Everything you need to know about marriage in Serbia

4 May 2023·19 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Serbia 01

Serbia is a country in the west-central Balkans famous for its beautiful baroque architecture and various spectacular wedding locations perfect for romantic couples. Over 23,000 people tie the knot in Serbia every year, and the country has a diverse culture. Foreigners and other native Serbs are able to get married in the country the way they deem fit according to the beliefs of their region or community. There are different ways through which spouses can get married in the country; however, not all of them are legally binding. In Serbia, couples can get married through civil, traditional or religious, symbolic, and secular marriages. All of these forms of marriage are generally performed in the country, but only civil marriage is recognized and protected by the country’s laws.

Some of the marriage traditions that are practiced in the country are popular shared customs with some of the other countries in the Balkans. In Serbia, a person must be at least 18 years old before they are allowed to marry. The law does not permit the marriage of underage spouses. In some cases, a spouse who will be 18 years old soon may start processing their marriage registration, provided that they will reach the age of 18 before the set marriage date. Child marriages in the country have continued to decrease over the years. The country is mostly dominated by Serbs, who are of the Christian faith. The largest and most traditional church in the country is the Serbian Orthodox Church. There are different marriage traditions that are unique to Serbs, and the rest of the article will show you this as well as the marriage laws, rights, and duties in Serbia. Let’s get started.

Civil marriage 

A civil marriage is the most popular type of marriage in Serbia, mainly because you cannot be officially married in the country without a civil ceremony. A civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is recognized and protected by the laws of the country. It is held in the registry’s office and performed by a state-authorized registrar or officiant. For a marriage to be recognized in the country, it must have been conducted by an authorized celebrant, which implies that not just anyone can solemnize a marriage between two people. A civil marriage conducted in Serbia is recognized in the Balkan states and other countries in the world. Before a civil marriage can take place, the couples must meet all the necessary conditions and be eligible for marriage in the country. 

Foreign spouses must be eligible for marriage in their country for the marriage certificate obtained in Serbia to be valid. Both spouses must be at least 18 years old for a marriage to happen. Unlike some countries in the world, there are no exceptions to this rule. Even with parental consent, spouses younger than the age of 18 may not be allowed to marry.
Furthermore, a spouse who is currently 17 years of age may proceed with making necessary marriage arrangements and registering the marriage if they will reach the age of 18 before the fixed wedding date. This was stated earlier in the introduction section of this article. 

The process of getting married is simple because there are agencies in the country that help with the marriage process, and the documents that spouses must submit are not many. Also, marriage between two people who are related or members of the same sex is not allowed, and people in this category cannot conduct a civil ceremony in Serbia. The paperwork to be submitted during the marriage registration is stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification. This includes a national ID card or valid passport.
  • Both spouses must submit the originals and copies of their birth certificates. The certificate must include the necessary information about one’s birth place, date, and names of both parents.
  • Single status certificate. This document must be submitted by both spouses to show that they are both currently single at the time of marriage.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage Both spouses are expected to submit this document to show that there are no current obstacles to marriage in the country.
  • Divorce and death certificate Spouses who were previously married must show evidence that their previous marriage was ended legally in the country. If a spouse separates from their former partner, a divorce certificate must be provided, and in the case of the death of a former partner, a properly certified death certificate must be provided.
  • Both spouses must provide two witnesses for the civil ceremony who are of legal age and not related to them by blood or a direct link.
  • Proof of the payment of all administrative fees as they have been issued by Serbian authorities during the marriage process

Foreign spouses who request documents from their home country or the consulate or embassy of their country in Serbia must ensure that all the documents are translated by a registered official translator into Serbian, the official language of the country. All the documents must also include an Apostille to show they have been legitimated by the correct authorities.

Religious marriage 

Religious marriages in Serbia are not recognized or protected under the laws of the country. Spouses must first conduct a civil marriage before going ahead with a religious marriage. The religion in Serbia is mostly made up of Christians and Muslims. Christians in the country are mostly Eastern Orthodox, with over 80% of the total population. Others are Catholics, Protestants, atheists, and Muslims, making up the rest of the population. In Serbia, religion is very important, and a civil marriage just shows one is married under the country’s laws. A religious marriage must be conducted to show that the spouses are equally married under their religious laws and to God. 

In the Serbian Orthodox Church, couples must schedule a meeting with the cathedral dean to set a date and make the necessary marriage preparations. Marriages cannot be conducted when there are major church celebrations or during the fasting (lent) period. The church allows mixed marriages; however, there are certain conditions that must be met by the spouses. An orthodox Christian may get married to a non-Orthodox Christian if they have been properly baptized in the church. The non-Orthodox spouse must also sign an affirmation before the marriage takes place. This is to show that any children they give birth to will be baptized in the Orthodox Church. During the marriage registration process, the baptism and church membership of the couple are verified by the church as well as the local civil authorities. 

Also, death or divorce certificates may be required in cases where they apply to spouses. Before a marriage can be performed in the church, it must first be performed civilly, and a marriage license must be obtained. The spouses must also provide two witnesses during the marriage ceremony. It is up to the couple to decide if they would like to have a ceremony with various guests or if they want a small church service where only witnesses and maybe family members are present.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Serbia 02

Marriage traditions in Serbia

Apple Shooting 

This is a unique ceremonial rite in Serbia that is still celebrated to this day. Here, the bride's father places an apple on the highest tree in the bride's yard. The groom then has to shoot down the arrow so as to allow the bride to leave the house. If he is unable to shoot the arrow, the bride must continue to remain in the house. This is regarded as a fun tradition in the country.

Mirror and Garlic

This ritual was practiced a lot in ancient times, but only a few rural areas and communities still practice it. Here, the bride must carry a small mirror throughout the course of the ceremony on her wedding day. Cloves of garlic were also one of the ornaments that were used and kept by the bride and guests, as these two items were believed to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.

The Flask 

This is a Serbian marriage tradition where a young man from the groom's family, known as the Buklijas, invites different guests over for the purpose of drinking from a special flask. The flask usually contains any of the traditional drinks and beverages in Serbia, and upon drinking from the flask, it is usually decorated with money. The drink is sometimes a traditional homemade wine. In previous times, this was also sent out to different guests as a way of inviting them to the celebration before the marriage took place.

Same-sex marriages

Marriage between two people of the same sex is illegal in Serbia. Civil and church marriages may only be conducted by two spouses who are members of the opposite sex. It is legal for a person to be a lesbian, gay, or bisexual in the country and display this gender type openly, but the law draws the line when it comes to officially becoming a married couple in the country. Same-sex spouses are still open to different kinds of discrimination, and various rights and benefits of married couples, such as the right to adopt children jointly, are not available to them.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is prohibited in Serbia. The country is largely dominated by Christians, and this type of marriage is prohibited under the religious faith. Serbia is a secular country; however, polygamy is still illegal under the civil and customary laws. A man or woman is only allowed to be married to one partner at a time. If a person wants to enter into a new marriage, the previous one must be annulled and legally terminated.

Cohabitation in Serbia

Under the Serbian Family Law Act, cohabitation has the same rights and benefits as marriage. In the country, cohabitation is regarded as a man and a woman living together as a couple for a long period of time. Couples cohabiting are required to meet the same requirements as married spouses. This implies that there must be no legal obstacles to living together as partners in the country or any other country abroad. In Serbia, one significant difference between marriage and cohabitation relationships is that the man in the relationship cannot play the role of father to the child as he can in marriage. 

The father is expected to make a statement to acknowledge paternity, and this claim must be supported and endorsed by the mother in the presence of the involved authorities. There are also circumstances where guardianship authority may be required. Also, couples cohabiting may not enjoy pension inheritance rights, as they are only available to those who are officially married civilly in the country. Many couples in Serbia continue to cohabit in order to avoid the paperwork and process of registering their marriage.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Serbia 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

The legal marriage age in Serbia is 18 years, and this age must be reached before a spouse is allowed to perform a legal marriage in the country. The law prohibits child marriages, and those involving spouses below the stipulated age fall into this category. A person who is still married may not conduct a marriage. All previous marriages must have been lawfully terminated before a person is allowed to enter into a new marriage. A marriage may not also be conducted by a person who is incapable of reasoning. This implies that spouses who have mental illnesses or other health issues may not get married in the country. 

A marriage can only be concluded between two people of the opposite sex. Same-sex marriages are illegal in the country, and couples who fall under this category are not permitted to have any form of marriage in Serbia. A spouse's property acquired prior to marriage remains theirs after marriage. A spouse must have given their permission or consent to the other spouse before they are allowed to share or use their properties and assets. Marriage between two people who are close relatives or related by affinity or direct link is prohibited in the country. Spouses who are siblings or parents by birth or adoption are not allowed to get married.

Both spouses have equal rights under the laws of the country. The husband and wife have the right to own joint properties together and share the assets and liabilities. Both spouses have the right to give birth to children and raise them according to their own community and religious beliefs. Both spouses have the right to use a nuptial contract to govern their property relationships. Both spouses are equally entitled to the rights and benefits provided by the government to married couples in the country. A man and a woman both have the right to annul a marriage or initiate a divorce under certain grounds, such as domestic violence, infidelity, desertion, or mental incapacity.

Costs 

The cost of getting married in Serbia is largely dependent on the type of marriage that will be organized by the couple as well as the number of guests and traditions involved. A typical Serbian wedding can cost between $7000 and $35000.Couples can expect to spend over $10,000 for a 150-person wedding reception. Destination weddings are more expensive because the cost of transportation gets really high, especially when other members of the family and friends are being transported to the wedding venue. Major expenses in wedding ceremonies include photography, catering, and wedding rings.

Duties 

In Serbia, husband and wife are considered equals who owe each other certain duties and obligations. The most important duties a married man and woman owe to each other are fidelity, love, and respect for each other’s honor. These obligations go a long way toward determining the path of the marriage and how successful it is. Both sides are expected to support each other and reach a consensus on matters affecting them together. The husband and wife have a duty to continue the family and give birth to children. Married couples have a duty to provide the necessary necessities to their children as needed to ensure they are living a healthy and comfortable life. The roles of income, finances, and maintenance in the household must be decided upon by both spouses.

Final Thoughts 

Getting married in Serbia is straightforward. Couples do not need to submit a lot of documents before they are able to register their marriage. Once all the conditions of marriage are met, both foreign spouses and native Serbians are able to quickly obtain a marriage certificate. Spouses must demonstrate they are not in any other marriage before officially getting married in the country.
Foreign spouses should take note that the marriage certificate obtained in Serbia must be officially legalized in order to be legally binding in their own home country. Serbia has various amazing destinations for wedding ceremonies, such as the aeronautical museum, hotel Constantine the Great, Hyatt Regency Belgrade, 88 Rooms Hotel, etc. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Serbia.

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