Posts Tagged: red tape

May 11

The serious stuff

“You do know what it means to get married in the Catholic Church, don’t you?”

The priest fixed stern eyes on us both as he said these words.

“It is forever. There is NO divorce here.”

I tried to sneak a look a J, but he was staring straight ahead. Poker face. I had a sudden and terrible urge to laugh.

I didn’t expect it to be like this – the filing of our wedding paper work.

It was the second time we’d tried to do it, at the parish office which was handily five minutes walk from our house.

The first time had been comical. We’d turned up with the priest who was going to marry us, and he’d presented us to the priest in charge of the office.

“These two people are in love, and they want to get married,” he said, sweeping his arm towards us grandly.

“So?” asked the office priest.

“They want to file their paper work,” said our clergyman, looking a little puzzled.


“Well, and nothing, that’s it.”

The office priest looked at us like we were all idiots.

“But they need two witnesses!” he said.

Turns out we were idiots.

Well we were back with our two testigos. Sarah – one of my best friends in Madrid – and Chucho – J’s fishing partner. And there was also baby Nikko – their cute little seven month old son. He cheered up the office priest no end.

So while Nikko munched through several rice cakes, unceremoniously spilling crumbs on the floor, we handed over our birth and baptism certificates and told him the info he needed to fill in the form.

Which was pretty slow going – but we got there – a good 40 minutes later.

Then came the moment when he sent Sarah and Chucho out of the room, telling them that he needed to see if we would “pass the exam”

I started to panic. What was this? Was he going to test us on the stations of the cross? The names of the disciples? Or ask me my favourite bits from the bible? This was going to end badly.

But no. He was just going to give us a good talking to on the seriousness of the lifelong vow we were going to make.

We happily told him that, yes – we understood perfectly. We were ready, we were legally able to marry and we came freely – no one was obligating us to get married.

Then it hit me – this man was the only person who had given us a talking to about the lifelong commitment that is marriage – a warning, if you like.

Probably he would be the only person who did so.

Is that because we’ve been together for a long time (well, six years at least, known each other for nine) or because we’re a bit older? Or is it because we’re so made for each other that no-one thinks we need a warning – it was obvious we would get married and live happily ever after?

I like the last option, myself.

In any case, we passed the test, so the priest called our witnesses in one by one to talk to them. I started to get nervous again.

They weren’t married. Would he care about that? Would he find out Sarah was divorced and call the whole thing off?

I needn’t have worried. He didn’t ask Sarah if she’d been married in the past, so she didn’t tell him. In fact, the priest assumed she was married to Chucho, on account of baby Nikko (That tends to happen a lot in Spain, she says.)

Not missing a beat, she informed him they weren’t married, and added: “but don’t worry, we can fix that in the future.” What a pro.

Before I knew it, everything was signed off, and we were one step closer to being married.

And J didn’t run for the hills after the priest’s stern words. Not even a tiny wobble. Well not on the outside, anyway.

Jan 11

Red tape nightmare

So, venue – check. Date – check. Church – check. And there I was giving myself a big pat on the back for being so organised. Then one question from my friend Suze suddenly had me in a blind panic.

“So, have you sorted out, or looked into sorting out the paperwork yet?” she asked me.

red-tape.jpgEr, not exactly. Not at all, in fact. She only inquired because she was originally planning on getting married in Spain, but after doing some investigation realised it would be a lot easier and cheaper to get hitched in England. She wanted to warn me.

Well a ceremony in the UK is not an option for me, not at this stage in the game. We’re already too far down the planning line now to change countries! So I’m just going to have to dive right in to figuring out what paperwork I need. But really, I have a headache already after just dipping my toe in.

I love living in Spain, I really do. But what I hate is the endless lists of forms and official documents you have to fill out just to have the right to exist. If you’re missing just one then the whole thing comes crashing down around your head like a red tape nightmare.

A quick look at the Madrid British Embassy’s website confirmed my suspicions – this is going to be a total nightmare.

Of the seven documents that I will most probably have to show in order to legally marry my beloved, I have not one. Not even my birth certificate will be good, as I need to get it re issued, “legalised” (basically send off to the legalisation office where it is magically made legal during a mysterious process lasting four to six weeks) and translated.

I also need to swear an oath that I’m single and free to marry, have that made into a certificate, and in order to get that there a further list of about six documents I need to provide.

And of course all this costs money and will probably involve lots of waiting around, if past experiences are anything to go by. I had to wait in a queue for six hours to get my identity card three years ago. Still not quite recovered from that experience.

No one talks about this stuff. They talk about how tricky it is to finalise your guestlist, or the trials and tribulations of finding the perfect dress or venue. But nothing about the paperwork. Maybe it’s because it’s the most boring aspect of getting married. Or maybe it’s because it’s not that complicated if you’re a British person getting hitched in Britain.

One thing’s for sure, I’m going to make sure I do it right. Imagine going through the whole thing then finding your wedding had no legal status. That would be a disaster.

As Suze said, it’s best to get the boring crap out of the way now, then I can get on with the fun stuff.

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