Can I have a legal wedding in Vietnam?
Is my wedding in Vietnam legal? I get asked this a lot, so I thought I’d share some wisdom about wedding legalities in Vietnam.
If you are planning your wedding here or dreaming of a wedding here, it could be useful. Vietnam is an incredibly beautiful and intriguing country and it’s easy to understand why tying the knot here is so appealing. Jumping through the hoops to have a legal wedding in Vietnam is not quite as attractive, unfortunately.
This is a bit of a dry read and I've tried to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Just in case you are in the middle of a Netflix binge, I’ve put the short answer right here:
Can two foreigners have a legal wedding in Vietnam? Yes.
But, there is a catch. Isn’t there always?
Two foreigners can legally marry in Vietnam as long as at least one has Residency or Temporary Residency in Vietnam status in Vietnam. To obtain this status, permission must be granted by the government. Essentially it means one of you must live in Vietnam and have government approval to live here under the law.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean having a tourist or holiday visa. It essentially rules out couples anticipating jetting in, having a holiday and wedding party in the tropics, and then jetting out again.
TIME FOR A MASSIVE CAVEAT: Please don’t let it put you off. Foreigners, who are fortunate enough to live in Vietnam and enjoy Temporary or Permanent Residency, find the process of getting government approval to have a legal wedding in Vietnam is lengthy, frustrating and the paperwork kills a couple of trees. Most foreigners who live here simply go home and go through the process there before returning to have their wedding in Vietnam: the one with all the bells and whistles and the date they consider to be their real wedding.
Interestingly, I have officiated a wedding for two foreigners in Vietnam who went through the legal process here. It took them over a year and they were on the brink of giving up several times. Funnily enough a few months after their wedding they discovered they were having a baby and decided to return to the UK. So there is proof it can be done!
The process for gaining government approval is a little easier if a foreigner wants to marry a Vietnamese National, however it can still have you pulling your hair out.
Destination weddings in Vietnam are growing in popularity every year. As the world gets smaller, Vietnam is an attractive central point for people to travel for a wedding. It’s relatively inexpensive compared to the banquet hall soirees at home. The weather is sublime and tropical almost year-round. The beaches, mountains, scenery, food, and culture assault all the senses (in a great way!).
Being able to enjoy a holiday and a wedding for less than a one-day wedding at home is not to be sneezed at. Going through a little bit of leg work so you are legally married at home is a small price to pay. Some couples use that as an opportunity to celebrate with friends and family who can’t otherwise make it to the wedding. The pros outweigh the cons! And we all love upside!
For those who are resuming their Netflix session, grab some ice cream and enjoy your time.
If you are still curious about the process for two foreigners to have a legal wedding in Vietnam, you also might want to grab some ice cream.
Where to start, I hear you ask?
I always recommend starting with your local Embassy here in Vietnam. They will have the most up to date information on the relevant requirements. You’ll get to know them very well as you go back band forth getting the relevant documents and/or having them notarized. They’ll probably score an invitation to the wedding! All documents that aren’t written in Vietnamese must be translated and notarized by the Vietnamese Embassy other qualified Vietnamese notaries. This is even more painful for people who don’t live in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, where most Embassies are located. Add frequent flights into the equation. Thank goodness flights are comparatively inexpensive here.
There’s a list of paperwork that must be ultimately be lodged with the District People’s Committee where the person holding the Residency resides. This must be done personally by the couple and the application is then handled by the District Ministry of Justice.
Here’s a little summary of what needs to be supplied under the law, though requirements in the various districts will vary and often more information is required.
Marriage registration dossiers (which can be obtained at the District Ministry of Justice Office)
A certified copy of birth certificates
A certified copy of passports (and those of two witnesses)
Written certification from an approved authority that one (or both) parties is/are mentally competent to marry Affidavit of Single Status (which can be obtained at your Embassy) and if you’ve been divorced or widowed, relevant documents to satisfy the District Ministry of Justice you are indeed single.
Certificate of non-impediment to marry. (Again, obtained by your Embassy)
Document from your home country that no marriage licence or marriage certificate exists in your home country. See notes above about divorce or widowed people.
Once you have all your papers in order and translated into Vietnamese and notarized, you’re nearly there. Then trot off to the Local Registrar’s Office in place you intend to wed. They will then register the marriage and arrange a marriage certificate. This is where it can get frustrating. It can take a long time!
Please note, if you live in Ho Chi Minh and plan on a beach wedding in Hoi An, you will likely be required to obtain your marriage certificate in the province where Hoi An is located. The rules vary from place to place.
But it’s not over there folks. Once you finally receive your marriage certificate, you take all your paperwork to the District Ministry of Justice Office who will assess it and arrange a meeting with the couple just to make sure they are really serious about getting married. You’d have to be at this point, I’m sure you’d agree!
Provided all is in order, the District Ministry of Justice Office is required to provide an answer within 25 days.
But, wait, there’s more. If you get the tick of approval, it’s time to get your marriage certificate signed by the Head of Provincial People’s Committee. That also takes time.
And, once you’ve jumped through all of those hoops and obtained the signature from the Head of People’s Committee, you are free to wed after five days. Hooray!!
Same-sex marriage is legal in Vietnam and I can only surmise the process would be the same for same-sex foreigners who meet the requirements and want to marry legally Vietnam. I am not aware of any couples who have completed the application process.
Are you still keen? Let's chat.
Please note: once upon a time I was lawyer, but this is not legal advice. Please do not rely on it as legal advice. It is the situation as I understand it to be at the time of writing. You should always start with your local Embassy and go from there. I am writing this as a general guide for getting married legally in Vietnam. It will be time-consuming and at times challenging and not for the faint of heart. Have fun!
Hi. I'm Leanne, Australian born and now based in Hoi An, Vietnam. A former corporate lawyer bereft of a sense of humour, I found it again while travelling through Vietnam. I'm now lucky enough to spend my time wordsmithing wedding ceremonies and officiating weddings for couples who've travelled from all over the world to celebrate their marriage in Vietnam.
You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or drop me a line on FB: @weddingcelebrantvietnam or Inta: @celebrant_weddings_vietnam