’re worth literally every penny. Let’s say you want to get married in an old Spanish hacienda, with a mind-blowing tapas buffet and an 80s tribute band for entertainment. It would take you many hours, phone calls, paperwork and language roadblocks to get it all done. A local wedding planner can do it all in a day, and with no misunderstandings! Talk to a few (great selection here), get some quotes and congratulate yourself on making a superb choice.

Louise Bradley of Lyndyloo in Spain says, ‘a local wedding planner’s knowledge is worth much more than you might realise. I’ve already found the best suppliers, they’re tried and tested, and they operate legally too. There are so many people who claim to be experts in their field, and a couple planning a wedding from Ireland, or any other country, may not realise they’re not dealing with a genuine business. A wedding planner will have all this in hand, so you won’t have to worry about giving your money to a questionable supplier who may not deliver on the day.’

What next? Decide on your ceremony.

Above, wedding ceremony by The Wedding Man

Getting married in Spain – the celebrant ceremony option

Consider one of the most interesting findings of weddingsonline’s annual wedding survey – in Ireland, humanist ceremonies are up 30% from last year… that’s a huge increase! And if it’s happening here, then you can bet it’s happening in other countries too including, of course, Spain. The Wedding Man based in Catalunya has experienced this first hand. ‘In 2015,’ he says, ‘I celebrated 10 weddings. In 2016 – 26 weddings. And so far for 2017, I have 23 already confirmed – and it’s only February’.

According to The Wedding Man, ‘weddings abroad give couples the option to go truly bespoke – including the ceremony. A celebrant gives you total flexibility – if you want to say your vows at sunrise or sunset, no problem. If you want a rose garden, a cliff over the ocean, or a private villa, have it! If you have a friend or a family member who loves to sing, feel free to ask them to sing at the ceremony. You can incorporate anything you want – candles, flowers, sand, or a traditional hand fasting. Choose any music, any words, any readings – in fact, I think it’s lovely to give someone that special role of reading something meaningful. You’re not restricted in any way by convention, rules or timing. It’s truly all about the couple, your ceremony, your way. I’d say, you can do anything as long as public decency and the laws of gravity allow it.’

Above, wedding ceremony by The Wedding Man

‘If you’d like help, I’m fully available to guide you. I’ve married all types of couples, including same-sex, and at least 15 nationalities (including Irish, of course!). I ask them to tell me things about themselves which I can incorporate into the beginning of the ceremony, a little bit of their story, if you will. Rather than reciting pre-written formulas, I’d like to get to know each couple and incorporate their own words into the proceedings – it’s so much more powerful and touching than anything that’s been pre-written. Then, they can read their own vows or choose something that’s already been written. If you prefer something more traditional, just say so’

‘I find that a 20-30 minute ceremony is an ideal length – powerful sentiment without any ennui whatsoever. However, I’m available for as long as you’d like me to be there! And there’s one more thing to add – I’m British and fully multilingual. I have conducted weddings totally or partially in English Spanish, Catalán and French, so I understand cultural differences and humour better than a local priest or registrar would, even if they speak fluent English. It makes a huge difference in conducting the ceremony, and also puts the couples and their guests at ease.’

And remember – if you choose the celebrant option when getting married in Spain and wish for your marriage to be legally recognised in Ireland, you’ll have to do the legal paperwork part at home, either before you depart for Spain, or after you return – this is entirely up to you. The celebrant ceremony option requires absolutely no paperwork, no translating of documents, no complicated rules to follow – a huge reason why so many couples find it so attractive. The only work you’ll have to do is to agree everything with the celebrant, and pay a fee for his services.

Above, wedding ceremony by The Wedding Man

Getting married in Spain – civil and religious ceremonies

If you prefer a traditional ceremony, there are a few important facts you should know. We asked Marcella Doran from Your Dream Wedding in Spain to explain. She says, ‘I work in the Costa Blanca region, and while the Spanish laws vary from area to area, here there is no residency requirement for a Catholic church ceremony. There is, however, some paperwork to be done – baptismal certificates, letters of impediment, passport photocopies and so forth. As your wedding planner, I’ll be happy to help with this as much as possible, especially if language is an issue. Arranging a church ceremony in Spain isn’t a complicated process, and of course you can count on me to make it even easier.’

And what about civil ceremonies? Marcella says, ‘unfortunately, this option isn’t available to non-residents. The current Spanish law requires a two-year residency period with a registration in the town hall. Therefore, civil weddings aren’t available to foreign visitors, full stop. Couples who don’t wish to marry in church should then choose the celebrant option.’

‘A wedding planner is there to help you with all details, whether that’s arranging the right ceremony, or getting the flowers and desserts you really want. Couples don’t have to worry about transport, cake, hairstyle or photographer – it’s easiest and best for your budget if things are arranged locally. I work with suppliers I trust who want everything the best for our couples. And I don’t just mean the wedding day – if you’re staying for a few days, we’ll be happy to arrange accommodation for the guests, excursions to local points of interest, and other things too. Have your wedding exactly the way you want.’

Photo from Niamh & Paddy’s real wedding planned by Marcella Doran, Your Dream Wedding in Spain

Getting married in Spain – important points to remember

Pick a date far enough in advance so your potential guests have enough time to make the trip… unless of course you’d like to elope!

Choose your outfits according to the season and weather forecast. If it’s the height of summer, choose light fabrics, no heavy layers, and the right shoes too.

Check your passport. Ideally, it should have at least six months’ validity after your wedding date. You must book all your flights and make reservations with the name that appears in the passport.

Bring as few wedding trinkets as possible – let the wedding planner take care of all that at your destination. We’re talking decorations, favours and other fragile things – they may get damaged, or if your luggage is lost or delayed, you’ll be disappointed to be without.

Check with the airline if they’ll allow you to bring your wedding clothes onboard, instead of putting them in the hold. You may need to invest in a proper travel bag.

Ask your wedding planner for advice about the menu. Hot food on a hot day? May not be the best option. Icing that will melt off your wedding cake? Not if you get the right cake. You get the idea.

And a last word of wisdom from Louise Bradley of Lyndyloo in Spain: ‘I highly recommend you ask your wedding planner if you can speak to other couples who had their wedding arranged by the same person and at the same venue. Nobody will tell you more honestly what you can expect. When you are completely sure you’re making the right decision, you can really breathe a sigh of relief, and you won’t have to worry about a thing on the day.

Main and above photo from Alexandra & Neil’s real wedding planned by Lyndyloo in Spain