Thinking of getting married in Mexico? Yes it is possible, however there are many things to know before taking any decision which will help you to make the marriage process a completely out-of-the-box experience
By Solomon Freimuth and Gustavo Calderón
Getting married in a Mexican Beach or in a Mexican Hacienda is becoming a trend among foreign couples looking for a different and extra romantic wedding. Unfortunately, even when the foreigners-wedding business is clearly growing, the authorities have not made enough efforts to facilitate the process. It is not that it’s impossible to get married here, this procedure can be done by anyone with a little bit of initiative, a moderate amount of Spanish (or a translator) and a lot of patience, but for people who are accustomed to a more fast paced and efficient world, don’t want the hassle involved or just don’t want to bother trying to speak Spanish, Mexico can be a frustrating place to try to get anything accomplished, for these reasons we have written this article which in a few sentences will try to explain this process.
THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
The first thing you need to know is that as established by the Mexican Constitution, the regulation of the Civil Registry acts is a State’s exclusive power. There are 31 states in Mexico and 1 Federal District (Mexico City), therefore there are 32 different Civil Registries and a Federal regulation for Federal Jurisdiction cases. In general terms most of the requirements in all Mexico are the same, however some places like Mexico City have shown a very progressive attitude by simply not making any difference between “traditional” marriages and same sex marriages.
Second thing to know is that even when Mexico is a very Catholic Country, it has made a great effort to maintain a separation between religion and government since the 19th Century. For this reason, Religious Weddings are not officially recognized, the only way to get officially married is by doing it before an Official/Judge of the Civil Registry, whereas inside the Registry Office or, with an extra fee, in a different place (the Beach, a Hotel, an Hacienda, etc.). Most of Mexican Catholics usually get married 2 times the same day, first in a little ceremony with their most close friends and family before the Civil registry’s Official/Judge, a few moments later they do it in a church before a Priest as regulated by the Catholic Church.
Third: the Property Regime. All the Mexican States will give 2 options to choose from (i) a Common Regime, when both parties agreed to share all their assets; and (ii) a Separated Regime, when each party maintain the ownership of their own assets. In some cases there is a third option depending on the State, which is a mix of the 2 first regimes and a marital assets agreement. It is very important to be informed about the regime and it’s consequences. The couple usually will be inquired at the moment of getting married about the property regime they have chosen, however according to the regulation of some states if nothing is mentioned, it can be understood as a Common Regime, while in other States will be understood as a Separated Regime.
PROCESS, TIMETABLE AND PAPERWORK
In order to get “officialy” married in most states of Mexico, each partner will need an original of his/her birth certificate which in case of been a non Mexican certificate, it will need to be legalized or accompanied by an apostille seal. To get an apostille in the USA, a certified copy of the birth certificate from the vital statistics department of the state where each partner was born must be submitted to the Secretary of State where the birth certificate was issued for apostille. Each State’s procedures are fairly easy to follow, but a little research is required on the Secretary of State’s website for the proper addresses and fees. There are services available online which can take care of the apostille process easily and affordably, a Google search for “Apostille Services” will render a wealth of options.
This document then needs to be translated into Spanish by a Mexican court-authorized translator, who can be found and contacted online, then each birth certificate and it´s corresponding apostille certificate will need to be sent via courier service to the translator at least a month before the wedding, so they have plenty of time to get the paperwork done. The documents can then either be sent back to the States or picked up in Mexico City. It might provide more piece of mind to have the documents in hand when before leaving for Mexico, but having the documents sent back to the United States from Mexico is going to add at least a few weeks to the process.
The legal ceremony can take place in the Civil Registry office or in an offsite location, the cost to perform the wedding outside of the office is marginally more. It is best to schedule the judge´s time well in advance, they are often booked at least a month ahead of time.
Before leaving for Mexico it is necessary to finish gathering the paperwork required for the wedding: proof of address (an electric bill), passports and a few forms that need to be filled out for the marriage certificate. The paperwork is all in Spanish and the answers need to be in Spanish; Mexico is very picky about official documents, so it is best to get help if the language is a problem.
The next step will be to get on the plane. It is a good idea to plan to be in Mexico at least two weeks before the actual marriage, paperwork needs to be presented in the civil registry at least a week before the actual date. Some States in Mexico require that, in addition to all the paperwork mentioned already, both partners will need a current prenuptial health exam, which can be done in many public or private health facilities and tests for HIV, VD´s and blood types. The last requirements for the marriage are a copy of the visa (tourist card) received upon entrance to Mexico and if one of the spouses is of Mexican birth, permission from the Mexican Immigration Authority for a foreigner to marry a Mexican citizen. All of the paperwork must now be turned into the Civil Registry in original and copy.
After presenting the paperwork, the registry will provide a payment form, which in the case of Mexico City, it can be taken to any bank for payment of the corresponding fees; afterwards the receipt of payment will need to be returned to the Registry. The lapse of time between presentation of the paperwork and the actual ceremony is a great opportunity to do any last minute planning or, everything is already buttoned up, a great chance to explore a little bit of Central Mexico or any part of Mexico where you are located.
The wedding ceremony will be simple, the ceremony itself takes less than half an hour, in some cases the Civil Registry will have an in-house photographer that will take pictures for their records and for the local papers, though it is a good idea to consider hiring a professional photographer to take pictures as well.
Before returning to home the marriage certificate must be apostilled by the Secretary of Government in Mexico City in order for it to be a legal document in the United States or any other Country that is part of La Hague Convention on apostille, other than that you will need to go trough the legalization process.
SAME SEX MARRIAGES
In November of 2006 the local congress of Mexico City passed a law recognizing some of the rights that same-sex couples around the world have fought for in the last decades, such as inheritance and community property, they did this by creating a new legal institution called “Coexistance Partnership (Sociedad de Convivencia)”. This was a big step towards the elimination of discrimination in Mexico towards homosexuals, but some gay-rights groups still opposed the distinction between real marriage for straights and the civil union for gays, claiming that equality means the same rights for everyone – in fall of 2009, the government of Mexico City agreed to change the Civil Code of Mexico City so that the definition of marriage reads “the free union of two people sharing a life to obtain respect, equality and mutual aid for both.” This modification provides equal rights and possibilities to marriages of any sex composition, even adoption. It is important to mention that even when some States and the Federal Government complained about this modification, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice declared that the modification was constitutional.
This change, a monumental decision for a notoriously catholic country, paved the way to making families equal, without importance on the gender of its components. Now, all families can take advantage of health care and other benefits formerly reserved for traditional one-man/one-woman families. This change in the laws also makes Mexico a convenient and fun option for making that commitment which may not be possible at home.
As said before, this marriage procedure can be done by anyone with a little bit of initiative, a moderate amount of Spanish and a lot of patience. For people without time, without any knowledge of Spanish or couples just looking to reduce the stress, looking forward to have the most romantic wedding and leaving the paperwork to someone else, the use of an experienced consultant can help to streamline the marriage process making it a completely out-of-the-box experience.
About the Authors: Solomon Freimuth is an American Citizen resident and married in Mexico, he is currently pursuing a Law Degree. Gustavo Calderón is a Mexican Attorney expert in Real Estate Law, Immigration Law and Agrarian Law, he is also professor of Family Law. Both authors are part of the firm Calderón & Asociados in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. For more information about this firm visit www.chflawyers.com or contact us by e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org The copy, distribution or publication of this article is permitted as long as the work is attributed to their authors exactly as mentioned in this paragraph.
Thinking of getting married in Mexico? Yes it is possible, however there are many things to know before taking any decision which will help you to make the marriage process a completely out-of-the-box experience.