For us, the decision to get married in Costa Rica was an easy one. It was Max’s second home and the combination of beach and lush jungle made it a perfect setting for our rustic laid back affair. We loved sharing our love for travel and our love for Costa Rica with friends and family who traveled thousands of miles to see us tie the knot here this past December.
And we aren’t the only ones smitten by Costa Rica’s charm. These days, more and more couples are choosing to forego norms and traditions and embrace the destination wedding trend by saying their “I Do’s” in one of the happiest places on earth (that’s Costa Rica in case you didn’t know).
We took 12-month to plan our wedding in Costa Rica, carefully researching and organizing everything from the officiant to decor, catering, music and everything in between! We put on quite the affair, entertaining over 40 family members/guests that traveled to Costa Rica from overseas along with another 30-40 locals that joined in the celebrations. Every one of our guests pitched in and helped us with the finishing touches and although everything didn’t go perfectly (I’m not sure that weddings ever do), it really was a beautiful day and one that we wouldn’t have traded it for anything!
There is no denying it, Costa Rica is an amazing location for a destination wedding! Not just because of the spectacular beach/jungle setting, but also because it makes for an amazing trip for you and your guests.
If you are considering Costa Rica as a destination for your upcoming nuptials, we hope that our advice and tips can help make the planning process and a lot less daunting! Here is everything you need to know about getting married in Costa Rica.
Your Marriage Will Be Legal in Your Home Country
Unlike a lot of other popular destination wedding locations, Costa Rica actually allows you to have a civil wedding ceremony that will be legal in your home country. In fact, the legalities of getting married in Costa Rica are pretty simple and straightforward. There are only a few requirements:
- Your wedding ceremony must be officiated by a lawyer
- You must provide copies of your passports, birth certificates, information about previous marriages (if applicable), and names of your parents.
- You will need 2 witnesses who are not your family. Your witnesses will be required to provide their passports/IDs to your officiant prior to the ceremony.
No blood tests, no police checks, no additional documents or hassle.
After the ceremony, the lawyer will register your marriage with Costa Rica’s National Registry, which will issue an official marriage certificate. Expect this process to take around 4-6 weeks (ours took 5).
To be legally recognized in your home country, your Costa Rican marriage certificate must then be:
- Translated into English by an official translator
- Authenticated by the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Authenticated by your Embassy in Costa Rica
Your lawyer should be able to organize all the paperwork for you. This should take another week or so. Expect your lawyer fees, marriage registration, and all other fees associated with making your wedding legal should cost you anywhere between USA $1,500-2,000.
The lawyer that officiated our wedding was a friend of the family, but during our research, we came across Costa Rica Marriage Officiants, a great website that can help you find your own Costa Rican officiant.
There are Lots of Beautiful Wedding Venues in Costa Rica
Now that you have confidence that a wedding in Costa Rica is possible, let us inspire you with some beautiful settings that can become the backdrop for your wedding in Costa Rica.
There are so many options to choose from when it comes to your wedding location in Costa Rica. You can get married on the beach, in the rainforest, in the mountains. You can plan an extravagant luxury affair with chandeliers and white linens, or you can choose to blend in with nature and go with rustic theme that incorporates the surroundings into your wedding theme.
All Inclusive Resorts
The following is a selection of hotels/resorts that are popular among brides and grooms choosing to tie the knot in Costa Rica. Majority of Costa Rica’s big hotels and resorts are located in Guanacaste, with just a few scattered around other parts of the country.
- Riu Palace, Guanacaste
- Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, Guanacaste
- Barcelo Langosta Beach, Guanacaste
- JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, Guanacaste
- Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barcelo,Guanacaste
- Westin Conchal, Guanacaste
- Dreams Las Mareas, El Jobo
- Mariposa Hotel, Manuel Antonio
- Zephyr Palace, Jaco
- and more…
Without a doubt, getting married at one of these establishments won’t be cheap, but their packages will include a wedding planner, officiant, decor, sometimes catering, but most importantly an absolutely fuss-free experience.
Smaller Boutique Hotels
If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, plenty of other smaller more boutique hotels will be happy to play host to your special day. In many cases they will be able to provide catering, accommodation and some decor and give you the opportunity to put a bit more of “you” into the setup and the day itself.
For the ultimate budget-friendly option, many couples choose to rent a large villa or a private house and use it as the setting for the ceremony/reception. While this does give you the most authentic experience and the opportunity to personalize your day instead of going with a cookie-cutter resort option, it also comes with a LOT of work and stress. You’ll have to hire all the vendors including a wedding planner to help you pull the day together.
If you want to look into this option, this is a great list of tried and tested private home/villa rentals as recommended by couples who had their destination weddings in Costa Rica.
Airbnb is another great alternative, since a lot of large Costa Rican homes often come with a fairly large property that would be more than suitable to serve as a wedding venue.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and get $35 off your first stay.
We went with the cheapest venue alternative – a private home (sans the wedding planner), and trust me when I say, coordinating all the vendors, making all the arrangements and setting everything up for our wedding day was incredibly hard and stressful.
Wedding Photographers in Costa Rica are Very Talented
Once you have decided on your wedding venue, choosing a wedding photographer should be next on your list. Luckily, getting married in Costa Rica doesn’t mean you have to pay and arm and a leg to fly your chosen wedding photographer to Costa Rica. The country boasts an amazing selection of photographers that specialize in Costa Rica weddings. But keep in mind that Costa Rica’s wedding industry is still rather small, so while the options are great, they are somewhat limited, so booking as far in advance as possible is a must!
We narrowed down the list of Costa Rica Wedding Photographers to our top choices (ranked below in order of our preference):
- Madison Baltodano (our amazing photographer)
- Katherine Stinnett
- Toh Goutennoire
- A Brit and a Blonde
- Jonathan Yonkers
- Jonathan Cooley
We were absolutely over the moon with the photos that Madison took on our big day. She captured the emotions, the setting, and the day with absolute perfection and her services were really well priced! Check them out here.
Hiring a Wedding Planner is Probably a Good Idea
Unless you are going to get married in an all inclusive resort that offers wedding planning services, I definitely suggest that you hire a wedding planner or at least a day of coordinator to help you bring your dream wedding to life. Take it from someone who chose to DIY and faced a million and one problems, trust me, you don’t want to do it all yourself!
Here are some great wedding coordinators/planners that I considered, but unfortunately didn’t end up hiring. (In hindsight, hiring one of these planners would’ve probably made our day a LOT less stressful)
Wedding Planning/Coordination services start at $1,000 and go up from there depending on the level of the planners involvement pre and during the event.
Reception/Ceremony Set Up Can be Pricey
If your chosen venue does not include tables, chairs, table settings, and other decor, getting everything arranged for your big day can be pricey. There are only 5 big furniture and event rental businesses in Costa Rica:
- Eventos Artesanos, serves Guanacaste
- Cabo Luna Event Rentals, serves Guanacaste
- Eventos Boaricea, serves Guanacaste
- Costa Mesa, serves Guanacaste
- Oceano Rentals, serves Guanacaste
…and they make sure to charge destination wedding prices. If you are going to need to set up your own ceremony/reception, you are looking at $1,500-$2,000 in rental fees. And don’t forget, depending on the location of your wedding venue the delivery fees can be upwards of $500-1,000. (We were quoted $1,000 for delivery on New Years Eve – one of the main reasons why we ended up building/buying our own tables/chairs/etc)
The first 3 suppliers on the list are also the top choices for most wedding planners in Costa Rica, so their inventory goes fast and needs to be booked well in advance.
Other Vendors and Few and Far Between
Catering, hair, makeup, flowers, cake are all things that you will likely need to take care of if you are thinking of going with a DIY/private home/villa type of wedding. These vendors were really hard to find and their prices were anything but competitive. We didn’t end up using any of these for our wedding and instead hired friends of the family to take care of our catering, cake and hair needs.
Caterers & Cakes
- Soma Chefs, serves Santa Teresa Area
- Ono Cuisine, serves all of Costa Rica
- Guanacaste Chef 4 U, serves Guanacaste
- Costa Rica Catering, serves Guanacaste
- Victoria Zoch Cakes, serves Guanacaste
- German Bakery, serves Guanacaste
- Cafe Tico, serves Guanacaste
You won’t find a cake for less than $200 and a caterer willing to put together a menu for less than $80-100/person.
Hair & Make-Up
- Luna Bella Make up & Hair, serves all of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Hair, serves all of Costa Rica
- Sunflower Bella, serves Guanacaste
Hair & Make-Up quotes started at $120/person.
- Eventos Artesanos, serves Guanacaste
- Art Flower, serves Guanacaste
- Colette’s Tamarindo, serves Tamarindo and surroundings
- Floristeria Cristal, serves Guanacaste
Flower arrangements were quoted starting from $60 for each bridal bouquet.
Your Can Celebrate Your Wedding Well Past Your Wedding Day
One of our favourite things about getting married in Costa Rica was the fact that for most of our friends and family this wasn’t just a 1-day event, it was a week long vacation. One of the biggest complaints that we heard from other married couples was that they didn’t get a chance to hang out with their friends and family on their wedding day.
This couldn’t have been farther away from the truth during our Costa Rican wedding. We loved hanging out with our friends and family after the wedding. We arranged group outings to the local fiestas, we held a Thank You brunch where we got a chance to once again thank our guests for sharing our special day with us, and we even traveled around Costa Rica and Nicaragua with some of our friends a few days after the wedding. It was a wedding celebration and an amazing vacation all in one!
With no shortage of activities to do in Costa Rica, you too can extend your wedding celebration far beyond your Wedding Day. Hang out on the beach, go horseback riding, zip-lining, go on a day cruise or check out a rainforest or a national park. Experiencing the beauty of Costa Rica with your friends and family is guaranteed to make your wedding that much more memorable and special. You can’t get this stuff back home!
Your Honeymoon Can Start Where Your Wedding Day Ended
Do you know what is more magical than a wedding in Costa Rica? Honeymooning in Costa Rica! Dozens of beautiful honeymoon worthy destinations are going to be within a quick drive away from your wedding location. No additional flights, no need to repack, or plan another trip. Your honeymoon can begin as soon as you want!
* Unless otherwise stated, all photos in this post were taken by our talented photographer, Madison Baltodano.
Want more? Take a behind the scenes look at our Costa Rican Wedding