How to Get Married in Mexico
Travel experts Mr & Mrs Smith offer tips for planning a wedding south of the border
Here's the first in our series of overseas destination wedding guides, in which we help to steer you over the initial hurdles involved in planning your dream destination wedding.
This article deals with the beautiful (and close) country of Mexico, with its gorgeous Caribbean beaches, dense jungle and fascinating culture. So whether you're planning to marry on the Mayan Riviera, in the shadow of a volcano in Puebla or deep in the jungles of Jalisco, here are the need-to-know facts about tying the knot way down Mexico way.
First things first: Where's the best place to start?
Contact the registro civil (civil registry) office where you plan to marry. They can supply you with the complete details about the requirements that you will need to satisfy to obtain a marriage license; the exact details can vary depending on which state you marry in, so do this in plenty of time to get all the necessary paperwork sorted out.
Is a religious ceremony valid as a marriage in Mexico or do you need to have a civil wedding first as well?
The marriage will not be legal unless you have a civil ceremony, although you can of course have a religious ceremony as well. Your marriage certificate (acta de matrimonio) will be valid worldwide, but you'll need to obtain a certified copy of it "legalized" in Mexico; this can usually be done locally (ask the registry office when you get your documents checked ahead of the ceremony).
The civil ceremony must be performed by a Mexican justice of the peace. Bear in mind that in all likelihood this will be in Spanish, so you will need to arrange a translator (or check that this can be arranged for you). You will also need four witnesses to attend the legal ceremony, all of whom must have valid ID (see below). If you are travelling as just a couple, your wedding hotel can usually provide staff to act as witnesses.
But I want to get married in a church/on the beach/on the hotel grounds?
Most people in Mexico will have both a civil and a church wedding, so it's not a problem. The cheapest option is to go to the local registry office for the civil ceremony, but with a bit of extra planning (and extra cost, there are fees), you can arrange to hold the ceremony somewhere else.
What documents do I need?
We've given a general list below, but the law varies from state to state, so get your wedding hotel to check for you if you haven't already contacted the local registry office.
Your passports: Both your passports must be valid for at least six months from the date you intend to get married (you'll need a photocopy of it too)
Your travel permits: The original tourist permits (FMT) that were completed at the port of entry when you arrived.
Marriage application forms: Obtain them from the local registry office in Mexico.
Your birth certificates: Bring originals and a couple of copies.
Blood test results and chest X-rays: Before you marry in Mexico, you need blood tests to confirm your blood type and to check for diseases such as HIV, as well as chest X-rays. Written results of the blood test and X-ray must be in Spanish, so get these done in Mexico before your wedding.
Can I just bring the documents as is or do I need to do anything special with them?
Aside from your passport and travel permits, all your documents must be:
- Translated into Spanish by an approved translator
- Notarized by your nearest Mexico cosulate
- Be "legalized" in your country of residence by the relevant authorities; in the U.S., this is the State Department’s Office of Authentication
Anything else I need to think about?
We're assuming you’re 18 or older; if not, you'll need parental consent. Witnesses from outside Mexico (i.e., any friends or family who have travelled with you for the wedding) must provide ID, either their original birth certificate, a valid passport or a valid driver’s license (plus two photocopies of the document).
Your blood tests must be completed a minimum of three days before your wedding day, and there may be a limited time after filing the marriage application form for the chest X-rays also. All in all, it's prudent to arrive about a week before your wedding day to allow time for all the paperwork to be completed.
If Mrs. Smith-to-be was previously married or either of you has previously been widowed, you'll need copies of the relevant divorce decree or death certificates.
The U.S. Mexican Consulate in Washington, D.C. (202-736-1000; http://portal.sre.gob.mx/usa/)
Other U.S. Mexican Consulate addresses are listed here: http://portal.sre.gob.mx/usa/index.php?ortion=displaypage<emid=111&po=page&SubMenu
Check out Mr & Mrs Smith's suggestions for where to get married in Mexico.