Are you dreaming of getting married in a beautiful tropical setting? Costa Rica is an increasingly popular destination for couples seeking a unique and romantic wedding location. However, planning a wedding abroad can seem daunting, especially when navigating the legal requirements. That’s where a civil ceremony comes in! In this article, we’ll explore what a civil ceremony is, how it differs from a religious ceremony, and everything you need to know to get legally married in Costa Rica.

What is a Civil Ceremony, and How is it Different from a Religious One?

A civil ceremony is a non-religious, legally binding wedding ceremony. Unlike religious ceremonies, civil ceremonies do not involve religious rituals or readings. Instead, they are typically shorter and more straightforward. In Costa Rica, civil ceremonies are conducted by a Notary Public and are recognized as legally binding by the government. One of the main differences between civil and religious ceremonies in Costa Rica is that civil ceremonies are legally binding, while religious ceremonies are not unless the local Catholic Church administers them. This means that couples must have a civil ceremony before or after their religious ceremony to make their marriage legally valid in Costa Rica.

How to Get Married in Costa Rica: The Legal Requirements

To get married in Costa Rica, you must meet specific legal requirements. These include:

  • Both partners must be at least 18 years old.
  • Both partners must provide a birth certificate under six months old.
  • Both partners must provide a valid passport.
  • If either partner has been previously married, they must provide a divorce or death certificate.
  • Both partners must provide a notarized affidavit of single status stating that they are not currently married.
  • Both partners must be present at the time of the civil ceremony.

Once you have met these requirements, you can schedule your civil ceremony with a Notary Public. The legal formalities and signing of the paperwork typically take around 30 minutes, and you can hold your ceremony at the Notary Public’s office or another location of your choice. After your civil ceremony, the Government Registry (Registro Civil) will issue your marriage certificate within three weeks. This certificate will be legal in Costa Rica and most other countries.

How to Make Your Marriage Certificate Valid in the US or Canada

If you’re a Canadian or US citizen, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to ensure that your marriage certificate is recognized as legal in your home country. Specifically, you’ll need to:

  • Have your marriage certificate translated into English by an official translator approved and verified by the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
  • Have your marriage certificate notarized by a Notary Public.
  • Have your marriage certificate certified and signed by your Embassy’s Consular Section.

At CRIE, navigating these requirements can be overwhelming, so we offer assistance with all process aspects. We can help you find an official translator, notarize your documents, and guide you through the embassy certification process.

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).[email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a civil ceremony?

A civil ceremony is a legally binding marriage ceremony that the government recognizes.

How is a civil ceremony different from a religious one?

A civil ceremony is legally binding, whereas a religious ceremony is not unless the local Catholic Church administers it.

Do I need to have a civil ceremony in Costa Rica before or after my religious ceremony?

Yes, a civil ceremony in Costa Rica is required before or after your religious ceremony.

How long do the legal formalities and paperwork take at a civil wedding in Costa Rica?

The legal formalities and signing of the paperwork usually take around 30 minutes at civil weddings in Costa Rica.

Where can I have a civil ceremony in Costa Rica?

You can have a civil ceremony at a Notary Public or CRIE’s office in Escazu.

Is my marriage certificate valid in other countries if I get married in Costa Rica?

Yes, legal marriages in Costa Rica are usually valid in other countries.

How much does a civil ceremony cost in Costa Rica?

The average cost for a civil ceremony in Costa Rica is $700 USD (+ tax).

Do I need any documents for a legally recognized marriage in Costa Rica?

You must provide the required certificates to the Canadian or US embassies in Costa Rica. Your marriage certificate must be translated, notarized, and certified by your embassy’s Consular Section.

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  • Yvette
    Posted October 20, 2018 9:41 am 0Likes

    Wanting information on where to start with getting married on the beach. Only a total of 6 people will be present including bride and groom. So just a quick and simple ceremony. We will be there Feb. 2 – 9, 2019. How do I go about getting a lawyer to perform it?

    • Staff
      Posted October 23, 2018 4:08 pm 0Likes

      Hello Yvette!

      Please contact us via email with details about the wedding (location and time) and, we can arrange to have one of our qualified lawyers to assist you.

      or info


  • Vidal
    Posted April 15, 2019 8:40 am 0Likes

    We both are Foreigners, we want todo get merried un CR. But we want our certificate before 1 week.. Is it possible?

    • Admin
      Posted April 17, 2019 3:33 pm 0Likes

      Hello Vidal,

      Marriages in Costa Rica typically take 8 – 20 days to be documented (inscribed) in the National Registry.

  • Montiel
    Posted September 24, 2021 6:37 am 0Likes

    Hola! Pura vida – I was married in Costa Rica to a Tico back in August 2021 and it is of course registered there. When I returned to the USA I completed the process of changing my name using my husbands first last name. I have not updated my passport as of yet – I have pending trips and they are backlogged here – do I need to wait to update my passport before I apply for Temp. Residency thru marriage – or will they even recognize my name change and revert back to my birth name?

    • admin
      Posted September 28, 2021 10:18 am 0Likes

      Hello, Montiel!
      Yes, you need to update your passport before you apply for the Temporary Residency.

  • Karen Linda Pino Almeida
    Posted June 1, 2022 2:46 pm 0Likes

    can a canadian marry a cuban in costa rica and is so what is the cost

  • Janeth
    Posted February 8, 2023 2:04 pm 0Likes

    Hola soy de Colombia y mi prometido está en costa me caso puedo hacerlo en Colombia y después el pedirme como esposa a costa rica?

    • admin
      Posted February 8, 2023 5:19 pm 0Likes

      Hola, Janeth! Su novio es de Costa Rica?

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