To top off our time in the Dominican Republic, DG and I had an impromptu beach wedding. The photos you can see here in part I & part II – but behind all the beauty of our gypsy bohemian nuptials, was a ton of annoying documentation, translations and registry fees. Here are a few myths debunked about getting married in the Dominican Republic (and how to do it if you’re still keen).
Getting Married in the DR is not Cheap
Even though marriage licenses for locals cost about $20, the government has caught on that they can make money off destination weddings. For two foreigners getting married in the DR, the cost of the marriage certificate alone – without adding in the expense of legalizing and translating documents – is $500 USD. On top of that, we were required to pay an extra $50 to have Noa included on the certificate. In the DR, it’s law that all of your children be included on the document (and thus you have to pay for each one.) On the upside, this fee is the same wherever you decide to hold your wedding – you do not pay extra to have the officiator come to your hotel or find you on the beach.
You’ll Need a Lot of Documents
Some of the documents are easier than others, and some can be challenging depending on your home country, place of birth and how fastidious your parents were about keeping your records on hand.
First off, you’ll each need an original copy of your birth certificate, If you don’t already have an original copy on hand, you’ll need to contact the governmental body from where you were born and get them to emit a new original copy. Note: many apostilling offices require that you have a newly emitted copy anyways, so even if you’ve got your original you may have to complete this step. This can be simple, if you’re like me and were born in New York, a state that emits new copies of birth certificates online. If you’re like Douglas, and were born in a tiny town in the middle of the Amazon during a time when there was no government office there, it’s a bit tricker. You’ll also need the birth certificates of your children.
Most countries have a document that legally states your status as a single, divorced, widowed or married person. To get married in the DR, you need this document stating that you are free to marry. Unfortunately, if you are American, your government does not emit a document like this, so you’ll have to get one drafted for you by a lawyer from the DR. It’s essentially a document in which you swear that you are free to marry. It costs about $100 USD, all stamps and signatures included. If you already have a document like this, then skip to the next steps.
How to Apostille a Document
In your home country, you will have to get your documents Apostilled – which is a fancy way of saying legalized for international use. Note: You cannot do this anywhere but your home country. So if you’re not at home, you’ll need to go back, pay a or get a really helpful family member to hit up some government offices for you (thanks mom.)
Once you’ve got all of your original documents, you’ll need to take them to an Apostilling office to get them legalized for international use. I recommend Google for finding an office near you, but normally they exist in capital cities. Douglas used a service to have his documents done in Brasilia; I got my amazing mother to run around Washington DC for me. Noa’s birth certificate was Apostilled by a courier here in the DR. All three ways worked, and cost between $20 and $100 USD per document. (The US was the most expensive, of course.)
All documents that are not originally in Spanish need to be translated by a sworn translator. This can be done in your home country or in the DR. Note: You do not need to Apostille the translations. We did, and it turned out to be an unnecessary expense.
What Happens On Your Wedding Day
Padrinhos – Witnesses
You need two witnesses on hand to legalize your marriage. You’ll need to have submitted copies of their passports to the registry’s office along with the rest of your documents prior to your wedding day (they request the documents 10 days prior). Those two people will sign as your witnesses on the day of your wedding. They do not need their passports on the wedding day. They do need to be able to sign their name. Fun fact: it’s tradition in the DR that the padrinhos pay for the wedding party – so if you’re witnesses are Dominican, you’ve lucked out!
Speaking Your Language
If you would like your ceremony to be in any language but Spanish, it’s good to hire a translator for the ceremony. Do not expect Dominican wedding officiators from the registries office to speak anything but Spanish. We both speak spanish relatively well, so ti wasn’t a problem for us, however there was a really cute moment when Douglas did not understand what the officiator was asking so we missed the part about exchanging rings. (We did it later, but it was still cute.)
How Long does it Take?
Since we were more keen about having a party than a ceremony, we did everything on fast forward and completed the legalization of our marriage in about 15 minutes. The After your wedding ceremony, your dominican officiator will ask you to sign the official registry book, however you’ll only be able to pick up your official certificate a day or two later at the registry’s office.
After getting the documentation taken care of, the rest was pretty easy, however we found the cost of it all to be way more expensive than we could have imagined. We probably spent about $1500 USD on everything. Compared to a first world wedding though, we rocked it out and thanks to our friends, had an amazing party to boot!
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