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Planning a wedding by the sea

Weddings and honeymoons are landmark times in our lives. The Caribbean sunsets, tropical gardens and seasides provide the perfect setting for your special day. That’s why so many couples choose to tie the knot and/or take their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. 

Major resorts in Sosua, Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada, Playa Grande, Punta Cana-Bavaro, Juan Dolio, Boca Chica, Samana and La Romana have expert staffs who will coordinate a carefree wedding for you and your party. Wedding packages differ slightly from hotel to hotel but most will include the judge, license, flowers, music, cake, champagne and special touches in your room. 

A sun washed beach will provide a romantic setting for a wedding reception. Tropical flower bouquets and centerpieces in cool seaside colors or passionate bright colors will add to the atmosphere. Guests will sit back and relax, and thank you for sharing these memorable moments with them. 

The hotel may arrange for the wedding ceremony at a beachside gazebo or under an open sky. The hotel wedding coordinator will translate the Spanish ceremony for you. The photographer knows the hotel and area so he can find the best backgrounds for memorable poses. Your biggest worry is saying "I do." 

Likewise, if you want to go all the way, the wedding business is big in the DR. Santo Domingo wedding specialists can be called in to create your dream wedding.

You should start planning your wedding six months in advance. The hotels prefer at least three months advance notice to book the judge and prepare for your day. While weddings in the DR are beautiful, they are also practical and excellent value for money.
Note that marriages in the DR can be either "civil", when the parties are married by a government official, or "canonical", when the ceremony is performed by a Roman Catholic priest at a church. In the case of the Catholic wedding, the church takes the responsibility for registering the marriage with the appropriate government offices.

Paperwork cost
The paperwork for a wedding in the DR is costly, so some couples consider getting married covertly abroad and performing a mock ceremony in the DR, with the savings invested in the actual wedding ceremony. The fees vary depending on who is a Dominican or resident.  
Fees for getting married at the Civil Registry Office:  
When both the bride and groom are foreigners not residents of the DR - RD$10,000 
When one is a foreigner not resident of the DR - RD$5,000  
When both the bride and groom are foreigners residents of the DR - RD$1,000 

Likewise, savings can also be had by marrying at the Civil Registry Office and then celebrating a mock ceremony at the resort. Fees for marriages outside the Civil Registry Office:
When both the bride and groom are foreigners not residents of the DR - RD$15,000
When one is a foreigner not resident of the DR - RD$8,000 
When both the bride and groom are foreigners residents of the DR - RD$3,000 
Check to see if these fees have been updated at fees .

Wedding day
Start your wedding day with a pre-wedding breakfast or brunch. The hotel can arrange for a casual, morning gathering at the hotel for your party. Then pamper yourself with a massage, or spend some time at the hotel spa, and then the beauty salon for manicure and hairstyling. If the hotel does not have these facilities, they can arrange for a beauty specialist to come to your room.

Choosing where to honeymoon
One of the big advantages to marrying at a resort is that you can honeymoon right there. If you will be at a resort in the South, take time out to visit Santo Domingo, the first city in the New World. Have pictures of the two of you strolling through the 16th century Colonial City, an area dripping with romance. Visit the Alcazar where the conquistadors planned their exploits in the New World. There, too, Diego Columbus courted his newly arrived bride, Maria de Toledo. The cobble-stone streets and yellow lamplight will inspire old-fashioned romance. 

In Santo Domingo choose from one of the large chain hotels or a smaller colonial city hotel. Enjoy the Plaza de España in the Colonial Zone or the discos in city hotels or residential areas, as well as the many gourmet restaurants, cafes and bars. 

If the idea of planning a complex honeymoon makes you nervous, consider an all-inclusive resort. A prepaid vacation puts money issues behind you. You can just relax in the sheltered atmosphere of an all-inclusive, eating and drinking all day without taking your wallet out! If you like being in control, get the hotel schedule and choose from the myriad of daytime and nighttime activities. It will be all there for you to choose from, bringing less stress, giving you more time and energy to concentrate on each other. 

If you are traveling with a wedding party, large all-inclusives have the advantage of keeping friends and family close together and busy with the many activities. 

If you really want to take the easy way, some of the larger tour operators can sell you a complete wedding package to save you the trouble of dealing directly with the hotel. These packages take care of all the details for a flat fee including the assistance of their local representative. Ask your travel agent about it.

For serenity-seeking honeymooners, choose a small private hotel far away from the all-inclusive party atmosphere. How about a small mountain enclave in Constanza, a guest house in Playa Grande or Las Galeras beach, Samana? 

Still stumped about which direction to take? Then make it a split decision - spend a week in the South or the East and a week in the North. These destinations are only 3 or 4 hours apart so you won’t waste a whole day travelling. After all, it's your honeymoon; make it memorable!

Marriage paperwork:

Marriage license requirements: 
Submit the following paperwork before the Oficialía del Estado Civil (Civil Registry Office) for the preparation of your marriage certificate. Note that you may send photocopies in advance and bring the original with you: 

  • Original passport and copies of the passport bio-page; 
  • Copies of last entries stamps; 
  • Proof of Dominican residence (when applicable) 
  • Sworn declaration before a notary public of being single and eligible to marry, this is also known as a single status affidavit. This sworn declaration, in Spanish, needs to be legalized at the Offices of the Procuradur’a General de la Republica (Attorney General Offices). If the sworn declaration is done before a foreign notary, it then needs to be legalized at the closest Dominican Consulate. 
  • Foreign birth certificate and a legal translation of the certificate. 
  • If divorced, copy of the divorce certificate and legal translation of the certificate by an authorized legal translator in the DR.  

Legal transcripts of the birth certificates, single status affidavit and divorce certificate are usually prepared at the Dominican consulate in the country where the documents were issued. For assistance see planning your wedding.

You will also need two witnesses that are not family. If they are foreigners, they will need to have passports as identification. If they are Dominicans, "cedulas" are sufficient. 

People who have been divorced in the DR under the Special Divorces Law need to wait 24 hours prior to getting married. 
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) rules over marriages in the DR. See for requirements in Spanish .

After the marriage: 

You will be given a document that proves the wedding took place. You then need to request a marriage certificate from the local Justice of the Peace. The document issued by the Justice of the Peace is a valid marriage certificate anywhere in the world. The marriage certificate will include the complete names of the spouses, the evidence of their written consent, a declaration they have united in matrimony and the date of the celebration and the signatures of the officer, the spouses and the witnesses. After the celebration the marriage is registered in the appropriate civil registry. 

It may come in handy to validate the marriage certificate at your consulate in the DR. This will be useful if you are considering a name change or applying for a visa for one of the spouses. This process can be carried out by the corresponding foreign-based authorities in the DR. Verify if your hotel of choice may include initiating the second part of this validation process in your wedding package for an extra fee. This procedure usually takes about a month.

Wedding tips

  • Take advantage of features like a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, a music trio or quartet that will play all your songs if you let them know in advance.
  • Splurge on flowers, taking advantage of the variety of tropical and exotic flowers and their lower cost. 
  • Purchase the photo album and the video, for life-long memories. 
  • Design a cake topped and decorated with seashells or fresh orchids. Or send in advance a picture of your dream cake for a custom-made cake.
  • Remember to choose attire proper for the hotter Caribbean weather. Sleeveless gowns are best. Some have even married in their bathing suits down on the beach! Yes, you may wear a long train but don't expect it to stay immaculately white. The dress can be steam-pressed by the hotel's dry cleaning department upon your arrival.
  • Come days before to get a beautiful suntan for that wedding day. 
  • Take advantage of hotel massage or spa facilities to de-stress before the wedding. 
  • Request a Plan A – open air - and a Plan B – indoors - in case of a tropical shower. 
  • Remember to prepare yourself for the unexpected. Getting married in another country is a wonderful experience but the language and culture difference could result in some ‘interesting’ surprises. If you just relax and go with the flow, you’re guaranteed to have a perfect wedding day.

Church weddings
Church weddings, as mentioned, need more formalities than a civil service. You will have to fulfill all the civil wedding requirements and then some. Check with the hotel of your choice to see if they have had any recent experience with church weddings. A Dominican wedding specialist will be helpful guiding you through these formalities. 

If you are both foreigners and want to marry in the Dominican Roman Catholic Church, your Archbishop may need to request permission from the Archbishop of the Diocese where you would like to marry in the DR. If you are marrying a Dominican, this will not be necessary as the Dominican spouse has an assigned church depending on his/her home town. With connections, this may be changed to one of the historic churches within the Colonial City.

The lovely but small San Estanislao Church (Roman Catholic) at Altos de Chavon (seats about 40) in La Romana is chosen by many foreign couples every year. Arrangements are costly but can be made through Casa de Campo, Tel (809) 523-3333. The San Estanislao church priest will allow you to bring a priest of another denomination to participate in the ceremony. 

Some Dominican parishes, San Estanislao included, may also permit a foreign language-speaking priest to participate in the ceremony. 

Jewish weddings can be held in the DR with or without the presence of a rabbi. To locate the rabbi, call the Israeli Embassy in Santo Domingo, Tel. (809) 542-1635.

Church weddings for foreigners have been held at: 
San Estanislao Church in Altos de Chavon (La Romana) 
Basilica La Altagracia, Higuey, La Altagracia (Punta Cana) 
Cathedral of Puerto Plata
Sosua Synagogue (Puerto Plata)
Santo Domingo Synagogue
Cathedral of Santo Domingo
Cathedral of Santiago

A religious marriage has the same legal implications as a civil marriage. In a religious marriage, the parish priest sends a copy of the act of the celebration to the authorized Officer of the Civil State within three days after the marriage, so that it may be registered. Even if a civil marriage has taken place before the canonical marriage, the parish priest must still send a copy of the act to the Official of the Civil State to be registered.

Reaffirming vows
If you have reached a special anniversary, you may want to reaffirm your vows. No better way than by organizing a family and friends trip to an exotic destination in the Dominican Republic. The resort of your choice can help coordinate a service followed by a reception and party.

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