(Updated January 4, 2018)
Can I get married legally in Costa Rica?
In this article you’ll find the three steps you need to get married legally in Costa Rica. Basically they are:
- Contact a legal officiant beforehand.
- Bring your passport.
- Have two witnesses
When somebody mentions the dreaded words ‘legal’ and ‘requirements’ in the same sentence oftentimes your eyes glaze over and the headache-on-the-horizon alert goes off.
Luckily for those wanting to host their special day in an exotic location in beautiful Costa Rica the legal requirements are relatively painless and not too difficult to satisfy.
This is fantastic news! You want your destination wedding to be relaxing and enjoyable, like the exotic vacation that it is.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 3 easy steps you should take to get married legally in Costa Rica.
1. Contact an officiant beforehand.
Contact an officiant well before your wedding date. Although the process isn’t too complicated keep in mind that this isn’t Vegas, you can’t just show up in country with your passport in hand and ask to get married.
The good news is that finding an officiant isn’t difficult. You can contact one directly yourself. Or an easier route is through the venue or hotel you are planning to use. Most will have an on-site officiant or can recommend and contact one for you.
Most destination weddings in Costa Rica are performed by lawyers as that is the easiest option in this country.
If you have your heart set on a church wedding it is possible to arrange one as the country is 90% Roman Catholic. However, keep in mind that there may be other requirements such as pre-marriage classes etc.
To a lesser degree you can find Christian pastors but if you follow another religion such as Buddhism, Islam, or Judaism it would be a good idea to bring your own officiant. Whichever of these options you choose you will still have to contact a Costa Rican lawyer to handle the paperwork for you. The only religious officiants recognized in Costa Rica are priests in the Catholic church.
2. Bring the right documents.
Bringing the right documents in most cases is a cinch. All you really need to get married is your passport and since you can’t even get into the country without one, you should be covered.
Note that you cannot use driver’s licenses or social security numbers for ID. For a foreigner in Costa Rica a passport is the only valid form.
Generally your officiant will send you a form that asks for all your basic information, personal data, occupation, names of the parents of the bride and groom, etc. This information should be provided to your officiant at least a couple weeks before your wedding date.
If you have been married before you can bring a copy of a divorce or death decree or you can simply make a sworn statement that you are no longer married.
Note: In Costa Rica there is an archaic law that if a woman is divorced for less than 300 days she either must wait the requisite time period or submit two doctor’s opinions showing that she is not pregnant.
3. Have two witnesses.
You will need at least two witnesses for the ceremony. If you’re coming to Costa Rica with an entourage this requirement won’t be difficult at all.
Your two chosen witnesses will just need to provide basic name and contact information and their passport. Keep in mind that witnesses cannot be related to you to the third degree. This would be extend to first cousins, great-grandparents and the like.
Your best friend, however, should do the trick! Even if you’ve decided to come to Costa Rica alone, you don’t have to worry. Some hotels and venues can provide witnesses for you.
And that’s it! A pretty painless process. This could very well the easiest part of your exotic destination wedding to organize. You’ll probably spend more time picking out a suit and agonizing over how to do the bride’s hair.
Afterwards the lawyer will register your documents with the Civil Registry of Costa Rica. Once the marriage certificate is translated and authenticated by the Consulate in your country of residence you will receive the documents at the address you provided to the officiant. Usually takes about 12 weeks to receive that paperwork.
Check out my Ultimate Guide for Getting Married in Costa Rica for more tips on getting hitched in this amazing country!