The Red Tape of Getting Married in Turkey as a Foreign Senior Citizen
Some years after losing my wife to cancer, a friend introduced me to a Turkish woman named Gulden. She had lost her husband to cancer, so we both shared the same unfortunate experience. After meeting and having a good talk, we found we were quite similar in our outlook on life. We were also both seeking a genuine long-term relationship. There is nothing unusual about this type of situation, except that we were both in our later years in life. At the time of our first contact, I was 71 years old, with her being 69. This, however, was no barrier for our initial feelings of friendship, which swiftly turned into one of love. Neither did the fact that I lived down on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, and Gulden lived in Istanbul. She later came down to look after me after I had a sudden heart problem. After spending a week together, we realized our friendship had turned to one of love. We spent many hours talking about everything in our lives, until we knew everything about each other.
On the day we were going to the airport for Gulden’s flight back to Istanbul, we called in at the hospital for me to have a check-up. While standing waiting to pay my bill I suddenly collapsed, hitting my head as I fell, which caused a large cut in my head. With blood flowing from the wound, staff quickly rushed me to emergency, with Gulden following behind in a state of shock. Although she wanted to stay and look after me, due to prior arrangements she had to return to Istanbul. During the next week of my being in hospital, we talked on the phone every day for long periods. Two days after my release from hospital, I flew up to Istanbul to stay with Gulden. Thanks to her loving care and attention, I made a full recovery from my illness. In the meantime, we became even closer and were the happiest we had been for some time. Within a month, we were engaged, and started to make plans to get married. However, due to me being English, this was not as easy as we had expected. First, I had to go to the British Consulate to post our marriage banns. This we would have had to do if we had decided to marry in England instead of in Turkey. At the Consulate, I filled in a few forms and paid £65. Next, we went to the local marriage office to find out what, as a foreigner, I had to do before we could get married.
I was shocked when informed we would both have to have an AIDS and tuberculosis test. Evidently, this is compulsory for anyone planning to getting married in Turkey. The week before our planned wedding date, an official translator accompanied us to the hospital for our tests. Upon going to a specified hospital one morning, we had the tests done along with various other blood checks. In the afternoon we collected our result, and we were informed we were OK. The following day we took our x-rays and medical report to the marriage office. As I did not speak Turkish, I had to have a translator present. On receiving our signed reports, along with the translator, we took them to a Noter (Notary). Here Gulden had arranged for an Avukat (lawyer) to meet us. After having the necessary papers prepared with the translator explaining what it said, I signed them. While talking with the Noter, he told us we would need a sanity report taken on the day of our marriage. Evidently, if one is over 65years old, you have to take a test to prove you are sane. Under Turkish law, you must pass the test before permission to marry is granted. I knew from previously talking to a lawyer about making a Turkish willthat I would have to take this test for the will. This in a way I could understand. To have to prove we were sane before allowed to be married was just unbelievable.
However, as it was law, we had no choice in the matter. Both of us were quite concerned about passing the test, as we had no idea as to what it involved.
After waiting the statutory three weeks, we returned to the Consulate where I collected a letter stating I was free to marry (as long as the reports came back fine). After receiving the form translated into Turkish, I paid another £65. I then had to go to the Vali, (Govenor of Istanbul) to get the paper signed and stamped, which we then did.
The week before our planned wedding, we went and took the sanity test. After receiving the results, we took them to the marriage office. We were shocked and dismayed when informed the report was deemed unacceptable. Only a Devlet (government) hospital could issue a report and not a private hospital, as we had done. The woman also informed us that we had to obtain the report on the very day we were getting married. Gulden then reminded her that our wedding was on a Saturday. She said we would have to take the test on the Friday, and inform the doctor our wedding was for the following day. This she said would not be a problem. We then made a confirmed booking to have the wedding ceremony at the Hilton hotel, where we had already booked for a cocktail reception party. After receiving a paper with our wedding date booked, we went upstairs where the manager signed the paper. While talking with him, Gulden asked if there would be any problem in our taking the sanity test the day before the wedding. Just as the woman downstairs had told us, he said it would not be a problem, we just had to ask them to write that the report is valid for the next day. This to us confirmed we would have no problems with our wedding plans.
We then learned that psychiatric hospitals are not permitted to sign a report valid for the following day. Reports were only valid for 24 hours. The Avukat then accompanied us to the marriage office where we had a talk with the manager. He repeated that the hospital should be able to mark the report valid for the following day. This the Avukat informed him was incorrect. On my being informed of this situation, I was far from pleased. I said that as we had already passed the sanity test, we should get married today. In this Gulden agreed. However, as the Noter had the original report and the marriage office would not accept a photocopy, this was impossible. In view of this, we decided to get married at the marriage office on Monday. Unfortunately, there was no time to change the date of the reception, or inform the guests invited for the wedding. Although it was certainly not what we wanted, our wedding would be on Monday, with the reception on Saturday.
Early on Monday morning we returned to the psychiatric hospital for another sanity report. The doctor was quite surprised to see us back. Upon explaining the situation and the fact we had taken the test a few days before, our tests were minimal. That afternoon one of Gulden’s daughters drove us to the marriage office. Here the translator, who I had been informed was necessary, accompanied us into the ceremony room. The woman conducting the ceremony asked me some questions, which after the translator explained what she had asked, I answered. Although it was a short ceremony with only the translator and Guldens daughter present, it went very well.
We were both very happy to be at last married. It had been a rather tiring and frustrating experience having to go from one place to another to get the necessary paperwork completed. Not only this, there was of course the cost involved of going to the various offices, hospitals etc. These included Consulate charges, doctors’ reports, lawyer, Notary and translator, plus, the cost of the marriage ceremony itself. One final cost was to return to the Consulate to have our wedding papers sent to England. This was necessary to get our marriage registered in England. Despite all this, both the wedding ceremony and reception went smoothly, and we are now happily married.
Do you have any experience getting married abroad as a foreigner? Where? How did it go? Please leave a comment and let us know your story!