As you prepare for your destination wedding in Punta Cana, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to have a civil ceremony or a symbolic ceremony.
Of course, you’ll want to make your marriage official, but is it best to do the legal part back home before traveling? Well, that depends! The legal process may seem daunting at first, but if you have your heart set on a civil ceremony, you can definitely make it work!
I’ll walk you through what you need to know, the paperwork you’ll need, and all of the nitty-gritty details that aren’t so easy to find so that you can decide if you’re up for the challenge.
But before we begin, let’s talk about the difference between a civil ceremony and a symbolic ceremony.
Civil Ceremony Vs. Symbolic Ceremony
A civil ceremony and a symbolic ceremony will look and feel almost exactly the same when it comes to a destination wedding. They’re both a celebration of love! The bride walks down the aisle, the bride and groom say their vows, they both exchange rings. All ending with a kiss to seal the deal. Voila! They’re married! Love is all around.
So if the ceremonies look and feel the same, then what’s the difference between a civil ceremony and a symbolic ceremony? Well basically, it comes down to who’s performing the ceremony and what paperwork the couple files beforehand.
A civil ceremony is performed by a judge or government official of the location where the wedding is held (in this case, the Dominican Republic). You’ll get your marriage license from that location. There’s a lot of important documents that need to be translated into Spanish, notarized, and apostilled before the wedding can take place. But I’ll go into those details later on….
A symbolic ceremony can be performed by pretty much anyone and doesn’t require a ton of paperwork. That’s right. Easy-peasy. A family member, a best friend, the wedding planner… Even the guy you met at the swim-up bar can perform the ceremony. Although I do recommend one of the amazing wedding officiants in Punta Cana if you want your ceremony to be extra special!! A symbolic ceremony is exactly what it sounds like. Symbolic. So you can pretty much do whatever you want and make the ceremony however you want it to be.
You’ll get married at home before your trip, and the destination wedding will be all fun, zero-stress. Haha. Just kidding! There’s always stress when it comes to planning a wedding. Just ask any past bride ever.
What’s the Point of a Symbolic Ceremony?
More than 80% of destination weddings are symbolic! Crazy, right? What makes it even crazier is that you’d probably have no idea that the ceremony was symbolic, even if you attended the wedding yourself. That’s because most couples won’t tell you that part. Especially if it’s a destination wedding. Firstly, because they want all of their friends and family to attend. (You’d be surprised how many people would rather go down to town hall than on an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean.) And secondly, because they want their wedding to feel special and meaningful to their guests regardless of the legal part.
Why would they do that? Well.. because having a civil ceremony in the Dominican Republic can be quite the headache. And it’s typically more expensive than a symbolic ceremony. So on top of all the wedding planning and budgeting they’re already doing, adding a bunch of extra paperwork, translations, and legal fees just gets overwhelming.
A symbolic ceremony seems easier. And cheaper. So couples decide to do the legal part back home, and then they have the real wedding of their dreams in the Caribbean. But if that’s not your style, and you can’t imagine having a symbolic wedding ceremony, don’t fret! It’s not impossible to have a civil ceremony!
So let me show you what is required for a civil ceremony in Punta Cana and then you can decide what type of ceremony fits you best.
Requirements for a Civil Ceremony in Punta Cana
- Original passport & copies of the bio page
- Copies of last entry stamps to the DR
- Tourist Card
- Original birth certificate and copies with legal translation in Spanish*
- You must have two witnesses that are not family (must have different last names) and include copies of their passports
- If divorced, include a copy of the divorce certificate with legal translation*
- If widowed, include a copy of the death certificate with legal translation*
- Single status affidavit (a sworn declaration that you’re single and eligible to marry), translated into Spanish*
- If in the DR – It must be completed before a Dominican notary public and legalized at the Offices of Procuraduria General de La Republica
- If in the US – It must be completed before a US notary and then legalized at the closest Dominican Consulate.
*All documents must be notarized. For US Citizens, all documents must also be apostilled.
Aside from the money that you’ll spend to translate, notarize, and apostille your documents, you’ll also need to pay for a Civil Registry Officer to attend your civil ceremony.
The fee to have a Civil Registry Officer perform a wedding ceremony for two foreigners is 20,000 Dominican Pesos.
Other fees may apply based on the Civil Registry Office (Oficialía del Estado Civil) or based on the resort/wedding venue. Some resorts include the fees in their pricing, while others change pricing based on the ceremony type.
Marriage requirements and fees (especially in the Dominican Republic) are constantly changing! The information above is meant to be helpful and used for guidance but should not be taken as legal advice. Please verify all requirements with your wedding coordinator!!
What Else You Need To Know About Civil Ceremonies
- Documents must be legalized by the Dominican Consulate no more than 3 months prior to the wedding date.
- The bride and groom must be in the country for at least three business days prior to the wedding ceremony.
- The civil ceremony must be performed in Spanish. Usually, your wedding coordinator will serve as the translator.
- The Civil Registry Officer performs several wedding ceremonies per day which means there is little flexibility with the ceremony times they assign. Your ceremony could be in the morning or early afternoon. My best advice would be to book with the Civil Registry Office as early as possible so you can reserve the best ceremony time.
- Your marriage certificate will be issued in Spanish and it may take a few weeks to arrive. Keep in mind you’ll need to get it translated to English to be accepted back home.
Start Planning Your Civil Ceremony
If you’ve made it this far and you don’t feel completely overwhelmed by the information above, CONGRATULATIONS!! It sounds like you’re ready to start planning your own civil ceremony in Punta Cana.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Destination Weddings in Punta Cana or get in contact with me today. I’d love to help you on your wedding journey!!