Photo Credit: DA Wataya – Ærøskøbing, Denmark
We realised that when couples will be searching on the words ‘Eloping in Europe’, you will be looking for an article that is dedicated to highlighting those ‘nitty gritty’ details of what is involved in getting married in the many possible countries throughout Europe.
However what you’ll find instead, is website after website of destination photographers giving you their top 10 prettiest, or most impressive, locations to have wedding pictures taken, and then calling that an elopement.
Yet travelling to a stunning location for beautiful wedding pictures is not actually the same thing as getting legally married.
Don’t get us wrong, these websites are all serving a very important purpose because, of course, having your wedding in a beautiful location is hugely desirable for huge numbers of couples.
However, the implication on most of these websites is that you will have already got married before you ‘elope’ to these locations, which suggests that getting legally married in these beautiful places is either not particularly simple or even, in some cases, possible at all.
So, if you’re a couple looking for a great country in which to get legally married for your European elopement, read on to find out more about exactly what eloping in Europe entails and where, as an international couple, you can actually get legally married simply and quickly.
What does Eloping in Europe Mean?
So let’s first look at this a little further – what does it actually mean to elope?
The word elope can conjure up images of getting married in secret, as this is what it used to mean many years ago, but that really is not the case anymore.
Nowadays, that idea of running off in secret to get married is very much an old fashioned stereotype (although some do still prefer to do it that way)!
Photo Credit: Renate Meimere – Copenhagen, Denmark
Today we live in a wonderfully modern world; filled with multicultural, multinational and multi religious couples and, for the most part, eloping quite simply involves 2 people getting legally married in a different country to the one in which they legally reside.
Often it can be just the couple themselves, but it can, and often does, involve close family, loved ones, and / or friends.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular countries listed as ‘destination wedding locations’ and find out how easy it is to actually get legally married there as an international couple.
Eloping to the Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands have a wild beauty about them like nowhere else. Green yet rugged landscapes, dramatic lakes & waterfalls, and a peaceful energy that you can only truly appreciate if you’re lucky enough to visit.
Photo Credit: Anton Zeuthen – Faroe Islands
This beautiful place hits all the right notes when thinking about that dream wedding location; the beautiful backdrop, the unique and totally memorable experience AND the documentation and process to get married there is actually relatively straight forward!
IF you are able to provide each of the documents listed below….
- Birth certificates
- Divorce decree / Death cert and any relevant legalisations (where applicable)
- Single Status Certificates (and any relevant legalisations, where applicable)
- Letter from your Commander (applicable for serving military members)
- Notice of Marriage
- Relevant Visa or Residence permit (where applicable)
Tórshavn Town Hall
While the Faroe Islands is a Danish territory, it has its own jurisdiction when it comes to the marriage process and the authorities involved.
It is worth bearing in mind that the Faroe Islands are NOT actually part of the EU so if you need your marriage certificate to be legalised after your wedding, your marriage certificate must be stamped by authorities in 3 separate offices – two on the Faroe Islands and one in Denmark.
Tórshavn marriage office requires that you submit the Notice of Marriage no sooner than 4 months and not less than 4 weeks before your wedding date.
Photo Credit: Kristjan Løk – Copenhagen, Denmark
Eloping to Denmark
This is an unassuming and yet totally perfect choice for a European elopement.
This gorgeous Nordic country has it all.
Stunning, yet quaint landscape, amazingly kind and generous people, an international wedding system set up beautifully for welcoming foreign couples and a simple and fast documentation process. Really, we don’t think you need to look any further!
- Passport or EU ID
- Divorce decree or Death certificate if previously married (where applicable)
- Birth certificate of any children you have together (where applicable)
- Military ID or Letter from Commander (applicable for military members)
- Relationship Document – required by the Danish authorities to prove that you are in a genuine relationship
- A signed declaration of truth
- Visa or Residence Permit (where applicable)
Applications must be made to the Familieretshuset (The Agency of Family Law) – a Danish government department dedicated to processing marriage applications of anyone who wants to get married in Denmark.
Your approval for marriage will only be issued for a maximum of 4 months, this may be less if you have restrictions around Visa conditions.
Once your application has been submitted to the AFL they must respond to your application within 5 business days.
Eloping to Spain
Spain would be an obvious choice simply for the weather- it is guaranteed to be warm during the summer months, and there is the possibility of rural landscapes, seaside towns or city centres.
The Spanish are well known for their love of food and for throwing a great party – which might be just what you’re looking for in your European elopement!
Let’s take a look at what the requirements and processes are, bureaucratically speaking.
- Application Form: Obtained from the Civil Registry/District Court
- Valid passport or EU ID card: Original and copy
- Birth Certificate: The original document, obtained from the country of origin and issued no more than 6 months ago.
- Fe de vida y estado (Certificate of Life and Status) For foreigners, inquiries must be made at the corresponding consulate or embassy if, in addition to the certificate of Marital Status, it is necessary to present a certificate of marital capacity.
- Divorce/Annulment/Death Certificates (where applicable)
- Certificate of Residence or Empadronamiento: This document can be obtained from the town hall of the municipality where you have lived for the last 2 years. It must list all the cities where you have lived during the past 2 years.
Foreign citizens who are temporary residents of Spain or have lived here less than two years may alternatively prove their Spanish address with alternative documents such as Utility Bills, Bank Statements, etc. If not living in Spain you need to obtain this from the country in which you legally reside.
- Family book (if you have biological children in common)
- Posting of Banns/edicts: Banns/edicts are the public announcement that a couple plans to marry
- Certificate of Marital Status
- Certificate of legal age: Foreigners under the age of 25 must also present a certification of their legal age in the country of origin.
- Refugees must provide a Certificate from the General Directorate of the Police, UNHCR or de la Cruz Roja or the corresponding authorities (with the personal data of the interested party) accrediting any conditions.
You must apply to your local Civil Registry Office.
- If you are both foreigners and neither of you legally reside in Spain, you CANNOT get married here. One or both of you must legally reside in Spain.
- In order to get married in Spain you may follow the procedure as if you were a Spanish citizen, OR you may follow the procedure and rules of applying to get married in your ‘home’ country then take that approval to the Spanish authorities.
- If you try to get married in a smaller town, you may encounter officials who are not fully aware of all the rules / processes than they would in a larger city, for example. This could potentially add significant delays and or frustrations to the process.
- You may be called in for an interview to determine the ‘validity’ of your relationship.
- Once approved, your permission to get married (Certificado de Capacidad Matrimonial) is issued for a validity period of 6 months. You must get married within this time frame.
The expression; ‘how long is a piece of string?’ springs to mind here. In some towns and offices, you may be dealing with long queues, officials who are not particularly helpful or knowledgable, or paperwork hold ups. In some areas, you may get seen very quickly.
Photo Credit: Elena Belevantseva – Frederiksberg, Denmark
Eloping to France
France is a beautiful country and certainly a place that has a lot to offer in terms of locations for a wedding. French of course is renowned for being the language of love, the weather is usually warm (a must for some couples), it boasts those gorgeous mediterranean beaches, vineyards and much more. What’s not to love?! But let’s look into whether getting legally married is a possibility if you are looking to elope to France.
- Valid identity document (original and photocopy)
- Proof of address
- Information on your witnesses (must be at least 18yo, there must be at least 2 but can have up to 4)
- Birth Certificate dated within the last 3 months (for French citizens)
- Divorce decree (for French citizens a birth cert or marriage cert + annotation) / death certificate (where applicable)
- Custom certificate (obtained from your embassy or consulate)
- Certificate of Celibacy (or marital capacity)
- Birth Certificate within the last 6 months (for foreign citizens)
- Proof that at least one of you has had legal residence in France for at least 30 days
- Divorce / Death documentation from any previous marriage (where applicable)
You need to apply at your local Mairie.
The marriage must be celebrated in a town with which at least one of you has a lasting link. The link can be with one of the following municipalities:
- The home or residence of at least one of you
- The home or residence of a parent of at least one of you
- The Mairie can then request further documents and may even ask that you go to the consulate to obtain further documents. Which documents depend on the Mairie.
- For French citizens you can also provide an “Attestation sur l’Honneur” which is a signed statement that you are single and free to marry.
- The Mairie will then process your file and hold an interview with the couple (you may be interviewed separately if the authorities deem it necessary).
- The Mairie cannot refuse to process a file once all the documents have been submitted. Only in very rare cases in which justice could intervene, the Mairie must alert another authority (the procureur de la République) that does have the power to refuse the process to the couple. The procureur then has 15 days to decide if the couple can marry or not.
- You must submit your documents at least 2 months before your preferred ceremony date.
- The official decision reached by the Mairie will then be published and posted on the door of the marriage office in the Mairie for 10 days.
- You are not able to marry during these 10 days. Only when the 10 days have passed can you organise a date for marriage with the Mairie, according to their availability at that time.
- You must get married within 1 year of your marriage request being approved by the authorities.
Eloping to Germany
Germany might not seem like the first obvious elopement choice, but actually Germany is an incredible country that has some beautiful locations and scenery; stunning mountain ranges, lush forests and grand castles to name a few! But is getting married in Germany an easy task? Let’s take a look.
- Valid Passport, ID or any other official proof of identity (must contain your photograph)
- Birth certificate (must be an original)
- Meldebescheinigung or a similar (something that shows proof of a minimum of 21 days of continuous residence in Germany) – dated no older than 14 days prior to your marriage application
- Certificate from the registration authority of a second residence. *This is only applicable if you are not submitting your application at the office of your primary residence
- Birth certificates of children you have in common (if applicable)
- Final Divorce Decree / Former spouse’s Death Certificate and any relevant authentications/legalisation (if applicable)
- Registras’ Office / Standesamt application form & questionnaire
- Valid Passport, ID or any other official proof of identity which includes a photograph. (Foreign nationals whose nationality is not specified in the official proof of identity must establish their nationality through a certificate from the responsible authority in their country of origin).
- Valid Visa or Aufenthaltstitel (where applicable)
- Aufenthaltsbescheinigung der Meldebehörde – for those with a German residence permit (not a regular Meldebescheinigung). This should show an indication of the family status, nationality and place of residence. Note, this is different if the registry office and the registration office belong to the same municipality.
- Ehefähigkeitszeugnis (a document that states you are legally free to marry)
- Einkommensbescheinigung (a financial statement)
- Any translations professionally translated into German (where applicable)
- Required legalisations (where applicable)
Your local registrar’s office.
- Once the registrar’s office has checked all the documents, if one or both of you are a foreigner, your documents are then sent to the court, so that they can be checked again.
- Once the court approves then they issue a ‘certificate of no impediment’. This may take a few weeks to be issued and you are not able to marry until this has been done.
- The ‘certificate of no impediment’ or period in which you are able to marry in Germany, is valid for six months.
- Once your marriage application is approved, you must get married in one of the wedding rooms at the Registrar’s Office (Standesamt). Note: the wedding does not necessarily have to take place in the registrar’s office, where the application was made, however, it is possible to choose a different registrar’s office in which to get married.
This is the part surrounding marriage in Germany that Germany is often most well known for. As well as the long list of documents required by each half of the couple, the time frame in which it takes for the authorities in Germany to process a couple’s marriage application is long, a minimum of 2 months but often much longer, given that if one or both of the applicants are foreigners (this is; not German) then all documents are checked twice – once by the registrar’s office and then again by the court.
Photo Credit: Cedric Vincent – Frederiksberg, Denmark
Eloping to Ireland
Ireland is a country that instantly evokes timeless feelings of romance. Its countryside is wild, its towns charming, and its cities modern and they all offer that fairytale charm that is often so desired by couples, making it a wonderful choice of location for an elopement. Let’s investigate how easy it is to get married there and how long it could potentially take.
- Original and a photocopy of your birth certificate
- Proof of address – original and photocopy (dated within last 3 months)
- Your personal public service number (PPS number – for Irish citizens / residents only)
- Divorce decree / annulment papers (where applicable). You will need to provide the original, or certified copy, and a photocopy along with any relevant legalisations.
- If you were previously married and this was ended by the death of your former spouse, you must provide your original marriage certificate as well as the death certificate. Originals and photocopies of each must be provided along with any relevant legalisations.
- Up-to-date evidence of your immigration status
- Refugee / asylum card issued by the Department of Justice (where applicable)
- EU ID card for EU citizens who carry this card
- Translations of any documents not in English or Irish
- Any official documents issued by an EU member state must be accompanied by a Multilingual Standard Form (MSF)
- Apostille stamp or letter from your Embassy confirming the authenticity of your documents (applicable only if you were born outside the EU and you do not have an acceptable form of photographic ID)
You must make your notification for intention to marry, in person, to the Civil Registration Service. At this appointment, you will sign a declaration stating that you do not know of any legal reason why you are not able to get married. If approved, the registrar gives you a Marriage Registration Form (MRF). This MRF gives you authorisation or permission to get married. You must then in turn give this MRF to the person who will be conducting your wedding ceremony.
You will automatically be required to attend an interview with the registrar if:
- You are an EU national marrying a non-EU national
- One of you is a foreign national
As well as the official documents listed above, you will also need to provide the following:
- What type of ceremony – (ie civil or religious)
- Name of the person conducting your wedding ceremony
- Name and address of the prospective wedding venue
- Name and date of birth of your (two) witnesses
If you are getting married in Ireland (whether you are an Irish citizen or a foreign national), you must notify the Registrar of your intention to marry at least 3 months before your wedding day to allow for your registration and application for marriage to be processed and any necessary interviews etc to take place.
Eloping to Italy
Beautiful Italy is probably one of the more popular choices for those ‘already legally married’ wedding locations, where couples choose to have more of a post ‘legal wedding’ celebration and symbolic ceremony with their family and friends. It has the warm weather, the delicious wine, the incredible food, the beautiful streets, and countless amazing locations. But how easy is it to get legally married here? We look into the requirements below.
- Passport (or EU ID Card for EU citizens)
- Birth certificate
- Nulla Osta (marital status certificate)
- Divorce Decree / Death certificate (where applicable)
- Publication of Banns (pubblicazioni di matrimonio) – necessary if one or both of you are resident in Italy
- Birth certificate – with Apostille stamp for non EU citizens
- Visa or residence permit (where applicable)
- Nulla Osta (marital status certificate) – issued by either your Embassy/Consulate or in some cases; the competent authority of your origin country. This must be fully legalised, ideally with an Apostille stamp or by the Italian Consulate, as must any relevant translations into Italian.
- A signed report / declaration stating there are no impediments to a legal marriage taking place (Atto Nottario) – this is applicable only if neither of the couple legally resides in Italy, and as a result the publication of the Banns cannot take place.
The local marriage office.
Please note that this information is specifically for a civil wedding and not a religious ceremony.
If one or both of the couple do not speak Italian, then it is mandatory that a translator will need to be present.
Obtaining the Nulla Osta from an embassy / consulate may be time consuming.
If one of you resides in Italy, then the banns will be publicly posted for a period of 11 days, during which time it is possible for anyone objecting to the marriage to make a formal opposition to the wedding taking place.
Photo Credit: Martina Lanotte – Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo Credit: Elena Belevantseva – Frederiksberg, Denmark
Eloping to Iceland
Iceland certainly has that wild charm that many couples long for in their European elopement. It is a part of Europe that has a special kind of magic about it, given its creation came about from a, still very active, volcano. This is again another location that sees a lot of ‘already legally married’ couples come to for more of a symbolic celebration.
- Passports – with accompanying notarization from a Notary Public.
- Birth Certificates – with accompanying notarization from a Notary Public.
- Marital Status Certificate – dated within 12 weeks of your wedding date and must be legalised with an Apostille stamp (or other legalisation stamp where Apostille not available)
- Final Divorce Documentation / Death Certificates with any necessary legalisations (where applicable)
- Hjónavígsluskýrsla – the legal ‘Marriage Notification’ form
- Visa / residence permit (where applicable)
- Airline Ticket Itinerary
- Passport copy of trustworthy person 1 (must be over 18).
- Passport copy of trustworthy person 2 (must be over 18).
The National Marriage Registry Office (located in Reykjavik).
Iceland is a very expensive country and could be a potential ‘roadblock’ for those looking for a fast and cheaper elopement experience.
You must submit your application for a marriage to the Icelandic authorities no later than 3 weeks prior to your proposed wedding date. However, the advice is that you should do this much sooner than this to allow for any questions or requests for further information to be obtained and processed.
So Where Is The Easiest Place To Elope In Europe?
Denmark of course! 🙂
Looking at a lot of the processes and the documents involved for foreign couples wanting to elope in Europe, it becomes clear that yes, getting legally married as part of a European elopement is absolutely possible. That being said, doing it in most of the countries listed here, it’s not always going to be easy.
Documents such as original birth certificates and single status certificates are not always easily available to couples which can cause difficulties, delays and ultimately, disappointment.
These difficulties are why, it’s safe to assume, that a lot of the ‘Eloping in Europe’ websites you’ll find, do suggest that the ‘elopement’ is more of a ceremonial process, rather than a legal one and that you should get ‘legally’ married first.
But this is not the case for EVERY country. Looking at the list of documents and the processes involved it’s clear to see why Denmark is one of the easiest countries in Europe to elope to, and why 20,000 couples a year do exactly that.
Photo Credit: Mike Sønderby Sørensen – Frederiksberg, Denmark
Denmark’s far simpler documentation requirements, dedicated government department set up solely to process marriage applications, and the fast turnaround time with which they do so, is of huge appeal to many foreign, international and multinational couples.
On top of this, Denmark is a really cool place – even if we do say so ourselves. Kind & welcoming people, stunning scenery, quaint towns and cities and of course oodles of hygge!
Denmark is a wonderful country and a wonderful choice for an elopement. One that we know you won’t ever regret.
Get your free documentation list today and learn more about exactly what would be involved for you and your partner to elope to Denmark. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Please note all information is correct at time of writing (October 2023) but the processes, requirements and documentation may change over time. These changes may not be reflected in this article.