Warm weather, whitewashed villas and cobalt seas all make the perfect backdrop to a wedding on a Greek island.
Romance and perfect weather aside, visitors wishing to get married on a Greek island or anywhere in Greece should know that having a legal ceremony will involve the collection of important documents, apostilles and translations (in some cases) before arrival.
For assistance in navigating legalities, it is helpful to employ a legitimate wedding planner who will do the legwork for you once you forward the necessary documents. You will pay more than the 75-100 euros normally incurred to do it yourself, but at least your pre- and post-wedding time won’t be spoiled by bureaucracy.
* Article last updated February 2, 2014
Avoiding Greek bureaucracy
Two ways to avoid doing pre-wedding bureaucracy in a foreign currency and/or language.
a) File the marriage license, sign papers and get married back home, then have the “real” or symbolic wedding in Greece — this method provides certain benefits in that it does not involve the language, laws, apostilles, translations or spending eight days in Greece, while giving you the freedom and flexibility to plan your itinerary and visit islands without the restrictions of a foreign country.
b) Acquire a marriage license without restrictions back home (i.e., It doesn’t say “only good in the state of NY”), apply an apostille, have it translated at the Greek consulate/embassy and give it to your wedding planner or priest to proceed without having to submit further documents. This is also a way around the eight-day requirement.
*Be aware that some islands now bar tourists from getting married on certain Greek islands, and there are laws that forbid weddings on archaeological sites. For example, you cannot get married at the Acropolis.
Recommendations from wedding planners
1. Reserve a date at least three (3) months in advance if between May and October
2. Forward your documents with apostilles to the wedding planner at least one (1) month before the wedding date if you wish to get a marriage license and have a legal ceremony in Greece
3. Finalize your preferences at least 30 days before arrival to insure your needs are met or alternatives are found in advance to avoid surprises
- The period from late June to early September is notoriously hot, humid and busy; if crowds and heat are undesirable factors of a dream wedding, it is best to choose a date in April, May or October.
- Take the time to investigate different wedding planners: Attention to detail on their websites is sometimes a reflection of their capability to provide attention to detail for your wedding
- Every type of ceremony is done in Greece — big and small, civil ceremonies, religious ceremonies of many denominations, symbolic ceremonies, renewal of vows and gay weddings, with or without Greek traditions — BUT not all of them are provided by all wedding planners and gay marriage is not legal in Greece. Be sure to inquire about this and any detail that is not clearly outlined. Do not assume anything.
- Ask to see the portfolio of the photographer, who is likely local, and have specific examples of photography style, wedding cake or flowers to communicate your wishes.
You may not need a wedding planner if you are familiar with the location of your choice, especially if you have trusted contacts or family to help you. Tour operators and hotel owners sometimes have good contacts and can assist with arrangements, if necessary
Also note that wedding cakes in Greece usually consist of one cutout bottom layer of cake, a middle layer of custard/mousse and whipped cream on top and/or the sides. Raspberry filling, fondant, tiers and other elements that are staples in your homeland are not commonly used here. For example, an American or UK style fondant wedding cake is considered a luxury item and priced accordingly. I recommend arranging consultations/tastings and reviewing portfolios to find the one that suits you and your price range, much like you would back home if you have the time and opportunity.
Having a legal ceremony
If having a legal ceremony in Greece is important to you, these are the normal requirements for the majority of EU and non-EU citizens worldwide. Your wedding planner can inform you of additional or lesser requirements specific to your country.
I have provided this information purely as a reference to assist you in your decision to handle legalities in Greece or at home. * If at least one of you is a resident of Greece of any nationality, the following does not apply to you and you must instead see “Getting married in Greece — for residents.”
You must be at least 18 years old and will need:
1. One photocopy of each passport
2. One photocopy of each witnesses’ passport, if providing two of your own
3. A printed birth certificate for each applicant, certified in the past five (5) years with an apostille (see below for details on apostilles)
4. A copy of divorce decrees (if any) certified in the past five (5) years with one apostille per document
5. A copy of death certificates of previous spouses (if any), certified in the past five (5) years with one apostille per document
6. Certified copy of a court order name change (if applicable)
7. Certified affidavit stating you are single and free to marry without impediment, signed within three (3) months of the wedding date
For Americans: a) Citizens can go to the U.S. Embassy in Athens’ Notarial Unit located in U.S. Citizen Services between 9:00-14:00, no appointment needed, with passport, $50 cash or the equivalent in euros for each Affidavit, which will be given at the window and completed in Greek on one side and English on the other. If you do not understand or write Greek, an embassy official can assist you. The Affidavit will be examined and approved while you wait; OR b) secure a “single” status letter from your State Registrar AND a notary of public statement certified that you are free to marry. (You must inquire at your local State Registrar for guidance, and I have not provided examples because they are different in each U.S. state).
For Australians: Certificate of Non-Impediment for each applicant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, issued within three (3) months of your wedding date.
For Brits: Non-impediment forms for each applicant certified within three (3) months of the wedding date.
For Canadians: A notary of public statement certifying that you are free to marry.
For South Africa: Certificate of marital status.
8. Your preference as to whether future children will take one name or the other or both. Laws back home will take precedent over your stated preference, but you will still be expected to answer.
9. Two witnesses who are Greek citizens and have unexpired passports/IDs proving such.
10. Must stay at least one (1) working day after the ceremony to register your marriage at the Greek Registry Office (Lixiarxeio). This means if you are married on Friday, you cannot depart for another island on Saturday and must stay until at least Monday evening. If Monday happens to be a Greek holiday, then you are obligated to stay until Tuesday evening.
It has been stated by other sources that you must be in Greece at least eight (8) days before the wedding date, but this is usually the time it takes to secure and issue a Greek marriage license. If you have your own marriage license or hired a wedding planner to secure a Greek marriage license in advance, the eight (8) days is not always necessary.
Getting an apostille
An apostille is a seal applied to a certified document to signify its legal authenticity for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.
For more specific information, please see “How to get an apostille.”
Translations are required for birth certificates, divorce decrees and death certificates but not passports, and your wedding planner may or may not offer this as part of their services. All nationalities have two options, according to Greek law.
For more specific information, see “Official translation of documents into Greek.”
All original documents and apostilles will be permanently on file at the Greek Registrar’s Office, and therefore not returned to you.
Request certified copies of your marriage certificate if you are not provided with sufficient copies for your needs back home and personal files.
Weddings take place in a church, city hall, mayor’s office or a pre-approved location of choice, not a registrar’s office, archaeological site or foreign embassy/consulate.
According to Orthodox Christian religious law as written, only two people of the same faith are allowed to marry in an Orthodox church and must provide baptism certificates as proof or must state an intent to convert and take a spiritual mentor. This is the straight way.
However, priests all over Greece make exceptions for people of different faiths, and leniency in the USA and other countries has also been shown. This technically violates religious law, but it is done to accommodate the changing times.
You need to select a location or church and inquire directly with the priest or person in charge. Be prepared to conduct all communication in Greek, as most will not speak English or another language.
* Choosing a location and hiring a wedding planner is a unique and personal choice. Therefore, I am unable to make recommendations.
If you think this process is lengthy, get a taste of the bureaucracy faced by residents of Greece when getting married by reading “Getting married in Greece — for residents.” It might make you feel better. 😉