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  • Writer's pictureSam Gardner, Celebrant Portugal

"Combining a Legal and Symbolic Ceremony in Portugal: Is it the Right Choice for Your Wedding?"

When considering a destination wedding in Portugal, one question you're likely to ask yourselves is, can we combine the legal and the symbolic ceremony together in one?  The answer is a definite yes! However, there are a number of factors to consider before making your choice. Here's a pros and cons list to help you decide what works for you......



  • There is no minimum residency requirement for legally getting married in Portugal.

  • There are some very good lawyers here who specialise in supporting couples through the process of getting married legally in Portugal.

  • With the right celebrant, combining the two together can be seamless. It does take some skill, so check with the celebrants you're considering if they have experience of this.

  • You get to do it in a oner! You're legally married and you get a bespoke symbolic ceremony on the same day at the same time.

  • Having a symbolic ceremony 'sandwich' your legal ceremony can soften and personalise what can be dry, legalistic terminology.


  • The bureaucratic process can be long and arduous, which can put couples off.

  • The legal ceremony can be dry and unromantic.

  • You won't get to meet the registrar who will be conducting your legal ceremony in advance.

  • The legal ceremony will be in Portuguese, so you'll need an interpreter to ensure you (and your guests) understand what is being said.

  • It can all feel like a big hassle and may add stress to your wedding day.

If getting legally married in Portugal is important to you, perhaps consider having the legal ceremony the day before, or the morning of your symbolic ceremony.



  • The logistics are just that bit easier.

  • If you get married legally in your home country (before or after your symbolic ceremony) then you get to do the legal part in your own language. Generally the paperwork is also more straightforward.

  • Symbolic ceremonies are usually less formal and reflect the personality and unique love story of you as a couple, which can also include spiritual or cultural elements that your legal ceremony can't.

  • You get to choose who will conduct your symbolic ceremony, whether that's a celebrant who resonates with your values and style or a chosen friend/relative.

  • It's a way to celebrate your marriage with your friends and family, or just the two of you, in a very tailored way and is all that you would expect from a wedding service and more.

  • The legal part is done (or will be done shortly) and this is your time to celebrate!


  • Symbolic wedding ceremonies are not legally recognised, so if you want it to be official, you will need to get married legally.

  • You need to take part in, plan and pay for 2 ceremonies - the legal and the symbolic.

  • Not everyone can travel to your destination symbolic wedding ceremony, especially older relatives and friends (but then, you could invite them to your legal ceremony in your home country.)

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Hopefully the above will help you weigh up each option. Do get in touch if you're looking for a celebrant in the Cascais, Lisbon and Mafra areas of Portugal, whether that's for a Symbolic only ceremony or a Legal and Symbolic ceremony combined.

Please note, I am not providing legal advice and would always suggest consulting a Portuguese lawyer specialising in the legal wedding procedure.

Photo Credit: Pedro Vilela Photography


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