Is a Marriage in a Foreign Embassy in the UK valid in the UK?

May 23rd 2024

Case Study: Salim and Habiba got married at the Moroccan Consulate in London in accordance with Moroccan law 5 years ago. Habiba came to see us as she is uncertain if the marriage which took place at the Moroccan Consulate is legally recognised in the UK. 

You would be forgiven if you thought Habiba’s marriage would be legally recognised in the UK however surprisingly this is not the case! The confusion may stem from the fact that a foreign marriage will be recognised as legal marriage in England and Wales if:

  • it complies with the laws of the country in which it took place; and
  • both spouses had mental and other capacity to enter the marriage and consented to the marriage.

Marriages conducted within a Consulate or Embassy, however, are not approached in the same way. 

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 established and defined the status of foreign Embassies and Consulates together with the rights and duties of the sending and receiving states. The Treaty established that these offices are not to be treated as extraterritorial or foreign land in the host state. 

Whilst Habiba’s marriage would be recognised as a valid marriage in Morocco, a marriage ceremony conducted in England and Wales, but not in accordance with the Marriage Act 1949 will not be recognised as a valid marriage in England and Wales. As the marriage took place within the jurisdiction of England and Wales, Habiba’s marriage must comply with the laws and procedure of English law in order to be recognised.  

Recognition of your marriage in England and Wales is important as it may impact matters such as parental responsibility of children, financial claims on the breakdown of the relationship, rights to certain benefits, tax, immigration etc…

If you are thinking about getting married at a foreign Embassy or Consulate you may also want to consider following this up with an English civil ceremony so that the marriage is recognised in England and Wales. 

If you would like advice on any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Irrum Shah, Solicitor in our Family Law Department on 01295 204154, or by email at