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Getting married in Madeira

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Getting married in Portugal

Not too long ago Boris and Joanne decided to get married to each other. They had met whilst on holiday in Madeira and thought it would be just so romantic to get the ceremony performed and legalised on the island. Two weeks prior to their departure they spoke to the Portuguese consulate in their home city who informed them, quite casually, that it was possible to get married in Madeira. The consulate officer grinned a huge pearly white smile and wished them the best of luck for their future. Happily impressed with the wishes of good fortune by the Portuguese consulate they bought an expensive holiday online at an impressive five star resort, with honeymoon suite, champagne on ice when they arrived, a grand tour of the island at the back of a limousine, and even a wedding cake to boot. They even invited family and friends along – adding to an already expensive bill they had to pay for last minute and difficult to find availability on flights. When they arrived on the island they got in touch with a local church who warned them that the marriage had to be registered at the civil registry first – at the so-called “Conservatório do Registo Civil” in Portuguese. Each municipality has its own civil registry and it was with much haste that they beat a path to said “Conservatório” to conclude as quickly as possible the required registration. Lo-and-behold, when they arrived at the “Conservatório”, with passports and proof of residence in their home country, that they are told summarily they cannot get married in Madeira – at least under the conditions that they provided the local civil registry. The “Conservatório” officer smiled a broad grin of pearly white teeth, thanked them and wished them the best of luck with their future. Needless to say the couple were flabbergasted, their mouths left wide open, dumbfounded and deeply distraught – especially by the run of what could be considered a reversal of fortunes or a joke being played upon them by the local authorities or the consular officials back home.

So what to do? Why the contradiction between what was said locally by the “Conservatório”and what was said by the Portuguese consulate in their home country? Well, both parties, the local “Conservatório” and the Portuguese consulate abroad, were both correct. It is possible to marry in Madeira as foreigners to the island and it is also not possible to marry on the island as foreigners! This conundrum would have many critics of the Portuguese legal system (and of everything else judiciary in Portugal) salivating at the lips. They would want to point out how bureaucratic and hampered the Portuguese legal system is, how it stymies the development of Portugal into a more superior modern nation, and that this small, almost inconsequential, celebration of a union between a man and a woman is just a token, a typical example, of a wider problematic judicial system in Portugal. Whoooaa, wait a moment there Firebrand! Before we add fuel to the fire that local judiciary critics vaunt we have to say that the same is true for any of the other countries and parts of the EU too, not just Portugal! That is, say, a couple from Madeira wish to marry in London, they would suffer the same legal process as the couple from the UK would if they attempted to do the same thing.

So why the confusion? It all comes down to one pertinent requirement: one of the persons getting married must be registered as a resident on the island or country in which the marriage is to be celebrated. You may still be a foreigner with your citizenship belonging to Britain, Germany or anywhere else for that matter, but at least one of the marrying parties has to have residency in the jurisdiction of the country where the marriage is to be performed. This requirement is not only a local Portuguese requirement; it is an EU wide requirement. It is merely a matter of correctly applying the law to be able to vindicate the wishes of Boris and Joanne. If one of them happened to be a resident of Portugal everything would have gone much smoother.

But becoming a resident on the island or Portugal is not a process that takes one day to the next. It can take a couple of weeks. It would mean a series of documents being filled in, copies of your ID documents, tax numbers issued, passport, and so on presented. Then, to make it all more difficult, everything has to be translated to Portuguese and be recognised as correctly translated by an “official” translator.... Sounds like fun..., romance? Probably not. This is a minefield of necessary bureaucracy to have to undertake to merely get married in Madeira. Many potential marrying couples then opt for the next best solution: (no, not by choosing to travel to Las Vegas instead in a form of protest) that is, they register their civil marriage at their home country and then celebrate the church marriage in Madeira. This makes life much easier, and cheaper, for everybody concerned.

In the end that is probably what most foreign wedding couples land up doing anyway, and would be the recommended route for any future spouses to consider.

However, if you still want to go all the way and run the full gamut of presenting all the legal requirements of getting married in Madeira then we recommend you establish a relationship with a local lawyer first. There are many English speaking lawyers in Madeira that can assist. Please contact us and we will be happy to recommend you one. Good luck with your plans!










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