How to Get Married in Croatia

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Disclaimer: I’m Steph Kadlicko, an international destination wedding photographer. I am many things, but I am not an attorney. The information available in this article and the materials available at this website are strictly for informational purposes only. They are not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem related to this topic. By using this website, links, and information available here you explicitly release 5th Photography and any of its staff or affiliates from any liability associated with the information provided and topic discussed. The opinions expressed on this website or through the information provided are the opinions of the individual author.


drone image over split croatia

Croatia has been a secret gem that only the lucky have been exposed to for so long. But in the last two decades, more and more Europeans and global travelers have discovered the Mediterranean beauty looking to it as both a leisure and wedding destination. Tucked away, immediately east of Italy, the boomerang shaped country arguably has the most beautiful coastal sunsets in all of Europe.

Couples that choose Croatia are drawn to one of many things, but the most common attributes are the over 1000 miles of mainland coastline, the 1000+ islands to visit and entertain on. On any given day you can island hop to castles and fortresses, stroll through enchanted gardens, spelunk through caves, traverse mountains or visit one of myriad waterfalls.

The destination is absolutely ideal for hosting weddings. It serves an easy mix of fresh mediterranean cuisine and almost guarantees perfectly clear skis for the entire spring summer and fall – with days perfectly set to set your skin aglow without humidity or excessive temperatures. Why don’t more couples get married here? Because they simply haven’t heard of it. Yet.

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You’ve made the excellent decision of hosting your destination wedding in Croatia. You must be thrilled – and rightly so. I’ve put together this document to help guide you in the logistical marriage requirements and left the other wedding design items in my Guide to Designing Your Croatia Destination Wedding (coming November 10). There are several administrative elements that you will want to keep straight that will not only satisfy your needs to stay organized, but will also enable you to work through the country specifics that will allow your marriage to happen on Croatian soil.

The Legally Binding Civil Ceremony

The civil ceremony is the only legally binding marriage in Croatia. Most countries defer to the rules of the country of marriage, thus stand alone religious ceremonies held in Croatia are typically not recognized by other countries either. This can be the case for your home country as well. Religious ceremonies can be performed, in addition to the civil ceremony, if desired.

It’s very important to remember that requirements are dependent on the citizenship of the couple and where the couple resides. You must contact your local embassy to inquire or hire a planner to navigate the process for you. For a list of wonderful wedding planners, visit my Guide to Designing Your Croatia Destination Wedding (coming in January 2021). Additionally, all paperwork must be finalized in Croatia, which requires couples arrive in Croatia several full working days prior to their wedding, excluding weekends. Often couples take multiple trips to start the paperwork

  • All foreign paperwork and proceedings needs to be translated by a Croatian court interpreter in order to be considered for your permits, this includes your ceremony for either partner in a couple if he or she does not speak Croatian

An alternate is to have a symbolic ceremony in Croatia, where dealing with the paperwork can be managed in your place of residence, in your home country.

Step 1 – Make Your Selections

  1. Decide on a wedding date

  2. You can marry on any day of the week in Croatia, without a problem. However, non-religious ceremonies are typically held at the Registrar’s office, which operates Monday through Friday with varying hours, depending on the city. When selecting a date consider day of the week and confirm availability of the officiant prior to setting the date in stone with any guests. If you are working with a planner, the planner can arrange for this very easily. If you are managing planning alone, ensure the date you selected is confirmed with the Registrar’s office. Arrangements can be made to have an officiant designated by the Registrar’s office come to your location.

  3. Decide on a wedding location

  4. If you select a location other than the Registrar’s office, you will need to arrange for the legal officiant of the Registrar’s office to travel to you. The fees associated with this are based on day of the week, distance to the wedding location, and time of day.

  5. Decide on your witnesses

  6. Decide if either partner will be making a name change

  7. Decide if you will be working with a wedding planner

  8. Contact the Office of the Registrar

    Reach out to the local Office of the Registrar in the city or region where you intend to be married 91 days or more prior to your intended wedding date. The office will notify you of specifics, your file will be opened, and the documents in Step 2 will be requested.

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Step 2 – Collect Your Documents

Birth Certificates
Order new original duplicate birth certificates for each partner. Ensure the official duplicate is no older than 90 days at the time of the submission to the Registrar (the Registrar is called the Maticar in Croatia, pronounced ma-tee-char). The birth certificates must be translated into Croatian, must have the Apostille seal, and must be notarized at a local notary, called a Javni Biljeznik, pronounced yahv-nee-beel-yezh-nik in Croatian. You can use this information to read more on Apostille seals and reach out to your country’s authority if this applies to you. In short, the Apostille seal is an authentication accompanied with a signature of a government official that validates government issued documents such as birth certificates, so that they can be recognized in foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty. Consider it a federal notarization that confirms validity of your documents that will be used in a legally binding agreement that will ensure your marriage is legally binding.

Passport Copies for the Couple
Create a set of color copies of your passports’ data/photo pages (ensure this includes your signature page), for each partner. Consider notarizing these in Croatia at a local notary along with your birth certificates, but the notarization is typically unnecessary.

Passport Copies for the Witnesses
Create a set of color copies of your passports’ data/photo pages (ensure this includes your signature page), for each partner. Consider notarizing these in Croatia at a local notary along with your birth certificates, but the notarization is typically unnecessary.

Single Status Affidavit
Obtain a Single Status Affidavit for submission to the Registrar. This is a statement written by each partner, under oath that states each person is legally available to marry. Different countries have different terms for this. You may hear this referred to as an Affidavit of Single Status, No Impediment to Marriage, Nulla Osta, Letter of Freedom to Marry, Free Matrimonial Status Certificate, Statement of Freedom to Marry, Sworn Statement of Availability to Marry, etc. This document can be obtained in your home country or in Croatia if you are a US citizen at the US Embassy in Zagreb. If you choose to do this, ensure you allow yourself several days to accommodate scheduling mishaps. This document must be subsequently authenticated by the International Legal Assistance Service of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As with the statement, ensure you allow yourself time to obtain these at these government offices.

Certificate of No Obstacles (in Croatia)
Obtain a certificate of no obstacles for submission to the Registrar. This is a statement specific to Croatian obstacles. In the vast majority of cases, the Single Status Affidavit will suffice, however, if you have any reason to believe there is another obstacle in the way of marriage in Croatia you should contact your Croatian consulate and inquire.

Divorce Decree/Death Certificate
One additional document that is commonly overlooked is the Divorce Decree or Death Certificate for individuals that were previously married. An original of this document must be provided and it to must have an Apostille from the country of issuance.

Step 3 – Visit the Registrar & Obtain a Marriage License

Secure a Court Translator to Translate at the Registrar
If at least one person does not speak Croatian fluently, an official court translator must accompany you at the Registrar’s office. While the majority of people speak English, these official activities will take place in the official language of Croatia.

Visit the Registrar
If one or both of you are residents of Croatia, both future spouses must visit the Registrar 30-45 days prior to the wedding date and both partners must be present. If neither of you are residents, your wedding planner can do this step for you following the same timing. You will need to declare your intent to be married and file for your marriage license. You will be asked to submit your documents and for the details you identified in Step 1. If one partner is Croatian, he or she will submit their proof of identity and their Croatian citizenship. If both partners are not Croatian, then both partners will submit the documents collected above in Step 2.

Pay the Registrars Marriage License fee.
Your payment will cover two items the document review for the marriage application and the time in front of the magistrate for the actual civil ceremony.

Obtain the Marriage License
A paper copy will be provided to you that will be signed the day of the wedding. Ensure this is kept in a safe place and available on the date of the wedding.

Confirm Your Wedding Date
Ensure the date you selected is confirmed with the Registrar’s office. If you plan to marry at a location other than the Registrar’s office, additional arrangements will be needed to secure an officiant from the Registrar’s office. They will help you with this at the office.

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Step 4 – Arrange for a Court Interpreter

Secure a Court Interpreter for Your Wedding
If one partner does not speak Croatian fluently, a court interpreter must be present at the Registrar’s office or at your off-site wedding location. This is a legal requirement and can be via with Registrar’s office using their list of English speaking Sworn Court Interpreters.

Step 5 – Get Married

Attend Your Ceremony
It goes without saying that you need to be present at your ceremony, but to confirm, no marriage is legally binding without the actual ceremony itself. The documents and marriage license are not sufficient to create a legal marriage. After the marriage, the Office of the Registrar will provide you with your marriage certificate.


wedding couple laughing in croatian city

The Non-Legally Binding Religious Ceremony

Couples choosing to have a religious ceremony do so for personal reasons. In Croatia, there are many religious ceremonies taking place across a wide variety of faiths. The most common is the Catholic ceremony, the predominant religion of Croatia. It is best to start with the religious institution in which you wish to marry and ask for specific requirements. Across Croatia there are small variances even for the same religion. Variances are usually found in smaller less touristic cities.

Documents and requirements you will need for a Catholic religious ceremony in a church:

Reach out to the parish in which you wish to be married
Speak to the local priest and declare your wishes. The priest will advise you of the requirements for that specific parish and region along with the time frame in which you need to work. Typically, this process must be started approximately 12 months in advance of the wedding. Be sure to mention to the priest whether you will also have a civil ceremony in Croatia.

Reach Out to Your Local Parish for a Discharge Certificate
Reach out to show your respect to your local parish and informing the priest of your wish to marry outside your regular church, the Croatian church will ask for written permission from your local Parish allowing you to marry outside your country of residence.

Original Baptismal Certificates
As a Catholic, you received your first sacrament when you were baptized. Baptism falls under the Sacraments of Initiation. You baptismal certificate is required by the church to receive your matrimonial sacrament, which falls under Sacraments of Service. Ensure your baptismal certificates are originals and provide these to the Croatian church. These can be retrieved from the church in which you were baptized by simply contacting them.

Proof of “single” status making you free to marry
This is the same requirement that is (see above for civil ceremonies: step 2, no. 4). As stated for civil ceremonies: obtain a Single Status Affidavit for submission to the Registrar. This is a statement written by each partner, under oath that states each person is legally available to marry. Different countries have different terms for this. You may hear this referred to as an Affidavit of Single Status, No Impediment to Marriage, Nulla Osta, Letter of Freedom to Marry, Free Matrimonial Status Certificate, Statement of Freedom to Marry, Sworn Statement of Availability to Marry, etc. This document can be obtained in your home country or in Croatia if you are a US citizen at the US Embassy in Zagreb. If you choose to do this, ensure you allow yourself several days to accommodate scheduling mishaps. This document must be subsequently authenticated by the International Legal Assistance Service of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As with the statement, ensure you allow yourself time to obtain these at these government offices.

Pre-Marriage Course Completion Certificate
Almost without exception, the Catholic Church expects all couples preparing for marriage to complete a pre-marriage course. Upon completion, these courses issue a certificate which the Croatian Catholic Church will require.

Secure a Court Interpreter for Your Wedding
If one partner does not speak Croatian fluently, a court interpreter must be present at the Registrar’s office or at your off-site wedding location. This is a legal requirement and can be via with Registrar’s office using their list of English speaking Sworn Court Interpreters.

Secure an Apostille
An apostille with an authentication seal and signature may be needed to confirm validity of any government issued documents. They are typically not requested, however, should a church require a birth certificate, an apostille must be included.

And that, my friends, is that. You can download a copy of this article with a checklist as well. Please reach out if I can help with your Croatia destination wedding. Looking forward to hearing from you.


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