Are you planning a legal or symbolic destination wedding in Mexico or the Caribbean? Not all destinations are equal when it comes to choosing between a legal or symbolic destination wedding. Be sure to choose what is right for you. Read on to learn more.
Legal or Symbolic Destination Wedding?
First thing’s first. What exactly is the difference between a legal wedding ceremony and a symbolic wedding ceremony?
A legal ceremony is when you follow the laws of the destination and receive a marriage license from them. This type of ceremony typically requires more paperwork, a judge, additional fees, and occasional blood tests. You will have to present your legal paperwork to your license bureau when you return home so they can file the marriage license for you.
A symbolic ceremony has no legal recognition yet makes up approximately 80% of all destination weddings. Typically, the bride and groom go to their local clergy or courthouse. They file the license and by the time they set off travelling, they are already legally wed. This makes for a smooth and easy destination wedding. Fundamentally, the best part of all is that guests can never tell the difference! Legal and symbolic ceremonies are the same, just minus the license.
What are my destination’s ceremony requirements?
Mexico – A legal ceremony must be performed by a judge. Besides that, a blood test for STD`s is necessary. A symbolic ceremony has no legal bearing and is carried out by a non-denominational minister, wedding coordinator, family friend or relative. Consequently, the bride and groom will receive a symbolic marriage certificate without a legal license.
Dominican Republic – If you decide you want to marry here, opt for a symbolic ceremony. Most importantly, for legal recognition, all paperwork has to be notarized and translated into Spanish. Therefore, this will add an additional $500-1000 to your wedding costs. Because only a judge can legally marry you, you’re at the mercy of his schedule. Therefore a symbolic ceremony is definitely the way to go in the Dominican Republic.
Jamaica – If a minister conducts the ceremony, it is legal in Jamaica. Jamaica is one of the easiest countries to obtain a legal marriage.
Bahamas – Same as Jamaica. However, If the ceremony is civil, the minister will make no mention of God. Symbolic weddings are also a popular option here.
Aruba – The only wedding ceremonies with legal recognition in Aruba are civil ceremonies performed by a judge at City Hall. Religious ceremonies are performed by a non-denominational minister, with no legal binding.
Costa Rica – Same as Aruba, Costa Rica offers legal ceremonies if they are performed by a judge. Religious ceremonies or vow renewals hold no legal bearing, as they are considered symbolic.
Is your ceremony destination not on our list? Then feel free to contact the destination wedding specialists at for further information and guidance!