Disclaimer: The word “easy” in the title of this post—take it with a grain of salt. A large grain of salt.
Last year (July 7, 2012, to be exact), I got married in Spain. I got married in Spain to a Spaniard. We celebrated our wedding in a Romanesque church with origins in the eleventh century, the beautiful San Cipriano of Zamora.
Source: Turismo de Zamora
Trying to get married in another culture, with all its requisite paperwork and bureaucracy, makes you realize that planning the actual wedding and reception is a lot easier than trying to get the Spanish government to recognize the legality of your upcoming marriage vows. And so I get emails from readers who are in the same situation as I used to be: they’re dating Spaniards; they want to marry them … but how? How indeed.
So You’re Dating a Spaniard … and now you want to say I do / Sí, quiero in the church.
To get married in the church, you have to do all the things for the civil ceremony and a few additional ones for the religious part. I’m going to talk about the Catholic church, because … well, that’s my experience and it’s the most common in Spain. A helpful website for both civil and religious ceremonies can be found here. Also, remember that every region in Spain is different, so be sure to ask your local authorities about any special requirements they may have.
1. Get a copy of your birth certificate.
This is first and foremost. But, ojo, it can’t be a vintage birth certificate. It has to have been issued within the past six months, I believe. Silly? Perhaps, but you don’t want to play with their rules.
For Indiana, my home state (go Hoosiers!), I went through Vital Records and ordered two copies because I’m slightly neurotic. Your state is going to be different. They say it takes 4–6 weeks, but I got it sooner than that. It cost me $10 for the first copy plus a $1.85 identifty-verification fee (and $4 for the additional copy). The “problem” was the shipping. I wasn’t sure whether to insure it or not; in the end, I did. That ended up costing me about $17.
Next you have to get that sucker apostilled. An apostille is an international certification and is comparable to notarization on an international scale. The process for getting an apostille on a document varies from state to state. In Indiana, there’s no fee for the apostille service. I sent in my birth certificate along with the following to the Indiana Secretary of State’s office:
- an original signature
- a cover letter with the name of the country (Spain), my phone number, and information as to where the documents had to be sent afterward
- a postage-paid envelope for them to send it back to me
I hope you are okay with spending some money. Bureaucracy requires paperwork, and paperwork requires money. Yours.
2. Proof of freedom to marry.
So, this document doesn’t exist in the U.S. I know, I know. Whaaaat? How can I be expected to produce a document that doesn’t exist? This will happen in Spain (see: getting your degree recognize by the Spanish government), and you will just have to suck it up and find your way over it, around it, or through it. One of those methods has to work.
In the civil court, you can accomplish by swearing before an American consul. In my case, I did so by swearing in front of my pastor and having him sign a document I found on the Internet. I signed it, and so did he. He stamped it … you know, to make things official-ish and all. Boom, done!
Note: apparently in Madrid, this is different, and the statement has to be made by the parents. What’s with that, Madrid?
3. Baptismal certificate.
We Protestants can be strange. I didn’t get baptized as a baby, because in my denomination this is frowned upon. Instead, I got baptized in my church as an eight year-old. I asked my mom one night before bed, and that was when I got dunked in a lukewarm bathtub in front of 200 blurry strangers. (My vision leaves much to be desired.)
My baptismal certificate was more like this one … not so official looking
But here in Spain, Catholics like to get all strict about baptismal certificates, and the one I got in Sunday School class wasn’t exactly cutting it. Nevertheless, we somehow convinced the 80-year-old bishop that it was indeed legitimate, and off we were.
4. Certificate of consular inscription.
My official translator has two other degrees as well
5. Translate your documents.
Luckily for me, I’ve got a translator for life in Mario. You will need to have your birth certificate, the apostille, baptismal certificate, consular inscription, and proof of freedom to marry translated into Spanish. This must be a legal translation, so you can’t just do it yourself.
6. Application forms.
There are various application forms involved in this process. We filled these out and had them filled out for us. We had to visit the bishopric of Zamora as well as Mario’s dioceses to speak with the bishop and priest of Mario’s district. You could tell that this was a very rare occasion for them, as the paperwork often required us to explain the situation two or three different times in the same meeting.
7. Posting of Banns.
You’re probably asking yourself right now what in the world Banns are. I had the same question. Basically, in Spain, people are required to go through a process called “posting of banns” for a civil ceremony. This is a public declaration of intent to marry. It’s possible that your nearest embassy/consulate can provide a letter saying that this is not required in the U.S. In our case, our names and wedding date were posted outside the door of Mario’s church for weeks before our wedding. You know, just in case someone had an objection to the marriage.
What happens now?
Well, now you’ll be wanting your residency, right?
The libro de familia.
The libro de familia (literally family book), or Spain’s marriage certificate, can be obtained from the civil registry after the wedding takes place.
Because Mario and I had not yet moved to Madrid, I got empadronada (registered with the census) in Zamora, where we got married. I didn’t do this until after the marriage, but it’s important in order to get your NIE (foreign citizens identification number). Getting registered in Zamora is about 100x easier than in Madrid. That’s why I always advise people to get married in your future spouse’s hometown, if he/she is not from Madrid.
Apply for your NIE.
You can check out the process here. In this case, you are not a student, so you won’t be applying for the same type of NIE as you would have if you were in Spain as a Conversation and Language Assistant or on study abroad. I did this process in Zamora, and like I said earlier, it took much less time than it would have had I done it in Madrid, where foreigners abound and you have to reserve appointments months in advance.