There are No Shortcuts to a Legal Marriage

photo by Michelle DeBakey

I received an email the other day from a groom looking for help after his officiant/”planner” backed out on him at the last minute. I’d never heard of this “officiant” living in  a remote beach town so I honestly could not say I was surprised that this guy had flaked out at the last minute. It’s a pretty small country and even smaller wedding industry so anyone who is serious is known. The unfortunate fact of living in Paradise is that there are a lot of folks here who are less than reliable and professional. But I digress…

The groom forwarded me the email from the officiant where he outlined his services and what the couple needed to provide for the ceremony. In a nutshell, he told them to get a marriage license from their local courthouse and explain that they were marrying outside of the courthouse “at the location of their choosing”, bring the license to Costa Rica, he would marry them and sign the license, they’d turn it back into the courthouse when they returned to the US and (I quote here) “walla (sic), you’re legally married.”

Um, just a minute there, cowboy. While it sounds like it’s an easy-peasy way to get legally hitched, the truth of the matter is…it ain’t. By a long shot. When you acquire a marriage license from State X, you are legally bound to marry in State X. Having your wedding in a ‘location of your choosing outside of the court house’ does not mean heading over to State Y, Z or C or to Bora Bora or anywhere else (nice try with semantics). If you are legally marrying in the State of Texas, you have to follow their rules and regulations. Likewise if you’re marrying in the Province of Ontario, the State of Oaxaca in Mexico or in the country of Costa Rica. There are no shortcuts.

Quite simply what this ‘officiant’ is telling couples to do is perjury, willfully telling an untruth to a court (or a government agency) after taking an oath or affirmation. Isn’t that a lovely way to start off your married life together? I’m not even going to touch the whole being found out by the State issue as you can let your imagination run wild with that one.

The purpose of my little rant here folks, is to be careful out there. There are people always looking for shortcuts and a quick way to turn a buck. You have two choices for marrying in Costa Rica:

1) have a legal wedding ceremony with a Costa Rican lawyer present who then files all the paperwork

2) go to your local City Hall or courthouse to file your legal marriage license and have a spiritual (non-legal) ceremony here in Costa Rica presided by whomever you want

That’s it. There are no other options and if anyone tells you otherwise…well, let’s just remember our flakey “officiant” at the beach and leave it there.

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