Getting Married Abroad Part 2 – How to find a lost overseas marriage certificate?

Previously, we explored the requirements for getting married overseas and the various steps you need to consider to ensure your nuptials go off without a hitch! But what if you, or your family members, were married abroad a number of years ago and you require a copy of the marriage certificate? How easy is it to obtain, and is getting hold of the document all you will need to think about?

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In this article

What We’ll Cover

  • How to get a copy of an overseas marriage certificate

  • Registering an overseas marriage in the UK

  • Obtaining older certificates from former British Colonies

  • Additional steps you may require for a non-UK marriage certificate

Obtaining a Copy of an Overseas Marriage Certificate

When a marriage takes place in the UK, a copy of the marriage record is automatically deposited into the national archive within 18 months. This, therefore, makes it very simple to obtain another copy if you ever require one in the future.  

On the other hand, if you were married outside of the UK, your marriage certificate being available to obtain within Britain is dependent on whether you registered the marriage with British authorities. There are two methods by which this could have been done: 

  • Registering at the British Embassy in the country where your ceremony was held. 
  • Liaising with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to have the marriage record entered into the British archives. 

Whilst it is the law to register your marriage in the country where the ceremony was held, it is completely optional as to whether you register with British authorities. Even if you didn’t register it at the Embassy or with the FCO, you are still legally married so no need to worry about that aspect!  

My overseas marriage hasn’t been registered with British authorities – can I just register it now?

Unfortunately, the service to register an overseas marriage with British authorities at the Embassy or deposit an existing overseas marriage record into the British archives was suspended on the 1st January 2014; this means that if your marriage certificate was not admitted into the British archives prior to this date, it will not be possible to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate from within the UK.  

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In some cases, we can obtain a copy of your marriage certificate directly from the country where your ceremony took place – so far we have helped obtain marriage records from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Germany. Get in touch with our team to see how we can assist you!

What about marriages in former British territories or colonies?

Say, for example, your grandparents were married in Hong Kong during its time as a part of the British Empire and you are wanting to obtain their marriage certificate to obtain a British passport. Because they will have been married under the authority of the British government, you would expect a copy of their marriage record to be held in the British archives. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When a colony, territory or protectorate was released from being under British rule, the existing records did not necessarily get passed over to the British archive system.  

As a result, the marriage record will still be held in the country where the marriage occurred, and you would need to liaise with the British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission there in order to obtain a copy of the certificate.  

In some cases, you may also have some luck with the British Library as a number of civil registration records from births, marriages and deaths occurring in the British Empire have been passed over to them but this is on a case-by-case basis and is most common for East Asian and Indian records. 

I have a copy of my overseas marriage certificate – am I good to go?

Any additional steps that may need to be taken for you to use your marriage certificate for an official purpose in a country other than where it originated is dependent on two main factors: 

  • The country your marriage certificate was issued in 
  • The language your marriage certificate is written in 

Let’s say that you were married in the United States and you need to use your marriage certificate in the UK to get a mortgage. Because a US marriage certificate is written in English, you will not require the document to be translated. However, the document will likely need to have an Apostille applied to it. An Apostille stamp is a form of authentication added to documents to allow them to be used in countries of the Hague Convention, and are usually requested by foreign governments to confirm that a document is genuine.

Once an Apostille stamp is added to a document, it becomes valid for use in any country that is a member of the Hague Convention. It can be tricky for the officials of one country to recognise the format of a marriage certificate from elsewhere as they may not be aware of what signs to look out for to ascertain that the document is real. The Apostille indicates to them that the document has been checked over by the government of the country it was issued in and that they have deemed it to be an authentic and genuine document.  

It’s important to note than an Apostille can only be applied in the country where the document originated. Therefore, a marriage certificate from the United States will be required to have the Apostille applied in-country. This Apostille and certificate verification is handled at state-level via the Secretary of State in the US, rather than with the national government as in the UK. If you require this service you can get in touch with us here.

Are there extra steps I may require after an Apostille?

What if your marriage certificate is not in the language that you require? For instance, if you need to use your French-issued marriage certificate in the United Arab Emirates, it will not be accepted unless it is translated into either Arabic or English. In this case, you would need to have the document translated into the required language. It is important to check with the country you are presenting your marriage certificate to if translation is required or if it can be submitted in its original language; it will not always be necessary to have it translated but it is always best to make sure of exactly what is required. 

Depending on where you need to present your marriage certificate, it may require further legalisation in its country of origin and with our global network now spanning over 140 countries, we can assist whatever your requirements may be.

Get in touch with our specialist team who can deal with both certificates and legalisation services, You can give our team of specialists a call on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp, use our  live chat system, or e-mail us at sales@vitalcertificates.co.uk.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

If you decide to get married abroad, make sure to keep your certificate safe as it can be a headache to replace in the future! If possible, even consider asking for additional copies at the time of the wedding, as it’s not possible to register them back in the UK anymore. Any overseas wedding certificate it automatically valid in the UK, as long as the ceremony was legally recognised in the country in which you were married. If you need to have it replaced, consider getting in touch with your wedding planner or the official who originally conducted your wedding.

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Jess Petch
Jess is the Certificate Administrator at Vital Certificates. She specialises in obtaining personal documents in the UK as well as assisting the legalisation team, uniquely bridging her knowledge between the two sectors. Outside of her role at Vital, she enjoys a range of pastimes including various creative projects, gaming, and is mum to calico cat Munchie.
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10 Comments

  1. hello, I have my british marriage certificate. It was sent to a translation company in london and translated to Chinese. The Notary office certified that the translation was real etc etc and then the Chinese Embassy in London also checked everything and stamped it. Now after 15 years in China the local immigration are telling me the documents and apostille are not proof the marriage certificate is real only the translation is real ???? Go figure. However they now demand I have a Lawyer sign a paper that my certificate is real….yup thats a joke because even if a lawyer does that for me the local office will then ask me to prove the lawyer is real.
    When I try to explain that the original was sent to the notary office and the embassy they said so what…that only certifies the translation not the authenticity of the document. I am so tired of jumping thru hoops to try and prove things. How the hell do I get a real document proved as real when they do not even except the notary office in London the official Chinese seals from their own Embassy in London???

    • Hi John. If I understand it correctly, you had the translation legalised. If you had the original marriage certificate legalised by the UK authorities and the Chinese Embassy in the UK, this would make this valid proof that the marriage certificate is real, as the FCDO would verify all of the information on it before Apostilling it. It seems the issue for you is that the legalisation was originally done on the non-government issued document, which is now calling the original into question.

      If you just had the original marriage certificate itself (or, if you wanted to keep that clean, request a new GRO-issued copy from archive) legalised, this should be more than sufficient for your needs. If you’d like help having this completed, we can do this for you here in the UK and have it sent over to you, including a new official copy of your marriage certificate if you preferred. Get in touch with us at sales@vitalconsular.com if you’d like a quotation!

      • thank you for the reply melanie.
        I am behind my pc but use a Mac for all my personal correspondence etc. The PC is more for just galivanting around the web and entertainment purposes.
        I am very interested in a quotation to obtain the GRO issued copy and legalised as basically the local person here in China simply said that the workers in Shanghai and Beijing were lazy and never check things properly. ?? Kinda makes me think that this one individual is just using their position to make life difficult as for 15 years I never had an issue. This person merely states that the Notary office in London speaks Chinese and said the translation was correct. I did not have a copy translated but the original and it was sent to the london notary offices – the translation office approved by the Chinese embassy and the Chinese Embassy itself checked the original and stamped the papers and the apostille. So you can imagine my reaction when one individual with the power to disrupt my entire life simply says no one did their work properly anywhere in the last 15 years ??

        • Hi John, no problem. I have spoken to my colleague about your situation and they will get a quotation together and to your mac email very soon. If we can help at all further please do let us know.

  2. Hi can you help me get a certificate that proves im not married so I can marry in the Ukraine ?
    Thank You
    Stewart Braeman

  3. Hi I was married in the Dominican Republic but I have been divorced but my x husband won’t give give me a copy and I need it for the solicitor

    • Hi Dominique, when were you married? If you registered the marriage in the UK before a certain date, you may be able to request a new copy from the UK. Otherwise, you will need to request a new copy from the Dominican Republic directly. To do this, you can drop them an email at UK.inDominicanRepublic@fcdo.gov.uk I hope this helps!

  4. Hi, I was wondering if you could help. I got married in lake como in Italy. (I am from the U.K.) I was married in 2025 and during my travels abroad recently I have lost my marriage certificate. It was not registered in U.K. Is there a way of obtaining it from Lake Como? Kind regards
    Laura Roberts

    • Hi Laura, to obtain this you will need to contact the British Consulate in the area of Italy where you were married, which could be Milan. As this was not registered with the UK authorities, the only way to obtain it is from the country of origin.
      I hope this helps!

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