Year after year, hundreds of starry-eyed couples set out to plan their dream destination wedding on the beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya. Certainly, visions of maidens in flowing white sundresses and boys in bright floral shirts and flip flops tempt the romantic in all of us. Last year, one such couple, our dear friends J.J. and Kim, held an absolutely stunning, picture perfect wedding on the beach in Xpu-Ha. At this time, they, like countless others, learned that your plans for a wedding in the eyes of God may not always coincide with the schedule for a legal marriage in the eyes of the Mexican Government. God will be with you on your special day but the dude from the Civil Registrar's Office may have a previous engagement.

And so, one year after attending their romantic beach ceremony, we once again joined J.J. and Kim to witness their legal Mexican marriage ceremony. It was fast. It was easy. It somehow lacked the panache of their first wedding. Pictures speak louder than words.

The Civil Registry office (Oficina del Registro Civil) is located in the colorful Plaza Papagayos, above the Dominos Pizza on Juarez and Avenida 45.

Inside the office, Christmas decorations add to the already festive atmosphere.

The official wedding party. J.J. wouldn't let us bring our roadies in but we smiled sweetly anyway.

Check the dress code for Mexican civil servants!!

Take it easy boys. We're not in San Francisco.

Making a rare appearance on my own blog.

FYI - It is perfectly acceptable to text message your pals during a civil wedding ceremony in Mexico.

Nothing dresses up a room like dead plants and water marks.

The civil ceremony is conducted in Spanish only. Apparently, many hearing impaired people are wed here, thus the giant poster with the text of the service prominently displayed on the wall .

The wedding couple then signs three copies of the official wedding documents.

All four witnesses must sign the official marriage documents.

Add two more names to the Mexican government's secret gringo watch list.

A couple that gets fingerprinted together, stays together.

In it's own way, this civil ceremony will be just as memorable as the romantic ceremony in Xpu Ha. I'm not sure which wedding ceremony I enjoyed more! We have already signed up to attend again should our friends choose to make this an annual event. For those of you dreaming of a "once in a lifetime" beach wedding on the Riviera Maya, here are the requirements specified for a legal marriage in the state of Quintana Roo.

  1. Valid Passports (cannot use expired passport).
  2. Apostilled Birth Certificates Necessary if you wish your parent's names on your marriage certificate.
  3. Tourist Visas or Residency Visas - depending on your immigration status. 
  4. Four Witnesses. The names, ages, addresses, nationalities, occupations, and valid passports for the four witnesses. The witnesses must also provide a copy of their tourist cards/visas and passports. Witnesses can also be Mexican nationals.
  5. Blood Tests - Blood type, RH factor, Venereal Disease and HIV test. This blood test must be done in Mexico at any local clinical laboratory. The cost is $37 USD per person. Results are available in 12-24 hours.
  6. Doctor's Certification of the blood test. You must have a certificate from a local doctor that certifies the lab results. The cost will be approximately $60 USD per certificate. Some clinical laboratories provide the services of a doctor for a packaged cost, which normally is more economical.
  7. Marriage License and Ceremony Applying for your marriage license costs about $325 USD. The ceremony, if performed in the registrar’s office costs $10 USD. Payment is made with your application. In most municipalities, you can reserve the Justice of the Peace months in advance and this reservation is confirmed one week prior to your wedding date. No civil ceremonies are performed on Sundays or on Mexican Holidays.
  8. Arrival Date At least 4 business days before the ceremony. The couple and 4 witnesses need to go to the municipal office to sign the license application at least 4 business days including the day of the ceremony if it falls on a business day. When you apply for the license and pay your fee, you must also submit the blood tests results, doctor's certificate, copies of your passports, tourist's visas and show your original passports.
  9. Apostile The apostile is the stamp which makes the marriage certificate valid outside Mexico. It costs $50 USD and takes at least 2 months to get it.

You may want to seriously consider retaining the services of an experienced wedding planner who is familiar with the regional regulations and the paperwork involved. On a good day in Mexico, getting all of the usual day to day chores in one's life accomplished can be trying at best. Add to this confusion the normal stresses of a wedding and your perfect day can easily turn into a nightmare. This should be one of the most important and memorable days of your life. Arranged properly, your Mexican beach wedding will live up to your dreams.

Thank you, J.J. and Kim for your friendship and for including us in your special day. We wish you a lifetime of love and laughter together.

Kimberly and Jeffrey Johnson - June 23, 2008