To be married legally in Mexico requires enough paperwork, and costs enough, that many couples marry in their home country and then have a symbolic ceremony in Mexico. If you do opt for a legal Mexican wedding we recommend hiring a local wedding coordinator to help you through the process. If your hotel cannot put you in touch with one, you are probably staying at the wrong hotel. In order to meet all the requirements and take care of all the paperwork, plan on arriving at least three days (not counting weekends and Mexican holidays) before the ceremony.
In order for a Mexican wedding to be recognized as legal, both in Mexico and elsewhere, it must be performed in a civil ceremony by a Mexican civil registry official. Civil ceremonies are typically not performed on Sundays (or Saturdays in some locations) or Mexican holidays. A religious ceremony can be done in addition to a civil ceremony, but has no legal status. Nor, of course, does a symbolic ceremony.
Although similar, marriage requirements in Mexico are set by each state, and can differ in important details. The exact requirements are available from the registry office (Oficinia del Registro Civil) in the place you plan to marry, which is one more reason to rely on the help of a local wedding coordinator.
By the time you are done, getting the necessary paperwork can cost $800-$900. (A typical fee for medical tests is $250 per couple, and the fees involved with “legalizing” various documents can run into the hundreds.)
Residency requirement: None.
Consent – For anyone under 18, consent of parents or guardian is required. Even with consent, males must be at least 16, and females 14.
Medical requirements – A blood test is necessary for blood type, V.D.R.L., HIV, and Rh factor. It must be done within 14 days previous to getting married. In some states, a chest x-ray is required for tuberculosis. The tests must be done in Mexico, with the results in Spanish. Tests from outside of Mexico are not acceptable.
Witnesses – You’ll need four witnesses, two for the bride and two for the groom, all at least 18 years of age. (In some states, you may need only two total.) They will need some valid form of ID, and you’ll need to know their name, age, nationality, home address, and occupation. In many instances, if you are bringing your own witnesses, hotels will insist that the bride, groom, and witnesses arrive three days before the ceremony.
Previous marriages – Most states require that the bride and groom cannot remarry until they have been divorced for at least a year. But this varies, so if it is an issue do check. If either bride or groom is widowed, a death certificate is needed.
U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need passports to enter Mexico, but they do need them to legally marry. UK citizens need a passport and tourist permit, but not a visa. With the exception of your passport and tourist permit, all necessary documents must be legalized, which is another way of saying authenticated, by the appropriate jurisdiction in your home country, legalized by the nearest Mexican consulate in your home country, and translated into Spanish by a certified Spanish translator.
For U.S. and UK citizens, in order for the necessary documents to be legalized, they must have an apostille affixed to them.
Bring original and certified copies of all your documents, but give up only the copies, as they will not be returned. If you are using a local wedding coordinator, send the copies to them at least 30 days ahead of time.
Where to get documents translated – Many agencies and individuals offer certified Spanish translations, which can be done in your home country or in Mexico, for widely varying prices. Many advertise online.
Required documents include:
Passports – Must be good for at least six months after you enter Mexico.
Tourist Permit – Called an FFM, you’ll get this upon arrival. The names on your passport and the permit must be identical.
Birth certificate. Must be a certified copy.
Divorce decree/death certificate, if either applies.
Affidavit of Single Marital Status – A few states require this. It has to be in English, and notarized.
If you are marrying a Mexican national
Along with the above documentation, you will need another, called a Formato de estancia, giving you permission to marry a Mexican national. It is issued by the Secretaria de Gobernacion, and must come from an office in the same state where the marriage takes place. You will also need to submit a letter to the National Institute of Migration, signed by both of you, stating that there is no legal reason why you can’t be married, and including the details of when and where the ceremony will take place. It must be accompanied by proof of payment of fees. The process should take only a few days, but may take up to two weeks.
Marriage application forms
At the local Registro Civil, where you will present your documents, you will fill out your marriage application, complete a pre-nuptial agreement declaring whether you wish to have joint or separate ownership of property, and pay your marriage license fee. After that, depending on the state, there is a waiting period of up to two days before you can get married.
The ceremony will be conducted in Spanish, and may be translated into English by your wedding coordinator, someone you know, or, for a fee, a professional translator.
The simplest, least expensive way to get married is at the local Registro Civil.
More commonly for foreigners, for an additional fee you can get married at the location you choose, such as on the beach at your hotel.
Catholic ceremonies must take place in a catholic church, of which there are many. For Catholics, documents required of both the bride and groom include birth, baptism, and confirmation certificates; documentation from your home diocese to the priest performing your ceremony in Mexico confirming that you have taken all the usual steps necessary for couples planning to marry in the church, that permission has been granted by your home diocese for you to marry in Mexico, that an affidavit of freedom to marry, a pre-nuptial investigation form, and color photos of the bride and groom have been included; and notice of any dispensations, etc., that may be applicable. All this should be in the hands of the officiating priest at least 30 days before the ceremony.
For Jewish ceremonies, finding a rabbi locally can be difficult, so couples will often bring their own from home, although wedding coordinators can sometimes arrange for one from Mexico City, for a fee that includes travel and lodging.
Same Sex marriages
Same sex marriages can be legally performed only in Mexico City and Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Once you are married
Marriage Certificate (Acta de Matrimonio)
Your marriage certificate, which will be in Spanish, validates your marriage worldwide, but you need to have it legalized in Mexico. For Americans and Brits, this means a certified copy needs to be appended with an apostille from the Mexican government. If you don’t have a wedding coordinator assisting you (Did we mention you should have one?), the local Registro Civil can help. They may not be ready until after you depart Mexico, but arrangements can be made to have it Fedexed home. After returning home, register your marriage certificate with your local governing jurisdiction.
For more information
As requirements are subject to change, do not consider any of this legal advice, and verify all information from local wedding coordinators and other sources before arriving.