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Legal Ceremony Marriage Requirements

The first question your wedding concierge will ask you when you begin planning for your special day is if you wish to have a Symbolic, Legal, or Catholic ceremony. Budget and personal preferences sway wedding couples one way or the other. Most importantly, legal requirements vary by destination, so review the differences before your heart is set on a particular one. The key is to follow the laws of the country where you are getting married to avoid any issues.

Mexico

All civil marriages that take place in Mexico under Mexican law are completely legal in Mexico. Extranjeros, or foreigners, marrying in Mexico must legalize their marriage in their country of birth/residence by applying for their Marriage License at their local City Hall, or the city or town clerk’s office before the wedding. Licenses are valid for specific time periods, from 10 days to 6 months, so it’s important to call and ask when you should apply.

You will most likely need the following documents:

  • Birth certificates
  • Proof of citizenship and/or residence
  • Photo IDs
  • Parent consent if underage (you may also need court consent)
  • Death certificate if widowed
  • Divorce decree if divorced
  • Blood test results (if required by your state)

Legal ceremonies in Mexico are performed by a Justice of the Peace that will be assigned by the Mexican Government, in Spanish and typically translated simultaneously in English by one of the hotel’s onsite coordinators. Depending on the hotel, you will be required to arrive in destination 3-4 days prior to the wedding date, not including the day of arrival, national holidays, or Sundays (some hotels do not include Saturdays) to ensure there is enough time to process the paperwork. Although the documentation that is required is a standard across Mexico, specific requirements, like when and if the documents need to be sent to the hotel prior to arrival or simply presented to the onsite coordinator when onsite, will vary by hotel.

The required documents include:

  • Valid Passports are mandatory to conduct a legal ceremony in Mexico. (And also to travel there from the U.S.)
  • Tourist Cards are provided to all foreigners on the plane prior to arrival into Cancun’s International Airport, and names must be the same on the tourist cards AND passports.
  • (4) Witnesses are required to arrive 3-4 business days, not including the day of arrival, national holidays, or Sundays, prior to the ceremony date in order to complete the document process, and they must be 18 years of age or older in order to be considered a witness. If you do not have 4 witnesses, your hotel of choice will either provide witnesses for you at no additional cost, or a small fee per witness. Witnesses are required to attend your onsite wedding meeting in order to complete and submit the required documentation.
  • Health Certificate is required by Mexican laws for all legal wedding ceremonies. Blood tests are conducted to determine blood type, HIV, and STD status, and must be taken at the resort. Results are sent directly to the registry office, and if the medical results return positive, the wedding couple would be required to sign consent forms stating they are aware of the positive results and consent to legal marriage. The additional costs for the health certificate vary by resort, if you are interested in a legal ceremony, please ask your wedding concierge for additional details.
  • Birth Certificates are needed for names of your parents to appear on your Legal Wedding Certificate. Original birth certificates of the Bride and Groom must be provided with an Apostille Stamp and official translation in Spanish from the country of origin. If you do not require your parents’ names to appear on your Legal Wedding Certificate, the parent’s names will be omitted.
  • Divorce Certificates If the Groom is divorced, no additional documentation is needed. If the Bride is divorced, and her passport is under her maiden name, no additional documentation is needed. If the Bride is divorced (at least 1 year must have passed before she can remarry), the Official Copy of the Divorce Certificate, the Certificate to have an Apostille Stamp and translation into Spanish is required. If the Bride is divorced and her passport is under her ex-husband’s last name, then she must present her Birth Certificate and Divorce Certificate with an Apostille Stamp and translated into Spanish by an official translator. The name that is on her passport is the name which will be used on the Legal Marriage Certificate. If a Bride or Groom’s former spouse is deceased, an official Death Certificate is required with an Apostille Stamp and translated into Spanish by an official translator.

Dominican Republic

Judges to perform legal ceremonies in the Dominican Republic are very limited, and because of this, a majority of hotels will initially reserve weddings as a Symbolic ceremony and confirm your wedding date closer to the time of departure with a Judge. If the Judge is not available on your wedding date at the right time, the legal paperwork may be done at a separate time during your stay and will not have any effect on your ceremony. Legal Weddings are celebrated in Spanish, but a majority of hotels can provide translators upon request, or may even include them in your Wedding Package. It is required to arrive 3 full business days prior to the Wedding date to complete all necessary paperwork. All documentation (except passports) is required to be translated and legalized by the Dominican Embassy or Consulate in your home country:

  • Couples Certified Declaration of Single Status cannot be valid for more than three months prior to your intended wedding date.
  • Birth Certificates
  • Absolute Divorce Decree; if either party has been divorced, then proof of absolute divorce decree is required with a court stamp. If the Bride has been divorced, then the absolute divorce decree must have been issued at least 10 months prior to the intended wedding date. This is not applicable if the tables are turned for gentlemen.
  • Photocopy of Couple’s and (2) Witnesses’ passport. Witnesses cannot be blood-related family members. If you do not have witnesses, the hotel will provide them.
  • In case of Widow/Widower, a death certificate of the ceased spouse is required with a copy of the Wedding Certificate.
  • Name Change Document, if your name has been changed (including divorcees who had reverted back to maiden name).

The documents should be legalized by the Dominican Consulate 3 months prior to the wedding date. The Judge will register the Wedding Certificate at the Central Civil Board, and this is typically sent by the hotel of choice up to 90 days after the wedding date.

Jamaica

Naturally, it’s a breeze to conduct a Legal ceremony in Jamaica. If you want to avoid the hassle of additional paperwork, Spanish translations, blood tests, or length of stay requirements, Jamaica is the perfect destination for you! Even though by law wedding couples only need to be in the island 24 hours prior to the ceremony, a majority of hotels recommend couples to come at least 3 days in advance so they can meet with the onsite wedding coordinator and walk through all of the wedding details, but that is entirely up to you.

Unlike in Mexico, Legal marriages in Jamaica can be performed by a Non-Denominational Minister and will be considered Civil/Legal. If you would prefer to be legally married by a Marriage Officer recognized by the Jamaican Government, you must apply for a Minister’s License ahead of time that the hotel will process on your behalf. Below is a list of documents that are required to apply for this License:

  • Notarized copies of the Bride and Groom’s birth certificates, which must include Father’s name.
  • Notarized copies of Bride and Groom’s official ID (Passports)
  • Notarized copies of divorce decrees or death certificates (if applicable)

It’s important that all documents are in English, and that they are sent to the onsite wedding coordinator at least 4 weeks prior to your arrival. We highly recommend using a private courier, FedEx or UPS. After the ceremony, you will receive a copy of the Marriage Certificate that the Marriage Officer will take to the Registrar General in Montego Bay to obtain the Official Marriage Certificate. The certified copy of your Marriage License is not the official Marriage certificate, but it can be used for changes to your social security, bank accounts, living wills, insurance policies, credit cards, drivers licenses, automobile insurance, mortgages, internal revenue service, passport and voter’s registration. The process to receive the Official Marriage Certificate takes anywhere from 1-3 months, and will be mailed to you (additional charges will vary). Remember to let your onsite wedding coordinator know if you need certified copies after the wedding, to be on the safe side.

US Virgin Islands

If your dream wedding is in St Thomas, St John, or St Croix, it’s very simple to have a legal ceremony. There are no physical examinations, length of stay restrictions, blood tests, or translations required, but you must obtain a USVI Marriage License. Your license applications must reach the courthouse at least 8 days prior to the wedding date, and we recommend sending them at least 30 days prior.

Necessary Documents:

  • Application for Marriage License
  • License & Certificate of Marriage
  • $200 fee ($100 application fee, $100 license fee)
  • An informal note with the following information: phone number, the day you plan on picking up the license, your wedding date and location

Send both forms, certified decrees if applicable, your informal note, along with $200 Monday Order or Certified Check made out to the Superior Court, by Priority Mail (get tracking but not signature confirmation, no one will be there to sign and it may come back to you). Once you arrive on the island, you and your fiancé will need to visit the court house to pick up your license, and then you can get legally married!

Following the ceremony, your minister and two witnesses will sign several copies of the license. One of the copies will need to be returned to the court house to receive the official stamp. It will take up to one month to have your final paperwork in the mail. If you know you will need your official license immediately for naming changing purposes or insurance, you may go back to the court house yourself to retrieve the final paperwork.

Contact your wedding concierge today with additional questions or concerns you may have about a legal ceremony in your desired destination at the hotel of your choice!

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