Marrying a Spaniard in 7 Easy Steps

Disclaimer: The word “easy” in the title of this post—take it with a grain of salt. A large grain of salt.

Wedding in Spain

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.

San Cipriano

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.

I Do

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 46 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.)

Baptismal Certificate

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.

This isn’t hard to do. I just made an appointment with the American embassy in Madrid. I did have to wait a bit, but the process was simple. There is a small fee for the service.

Traductor Jurado

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?

Libro de Familia

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.

Get empadronado/a.

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.

What did I miss? Have you gotten married in Spain or another country? Do you plan to?

Sí, Quiero—The Spanish Version of “I Do”

Fueron felices y comieron perdices.


As I wrote previously, planning for my wedding here in Spain wasn’t always enjoyable. But July 7, 2012, was the best day of my life. It started at 8 a.m., in a hotel with my mother: showers, breakfast, and jittery nerves. Next came the hairdresser.


The before short

Next, at 10:30, came the makeup. I’m not really a makeup person, if one can be a makeup person, but I left satisfied, even if I seemed odd to myself (“me extrañaba”). After that, it was back to the hotel to get dressed and try to calm down before leaving for the church. I had a very special ride.


The people loved it


Mario hung around and greeted the guests before I arrived


Dad helping me out of the car

In Spain, the bride can be seen by the guests before the wedding (traditionally), if not the groom. Mario was quickly ushered inside before this moment.


Happy to see Mario at the end of the aisle


Photo credit: José Antonio Fernández Sánchez, Mario’s cousin


Photo credit: José Antonio Fernández Sánchez


Tables were arranged by state names. We were Indiana, of course.


Guests were wearing red bandannas for San Fermín.


Our families at our table, fit for kings


Giving the boquet to Colleen, my future sister(-in-law), who’s getting married in September to my brother, Seth


Parents learning how Spaniards dance


Shouting so he can hear me


Favorite picture!


Dad and daughter, end of the night

I keep looking back on that day, that whole week, as this magical moment, a moment that turned out more perfect than I could have hoped for. I feel so lucky to have these people in my lives, people that will scream, “¡Vivan los novios!” and “¡Que se besen!” until they’re hoarse, people who will dance for hours with you, people who will make you videos with hilarious childhood photos set to the tunes of Que viva España and Born in the USA, who will take enough photos of you to make you swear off photos for a year, who will gift you a trip to Italy, who will accept you into their family like any other person (despite your foreignness), who will do mountains of paperwork for you while you’re on that honeymoon, who will buy you flowers and jewelry, who will cry until their eyes are dry during the ceremony, who will write special essays to read at your wedding … these people, you people if you are reading this, are the reason that day was the best day.

The honeymoon, by the way, was wonderful. And wonderfully hot. I think next time we’ll get married in September; July is way too hot.

Stressed? Puppies Are the Solution.

I’m not really stressed out or nervous about my wedding in two days, even if everyone asks, “¿Estás nerviosa?” Nonetheless, sometimes I’d like to just sit down and not think about my To Do List. Puppies are the solution.

Last Friday, Mario and I visited his friends, Iván and Montse, whose dog recently had puppies. They live outside of Zamora, and thus have a pool, a yard, and a big house, which is not usually obtainable in a Spanish city. Also: puppies. Puppies are good.



T-minus two days. Annnnnnnnnnnnnd now I’m gonna need to reread this post and forget about that to-do list for just a few minutes more.

How to Plan a Wedding in Spain

… or not.

If you came here looking for advice, I have none. I just wanted to tell you that planning a wedding is hard. Planning a wedding in another country/language is even harder. But, for me, planning a wedding in another country, in another language, and without my mother is the hardest. Sometimes a girl just needs her mom, ya know what I mean?

Mom and me

Mario’s mother has, of course, been there for me: taking me to find “the one” (I really hate using that phrase, as I don’t equate dresses with people), arranging manicure appointments, offering to go with me everywhere, even though she’s still working. So I’m, again, quite lucky.

I know of some American girls who have had their weddings in Spain, and they always assure me I can go to them with questions. The problem is, I don’t have any. I mean, to have questions about something, you have to have at least an intermediate-level understanding of it. And I’m not sure I get Spanish weddings yet. For example:

  • The rehearsal. In the US, there’s a rehearsal. As a bridesmaid in my friend Hilary’s wedding, I was so grateful. In Spain, where I most need it, there’s no rehearsal. How will I know where to stand and when to kneel and where to look if I don’t remember the other weddings? I didn’t exactly take notes.

  • Colors. In the US, we have wedding colors. Smirk all you want, but I love it. In Spain, there aren’t colors, and you most likely won’t be doing any decorating at the reception (here, the reception = el banquete). So relax, that’s one less thing to worry about. I guess.
  • Wedding rings. Here, wedding rings tend to look alike, whereas (from what I know), in the US, the woman’s ring is a bit more, um, feminine? Also, the band goes on the right hand, which is weird to me, no matter how much I see it. What if we move to the States sometime? Will we switch our bands to the left hand? Only time will tell.
  • Dancing. We have to dance a waltz. I am not a dancer. It is not something I’m looking forward to, to be quite honest. In the US, you can usually pick a sentimental song, a song that means something to you. Here, we’ll be dancing to a waltz, which is fine, but not exactly a song that causes me any emotional response. Also, I hope it’s okay if I count to myself the whole time (1, 2, 3 … 1, 2, 3.)

It’s true, you can do what you want. And I’m getting used to being somewhat weird. I don’t understand why every woman needs to get a new dress and go to the hairdresser, even if they’re not part of the wedding. I don’t understand why people will spend so much money, money that could be better spent elsewhere (this happens in the US too, just not as much with my friends/family/the people that I know).

So did you want advice? Here’s mine: take advantage of Spain, its food and wine and lifestyle. Don’t worry; hakuna matata. Because if anyone gives great life advice, it’s Disney.