Marriage Between Foreigners in China

Information on the marriage process for two foreigners wanting to have their wedding in China...

As procedures can vary across China, it is always necessary to check with the Marriage Bureau or local authority where the marriage is due to take place regarding the exact requirements and procedures. Chinese law allows two foreigners to marry, provided at least one of them has a valid Chinese residency visa. The marriage should be registered at the place where the residency permit was issued. The following documents are required:

  • A current passport
  • A Chinese residency permit or visa
  • A health certificate from a local approved hospital
  • Three photographs of the marrying couple taken together
  • The registration fee
  • A Certificate of Marriageability

If neither of the couple intending to get married is a Chinese resident or citizen, they are not allowed to get married in China. It is still possible for foreigners to have a wedding ceremony or a party in China, but the legal aspect of the marriage should take place elsewhere and the marriage certificate (translated into Chinese) should be brought to China.

Marriage ceremonies for foreigners

There are normally two or three steps for foreigners getting married in China, which are:

  1. The legal element, which can only be completed by the officials at the Civil Affairs Bureau.
  2. A wedding ceremony. This can be a traditional Chinese ceremony, a non-religious traditional-style ceremony related to a particular region or ethnic group, or a religious ceremony. China has full religious tolerance and given the number of ethnic groups in China, there is considerable variety in terms of wedding ceremonies.
  3. 3. A party. This is essentially a banquet like the Western-style reception where friends and relatives of the married couple are invited to celebrate the marriage. The wedding party normally includes a meal and speeches; however, there are not normally wedding vows.

Changing Name after Marriage

It is not usual for Chinese women to change their surnames after marriage. Legally their name often remains the same, but they may be addressed as Mrs with husband's family name, despite not formally taking his name.