How to get married in Croatia if at least one spouse is a foreigner

Wedding in Croatia
Wedding in Croatia

UPDATED: 6.12.2023.

Croatia is one of those ideal destination wedding locations. Glorious weather, historic white stone buildings, azure seas, green mountains. For all these reasons, Croatia has the picture-perfect backdrop for your nuptials.

Foreigners are allowed to get married in Croatia, regardless of whether they live in Croatia as full-time residents. However, there can be a lot of paperwork involved, and the volume depends on the nationality of each spouse. Any wedding in Croatia should be planned well in advance as it can take time to collect all the documents needed for a legal marriage ceremony.

We break down each step of the process, from the very beginning until the very end (which is after the wedding, not the wedding itself). We explain where you need to go and speak to, what to consider, how much it will cost, and how to ensure your marriage will be recognized in your home country.

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The facts are these…

How to get married in Croatia if at least one spouse is a foreigner

#1 Decide where and when to get married in Croatia

Determine when and where you want to have a wedding. You can get married in any registrar’s office or outside the registrar’s office.

The place, date, and time will determine the cost for the registrar since they must be on-site to make your wedding legal.

You will be charged by:

  • Day of the week – it costs extra to be married on Sunday
  • Hours of the day – the fee is higher after working hours than during working hours
  • Distance from the registrar – there is a fee charged per kilometer if the registrar must travel to your wedding site

#2 Find out what is required to get married in Croatia

If one of you is not Croatian, then marrying in Croatia can be a little (or a lot) more complicated.

It all comes down to your citizenship. Each country has different requirements in terms of documentation, which is determined by the treaties in place with your home country.

Some countries have treaties in place that govern the equal exchange of government documents, and some do not. It is entirely possible that two future spouses will have to provide different documents if they come from different countries.

To determine what is required for your citizenship, you need to contact the registrar in the jurisdiction in Croatia where you intend to get married. This documentation is needed so that your marriage will be legally binding and valid once you return to the country you live in.

For example, UK citizens must provide an apostilled “Certificate of Customs” that can only be procured at the UK embassy in Zagreb.

If your country does not have any treaties in place with Croatia, then this means you must complete a full legalization procedure after you get married. We’ll cover this more at the bottom of this post.

Not only do the documents vary by citizenship, but each jurisdiction in Croatia can also ask for different documents. Everyone’s situation can be different.

In Croatian, the registrar’s office is called matični ured and the registrar is called matičar. You can find the appropriate matični ured office here. First, pick the county, and then find the city.

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Can same-sex couples get married in Croatia?

At this time, only heterosexual couples can legally marry in Croatia per a 2013 referendum. Same-sex couples married abroad are legally recognized in Croatia. If same-sex couples wish to marry in Croatia, they may have a symbolic ceremony or enter into a life partnership. You can learn about forming a life partnership in Croatia here.

#3 Prepare your documents for your future Croatian marriage

Once you have confirmed with the registrar what is needed, prepare all of the documents. In addition to the documents specific to your nationality, everyone getting married in Croatia must provide the following:

  • Certificate of free marital status – This is a document showing that you are not married in your home country. It must be translated into Croatian and apostilled/legalized, depending on the treaties in place between Croatia and your home country.
  • Certificate of no impediment – This is a document showing that there are no legal obstacles to the marriage and that the marriage will be valid in your home country. It can be incorporated as a part of a certificate of free marital status. In the US, it is called a “License to Marry”. For US citizens, both spouses must be present at the US embassy in Zagreb to request this license. It must be translated into Croatian and apostilled/legalized, depending on the treaties in place between Croatia and your home country.
  • Birth certificates – Both spouses must provide international birth certificates or birth certificates with an official Croatian translation and apostilled/legalized, depending on the treaties in place.
  • Certificate or Absolute Decree for widows/divorcees – If any spouse is a widow/er or divorced, they must provide legal government proof of this status. Of course, it must be translated and apostilled/legalized, based on treaties.
  • Copy of passports – Both spouses must provide a copy of their passport. It does not need to be translated or apostilled/legalized. However, UK citizens must have their copy verified by any public employee or by a solicitor.
  • Identification document – This could include your national ID if a spouse is from an EU/EEA country

Some other things to know when preparing your documents:

  • If you do not know what an apostille is, examine this guide
  • All names must match on all documents UNLESS you have government proof of the name change (which must be translated and apostilled/legalized, based on treaties)
  • All documents must not be older than 3 months from the wedding date

#4 Notify the Croatian registrar’s office

You must notify the registrar 30-45 days before your wedding date of your intention to marry. It is best that you have all of your documents prepared for submission when you give your intention.

In some cases, you can get some of the documents closer to the date, but it’s best to provide all documents at the same time, at least 30 days in advance.

The intention must be made in person or via e-prijava vjenčanja (only if both partners are Croatian citizens). In some cases, they will accept notifications over the phone or email, but it all depends on the specific office and the human you’re talking to.

There are exceptions when the wedding date can be defined before 30-45 days after you notify the registrar. You can notify the registrar that you’d like to get married earlier than 45 days but not sooner than 90 days in advance.

This exception can be made when there are justified reasons, for example, pregnancy. The registrar will decide whether your reason is relevant or not. Again, if there are no justified reasons, you must notify the registrar about the desired wedding date 30 to 45 days before the wedding.

#5 Confirm your intention to the registrar

Three days before your wedding date, both spouses must visit the registrar along with a court translator. A court translator is required for any marriage involving a non-Croatian citizen. This is to ensure you understand everything.

The registrar will print out your intention to marry. This is your last opportunity to check to make sure all the information is correct. If everything looks good, you’ll be asked to sign the intention.

At this time, you must pay:

  • Administrative fees – view the price list here
  • Travel fee if the wedding will take place outside of the registrar’s office

Travel fee

The amount of the travel fee will be determined according to the day of the week, hours of the day, and distance from the registrar’s office.

Pricing rules

  • Day of the week – It costs extra to be married on a Saturday or Sunday, holidays or non-working days. The fee increases by 100%.
  • Hours of the day – The fee is higher in the late afternoon and in the evening than during the day.
    • 8:00 – 15.59: Fee is 20% of the base
    • 16:00 – 19.59: Fee is 30% of the base
    • 20:00 – 22:00: Fee is 50% of the base
  • Distance from the registrar – There is a fee charged per kilometer that the registrar must travel to your wedding site.
    • If the location is up to 10 kilometers away from the registrar’s office – Fee is 10% of the base
    • If the location is more than 10 kilometers away from the registrar’s office – Fee is 1% per kilometer, but not higher than 30% of the base

You’ll either have to pay for these fees in tax stamps, or at a bank or post office using an uplatnica that you are provided. We’ve got a guide on how to pay a bill using uplatnica here and a guide to obtaining tax stamps here. When paying by uplatnica, you’ll need to return to the registrar to provide proof of payment.

Once all of these procedures are complete, you’ll be given a receipt.

#6 Have your Croatian wedding!

For the wedding, you’ll need to have:

  • 1 witness per spouse, with a copy of their passport – Their passports do not need to be verified. They must be adults and business-capable persons. In Croatia, a female witness is called “vjenčana kuma” (maid of honor), and a male witness is called “vjenčani kum” (best man).
  • Court translator – If either spouse is not Croatian, you will need to have a court translator on site for your wedding ceremony to real-time translate what the registrar says, so that both spouses understand what is being said.

While you can add your own vows after the registrar finishes speaking, no one can interfere with the official legal reading of the ceremony by the registrar.

The registrar will bring the Certificate of Marriage to the wedding site for the spouses to sign. The ceremony will end after the registrar and court translator congratulate the couple.

[Read: How to attend a Croatian wedding]

#7 Handle aftermath paperwork and possible legalization

There are two scenarios when you may need to get more paperwork handled after your wedding.

  • If you want a marriage certificate in a different language
  • If your country does not have a treaty in place with Croatia

If you want a marriage certificate in a different language

For some countries, it is possible to get a marriage certificate in your native language. However, if you request this, then the marriage certificate in the foreign language will need to be fully legalized. I’ll cover what this means in the next section.

If your country does not have a treaty in place with Croatia

When you get married in Croatia, and your home country doesn’t have a treaty with Croatia, this means that your marriage won’t be recognized in your home country unless you take additional steps.

To ensure that it will be recognized, you must have your marriage “fully legalized” by going through a series of verification procedures, all in person. Another person or attorney can do it instead of you if you are not in Croatia using power of attorney. If you need help, you can always contact us, and we will introduce you to an expat-vetted lawyer.

Below are the steps to having a marriage fully legalized. More information on the procedure, including more detailed steps and prices, are available here.

Step 1 – Have the marriage certificate officially translated into your native language

First, the marriage certificate must be translated into the native language by a sudski tumač (court translator) in Croatia. If you’d like an introduction to one, please contact us.

Step 2 – Submit the translated certificate to the court for verification

Go to the competent municipal court according to the location of the institution that issued your wedding certificate and submit your translated marriage certificate for verification. Once verified, go to the next step.

A list of all municipal courts in Croatia can be found here.

Step 3 – Submit the court-verified translated document to the Ministry of Justice in Zagreb for verification.

Ministarstvo pravosuđa in Zagreb has to verify the signature of the municipal judge and the stamp.

Step 4 – Submit the court-verified translated document to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb.

Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova in Zagreb has to verify the marriage certificate as well. They verify the document once again after the Ministarstvo pravosuđa, i.e. the signature of the official persons and the stamp.

You will need to bring a copy of the marriage certificate and your ID card (if you are an EU citizen) or a passport.

Step 5 – Submit the verified document to the nearest Croatian embassy to where you live for verification. 

The final step involves visiting the foreign diplomatic mission in Croatia for the country where you wish to use the marriage certificate. If that country doesn’t have a diplomatic mission within Croatia, you must visit the closest one to Croatia.

A list of all foreign embassies and consulates in Croatia is available here.

Step 6 – Check if additional verification is needed by your home country 

In some cases, your home country will require that you get the document verified by the Ministry of Internal Affairs or equivalent in your home country as well.

The list of countries for which you need to go through the full legalization process can be found here.

The list of countries for which you don’t need to go through the full legalization process can be found here. Croatia has signed special agreements with them, so they are exempt both from apostille and full legalization.

For detailed instructions, view this guide on apostille and full legalization of government documents.

If you are reading this post because you seek to use a document in Croatia, here are some other resources depending on your situation:

Get help with paperwork or wedding planning

Preparing to marry in Croatia is tedious, whether you live in Croatia or are planning a destination wedding. As we’ve explained above, the necessary paperwork can vary depending on your nationalities and the location in Croatia where you wish to marry, and quite frankly, to complicate things more, the requirements can differ between registrar offices.

Let us eliminate the stress right from the start! Our wedding expert can cover all of the important aspects of tying the knot in Croatia

What is the cost?

The cost for this consultation and guidance service is 150 euro VAT included (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government).

What is included?

A 30-minute consulting call with our wedding (and bureaucracy) expert, who will give you advice based on your specific situation and needs to help you navigate your Croatian nuptials.

An additional 30 minutes of our personal research service to provide further information on whichever point you decide to be of utmost importance. It could be about the destination, the venue, the photographer, attire… We will put together a list of vendors specifically for you. You won’t get a Google listing from us – we will call and vet each referral personally before they get added to your list.

As an added bonus, you will also receive a customized Croatian wedding checklist covering all the wedding & bureaucratic “must dos” before you can say “I do”.

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Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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