Getting Legally Married in Costa Rica

Here’s a question we run across a lot – what are the requirements to legally marry in Costa Rica? There is a lot of misinformation swirling out there on the internet so here is the scoop…

What paperwork is required? Any wedding outside of a Catholic Church here in Costa Rica must have a lawyer present and file the paperwork to the Civil Registry. If you are working with a lawyer who specializes in weddings, the process will be very straightforward and easy.

The lawyer sends you a simple questionnaire a month before the wedding, asking you questions such as your parents’ names, your date of birth, profession and address. If you’ve been divorced, you’ll be asked for the date and court that gave the decree. If you’re widowed, you’ll need to provide the date of their passing. This is then sent back with scans of your passport (the pages with your info and photo). They need a clean copy (so no faxes, only scans). Two witnesses are also required (these cannot be  family members) and they’re names and passport numbers will be required. The lawyer prepares all the paperwork and will have you sign an affidavit in which you legally swear you are free to marry.This affidavit precludes you having to get a civil status certificate certified by the Costa Rican embassy in your home country (major hassle – I speak from experience!).

You may see on some websites that women divorced less than 300 days from the new wedding date must have a pregnancy test. This archaic law was tossed out two years ago (finally!).

That’s it! The lawyer will prepare the documents using the information you’ve sent and all you’ll need to do is sign the papers at the wedding ceremony.

Is the marriage legal in other countries? Yes. After the lawyer registers the marriage in the Civil Registry here (which can take up to 90 days), they will have it translated and authenticated by your country’s embassy here in Costa Rica. Then, it’s mailed to your home and you take the paperwork to your local Vital Statistics office (or equivalent) to have your marriage abroad registered in your country. But from the moment you sign the paperwork in Costa Rica, you are legally married.

Does a lawyer have to perform the ceremony? No. As Costa Rica is a Catholic country, any marriage outside of a Church must have a lawyer present and fill out all the paperwork (if you are married in the Church, the priest can do the paperwork). You can have a pastor, a Rabbi, a family friend perform the ceremony, as long as the lawyer is present and witnesses it. The wedding lawyers have a variety of wedding ceremonies to choose from and most will work with you to personalize it. Any lawyer can perform a wedding but our experiences over the years have left us willing to work with only three lawyers for weddings so be choosy about whom will be handling your paperwork.

Are there any blood tests reqired? No.

Is there a waiting period? Unlike other countries, there is no requirement to be on Costa Rican soil XX number of days before you can marry. You can literally walk off the plane and marry if you wanted (although the airport is not the most romantic locale).

Can I marry in the Catholic Church? Yes but it’s a huge hassle. The reality is that the Church here does not want to marry non-parishoners. They do not understand why couples would want to marry in Costa Rica rather than their home parish. In short, they are not interested in destination weddings. And they will not conduct a ceremony outside of a Church (so no beach weddings). We at Weddings Costa Rica will not work with the Church on trying to plan a Catholic wedding  but we are able to offer a blessing from a Catholic priest at the ceremony but he will not be able to perform an actual wedding mass.

So there you have it in a nutshell, folks. Getting legally married in Costa Rica is a straightforward process and one that you can personalize to make it all you want.

Photo by Lifetime Digital

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