Today we’ve got a very special interview with our friend and talented destination wedding planner, Aimee Monihan of Tropical Occasions in Costa Rica. Aimee and her team have been planning weddings in Costa Rica for over ten years. They’ve seen it all! So, before you wed in this magical country, take a few tips from them about how to do it legally and of course, while having the most fun with your friends and family!
JF: What is one thing couples should know about Costa Rica that they may not before they book?
AM: We have 2 seasons in Costa Rica (high and low season). In the low season rains are common in afternoon and at times erratic and heavy tropical rains can come out of nowhere. So being prepared with a rain plan and or tent is necessary during the months of Mid April – November (in the dense Rainforest areas a rain plan is necessary year round).
Also, Costa Rica is also still under Catholic rule. So any holiday that is celebrated by Catholics is a very good time to avoid having an event in Costa Rica. We will not even attempt to plan during holy week- week leading up to Easter as well as Christmas week. These times of year vendors are not really willing to work, and if they are their suppliers are not working or services are just not up to par with the level of weddings and events we produce so we suggest to avoid these times of year no matter what.
JF: If you want to get married in Costa Rica, what are the legal requirements in order to do so?
AM: There are only 2 ways in which a legal wedding can take place. Either via the Catholic Church and presided by a Costa Rican Catholic Priest (which means your ceremony will be in Spanish) both bride and groom must be Catholic and follow all protocol and paperwork through church for this to happen. The other way is a civil wedding presided by a Costa Rican lawyer (they can either perform ceremony or witness it). This is the easiest way and consists of the couple as well as 2 witnesses sending very basic data from Date of Birth, full name, occupation, parents names, city of birth, as well a copy of a government issued ID, so a passport in most cases.
There is no time frame that they must be in country, they can literally walk off plane and get married. The day of the actual ceremony, the information sent is put into a sworn statement and couple signs this and lawyer then files their paperwork with the National Registry. Then once marriage license is recorded and sent to the lawyer, they must translate it to English and have it authenticated by the couple’s countries Consulate, then mailed to the couple. There is only one rule that continues to prohibit a legal wedding and that is if the woman getting married has been divorced less than 300 days – it is an archaic law that still exists to this day.
JF: If these requirements are too much for a couple or they can’t meet them, what do you suggest?
AM: We actually suggest to a lot of our clients to not do a legal ceremony in Costa Rica as it is a significant savings – close to $1,000. As well the time it takes to receive back your wedding certificate can at times be long. When the civil registry is backed up it can be several months of waiting for the license to arrive.
We have many types of ceremony celebrants from simple non legal celebrants to every known religious officiate. Many clients choose to have a family friend or relative oversee the ceremony, while others bring a spiritual advisor or family known (priest, Rabbi, Maharaj). We like this idea as it gives the ceremony even more personalization as the one doing the ceremony knows the couple well and can personalize it even more.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Aimee on the blog tomorrow! To check out more of her amazing work, visit TropicalOccasions.com.