Marriage abroad under local law
A Finnish citizen can get married abroad according to the laws of the country where the wedding takes place. Civil or religious officers in that country see to it that the marriage is solemnized according to local law. Every country – and in some federations each state – has its own rules that must be followed so that a marriage becomes legal.
When a marriage is intended, it must be checked somehow that the bride and groom can be legally married. This must be done according to local law, which probably requires that a foreigner (such as a Finn) obtains documents from his/her home country.
A useful document for a Finnish citizen is a six-language certificate that can be obtained from a civil registrar (maistraatti) or the office (kirkkoherranvirasto) of the parish where he/she is registered in Finland. It takes a week to get this document, and it is then valid for four months for the legal proceedings in the country where the marriage is solemnized.
In many countries a civil ceremony is the only legal way to get married; in such countries church weddings are not legally valid. Click here / See below for information on legal systems in some countries. Up-to-date information can be obtained in Finland from the embassy or consulate of the country in which the wedding is to take place.
In some countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia there are Finnish pastors who have been licensed by local authorities to act as marriage officers according to local law. In this case a Finn also needs a document (the six-language certificate mentioned above) that shows there are no legal impediments for him/her to get married under the law of another country.
Having a marriage registered in Finland
A marriage solemnized according to laws of another country is legally recognized in Finland after the marriage has been registered in Finland. This registration is done on the basis of legally valid documents from the country in question.
The married couple should take care to present such documents directly to a registrar in Finland or to a diplomatic mission (embassy or consulate) of Finland in the country where the marriage was solemnized. In the latter case the diplomatic corps will take care of the final registration in Finland, but that may take some time.
Finnish embassies and consulates serve Finns who live abroad to help them get important changes in life registered in Finland, whether it is the birth of children or marriage or the death of loved ones.
Local procedure varies
When a marriage is solemnized by a local officer, the legal procedure varies from country to country. In some countries only a civil ceremony is legal so that pastors can only bless a marriage; in others a church wedding is a legally valid alternative to a civil wedding.
In addition to Nordic countries, both a civil and church wedding are legal alternatives in Australia, England, Estonia, Greece and Spain. A civil ceremony is always necessary for a legal marriage in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.
In Canada a civil and church wedding are both legal. Each province, however, has its own legislation. In the United States of America each state has its own laws for marriage. In most states both a civil and church wedding are legal alternatives.