A destination wedding is a dream for many couples. However, it also comes with logistical concerns especially if the destination is a foreign country. Every country has its own rules which must be followed precisely to avoid finding yourself unable to get married after spending the time and money to organize the ceremony. As Iceland has become a popular tourist destination particularly for Americans, some couples may be considering the legal requirements for getting married in Iceland.
The list of documents required to marry in Iceland is not extensive. However, they can pose difficulties because U.S. localities may not have the exact document requested and couples must obtain some equivalent and get it approved by the Icelandic authorities.
Couples must submit the following to the district office in Iceland where the ceremony will be held:
- Original marriage notification. Available online, the form must be signed by both parties, and by two “trustworthy persons.” These “trustworthy persons” do not need to be Icelandic, but they must be over 18 years old. If the trustworthy persons do not have an Icelandic ID number, their date of birth is sufficient on the line requesting the ID number.
- Original birth certificates. The birth certificate needs to be in “long-form,” meaning that it is a birth certificate that was received when you were born. Note that if you do not have your original birth certificate, you will need to request one from the locality, state, or country where you were born. You should ask that the copy of your birth certificate have an apostille, which is an authentication of a public document. Bear in mind that it can take time to receive a copy of your birth certificate so make sure you do this as soon as possible and factor that time into the wedding planning.
- Original certificate of marital status. Each person must submit this certificate, which must be issued within 8 weeks before the marriage ceremony. This can be a problem as some countries do not have Certificates of Marital Status. In that case, check with your local municipality as to which document will work instead, and confirm with the district office in Iceland whether that document will suffice. For example, a Certificate of No Record of a Marriage from New York is accepted in lieu of a Certificate of Marital Status.
- Additional documents for those previously divorced. Iceland requires submission of documents showing that a divorce was issued and that the division of assets and liabilities of the former spouses were finalized. It is recommended that you send a certified copy of such documents, which can usually be picked up the same day at the clerk of the court where the divorce action took place. Note that if there was a previous divorce or widowing prior to the latest divorce, those documents will not be needed. The district office requires documents only from the latest divorce.
- Additional documents for those previously widowed. Documents showing that the assets of the deceased spouse were finalized will be needed. In localities where the courts do not issue such documentation, such as New York, the district office requires “some documentation” showing that the estate of the deceased spouse was finalized. It is recommended you send such documentation in advance to ensure that the district office deems it acceptable. You should also send a certified copy of such documents, which can usually be picked up the same day at the clerk of the court where the estate action took place, to the district office. As with a prior divorce, if there was a previous divorce or widowing prior to the latest widowing, those documents will not be needed. The district office requires documents only from the latest widowing.
- Copies of passports will suffice before the wedding, but they must be presented at the ceremony or when the couple picks up the marriage documents.
The marriage fee varies in Iceland depending on whether the ceremony will take place at the office in the district or elsewhere in the district. If the ceremony is in the office, the fee is 10 IKR (equivalent to US $.083) which can be paid upon arrival (cash only) in Iceland when the couple hand in their passports. If the ceremony is elsewhere in the district, the starting fee is approximately 50 IKR (equivalent to US $.041), and then an hourly rate after that, normally 53 IKR (equivalent to US $.043).
Whether to have a ceremony in or outside the office is a personal preference. A ceremony in the office takes about ten minutes and the couple may bring up to ten guests with them. During the ceremony, rings can be exchanged but the office does not allow people to play music or exchange vows. Ceremonies elsewhere must take place after 18:00 (6:00 PM) on a workday or anytime on a weekend. A district commissioner office representative can possibly come to an outdoor location; however, it is recommended that the couple choose the location first and then contact the district commissioner’s office to make arrangements.
Couples should allow 3 to 4 months of time to prepare the necessary documents to ensure that everything is in order. All documents must be submitted in advance of the wedding. If sent by mail, they must be received 21 days before the planned wedding date. Documents may also be emailed to the district office of the district where the marriage will take place. The email address can be found on this site, which allows the couple to send the documents to the district where the couple plans to get married. The benefit of using email is that the district office can review the documents in advance and advise whether there are any problems. However, note that if the email is used, the originals must be received 5 days before the planned wedding date.
Wedding planning in any foreign country should be undertaken well in advance. It is a good idea to also talk to an attorney or someone knowledgeable in the rules of the country. In Iceland, as in many countries, the website does not provide complete information and it is essential to verify what is needed by contacting the consulate or another office that handles marriages. For general questions relating to marriage applications in Iceland, contact email@example.com.
If you are a U.S. citizen marrying a citizen of a different country, regardless of where the marriage occurs, you should discuss estate planning with an attorney because of unique rules that apply. Contact one of our estate planning attorneys for assistance.