Formalizing a marriage
In Estonia, marriage is contracted between an adult man and woman. 15–17-year-old minors may enter into contract of marriage if a court has extended their active legal capacity for contracting marriage and granted permission for contracting marriage.
Adults with restricted active legal capacity may enter into contract of marriage if they understand the legal consequences of marriage. This shall be written in a regulation with which a guardian has been appointed to them. Entering into contract of marriage is not allowed if one of the persons is already married; if the persons are of the same sex; direct blood relatives in descending or ascending line; siblings and half siblings, adoptive parents and adopted children and children adopted by one person. A church, minister of religion of a congregation or association of congregations may refuse contracting a marriage if a prospective spouse does not correspond to the religious requirements for contracting marriage that are valid in that church, congregation or association of congregations.
Submitting the documents
If the marriage is contracted in Estonia, it is carried out pursuant to the Estonian law, irrespective of the citizenship and state of residence of the prospective spouse. In order to enter into contract of marriage, the man and woman shall submit a joint written application at the vital statistics office or by a notary or minister of religion who is authorised to contract a marriage.
State fee shall be paid for entering into contract of marriage at the vital statistics office and by a minister of religion. Entering into contract of marriage by a notary is exempt from state fees; however, notary fees, plus value added tax shall be paid. Vital statistics offices competent to contract a marriage are county governments and the Tallinn vital statistics office.
In order to enter into contract of marriage, prospective spouses shall submit the following documents to the notary or county government (in Tallinn, the vital statistics office):
- a written joint application (pdf 129 KB):
- identity documents
- birth records if the birth data of a prospective spouse is not in the population register
- for persons who have been married before, certificate or documentation of the divorce, court judgement of the divorce, death certificate (or documentation) of the spouse or court judgement of marriage annulment
- if necessary, court ruling regarding the extension of active legal capacity of a prospective spouse who is a minor
- if necessary, a document verifying the removal of another obstacle to enter into contract of marriage
- certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage (submitted by the county government or Estonian consular officer in the area where the marriage is contracted) if the place of residence of a prospective spouse is abroad or they have lived in Estonia for less than six months
- document verifying the legality of stay in Estonia of a foreigner if they are not a citizen of the European Union or their family member
- document verifying the payment of state fee.
Documents submitted to the vital statistics offices shall be in Estonian, Russian or English. If the documents are translated, the translation shall be conducted by a sworn translator or certified. A foreign document which is the basis for a marriage entry shall be legalised or authenticated by a certificate (apostille), unless otherwise prescribed by an international agreement.
Upon entering into contract of marriage, a person may choose a new surname or keep the current surname. The new surname may:
- be a common surname with the spouse (surname which was last borne by one of the spouses before marriage)
- consist of a surname that was last borne before the marriage, followed by hyphenated surname of their spouse.
Generally, a marriage shall not be contracted earlier than one month and later than three months from the date on which the prospective spouses submitted an application for marriage to a vital statistics office. A vital statistics official may with good reason shorten or extend the term for up to six months.
The marriage is considered contracted immediately after the prospective spouses answer “yes”. Marriage data are entered into the population register. A marriage certificate shall be issued, if the prospective spouses so desire. This can be ordered from the service of State Portal, Release of certificate regarding vital statistics event.
When submitting the application to enter into contract of marriage, the prospective spouses shall choose, whether their proprietary relationship shall be subject to the jointness of property, the set-off of assets increment or separateness of property regulation. If the prospective spouses do not express their choice, the jointness of property regulation shall be considered their choice. If the prospective spouses choose the set-off of assets increment or separateness of property as their proprietary relationship, the vital statistics office shall forward the corresponding application along with the application for entry to the marital property register. Then, a register card of marital property is opened and the spouses are notified of this by the marital register.