What do you mean you're not having a wedding?
July 7, 2009 2:00 PM   Subscribe

What are the requirements for my fiance and I (both US citizens) to get married in Guatemala?

My fiance and I are going to Guatemala in early September and plan to get married while we're there. Much to the chagrin of our friends and family, this is not a destination wedding - it will be an adventure vacation for the two of us where we will also tie the proverbial knot (seriously, they would love to see the wedding, but are completely supportive of our plans).

In trying to track down the requirements for US citizens getting married in Guatemala, we haven't found a lot of information... We have read the US Embassy in Guatemala page on the subject, but that's about all the official information we have, as the Guatemala Embassy in the US site seems to be down.

From reading the US Embassy site, we know the general requirements, but we aren't sure about how to satisfy some of them and we are looking to find out if there are any others. Here's what (we think) we know so far...

US documents must be authenticated by the Guatemalan Embassy/Consulate in the US. It seems that this requires them to first be authenticated by the US State Department, which we learned this morning requires the documents to be authenticated by their respective issuing states' Secretary of State.

Marriages are performed by civil authorities or a Guatemalan lawyer. Should/can we arrange for this now or wait until we are in Guatemala? How would we find someone someone reputable?

Guatemalan law requires proof of legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract in the form of certification by competent authority that no impediment exists to the marriage. No such document exists in the United States, but Guatemalan authorities usually accept an affidavit written by the U.S. citizen stating that they are free to marry and notarized at the American Embassy. The US Embassy website tells how to do this and it seems pretty straightforward.

When a foreigner requests to be married in Guatemala, Guatemalan law requires that the foreigner publishes an announcement in the official newspaper for two weeks to check if there is an obstacle for the marriage. We think the official newspaper is Prensa Libre de Guatemala. Is this correct? How do we go about publishing an announcement? We only speak a little Spanish...

What else is there that we don't know? Are there resources we haven't found on the web (preferably in English)?

Finally, we have read the various AskMe and Thorn Tree threads about Guatemala, but if anyone has any recommendations on what to see, where to stay/eat, etc feel free to post them. This isn't really the point of this thread, but we always love to hear what other travelers have enjoyed.
posted by jshort to Travel & Transportation around Guatemala (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would suggest going to Guatemala, and having a ceremony that makes it official as far as you two are concerned. The moment you get back to the states, go to the courthouse and make it legal. Either way you end up married, and with memories of marrying in Guatemala. The way I suggest would have a lot less red tape.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:30 PM on July 7, 2009

Regarding the travel bit, but not the wedding bit, I definitely enjoyed hiking Pacaya (volcano near Antigua).
posted by teragram at 2:41 PM on July 7, 2009

What Antidisestablishmentarianist said. Enjoy the wedding there but make if official on paper when you are back. Is there any particular reason you need this to be 'legal' in Guatemala?

Is there more context to this question?
posted by special-k at 2:47 PM on July 7, 2009

That actually seems like a pretty thorough description; when I applied for a Polish residence visa the websites of the necessary embassies/official bodies in the US and Poland were my only guide, and there were no speed bumps...so I suggest you have all the info, and time, you need.

I suggest summarizing the list of requirements you've written up above, with questions after each bullet point, and just e-mailing the consular section of the Embassy there at consularguatem@state.gov.

Check out the sites of other Guatemalan newspapers here. How do you know you have the right one? Perhaps you could send them a simple e-mail in English to each, asking if they are able to accept your banns?

The TripAdvisor forums are amazingly helpful for what seem like the most out-of-the-way places sometimes; the city of Antigua sounds like an amazing place to tie the knot for what it's worth.
posted by mdonley at 5:08 PM on July 7, 2009

My wife and I, both Americans, got married in Sri Lanka as part of a similar "adventure". Fortunately a hotel we had booked for part of our trip had an affiliated wedding planner who handled most of the arrangements at that end for us and really advised us on the whole process. We had to send her notarized copies of our birth certificates and passports and write up (and have notarized) a "no impediment" affidavit, but she took care of almost everything else for us, even got us a fantastic officiant.

I'm not sure if this is a possibility, but it might be worth looking into if there's an available wedding planner in one of the areas you're planning on visiting. I'd imagine they'd handle everything from placing your newspaper announcement to helping you out with hotel reservations...you are planning on splurging at least on your wedding night, I trust?

As for Guatemala, depending on where you're going to be in the country, Tikal is really not to be missed, more impressive than Chichen Itza in Mexico in many ways in my opinion.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2009

I can't advise on logistics, but Lago Atitlan would be a wonderful place to get married. If it were me, I'd say at Hotel Aaculaax in San Marcos.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 PM on July 7, 2009

Response by poster: Antidisestablishmentarianist and special-k - thanks for your input, but the question wasn't "Should we get married in Guatemala?" We understand there are easier alternatives, but we are planning to get married in Guatemala and are looking for advice on satisfying all the requirements (and any sights/lodging/dining recommendations on the side).

mdonley - Thanks for the consular email address... We'll try it. We already tried sending an email to the Guatemala Embassy (info@guatemala-embassy.org) but received no response. Thanks for the newspaper link as well - it looks like Diario de Centro America might actually be the correct newspaper, although Prensa Libre is also listed as a newspaper of record. We'll check out the Trip Advisor forums too... We can't get enough of reading about others' travels in Guatemala!

JaredSeth - The hotel wedding planner is our backup plan, but we're worried they will try to turn it into a big event and take the adventure out of it. Glad to hear it worked well for you and your wife - we might end up doing that! Oh, and Tikal is definitely on the list! Thanks!

lunasol - that hotel looks awesome!
posted by jshort at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2009

jshort: I was suggesting you get married in Guatemala. The marriage is the bond between the two people, legal things are mere formalities. Focusing on who issues the certificate seems to me like a formality, but it may be more important to you. Good luck, sounds like a fun time any way you do it.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2009

I hope you got everything worked out and had a fantastic time!

I came across your posting looking for details on how to meet all the Guatemalan requirements myself. I am planning to get married in Guatemala (to a Guatemalan) in December and need to get going on these details.

If you have a chance to share some tips, they'd be much appreciated! Sorry I didn't share this sooner to share travel tips as I've seen a bit of Guate this year.
posted by kslattery at 7:54 PM on November 6, 2009

« Older Need help appealing a real estate assessment?   |   how to find a good neurologist? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.