Weddings Traditions and Requirements in Jamaica

Learn about Jamaica weddings, from traditional customs to modern necessities

When asked to describe a wedding, the most common response people give is the image of a bride dressed in white, walking down the aisle to meet her groom and exchange vows. 

This notion is a very western one, and certainly not a tradition that every country follows.  A look back at the wedding customs of Jamaica will prove that the islanders have, in the past, had a different idea of what makes a wedding great. You may find that these time-honored traditions speak to you, and want to incorporate them into your own wedding, or you may just find it an interesting read.  There are a few rules you must abide by, however, if you plan to get married in Jamaica. 

Local Wedding Customs

Though weddings in Jamaica are typically a modern affair, similar to what you would be used to seeing back home, there are some customs that remain historically significant.  You may find it fun, or important, to incorporate some of these customs into your own ceremony. 

Traditionally, Jamaican weddings involve the entire village in which the couple lives.  Everyone is invited to celebrate the momentous occasion, and it is not uncommon for uninvited guests from nearby villagers to show up as well.  The wedding fruit cakes (there were multiple cakes in order to feed all of the guests) were covered in lace (so that they would be a surprise to the bride), carried to the wedding location by a quiet procession of married women, and the bride would later be paraded through the streets to the ceremony location in what many consider to be the oddest of the Jamaican wedding traditions.  As the bride walks through the streets, villagers line up and call out to the bride criticizing her appearance.  If she gets a lot of negative feedback, the bride will return home and try to make herself more beautiful before returning to the wedding site. 

At the ceremony, the bride was walked down the aisle by both her mother and her father, or just her father.  Rarely was a bride escorted by her mother if the father was out of the picture.  

After the wedding, the reception would be held at the groom's family home, at which lots of food (curried goat was commonly served), drinks (rum), and cake were consumed, and guests danced and toasted the couple.  Guests would give the newly married couple provisions to begin their life together, such as livestock, money, and home decor. 

After the reception, the newlywed couple would go to their home and rest for one week. 

Though many of these practices are considered archaic, some of these wedding traditions are upheld today, many of which involve food.  If you would like to honor Jamaican wedding traditions, consider serving curried goat, rum punch, and fruit cake at your reception. Click here to read about Jamaica's culinary styles.

Modern Requirements

Weddings in Jamaica can take place every day of the week, including Sundays and holidays, but the bride and groom must have been in Jamaica for at least 24 hours before their ceremony is scheduled to take place.  The only exception to this is if the wedding party arrives via cruise ship, in which case they may be married that same day.

There are a number of documents that you are required to produce before you may get married in Jamaica.  Many venues and planners will require that you mail or fax them these documents at least 30 days (and often up to 60 days) prior to the event.  Check with your venue to be sure. 

Required Paperwork:

  • Certified copies of the bride and grooms birth certificates.
  • Certified copies of Divorce Certificate if one or more parties has been divorced.
  • Certified copies of Death Certificate if one of the parties is a widow or widower.
  • Certified copies of adoption certificates that reflect any name changes.
  • Photocopy of photo identification for each party.
  • Notarized copies of English translations for any documents that are not originally worded in English.

The wedding venue or minister should take care of filing all of the paperwork to make your marriage official, and mail it to your home within four to six weeks of the wedding date.

Whether you plan a very customary religious ceremony, a service that includes elements of traditional Jamaican nuptials, or create a whole new wedding concept that works for you, a destination wedding in Jamaica is sure to be a dream.  Take the time to make sure you've got all your required documents in order before you head to the island, and your Jamaican wedding can be whatever you want it to be.


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