Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Getting married in Greece – for visitors

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.
or
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

Additional advice

  • 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

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.”

Marriage Certificates

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.

Location

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.

Final Notes

* Choosing a location and hiring a wedding planner is a unique and personal choice. Therefore, I am unable to make recommendations.

Related posts

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. 😉

Congratulations!

website metrics

107 Comments

  melusina wrote @ May 19th, 2007 at 00:37

Not to mention the headache involved in registering an American marriage in Greece (which we wanted to do right away so I could get health insurance through my husband), and THEN on top of that gathering everything required for a Greek wedding. Ugh. I’m glad that nightmare is OVER.

Kat Reply:

Mel – We’re doing the opposite as you. We’ll be married here and register the marriage in America, just because we thought it might be such a pain to do the reverse. From your comment, it seems we made the right choice.

  yiannos wrote @ May 25th, 2007 at 17:27

i’ve heard mostly bad things about this. if i ever get married–which i doubt–it won’t be in Greece!(although it would be lovely)

Kat Reply:

Yiannos – For visitors, it’s not so bad. For residents, it’s a bit of a pain, but after 10 years of handling bureaucracy on my own, I suppose I’m numb to whether it’s good or bad. I just do it.

  Used vans girl wrote @ July 5th, 2007 at 18:18

You say you need to stay one day after the wedding but do you need to be in the country for a week or so before being allowed to get married in Greece?

Kat Reply:

That’s a great question.

Officially, I’ve been told that you do need to be here 1 week before the date of your wedding, which is the time it takes to secure a marriage license (as it says in the post). However, if you have your own or your wedding planner files for it in advance of your arrival or makes arrangements otherwise, this may not be absolutely necessary. I recommend inquiring since each wedding planner and municipality has their own rules and services.

Thanks for your comment!

  Fotini wrote @ July 10th, 2007 at 18:21

I am in the middle of this process and it is not fun at all. I have a question for you, i am from the states, marrying a catholic man, in greece, in a greek orthodox church. We were asked to get a notarized “letter of faith” that we will raise our children orthodox… in the notes from the planer she said just to ask a local notary, but i can’t imagine a notary in NY would have this on hand… Would you know wher to find a sample of this?

Kat Reply:

Hi Fotini, sorry it’s not going smoothly, but at least you’re not residents of Greece since that process is much, much harder.

To get married in a Greek Orthodox church, both people must be Greek Orthodox or he/she must agree to convert. The person that agrees to convert is assigned a spiritual mentor and needs to complete a series of readings after the wedding.

You’re right, the planner is wrong. The notary would definitely not have this. It’s a religious document that you need to get from the Greek Orthodox church, diocese or archdiocese. If I’m not mistaken, you and your husband need to go to a priest and/or a religious counselor. They should be able to advise how to qualify and have this letter issued.

I’ve heard of people getting around this with bribes or connections, but this is not the proper way to go about following religious law.

All the best 🙂

  Matt wrote @ March 3rd, 2008 at 22:29

Actually, a Roman Catholic can marry someone of the Greek Orthodox faith in a Greek Orthodox church. The marriage will be recognized by both the Roman Catholic church as well as the Greek Orthodox church. However, if said couple was to marry in a Roman Catholic church, the Greek Orthodox church would not recognize the marriage. I am Catholic and my fiance is Greek Orthodox and we are getting married in an Orthodox church in Athens this June. We have already met with the priest as well as consulting a Jesuit Theologian friend who also specializes in Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Kat Reply:

It’s good to know it worked for you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Note that I write articles based on straight information. My sources are two bishops at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its registry office; and I know dozens of people who did it the straight way and either could not marry in a church and/or had to convert. Priests are known to make up their own rules and, as I’ve said many times, Greece is a ‘results may vary’ country where exceptions are the rule. If people get around the straight way and it works for them, that’s great.

Many congratulations!

  Ms. May wrote @ May 29th, 2008 at 12:02

You website is very helpful, i have been reading it alot, but i have been trying hard for someone to answer me this question… I have been with a greek for 2 years, we want to get married but unfortunately Greece will not reconize our marriage, we were wondering if we marry in Germany and come back to live here in Greece, would i be able to have an EU citizenship through marriage?
Thank you for your time~

Kat Reply:

1) You cannot get married again if you are already married no matter where you try to do it unless you lie about being ‘single’ (which you are not), which is perjury. You will be caught.
2) If Greece will not recognize your marriage now, they obviously have good reason to not do so. Therefore, trying to do it again is pointless.
3) You could have found your answer to citizenship very easily by doing a search, as it’s already on this site in 3 articles. Further redundant questions will be deleted.
Citizenship by naturalization
How non-EU citizens can move, live, work in Greece
How to get EU citizenship

  pdsmummy wrote @ June 12th, 2008 at 15:35

Hi – I’m an Aussie in Greece and love your website – however whilst you write about many things which of course are fab – I have noticed that there is one thing missing – DIVORCING A GREEK. I was married for 5 years – he then wanted a divorce and now both my son (aged 6) and myself are stuck in Greece and cannot go anywhere as he is refusing to sign my son’s Aussie Passport. There are many women like me (ex-pats) in similar positions – without family here – but are subjected to remain in Greece for the sake of our children while at the same time trying to fight for their rights. Just though I would let you know. Thanks pdsmummy.

Kat Reply:

PD’s mom – That’s true. There are only few comments on divorce because I do not have any first-hand knowledge on the subject; I like to present articles that have an even balance of both official documentation and experience.

I have one friend who is divorced, and it went smoothly because her ex was at fault and had nothing to contest — they are also both Greek and live in Greece. I also know a mixed American-Greek couple that divorced, and she was at fault so that also went smoothly; he stays here purely for his daughter (they share custody), even though he hates it here. Should I collect information and experiences from at least 3 people on divorce in Greece (preferably mixed couples such as yourself with the issues you describe), I am more than willing to research and present that information.

I’m very sorry to hear about your situation. It’s a shame, and I understand completely when you talk about fighting for your rights.

  Vasiliki wrote @ June 20th, 2008 at 01:17

This is such a helpful website! I LOVE it!

Back in 2005, my then fiancé and I had contemplated getting married in Greece. We decided a destination wedding in Greece would be too cost prohibitive for us, so we opted for a rather small wedding in Colorado. Now we are expecting a baby in September and I can’t even begin to understand this part of the Greek culture (and I AM Greek): people asking me to baptize my baby. My cousin told (yes, she TOLD me) that she will be baptizing my baby if it ends up being a girl (yes, I am having a baby girl). She isn’t the only one. I have random Greek people I barely know tell me that they want to baptize the baby. I thought the honor of choosing Godparents was reserved for the parents of the child! Anyhow…let’s say I DO, in fact, decide to shell out my life savings to buy plane tickets to Greece, do you have any information on what I need to do to have a baptism in Greece? THANK YOU!

Kat Reply:

V — I don’t have any info on baptisms in GR at this time. Most of my friends did it long ago and don’t remember any details, my fiance is not a practicing Orthodox Christian and all of his cousins are younger than him without children. I’m sure someone out there has written an article. There are some great women at babycenter.com if you go to the category, “Greece.” No doubt many of them will know.

  Lisa wrote @ August 1st, 2008 at 11:21

Getting married in Greece can be a tad tiresome. To date, we’ve had 2 appointments at the local municpaitly offices, cancelled ! We called , confirmed the dates, were told to show up at a certain time , and yet both times, a few days before the service was to take place, they called and cancelled. The mayor “was busy”. Frankly, I think they are looking for a bribe. We have booked one more appointment and I told them it had better not be cancelled. I cannot belive they can just decide they are too busy to marry you? Unbelievable.

Kat Reply:

L – Hello! Although I’m sure you’re not happy about the inconvenience, I’m glad you shared that with me and readers because it’s something I haven’t heard before. Most everyone I know who had a civil ceremony in Greece had to be there 5 minutes early to the appointment, and it was in and out in a flash.

What happened to you is especially bad if you have relatives and friends from out of town attending your wedding in Greece!

  ILM wrote @ April 19th, 2009 at 20:34

My boyfriend is greek orthodox who lives in Greece right now, I was baptized in Methodist Church in America, I live in Puerto Rico (Caribbean) right now. We begin to do our research last week and still have many doubts, can we get married in Greece – Greek Orthodox church and if there are any requirements we need to do in order to be able to do it? Can we get legally married in America and then the religious wedding in Greece through Greek orthodox religion? Will Greece religion recognize our legal marriage and will they allow me as a methodist baptized christian to get married in greek orthodox church?
Thank you for any information you can give.

Kat Reply:

Hello, and thank you for your question. Strict Orthodox Christian rules say that an Orthodox Christian can only marry another. However, the Archdiocese has relaxed these rules, and the rules in Greece can sometimes be ignored altogether at the right price (bribe). For sure you can be married in a civil ceremony in America, but my advice for the religious ceremony in Greece is to consult directly with your Greek boyfriend’s priest or religious adviser, as I don’t know the rules between Methodist-Orthodoxy and they are very knowledgeable on these matters.

  Sophie wrote @ May 5th, 2009 at 18:24

Hi! Can anyone answer my question – Where do I stand legally if I got married in Greece but never “finalized” it at home in england??

I got married in Corfu last September. We are both UK citizens. We did all the paperwork/translations/apostille HOWEVER our ceremony took place on a friday and we flew home on the Sunday. We realised we should have stayed til the Monday in order to return to the town hall and collect the paperwork….but we didnt. Now I am in this “half-married” limbo.

Apparently all we need to do is get a lawyer to give power of attorney to our wedding planner to collect the documents. Or I suppose travel to corfu ourselves to do it……….. but to be honest it was such a palava planning the wedding that we cant seem find the energy to sort out this last thing. Could we just leave it as it is in Corfu and marry in england? As far as the UK is concerned we are both still single I guess….?

Kat Reply:

Hi Sophie, thanks for your question. Since you never filed your marriage certificate, you are not officially registered as being married in Greece or anywhere. Therefore, you can leave it ‘as is’ and marry again in the UK. It’s more a matter of conscience than legalities when you sign papers that attest to your single status.

The palava you mention is the reason I often recommend non-Greek couples do the official ceremony in one’s homeland, even if it’s only a civil one; then go ahead with the fun, romantic, picturesque ceremony in Greece. That said, there are many wedding planners who do it right, and it’s a matter of finding the right one to avoid the half-married limbo.

  julien wrote @ May 29th, 2009 at 16:55

Hi there,
I got married last year in Greece. I was baptisted a catholic and my wife is a greek orthodox. The fact that I was a catholic was no problem but I had to sign paperwork stating that I would baptise and raise my children in the greek orthodox church. Had I not signed that stuff, the pope would not have performed the wedding ceremony. As you said Kat, there’s apparently a large amount of discretion there; it is the priest’s call. Just like the payment to the priest for the ceremony. Officially you give what you want. But in fact, the priest fixes the price, and it may be pretty high if you wish to get married in a nice place. In my view this is just another example of the corruption at play in the greek church… Anyway.

Another thing I’d like to add to the discussion: at first we thought we’d get a civil wedding, with a party afterward with family an friends. The thing with civil weddings is that they generally take place at the least convenient of times. When my wife and I were considering it, Athens city council was celebrating weddings only on Wednesdays between 7pm and 11pm, and there would be like 10 weddings in a row in that period of time. Also they could not guarantee that this would take place on that day of the week: maybe they would change it later on, say, for monday morning. In other words: no possibility to plan anything. I think it’s a shame: some people might wish to have a civil wedding and a party afterward with all their family and friends. Although civil weddings have been legal since 1981/82 (not sure anymore of the exact date), it’s still considered a mere administrative thing. That’s unfair and backward.

Thanks for giving the opportunity to discuss this. I love the blog.

Best,
julien, London

Kat Reply:

Hi Julien, thank you for taking the time to write out your story and share your experience. It’s always nice when people give back and/or contribute to the website.

It’s true what you say about some municipalities in Greece rescheduling civil ceremonies; summer is even trickier when (ironically) Greeks leave for vacation and tourists arrive here to get married. However, some dates and times are solid, allowing people to organize and schedule their lives accordingly — but that’s the thing about Greece, “results may vary.” Because civil ceremonies last only a few minutes and the city hall/mayor’s office space is so small, I never recommend anyone taking more than 9 immediate family/friends with them and a photographer. Inviting everyone should be reserved for the real party. 🙂

  Jenny wrote @ May 31st, 2009 at 01:27

There was an comment written by pdsmummy about divorce in greece. My sister is going through the exact same thing. Can you please give me her email address or give her mine. I really would love to speak to her. Its important we support eachother.

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.