Having a loved one officiate your wedding in Puerto Rico
Sometimes it seems as if everyone’s a wedding officiant these days. It’s easy to be ordained online, and many states allow such online credentials for legal purposes for signing and registering marriages. Puerto Rico does not. We often hear from couples who would like to have a loved one officiate their legal wedding in Puerto Rico. It’s possible, but not at all recommended. Here’s why.
Certification by the Puerto Rican government
First, for an officiant to sign and register Puerto Rican marriage certificates, she must be certified by the Puerto Rican government. While it’s technically possible for a non-resident to obtain such certification, it’s not easy and we do not recommend it. Puerto Rican bureaucracy can be maddening (it’s the price we pay for living in paradise!), and the simplest of tasks require multiple visits to government offices, with ever-changing arbitrary requirements.
Our officiants have been legally certified and registered with the Puerto Rican government for many years, and, still, inevitably, every six months when our licenses come up for simple renewal, we end up going to multiple offices and spending multiple days on what should be a simple task. We have contacts and friends at the offices and it still doesn’t help. And none of the necessary information is online, and the offices rarely answer the phone. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a non-resident (especially one who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish) to become an officiant who can legally marry someone in Puerto Rico.
That said, if someone is able to successfully navigate the system and become a registered officiant in Puerto Rico, the complications do not stop there.
Requirements for a wedding officiant in Puerto Rico
First, the officiant would need to be an expert in the paperwork and requirements to be legally married in Puerto Rico so that she can guide the couple and submit the paperwork for their marriage license in advance of their wedding. In addition, she must know the quirky and often ridiculous roadblocks that come up. For example, the government offices are very particular about the color and type of pen that is used to sign and complete marriage documents, and they do not hesitate to reject documents that do not follow the (unpublished) rules.
Second, a Puerto Rican wedding officiant must have a working relationship with a Puerto Rican doctor who is also registered with the government and who can sign off on the required lab results. This requires an in-person visit to the doctor ten days before the wedding date, and coordination of an appointment via Zoom with the couple while they are still in their home state.
Visits to government offices
Third, even if everything is completed properly, multiple visits to the government offices after the wedding are required. The wedding officiant in Puerto Rico must register the signed marriage certificate in person, and only on Fridays. The queue can be 5-6 hours. After the government office has ten days to enter and process the marriage certificate, the officiant must make an appointment to return to the government office to apply for and obtain the official marriage certificate (involving additional complicated paperwork and authorizations). As of April 2021, the waiting time to obtain such an appointment is 6-8 weeks. Finally, if there are any issues or problems or mistakes, another in-person visit and appointment is needed, at another time.
Requirements for wedding couples
If it sounds complicated, it is! That said, we’ve successfully and legally married hundreds of destination wedding couples in Puerto Rico. We are truly the experts and know the above system inside and out. We take care of everything so that our couples have effortless and stress-free weddings and vacations to our beautiful island. They need not step foot in a lab, a doctor’s office, or a government office while in Puerto Rico.
Having your loved one officiate your wedding
All that said, if a couple really wants to have a loved one officiate their legal wedding in Puerto Rico, we can ‘shadow’ their wedding, where we take care of all the legalities and paperwork for them and sign and submit their marriage certificate. One of our registered officiants will attend their wedding and obtain the necessary signatures from the couple and their witnesses. (There is no discount in price). However, we usually encourage our couples to go with the professionals, for so many reasons.
Contact us for more information about our stress-free wedding and elopement packages that include all the above. All you need to do is show up! We’d love to help!