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Getting Married in Acapulco


So you've decided to get married and want to do it in style in the romantic capital of the Mexican Pacific? Great idea! Acapulco provides a really beautiful and memorable backdrop for making your wedding day extra special. Also, Acapulco offers you all the services you will need to make your wedding day very easy, too. Foreigners and Mexican nationals alike come to Acapulco with their friends and family for a few days of fun and vacation that culminate in a joyous wedding celebration.

If you bring your own officiant with you from your home country (for example, a pastor who is part of the bride’s or groom’s family), you may want to obtain a wedding license (or even perform an exchange of vows) in the state, province or country where that person is resident. The wedding would then have taken place there for all legal purposes. The Acapulco events would technically be a reaffirmation of vows, but for all public purposes, it would still be “the wedding.” This approach renders unnecessary all the documentation and the trips to the Civil Registry. It is simply not possible, bureaucratically speaking, to have a foreign judge or pastor "deputized” under Mexican law to certify to a ceremony at a local Civil Registry. Many couples in this situation take a second option -- to arrange to have a local judge jointly perform the ceremony with the invited foreign officiant, so that the local official can then execute the necessary paperwork.

Since only the civil ceremony is valid, the choice open to the bridal couple is whether to have the civil ceremony as part of the wedding celebration, or separately. The judges of the Registro Civil (who are similar to justices of the peace in the English legal system) will, for a fee, perform their function outside of their offices. This makes weddings on the beach a practical possibility.

Most resorts offer a selection of venues for outdoor weddings, including quiet locations along the beach, private gardens and other really beautiful locations. In principle, any public place in Acapulco is fair game for a wedding ceremony, though beach venues are the overwhelming favorite. You could choose, for example, to be married in a boat in the middle of the bay, or on a mountain top.

Tip: June weddings come right in the middle of rainy season, and often there is a downpour at around 4:00 in the afternoon. It is best to plan for an indoor wedding or perhaps a wedding earlier in the day if it has to be out of doors.

Tip: If you plan a beach wedding, choose a quiet location, perhaps somewhat remote from the busy beaches around the bay. Noise and distraction created by all the other tourists passing by and gawking can mar the setting. Theoretically, all beaches in Mexico are public, but some of them are much more public than others. A few private villas that can be rented through Real Acapulco are located on strips of beach that, while not technically private, are totally inaccessible to the public. Renting on of these villas for the event would be the best option for a private wedding on the beach.

If you decide to have a religious wedding, in the manner of many local Mexican couples, then the best approach would be to do as they do – go to the Civil Registry for the legal formalities, and then organize the religious ceremony afterwards. It is best to plan the religious ceremony for the following day. Local couples often try to fit in both steps on the same day, and wind up having delays at the Civil Registry to the point that they are late for their own wedding! (It is possible, though not usual, to have a civil judge and a religious officiant at the same ceremony – one to ensure legality, and the other to accomplish the sacramental objective. As there is a fee for performing any civil ceremony away from the Civil Registry, most couples would rather use the two-step method.)

If the religious ceremony is to be held under the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, you should know that the local archdiocese does not permit priests to perform the sacrament of marriage outside a consecrated building. So your choice will be to marry in one of Acapulco’s several Roman Catholic churches. Many of them are quite beautiful, and provide an excellent context for starting a marriage. The restriction concerning churches does not necessarily apply to Protestant ministers, rabbis or Islamic officiants. Acapulco has an Anglican church (a mission of the Diocese of Cuernavaca), a Methodist Church (Principe de Paz), several evangelical congregations, and an active synagogue. The hotel’s wedding coordinator or concierge can help you explore any of these other religious options if you are interested.

Another option is to get married in the “Capilla de Paz” at the top of the ridge in Las Brisas, which stands above Acapulco on the east side of the bay and looks out over Puerto Marques. This modern, non-denominational chapel was built as a memorial to family members by a fairly recent resident of Acapulco. The fees and terms of access to the Capilla de Paz can be described in detail by your wedding planner or concierge. Las Brisas, a resort close by the Capilla de Paz, offers wedding packages that include this forum, complete with transportation.

Wedding Venues

Acapulco Weddings

By far the best option for a wedding in Acapulco is to rent a private villas with a spectacular bay view. Acapulco's many luxury villas not only are a great place to have the wedding event, but also a great place to the wedding party to stay and enjoy the best of Acapulco. Acapulco's villas are often more economical than hotels for large groups.

Villa Vera. Acapulco famously hosted Liz Taylor’s nuptials with Mike Todd as well as the honeymoons of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jack and Jacqueline Kenned and Donald and Ivana Trump. The hotel most identified with the celebrity couples is Villa Vera Hotel Spa and Racquet Club . This property offers several beautiful locations for a ceremony as well as a spa and beauty salon. A wedding coordinator is part of the hotel staff. Villa Vera offers elegant catering of the parties and receptions as well. The coordinator can arrange for photography, music, flowers and all the details.

Las Brisas. Las Brisas states that it is the most romantic hotel in Acapulco, and few dispute this fact. From its commanding location above the bay, Las Brisas can organize small and large weddings in many different locations, from a secluded beach to the “Capilla de Paz” at the top of the mountain. Special accommodation rates are offered for large parties, including a complimentary bridal suite complete with flowers, champagne and personalized touches.

Fairmont Princess Acapulco. The Fairmont Princess Acapulco has also invested in creating the perfect context for a beach wedding, with all the elegance of a five-star hotel. The wedding coordinator handles everything, from the choice of the location to the reception catering, to the music, boutonnières and videos. Packages start with a simple affair for from two to ten persons, including champagne (really, champagne-style sparkling white wine) and a cabana on the beach for the ceremony. You can add different catering options, Mariachis or a string quartet (from the Acapulco Philharmonic) and spa and beauty salon components as well.

Mayan Palace. The Mayan Palace keeps a wedding planner on staff at all times, who will be able to explain all the various packages available to a bridal couple. Right outside is the famous Revolcadero Beach, where many couples have “tied the knot,” surrounded with natural beauty and grandeur, and pampered by the attentive service of the Mayan staff.

Emporio Acapulco. The Emporio is at the Diana traffic circle on the Costera Alemán in Acapulco’s “Golden Zone.” Their wedding coordinator can set up nuptials on the beach, by one of the pools, or indoors in one of their elegant venues, complete with all the touches of catering, decoration, music, flowers and photography.


Acapulco Weddings

Unlike other countries of North America Mexico does not recognize the validity of religious wedding ceremonies. Only the civil ceremony has legal effect. In other words, if you decide upon a religious ceremony, you may consider yourself married for all moral and practical purposes except under Mexican law. Mexican couples go to the Civil Registry to have their marriage "officially" accomplished and recorded, and then they may or may not then organize a church wedding. (The Roman Catholic Church, of course, recognizes the religious, sacramental marriage as binding).

This means that a foreign couple may decide to follow the same path – first going to the local Civil Registry for the legally valid process, and then sharing a religious ceremony or a repetition of vows on the beach or elsewhere, surrounded by family and friends.

The Civil Registry is on Acapulco’s waterfront in the “Traditional Zone,” near the Fort San Diego. If a civil ceremony is performed outside the Civil Registry (by an authorized judge), additional fees apply. Some hotels relieve the couple of having to go downtown first and then repeating vows elsewhere. They have arrangements with judges of the Civil Registry to come to the hotel (or other venue) and do everything all at once.

Either way, the wedding couple needs to apply for a wedding at the Registro Civil. The application involves setting a day and hour for the wedding, paying a fee, and providing other necessary documentation. Mexico imposes no residency requirement for foreign couples seeking to be married in Acapulco. Make the application as soon as possible. Do not wait until the last minute, as a gap in the documentation could cause a delay of the whole wedding process.

Tip: Whenever a document is required, assume that you need an official original (a photocopy is not acceptable) from the issuing agency. Assume that it must be translated into Spanish by a competent person who makes a sworn statement as to the fidelity of the translation. Assume that the original and the sworn translation should be copied (make two copies, just to be safe), and the copies notarized, and then the notarization then certified by the Mexican consulate in your home country. For ID’s of the bride and groom and witnesses (passports, tourist cards, Mexican voter cards), make two clear copies of everything and then bring the originals and the copies with you. You can’t be over-prepared for this step. This is the hardest part of getting married in Mexico. The rest is easy and fun. If the documents have not been translated before you arrive, you will need a few days before going to the Civil Registry to arrange for their translation. Divorce decrees, especially, can be lengthy and take time to translate.

The required documentation includes proof of age and citizenship, marital status (single or divorced) and health. Do not bother to go to the Civil Registry if you do not have everything you need.

Proof of Birth. It is a good idea to obtain from the state or province of birth an officially certified extract of the birth records of the bride and groom. (Photocopies are not acceptable, and it is not unheard of for the Civil Registry to reject even copies certified by a Mexican consular official in the United States if everything is not absolutely correct!) Make sure the documents are accompanied by a certified translation. If the translation is performed in Mexico, it need not be consularized, but it must be sworn. If the translation is done in the states, the additional step is required. A Mexican consular official must add his or her signature and seal to it, indicating that he notarial act of the foreign certifying officer is recognized by the Mexican government. Bring your passports, too, and tourist cards. Sometimes it is possible to enter Mexico without receiving a tourist card. Don’t let this happen to you. Insist on receiving a tourist card at the border, as you will need it at the Civil Registry. If the bride's last name does not match that on the birth certificate for any other reason than a divorce (which will already be documented), bring whatever other documentation there is to prove that the name on the birth certificate can be reconciled with the name on the passport.

Proof of Marital Status. If one of the couples was married before, a certified (and translated) copy of the divorce decree or death certificate of the previous spouse must be provided. The formal requirements for translation and certification are quite specific and exacting, so it makes sense to discuss these details well in advance with your wedding coordinator (or directly with the Civil Registry, if you do not use a coordinator). Even though most other countries have entered into a treaty with Mexico about the reciprocal recognition of notarial acknowledgments, the news has not yet reached the Registro Civil. They still require that all decrees be provided as copies of the original, accompanied by a translation into Spanish, and with a certification that the copy is a true copy of the original, and that the translation is a faithful translation of the English, and both certifications must be notarized, and the notary's signature and seal must be recognized as valid by a Mexican consular officer in the United States. Without the Mexican consular seal on the document, it does not count in Acapulco. If you accomplish the translation locally, then of course the consular step can be omitted. A divorce decree in Spanish is called a “decreto de divorcio.” The same level of formality applies to death certificates of deceased spouses as for divorce decrees. A death certificate in Spanish is called an “Acta de Defunción.” (“Acta” is a masculine noun.) If you arrange all the paperwork at home before your trip, it will look as if it had a pedigree, with so many signatures, seals and stamps!

Also note this very important, easily overlooked detail: Remarriage after divorce or death of a spouse is not permitted within one year of the date of the final divorce decree or death.

Proof of Health. Mexico considers it an impediment to marriage if one of the parties suffers from certain communicable diseases. The medical examination, including a blood test and possibly an x-ray, must be performed in Mexico by a licensed physician within 15 days of the wedding.

Witnesses. Assuming all goes well with the process of applying for the wedding at the Civil Registry, the couple appears for the actual event at the date and time stated in the application. A minimum of two witnesses are required. Up to four can fit on the form. It is a good idea to bring at least two local witnesses (with Mexican ID’s) if you plan to have part of your wedding party serve as witnesses, too. All witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and have valid identification.

The Registro Civil is accustomed to drafting a couple of its employees to serve as witnesses, too, so it's not a total disaster if you show up without remembering this detail. If a stranger serves as your witness, it's appropriate for the groom to provide a small payment for the favor. If there are no delays, a $50 peso bill should be enough. At times, people hang out at the Registro Civil to offer themselves as witnesses for a fee. It’s up to you if you want to use them. There's no risk involved, really, and they are usually well-known to the Civil Registry staff.

Once the consents of the bride and groom have been declared, the judge will complete the paperwork, and all has been accomplished. Frequently the marriage certificate can be issued on the spot after a short wait, particularly if you have provided photocopies of all the necessary documentation for the Registro Civil to work with. It is preferable to wait for this to take place, if you can. A lot will depend on what else is going on at the Civil Registry at the time. Sometimes it will be necessary to come back for the certificate. It is not good advice to ask to have it mailed. The marriage certificate is called an “Acta de Matrimonio.” If you have time, it is not a bad idea to go by your country’s consulate in Acapulco (if there is one) and have the Acta de Matrimonio certified as official, so it will be competent for any legal purposes back home.

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