Weddings Traditions and Requirements in Puerto Rico

Foreigners hoping to say “I do” in Puerto Rico are required to submit paperwork and blood work

Photo credit: © Venson Kuchipudi

Weddings in Puerto Rico remain a traditional affair that invites the family and friends of the bride and groom together in celebration of the couple. 

You may find the traditions of a Puerto Rican wedding speak to you, and that in planning your destination wedding you want to integrate some of them into your own big day.  Regardless, there are a few legal matters that must be taken care of before you may exchange vows on the island.

Local Wedding Customs

Weddings in Puerto Rico are filled with family and steeped in ritual and tradition.  You may feel that because you are tying the knot in Puerto Rico that borrowing from their typical ceremony is a great way to honor the islanders and what is important to them.

The bride and groom in Puerto Rican weddings wear traditional clothing.  As a part of her ensemble, the bride carries an amapola fan along with her bouquet of flowers (which also typically contains the amapola flower).  The fan is carried to symbolize good luck.

Though Puerto Ricans are known to be a lively bunch, soft music is played during the ceremony to create a romantic feel.  As the priest performs the marriage rites, he blesses a plate filled with coins and gives it to the groom.  After the vows are read, the groom gives this plate to the bride as his wedding gift to her.  This practice is said to symbolize good fortune for the couple's life together.

Once the couple has been officially married, they head to a reception with lots of food and dancing.  At the reception, the bride and groom drink from coconut cups filled with cafe con leche, while guests are served a wedding cake decorated with sea shells and pineapples.  At the head of the main table sits a doll dressed identically to the bride.

Before guests leave the reception, the bride and groom give boutonnières called “capias” to their guests with ribbons on each one.  Printed on the ribbons are the names of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding.  These gifts are given to thank the guests for sharing their special day with them.

Though some might consider these practices outdated, they are an important part of the culture in Puerto Rico.  Some islanders might frown upon foreigners performing some of their more sacred rituals, but if you would like to integrate some Puerto Rican customs into your wedding, you'd be safe to do so with local food and beverage at your reception. 

Modern Requirements

There are several steps that foreigners must take to be married in Puerto Rico.  First they must contact the Demographic Registry and request a marriage license.  They can be contacted by phone at 787-728-7980, or by mail at Demographic Registry, P.O. Box 11854, Fernandez Juncos Statio, San Juan, PR 00910.  Contact them at least two months in advance to ensure your license gets to you before you leave for Puerto Rico.

Next, couples hoping to be married in Puerto Rico must gather, and bring with them the following documents to the island:

  • 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.

Upon arrival in Puerto Rico, the bride and the groom must visit a notary republic and legally declare that they have never been married to one another or anyone else (if this is true of their relationship status).  U.S. citizens may skip this step.

With all of this documentation in hand, the couple must see a Puerto Rican physician, and each get a physical.  After performing the physical, the physician will grant each person a medical certificate allowing them to be married.  The certificate is good for 14 days.

All of the documentation, along with the medical certificate must then be brought to the Marriage License Bureau and have the documents authenticated.  Both the bride and groom must be present at this time.

Though it takes a lot of work to legally become married in Puerto Rico, couples who have done it agree that it was worth every step.  Whether you choose to incorporate Puerto Rican traditions into your ceremony and reception, or create a nuptial rite of your own, the beauty of the island will serve to enhance every moment of your special day.


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