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How to get married in Tenerife

Updated on June 4, 2008

Beach wedding

How to get married in Tenerife


Picture the scene; white flowing dresses, tropical flora and swaying palm trees in the background, a big blue Canarian sky overhead. Could there be any better way to celebrate your big day?

More and more couples are forsaking the unpredictable weather of Britain and choosing to take their wedding entourage somewhere less cold and damp. But should you organise it yourself of leave the details to an overseas wedding coordinator?

It seems that Tenerife is one of the more difficult places to get married if you aren't both Spanish residents. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible. For many, jumping through the bureaucratic hoops is worth it for the glamorous setting.

Although the actual number of couples choosing to get married has fallen in recent years, those that do elect to tie the knot are increasingly favouring a wedding abroad. Around one in ten couples now choose to celebrate their big day overseas and it's not only a picture-perfect setting that provides the attraction - although obviously, vivid blue overhead is more preferential to two-tone grey unleashing buckets of water onto expensively-coiffured heads.

There are other reasons why last year around 35,000 couples took the plunge somewhere more exotic than Berwick-on-Tweed. Simplicity for one. Most overseas weddings are packaged, with everything from the flowers and cake to the licences and witness being organised by the tour operator. Not only that, but with all of the fine details being looked after by someone else, the couple can relax and begin their honeymoon even before the big event.

Cost is another reason as to why this type of wedding is so popular. It's estimated that the average cost of a white wedding in the UK works out at around £16,000. Compare that with £4,000, the average spent on an overseas wedding. Plus, the relatively small guest list minimises the danger of a drunken Aunt Jilly coming to blows with an alcohol-fuelled second cousin twice removed. For some, celebrating with just the closest of family and friends is a major bonus of taking the vows far from home.

However, although for some the further away the better, several short-haul destinations such as Cyprus and Rhodes are now competing with the traditional favourites of the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Noticeable by its absence from any major wedding package operator is one destination that has consistently been the favourite destination for UK holidaymakers - Tenerife.

Still a relatively pious culture, the lengthy bureaucracy that is necessary to enable non-resident couples to simply jump on a plane and get married in any part of Spain like they can in the Caribbean means that Tenerife is missing out on a potentially lucrative tourism market.

Ruth Paul, owner of online wedding dress suppliers, 1st Call For Weddings, says, "Most brides choose Caribbean destinations because the ‘package' is arranged by the hotel. All the legalities are taken care of as well as flowers, cake, reception, accommodation and photographs etc. However, it often causes heartache in the families because not all relatives can afford to join them. More affordable European locations such as Tenerife would be much more popular."

As the average age for first marriages is now around 32 for men and 29 for women, the wedding costs are increasingly being borne by the bride and groom, both of whom are probably working and thus time and money are major issues. For this reason, short haul destinations with almost guaranteed sunshine like Tenerife could very easily become a tourism wedding hotspot, given the right administrative encouragement.

However, although it is notoriously hard for non-residents to marry in Tenerife, for the ever-increasing number of expats choosing to live in this part of the world, the task is a whole lot easier - just do be prepared for an inordinate amount of paperwork. UK citizens can normally arrange a civil marriage ceremony through one of the Spanish Courts of Justice, providing that at least one of the couple can prove a minimum of two years residence in Spain.

The exact laws can vary from region to region so before sending out those invitations check with the local town hall first.

Documents that may be required include the following:

  • Passport
  • Original (long) birth certificate
  • Certificate of residence (empadronamiento - or local electoral register)
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage - available from a British Consulate after notice of marriage has been posted on the consular notice board for a minimum of 21 days (traditionally covering three Sundays, or holy days).
  • Proof that both parties are single - a form is available from a Civil Registry in the UK
  • Original divorce certificate (if applicable)
  • Original death certificate of deceased partner (if applicable)
  • Marriage application form - available from the Civil Registry or the District Court
  • Certificate of consular inscription - a letter verifying personal data, available from the British Embassy or Consulate
  • Baptismal certificate (if you want a Catholic marriage)

All the documents that originated from the UK have to be ‘legalised' with a ‘Hague apostille certification', available through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. If you go in person the papers can usually be processed in two or three days. If you send the documents by post, expect to wait at least two weeks. Each document needing certification costs £12.

This bundle of documents must then be translated into Spanish using an official Spanish translator and presented at the town hall in the vicinity where you intend to marry, at least three months before the intended big day.

For a Catholic marriage in Tenerife involving a foreigner, you have to first request permission from the Bishop, which can take from one to three weeks. All the aforementioned documents must then be shown to the priest who is conducting the ceremony. Additional documents that may be required include an official statement from the parents, witnessed and stamped by their own bishop confirming that their son or daughter is eligible to marry.

For a non-Catholic service, you have to obtain authorisation from the local civil and church authorities and perform a civil ceremony before the church blessing.

An easier alternative

By far the easiest way to get married anywhere in Spain is to go to Gibraltar. Here, the process is very straightforward and the ceremony takes place in English. The registrar can be booked over the phone and a special licence for non-residents can be obtained anytime from three months before the wedding to literally the day before.

Case studies

Angie Bagge said ‘si' to Alan McClean back in June, 2001. The engagement has been a long one. They're planning on a September blessing this year at a non-denominational church in Tenerife, following a civil wedding.

"We've had other priorities," says Angie. "Alan has been establishing his business, we've bought a house, and we've given birth to our first daughter, Sophie."

The ceremony is going to be traditional, but not in the local-style. "We're having a totally British-style wedding," says Angie. "Our Canarian friends will be coming though." Apart from the bridesmaid's dresses, all of the bridal wear and accessories are being bought in Tenerife.

Both are Spanish residents and both agreed on a ceremony away from the UK. "It'll help filter out those who really want to come," says Alan. "The vicar was surprised that we were getting married over here. He told us most expats go back to the UK."

After battling with the bureaucracy, the couple can see why. In retrospect they would probably steer others towards getting married in Gibraltar. "You can arrange everything by phone or email," says Alan. "It would certainly be cheaper and easier."

"The biggest problem has undoubtedly been the paperwork," says Angie. The best advice they would give to others thinking of a similar arrangement is to contact the consulate straight away. "They have been very helpful in telling us exactly what we need to do," says Angie.

Lee Bullen had a slightly different experience when he got married in Tenerife. Lee, already a Spanish resident, married his Canarian girlfriend Irma Guanche in a traditional Catholic ceremony.

"It was all quite smooth compared to other stories I've heard," says Lee. "Mine was more a Canarian wedding, organised by the Canarian bride who just so happened to be marrying one of those extranjero people! The only troublesome part really, was organising 50 guests from UK to come out. But only from a logistical point of view."

Gay marriages

Spain's parliament has recently opened the doors for gay marriages to become legalised in Spain. The bill still needs Senate approval but it is widely anticipated that it will become law in the near future.

During the Franco years, homosexuality was illegal but since the dictator's death in 1975, Spain has become one of the most liberal-minded countries within Europe. A recent survey showed almost three quarters of the country supported gay marriage.

Spanish wedding traditions

A typical Spanish custom is for the groom to give the bride 13 coins before the ceremony to signify his commitment to support and care for his wife-to-be. During the ceremony, the bride carries the coins in a small purse or they're given to a small girl who carries them in a handkerchief or on a pillow.

Did you know?

In northern Europe it used to be customary for the bride and groom to drink Mead, a honeyed wine, for a full lunar month (30 days) after their wedding. This is how the term ‘honeymoon' came about.

Sunset wedding


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    • profile image

      Aurimas 5 years ago

      Wedding photographer would be glad to offer You his services in Tenerife or other Canary Islands. I speak in Russian and English. Unfortunately didn't understand Spanish.

      Here are my wedding shots taken in Lithuania:

      My wedding photography prices are:

      Photography of max. 5 hours - 400 EUR;

      Photography of max. 9 hours - 600 EUR;

      Skype: auriscia


    • profile image

      Rev: K Staley 5 years ago

      Miss Oxenham is not the only qualified wedding celebrant. She is a newly trained celebrant of less than two years. I am a qualified minister and wedding celebrant and master of ceremony speaker for over 30 years and I work with many wedding celebrants and pastors and legal wedding officials who have been conducting wedding services in Tenerife for nearly 15 years. Your service can take place in a church our grounds outsite. Tenerife we have many churches and your service can take place in a church with myself or one of the many priests on the island or it can take place with a wedding celebrant.

    • profile image

      Claire Oxenham 5 years ago

      If you are looking for a wedding celebrant I am one of the only qualified wedding celebrant on the Island. I personalize your ceremony, please have a look at my website

      Take the stress out of your ceremony

    • profile image

      Andrew 6 years ago

      If you need a wedding planner in Tenerife to organize any detail for your wedding the best option is Nadine Garcia Breuer from We are

    • profile image

      Michelle 6 years ago

      Hi we would love to get married in Tenerife next year, hopefully April time but haven't a clue where to start! Am I right in thinking that we would have to legally marry in the uk first n actually have a wedding blessing over there? I wouldn't want any of our guests to know that we had actually already been married haha would they be able to tell? And any suggestions where to start and who to use to plan it?



    • profile image

      Andrea 6 years ago

      Hi Im getting married in tenerife in April 2012 and am currently using a company called Canaries Concierge that seem very helpful and in particular a lady called Nicola who seems to know exactly what shes doing and making my life easier and stress free.

      I'm getting married in the Anthelia hotel obviously it is just a blessing as I am not a spanish resident so have to obtain my marriage license here in the uk but hey none of my guests will know this.. Good luck everyone x

    • profile image

      danielle 6 years ago

      hi im lookin to get married in tenerife nx september,but am very confused about how to organise it all,can u help as where i need to start please. thanks

    • profile image

      Tenerife Celebrants Association 6 years ago

      For all your wedding information, legalities and paperwork Tenerife Celebrants will provide our registered celebrants and priests or pastors.

    • profile image

      Tenerife Wedding Planners 6 years ago

      Tenerife wedding planners provide pastors, priests, photographers and also DIY wedding packages.

    • profile image

      Tracy 7 years ago

      If you need a wedding photographer in Tenerife use Melia Photography.

    • profile image

      Hilda 7 years ago

      I am looking for a Pastor to bless my son and daughter in law in Tenerife.. can some one help me?

    • profile image

      John 7 years ago

      If you want a wedding planner to organize your wedding in Tenerife. Your best bet is Kathryn Sophie. She can speak spanish, english and french. And I found her extremely helpful and knowledgeable when putting my wedding together.

    • profile image

      John 7 years ago

      If you want a wedding planner to organize your wedding in Tenerife. Your best bet is Kathryn Sophie. She can speak spanish, english and french. And I found her extremely helpful and knowledgeable when putting my wedding together.

    • profile image

      Vicky 7 years ago

      Hi Carlos

      If you want a proper wedding with stunning settings and where you are sure of everything is going as planned - you really have to use Ritz Resorts and they are english :-)

    • profile image

      carlos 7 years ago

      hello, im planning on getting legally married in the uk before flying out to have a beach blessing in tenerife does any1 know if theres any companies like the ritz that can do the same set up on the beach as the ones in the photos ? hope some1 can help me cheers !

    • profile image

      rocky2 8 years ago


      Could anyone give me some contact details of a Roman Catholic Priest/s,I am planning to get married in Tenerife in July.

      This would be so helpful !

    • profile image

      jenaya 8 years ago

      I am getting married in Tenerife @ the Ritz and I am looking for a salon that specializes in african-american hair types. Please post any helpful information.

    • profile image

      Maria Wilson 8 years ago

      I used Canaries Concierge for my wedding last year in Tenerife. They are a proper professional company and gave me total peace of mind. All the girls became our friends during the whole 11 months it took to organise. They really are a nice bunch.

    • profile image

      Beverley Dodd 8 years ago

      Hi im a qualified hairstylist wondering if anyone can point me in the right direction to gain employment in tenerife. Ive worked extensively with wedding companies so my bridal hair is excellent.

    • profile image

      Beverley Dodd 8 years ago

      Hi im a qual

    • profile image

      Aoife O'Brien 8 years ago

      We have just had a fantastic wedding at the Hotel Ritz Resorts in Tenerife. We had invited around 110 guests from home and they were well looked after. We can highly recommend the hotel and you may read our comments in their guest book.

    • profile image

      Nicola Roberts 8 years ago

      My salon Bellissima Hair, Health and Beauty has been based in Tenerife for nearly 13 years. There are now 3 salons; Los Gigantes, Playa de las Americas and latest baby in Playa de San Juan. I have been very fortunate to be a part of many weddings which have been all very different; from assisting in traditional Indian wedding days to very traditional british affairs. We can come to your hotel room or lately have provided a complete salon day whereby brides to be, bridesmaids, mothers etc can all come in and enjoy a wedding day pamper in air conditioned environment and champagne buffet..........All seemingly very conducive to the special day

    • profile image

      Lisa 9 years ago

      I am planning to get married in Tenerife next year, can anyone suggest venues?

    • profile image

      wester 9 years ago

      Hi April

      I can strongly advise you to contact Debbie Lampard at http://www.ritz-tenerife.comShe know everything about weddings after been living here for more than 20 years.

    • profile image

      april 9 years ago

      my future sister n law is trying to plan a wedding in tenerife spain and she is a resident of the uk and so is the groom. how can she go about getting married in tenerife being a non resident.

    • olympia1 profile image

      olympia1 9 years ago

      I have recently been to a romantic wedding in Tenerife, too. It was well organised by Ritz Resorts ( ) and we had exclusivity. The Seaview and mountainview from the hotel apartments and villas very fantastic.Ritz has specialized in weddings & honeymoons - and they have all the contacts.So if you have any questions - ask their weddingplanner.

    • profile image

      nicki 9 years ago


      there is a fantastic hairdresser in golf del sur. her name is claire and her salon is called Jazz but she will come to your hotel on the day to do your hair.

    • profile image

      Sarah 9 years ago

      Hi I am currently planning a wedding in tenerife We have booked the ceremony/blessing, short-listed venues but i am struggling to get contact details for things like: dry cleaners to steam press the outfits, florists, beauticians, hairdressers, coach companies to transfer guests... woulld be really grateful for any recommendations/suggestions.

    • profile image

      zoe yarlett 9 years ago

      hello my name is zoe and i have lived in tenerife for 5 years now, i have been working doing wedding hair,makeup,nails and massaging. larst year i worked with 10 wedding couples all over the island. i also work with abama resort. if you would like any work to be done with my team of girls please contact me on 626981060

    • profile image

      nicola 9 years ago

      So you dont need to be a resident to get married in tenerfie then? u can just go and do it

    • profile image

      Paula Higginbotham 9 years ago

      I am currently planning a wedding for friends in Tenerife. I organised my own wedding last june in Tenerife, which was a fantastic event. I would love to give anyone assistance with their wedding if they need it!

    • profile image

      Wester 9 years ago

      If you want a romantic and exotic wedding in Tenerife, you have to go to


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