Q&A: Everything You Need to Know About Costa Rica Wedding Planning
When it comes to your Costa Rica wedding planning, you probably have a lot of questions. Myriad. Many. A veritable multitude.
Don’t worry – it’s natural! Wedding planning is all about the details, and the details are even more complicated when you’re planning a destination wedding. After all, there are language barriers, and distance, and general country unfamiliarity to contend with – all the little and big things required to make your wedding a success.
And a resounding success, your wedding will be! Costa Rica offers a spectacular backdrop to your “I dos”: Our venues are extraordinary; our marriage requirements, easy; our weather, remarkable; and our photographers, florists, and other professionals, talented. In other words, Costa Rica is a perfect place to get married.
But back to those questions. We’ve pulled together this Costa Rica destination wedding FAQ together, based on our years of experience, expertise and many (myriad, multitudinous…) fielded questions. If you have any questions we haven’t already covered, ask in the comments or get in touch; we’re here to help!
This is the high-stakes category – the one you don’t want to get wrong. Luckily, the legalities of getting married in Costa Rica – what you need to do here and what you need to do back home – are pretty simple. So, deep breathes. Here’s what you need to know.
*But first, a disclaimer: We’re not lawyers! Not so coincidentally, in this category, we recommend you hire one. As you plan your wedding, always (always!) double-check current marriage requirements with your local lawyer.
Q: What do we need to get married in Costa Rica?
A: Provided you’re not marrying a Costa Rican (that’s a whole other ballgame) and that you have a great lawyer/officiant, then there’s really only one basic requirement: a valid passport. Boom.
Q: Ok, but do we really need a lawyer?
A: The short answer – yes! Here’s why: In Costa Rica, only judges, lawyers and Catholic priests – Catholicism is the official religion of Costa Rica – can legally officiate your marriage ceremony.
That said, even if you have a Catholic ceremony – a much tougher proposition for non-residents, due to language barriers and the difficulty of finding a local priest – you’ll still need a lawyer for all the legal stuff. In other words, you’ll need a local lawyer to help you comply with Costa Rica’s marriage requirements, and then later to help you prep to have your marriage recognized back home.
Q: How can we make our marriage legal?
A: The specific answer lies with your home country: How do you validate a marriage abroad?
On the Costa Rican end of things, the legality of your marriage comes down to your Certification of Marriage, issued by the National Registry of Costa Rica within 12 weeks of your ceremony. After your Certification of Marriage is issued, your lawyer will help you have it officially translated, apostilled, and notarized for submission in your home country. Marriage, legalized!
Logistics is such a boring word for such a fun category – right? The logistics of your Costa Rica wedding planning encompasses all the wonderful stuff, from where you’ll host your ceremony a and reception, to where you’ll take your photos and have your first meal in wedded bliss.
Q: Where can I host my ceremony and reception?
A: The question is almost, where can’t you get married in Costa Rica? On the beach, at a restaurant, in a luxury vacation rental, on the mountaintop…
So, the question really is, do you want to exchange your “I dos” with your toes in the sand, or do you prefer a more formal space for your ceremony and/or reception? Would you like to host your ceremony and reception in the same space, or are you planning to caravan between your ceremony venue and reception locale?
While we’re in the business of vacation rentals – and, thus, fairly biased – we have also seen, visited and attended ceremonies and receptions at all the best wedding venues in our area. And, in many cases, we really do believe that a private, luxury villa offers the best flexibility and most unforgettable settings in all of Tamarindo.
So, at the very least, we’d strong recommend looking into the larger vacation rentals at your chosen destination. And hey, if you’re considering Tamarindo, please view 7 picture-perfect Tamarindo wedding venues or email us about your wedding. We look forward to it!
Q: Should I hire a wedding planner?
Yes, yes, yes! There’s a time and a place for DIY, but your destination wedding, in a country miles from your own, in a language you may not speak – well, that’s neither the time nor the place!
Trust us – in all our years here, we’ve learned that a wonderful local pro is the difference between smooth Costa Rica wedding planning and a total planning nightmare. (Tip-within-a-tip: If you need help finding a local pro, check out guide to finding a Costa Rica wedding planner or get in touch for our top recommendations.)
Q: What about a wedding photographer?
A: Obviously, this isn’t so much a “should I?” question as it is a “how do I?” question. We have a whole guide for that but, in the interest of brevity, we can say that you should ask around: Costa Rica’s wedding photographer network is small (and talented).
We can also suggest that you choose a wedding photographer who “gets” you – someone who both understands your wedding vision and takes photos that make your heart sing. We know, that’s a big task. As we said, we have a guide for that.
Q: And the florist?
A: We are so happy to tell you that flowers will be one of the most enjoyable decisions you make about your Costa Rican destination wedding. Here’s a fun question: What tropical, exotic, and spectacularly colorful flowers do you plan to carry down the aisle? Which will decorate your ceremony? What bouquets will sit atop your reception table?
Chances are, if you can imagine a flowerscape, bouquet, or centerpiece, Costa Rica’s tropical gardens can produce it! Most blooms grow year-round and there is a wonderful (and wonderfully exotic) variety from which to choose – literally thousands of flower varieties, at a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. or Canada.
Want a little bit of inspiration? We’ve rounded up 6 (+ a few thousand!) tropical flowers to complement your destination wedding.
Q: Can I bring my own wedding _________?
A: To our mind, the question isn’t whether you can but whether you should. And to that, the answer is that you shouldn’t.
We recommend arranging everything locally. Everything. Don’t ship in your décor. (Seriously. Don’t do it. Don’t entrust your wedding to the international mail system. Or Costa Rican Customs.) Don’t hire professionals who don’t live in your destination wedding locale. Trust us – this is one headache you want to skip, even if it’s a tempting headache.
Q: When should I do what?
A: ‘Tis true! Save the Dates, airfare, hiring your wedding planner, reserving your venue – the planning timeline is very different for destination weddings. Do yourself a favor and review our ultimate Costa Rica wedding planning checklist, which covers everything from what to do 18+ months out, right down to boarding the plan on the way here.
Q: What am I forgetting?
A: Your passports! Visitors from most countries do not need a travel visa to enter Costa Rica, but you will need a valid passport, 6+ months from expiry. You could do this step last minute, but why wait?
This is where we’re throwing in all the fun little extras – the tips we know we need to give, but that don’t really fit into our legal or logistical categories. Read on for our FAQ hodgepodge!
Q: When is the best time for a Costa Rica destination wedding?
A: That’s a simple question with a complicated answer. If we wanted to keep it short and sweet, we’d say that there are four wedding seasons – high season, mid-season, green season, and a second mid-season – and they all have their pros and cons.
If we wanted to be a little more thorough, we’d say this:
- Wedding high season takes the slots of Christmas through Easter, plus July, and has perfect weather – all-day sunshine, blue skies, and unbelievable sunsets. The downside is that this is the most expensive time of the year: if you want perfection, you’ll pay for it.
- Wedding mid-season runs post-Easter through June and November to mid-December. Occupying the sweet spot, this is our favorite wedding season: fantastic weather is very probably but high season has passed, so you enjoy lower prices and greater negotiating power.
- Wedding low season spans the months of August through October – peak rainy season, but also a time of low, low prices.
Need to know more? Read all about all the many Costa Rica wedding seasons.
Q: What are the best places to get married in Costa Rica?
A: Did you know there are more than 800 miles of coastline in Costa Rica? That’s 800 miles of potential destination wedding locales – and we haven’t even gotten to the mountain, river and rainforest destinations.
This is not a question with a short answer: There are nearly infinite places to get married in Costa Rica. Sure, there are wedding “hotspots” – Tamarindo, Jacó, the Osa Peninsula, Playas del Coco, Papagayo, and Puerto Viejo (check out the highlights) – but it really comes down to you, your wedding vision, and other considerations.
Q: Do I really have to visit before my wedding?
A: You don’t have to – but you should! We strongly recommend you come down for pre-wedding reconnaissance. The truth is, websites and photos and brochures can do the trick, but nothing compares to first-hand seeing, touching, tasting and experiencing the romance and wonder of Costa Rica – of your venue, of your photo ops, of your flowers, of your everything.
Q: Okay, again, what am I forgetting?
A: In traditional wedding etiquette, you’d send your save-the-dates about six months in advance. But, for a destination wedding abroad – if you actually want your guests to attend, that is! – etiquette suggests that you send your save-the-dates 12+ months in advance.
This gives your guests ample time not only to get time off work and find a great deal on flights, but to start doing their research on where to say, what to do, and how to make a vacation out of your wedding. Because that’s the point, isn’t it?
Questions? We Have More Answers!
Still have questions? Need more details? Need some reassurance? Then please, get in touch! We have extensive experience in Tamarindo wedding planning – and we’re happy to share! From venues to vendors, florists to photographers, we have all the recommendations and advice you need to plan your wedding in paradise.