You can get married in church either including the civil part or after you’ve already been married legally.
To arrange the church wedding with legal validity you must also proceed with the application to the registry office and respective paperwork (see our civil wedding information). Once the registry office has granted the wedding we can plan the wedding with the priest who will be given permission to hold the legally valid ceremony in a church. After the wedding, we will send you an international wedding certificate which you can use to register your wedding in your country of residence.
Where will the ceremony take place?
Religious ceremonies are held in churches or chapels. With Catholic weddings this is a requirement. Other Christian churches may allow the ceremony be held outdoors. This will be confirmed individually. Please tell us: what religion the bride and groom are; with which church you would like to get married; and in which region of Portugal the ceremony should take place.
What are the costs?
For Catholic weddings there is a fee of approx. 25 € from the Portuguese diocese for the Catholic paperwork. Some churches charge a fee for use of the church and some priests ask for a fixed fee for their service. If this is not the case than a donation is required for both church and priest.
The appropriate amount would be around 100 – 200 €.
What are the requirements?
For Catholic wedding ceremonies, you have to provide the following documents.
- A formal letter from your parish priest granting permission for the wedding to be performed in the church of XXXXXXX. This letter is required by the Portuguese Curia to show that you have received permission from your parish priest to have your wedding ceremony performed. It should certify that your priest knows you and allows you to get married at the Portuguese Church of XXXXXX at the date XXXXX. This letter needs to be written on the headed paper of your parish.
- Your priest should also obtain a letter from the Bishop of the parish stating the same as in # 1 and this letter should also be written on headed paper. The Bishop’s permission for the wedding is one of the most important requirements for the Portuguese Curia. It must certify that there is no impediment to you getting married at the Portuguese Church of XXXXXX (name of the church) at the date XXXXX (the date you are asking). This letter needs to be written on the letterhead paper of your Bishop’s office. This letter shows that approval has been given by the authorised priest who has written the letter referred in # 1.
- The letter from the priest must also state that you have fulfilled all PRE CANA procedures, and should include the certificate (if a certificate has been given) showing that you attended the premarital classes.
- The original prenuptial inquiry form has to be issued by your parish and be on the formal church letterhead of said Parish. The prenuptial inquiry form is not just a certificate but rather a type of signed questionnaire with church seals/signatures. Moreover, this document must be stamped by the local Bishop’s office (NOT just your priest). A PRENUPTIAL INQUIRY is issued by the archdiocese of your city/town. It is the prenuptial investigation that includes your dates, names and general religious data which your priest completes together with you. Your priest completes the questionnaire stating it has been approved so you can get married, signing the document as final approval. Then this document has to be sealed by your local Bishop, so the Portuguese Curia has the proof that it has been definitely approved by a higher member of the Catholic Church in your country.
- ALL certificates of baptism, first communion and confirmation must be sent together with the Prenuptial inquiry form and letters mentioned in # 1, # 2 and must also be stamped by the local Bishop’s office.
All these sacraments have to be received in order to have the Catholic wedding performed. Ask your Parish who performed these sacraments to provide these certificates. If you have problems obtaining the originals, ask for copies that have to be sealed by your local bishop. The seals of the bishop are required on these documents by the Portuguese Curia.
- A copy of the civil wedding certificate. Please bring the original when you come to Portugal. Note for US citizens: Not only the wedding license but the original certificate that you are legally married are required.
- If one of you is not Catholic, you will be required to obtain another document known as “Permission of mixed religions” to state that the marriage can be performed by the Portuguese Church. Generally, this document is issued by the local Bishop of your country. Ask your parish for this information, so they can help you to obtain this special permission. All the documents mentioned (excluding # 6) MUST have been sealed or stamped by the Bishop’s parish office.
Note: The Portuguese priest or Curia has final say on granting official permission for the wedding to go ahead after seeing the paperwork. The above refers to a couple that has never been married previously. If you have been divorced from a marriage in the Catholic Church and your marriage was not officially annulled, you cannot marry in the Catholic Church. Please advise us if you have had your marriage annulled. Documents should not be obtained more than 6 months in advance or they expire. (with the exception of the baptism, holy communion and confirmation certificates that are issued when you received these sacraments).
You can choose to have witnesses. Some priests ask you to have witnesses. You will need to provide witnesses’ names, addresses and civil status.
It will be best to ask an English speaking priest to hold your ceremony. However, if this is not possible, the solution may be to hold a ceremony with a translator.
You will need to go to your parish priest and explain to him your intention to marry in Portugal. Print out the above list of documents and give him details such as: name of church, time and date of wedding, name and address of parish council and name of priest responsible for that parish. If you already know who will be performing the ceremony, also provide this name.
When completed, the paperwork has to be sent to Portugal. The Catholic paperwork always has to go from the parish council of residence to the diocese of residence, and then to the diocese of the wedding location in Portugal and from there to the Parish council of the church where the wedding will take place. It can be of great help to ask a wedding planner to arrange these details: booking of the church, booking of the priest, acting as an intermediary with the parish priest and Portuguese diocese about the paperwork.
For the legal valid church wedding
we apply for your church wedding with a power of attorney at the registry office and once it is authorized we receive a letter to send to the parish priest. It will be the parish priest who authorizes the marriage in the church you booked and who receives the legal document, independently of who is performing the wedding ceremony. It might be performed by another registered catholic priest and either the parish priest or the priest who performs the ceremony will present the papers to be signed on the day to you.
After the marriage the parish priest has to register the wedding at the registry office and after this we will get the int. Marriage certificate and send it to you.
How long does it take to apply for a church wedding?
The above documents should arrive at the diocese at least 14 days prior to the wedding. The letters of permission have a validity of 6 months.
Usually documents do not have to be translated, but this may apply for some locations and there might be extra costs.
How long is a church wedding ceremony?
A church wedding ceremony is anything from 20 minutes – 60 minutes.
The parish priest responsible for the church used and the priest who will perform the wedding decide which music they allow to be played. In general, non-religious songs are allowed before the beginning and at the closing of the ceremony. See more song information under the Catholic wedding sample.
Some churches have for example a red carpet that you can hire for the wedding. We can book your flower decoration. Generally, the flowers will stay in the church after the ceremony as a donation to the church.