Gibraltar, the love nest where foreigners get married in the pandemic...

Gibraltar, the love nest where foreigners get married in the pandemic...
Gibraltar, the love nest where foreigners get married in the pandemic...

Brazilian photographer Bruno Miani never thought of visiting Gibraltar. Until the pandemic thwarted his plans to marry his girlfriend in Dublin, where they live.

With the Irish government offices and agencies closed due to the restrictions resulting from the virus, Bruno and his girlfriend Natalia Senna Alves de Lima, also Brazilian, were unable to gather the documents necessary to get married there.

The waiting time to get a place for his ceremony was announced as unbearable.

The couple then embarked on a low-cost flight to Malaga and, from there, traveled by bus to Gibraltar, British territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. They managed to get married on Tuesday, at the local civil registry office, in front of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II of England.

“The quickest way to get married now is to go to Gibraltar,” said Miani, 40, eyes watering with emotion, when the official declared them husband and wife.

“We love each other very much. We have already lived together as a couple. But now it is official,” he celebrated.

The Gibraltar administration requires minimal bureaucracy to formalize the union and, for the time being, there are no border restrictions. This combination caused the number of marriages to skyrocket in times of pandemic.

Couples just need to present their passport and birth certificate and spend a night in the enclave, on the Spanish border, before or after the wedding. With the Gibraltar certificate in hand, simply register the marriage in your country of residence.

Organizers confirm that foreign demand has skyrocketed.

“It’s crazy. We can’t handle shifts and spaces” for celebration, says Leanne Hindle, director of the agency Marry Abroad Simply (“Get married abroad easily”, in free translation).

“Heartbreaking”

Often, the partners who are getting married in Gibraltar are people of different nationalities, who maintained a long-distance relationship and, because of travel restrictions in the pandemic, could not travel to each other’s country to get married and start a relationship. new life. And there is often an element of pressure.

It is the story, for example, of a couple, whose insurance did not cover the expensive fertility treatment needed to have a child, as they are not officially married, Hindle says.

Another common scene is that of couples in which one of them receives a job offer in another country and can take the partner along only if he is legally married, adds Hindle.

All of these cases “break your heart” just by listening, says Hindle.

Scott Gerow, a 41-year-old American, married this month a 44-year-old Russian woman in the picturesque botanical garden of Gibraltar. The couple met in January in St. Petersburg, where Gerow was working.

When he had to return to the United States in June, they found themselves removed by travel restrictions, which prevented them from visiting their respective countries. Now, married, his beloved can go with him to the United States.

If it weren’t for Gibraltar, “we would still be doing video conferences every day,” says Gerow.

Gibraltar is also attracting many couples from neighboring Spain, because the rules on wearing masks in public and the number of people allowed to meet are less stringent, explains Resham Mahtani, a marriage planner at Rock Occasions.

By way of comparison, in Andalusia, a Spanish region on the border with Gibraltar, authorized private meetings are limited to six people, against 16 allowed in the British enclave.

“A place of love”

Most couples who arrive from afar get married without family members due to travel expenses. Many use computers and cell phones to broadcast the ceremony live to their loved ones.

“We were alone, away from my friends and family. It was very difficult,” said Liza Ursini, a 57-year-old Canadian nurse who traveled to Gibraltar in October to marry an Andalusian from Seville.

After the ceremony, he was able to travel to her city, in the province of Québec, to live together.

The ease of getting married in Gibraltar became famous when John Lennon married Yoko Ono there in 1969, after a series of obstacles in other countries.

The event was immortalized in a photo of the couple in front of the Rock of Gibraltar and in the Beatles song “The Ballad of John and Yoko”.

In view of the growing demand, the British enclave increased the daily number of weddings scheduled in its small registry, as well as the external spaces available for celebrations.

The chief minister of the territory, Fabian Picardo, told AFP that he is “very happy that Gibraltar has become popular because it is a place of love, not of division”.

For those who need to “make this romantic bond official and legal, Gibraltar is the place”, he adds, smiling.

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