Congratulations! You’re engaged! Now you get to take on the fun wedding planning. If you have ever thought about a Costa Rica destination wedding, you’ve come to the right place. We just finished planning our Costa Rican wedding and learned so much along the way. I’m going to pre-warn you, it wasn’t always the easiest thing to organize our dream wedding in Costa Rica, but we pulled it off! Let’s get into all the details so you can determine if Costa Rica destination wedding is right for you.
Getting Married Legally in Costa Rica
There are two ways to do the whole wedding in Costa Rica thing. You can either have your wedding as a symbolic ceremony and get married in your home country or you can have an official ceremony in Costa Rica.
Having a symbolic ceremony will save you a lot of money because you won’t have to hire someone (such as a lawyer) who can legally officiate your wedding in Costa Rica. You can usually find someone who will be happy to officiate a symbolic ceremony for a few hundred dollars. We will get more into the whole officiant thing in later articles (this is part one of four articles on planning your Costa Rica destination wedding).
Having an official ceremony means hiring someone with the legal capabilities of making your marriage legal in your home country. It’s not that it is difficult to find someone who can do this, but it will likely cost you a minimum of $1,000. All you need to bring with you is your passport and birth certificate (unless they ask you for other paperwork of course).
I, unfortunately, can’t help you too much with finding a lawyer to legally officiate your wedding here. However, if you just do a Google search for “legal wedding officiant Costa Rica” you can find out more info and find a lot of good lawyers to contact. Also, if you plan on hiring a wedding planner they can definitely help you find someone.
One thing I suggest considering is your religious beliefs. If you would like for your ceremony to reflect those beliefs, your search for the perfect officiant in Costa Rica may be a bit more difficult. However, most wedding officiants are happy to follow any script/ order of events that you would like.
We luckily know a lawyer here in San Jose who was happy to conduct the official ceremony for us. She was happy to conduct the official ceremony anywhere so we decided on the top of Irazu Volcano. Unfortunately, the weather did not hold up, but as a last minute change, our lawyer took us to the house of her mother in law. It was absolutely beautiful and we had an amazing official ceremony. We officially got married about one week before our symbolic ceremony with our family and friends.
For the symbolic ceremony, we hired a really great guy who officiated it for us for a few hundred dollars. We will talk more about that and give you his contact info in part three of this series.
Best Time of Year to Get Married in Costa Rica
It is necessary to consider when you want to get married when deciding if Costa Rica is the right spot for you. The Costa Rica dry season is from the end of December until the end April. Just keep in mind that having a wedding during that time will likely cost you more because venue prices are higher during that time. Also, venues, caterers, rentals, etc. book up very fast during the dry months. In May prices tend to go down and companies are not as booked out, but you have a higher chance of rain. We have a complete post on what to expect with the weather in Costa Rica by season here.
We chose our wedding date based on when Thomas could get a good chunk of time off from work. We also wanted to get married in the summer because prices are a lot lower and we thought more of our guests might be able to come. The downfall to this was we had no idea if we will have an afternoon rainstorm on that day and when exactly the rain would come in. In the end, the weather on our wedding day was absolutely perfect, but a lot of our guests had very rainy travels around the country.
Also, look into the tides when you pick your wedding date. We did not do this and wanted to do our ceremony in the late afternoon, but high tide was at 6 pm on our wedding day. FAIL! 🙁 In fact, we almost lost the wedding arch to the rising water. Thomas had to go save it and move it more inwards about 20 minutes before our wedding.
Costa Rica Wedding Guests
When thinking about Costa Rica as your wedding location you first need to think about who you plan on inviting. If you have a lot of elderly guests or friends with young children, Costa Rica might not be the ideal destination because it will involve a lot of travel for people who might not be able to travel very easily. Also, if most of your friends don’t have a lot of money for travel, Costa Rica might not be the best place to have your wedding.
On the other hand, the nice thing about having a destination wedding is that you can keep the guest list small and have a more intimate Costa Rica wedding experience.
Thomas and I had very opposite guests at our wedding. My whole family was able to make it, but none of my friends could come. They unfortunately either have young kids or could not get that time off of work. On Thomas’s side, we had a lot of his friends come but not much of his family was able to make it.
We invited about 70 people in total and 33 actually came. This was great for us. We wanted about that number, but trust me, as the RSVP’s started rolling in I worried we had invited way too many people.
Costa Rica Destination Wedding Locations
We are going to get into choosing the perfect venue in our next article, but for now, I’m talking about an actual location in Costa Rica. Costa Rica may be a small country but it has so many different vibes! You will need to decide which area of the country best fits the vibe you are going for, or if there is even an area that fits what you want. A good way of finding out is by checking out our Destination page and familiarizing yourself with your options.
We knew that we wanted to get married on the beach. We have some relatives and friends who are not familiar with traveling in a foreign country, so we wanted to pick a place which was as tourist-friendly as possible. It was also important for us to pick a place which had a lot of things our friends would love to do. We eventually picked Tamarindo (and we are so happy with that choice). Other popular wedding locations are Jaco (a bit too touristy in our opinion) and Manuel Antonio (not in the best location for the onward travel we wanted to do). If you want a nice beach which is not so busy, definitely check out Montezuma, Samara, or Uvita.
We also considered how easy it would be for people to get to a location. Tamarindo is a bit far from San Jose (where most of our guests were flying in) but we know the highway is well maintained and is a nice way to get a taste of the country. Ideally, we would have chosen a place which wasn’t so far for our guests, but that didn’t happen. Sorry fam and friends for the very rainy drive you all ended up having!
My family opted to fly into Liberia. This saved them a lot of driving because Liberia is only about 1.5 hours from Tamarindo.
Costa Rica Destination Wedding Cost
I think people naively believe that a destination wedding in Costa Rica will save them money. Unfortunately, I do not believe that is always the case. I can’t say for sure because I have never planned a wedding in another country besides Costa Rica, but I will say that the destination wedding industry here knows that they are dealing with foreigners. Prices reflect that.
Here is a little example for you about price inflation. We originally planned on getting flowers from our local florist here in San Jose and bringing them up to Tamarindo with us. However, this is a five-hour drive and we didn’t know if we would have enough space in the cars going to Tamarindo for all the flowers.
We then decided to just see what the flowers would cost us from Tamarindo. We were quoted at $700 for the flowers we wanted from a florist in Tamarindo who specializes in weddings. The price was ridiculous! We buy a bouquet of flowers every week here and never pay more than $10 for a nice bouquet.
We then went to our local florist and she gave us a quote of $250 for exactly the same things. The flowers turned out amazing and I’m really happy we went with our local florist.
Despite these price markups, it is possible to have a wedding here on a budget. You just need to be aware of how to do it. Don’t worry! We’ll tell you everything we learned in our next two articles.
Travelling After Your Costa Rica Wedding
You also need to consider what you and your guests are going to do before or after the wedding. You are all traveling to a foreign country and will likely want to have some fun exploring the country. Although you may not be familiar with Costa Rica yourself, your guests are still going to turn to you for advice. Trust us, it can be a bit stressful to get a million questions and feel the internal pressure to make sure all your family and friends have a safe and fun experience in Costa Rica.
We offered to our guests that the could go on tour with us around the country after the wedding for two weeks. We set up a schedule and told everyone they were welcome to join. Some joined for the whole two weeks, some joined for just a portion of the trip, and some opted to do their own travels. We get more into our exact itinerary and how it all worked out in a later article.
Most of our guests had never been to Costa Rica before so they had a lot of questions. We actually directed them to our website for a lot of things.
Pro Tip: We suggest directing your guests to our website as well. Tell them to check out our destination page and itinerary page for ideas of places to travel. A good way to do this is by including a link to our site in your wedding website. That way your guests will know exactly where to look in planning their trip and you won’t get bombarded with questions.
So, after reading this, what do you think? Is getting married in Costa Rica the right choice for you?
Make sure to head on over to part two in our series on planning your wedding. Up next:
How to choose a wedding venue in Costa Rica
Let us know if you have anything to add or have any questions about choosing Costa Rica as your wedding destination. We are always happy to help and love to hear from you all!
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