Getting married in St. Martin/St. Maarten takes quite a bit of preparation and patience, but most couples who have done the legwork agree that a marriage on the island is well worth the wait.
As you make plans for your wedding in St. Martin/St. Maarten, make sure to learn about island wedding customs. You may find that incorporating certain traditions into your own ceremony adds a little something extra to your big day.
Local Wedding Customs
Though there are no traditions of note specifically tied to St. Martin/St. Maarten, it is easy to select from the French, Dutch, and Caribbean heritage that is prevalent on the island. Listed below are a few traditions you may consider incorporating into your big day.
- The groom walks his mother down the aisle prior to the ceremony.
- A piece of silk cloth is held over the bride and groom as they say their vows. This same cloth may also be used to baptize the couple's first child.
- During the toast at the reception, the bride and groom drink together from a specially made double-handled goblet.
- The traditional wedding cake is a croquembouche. This is a pyramid of vanilla-filled cream puffs, covered in hard-crack sugar, drizzled with caramel, and decorated with sugared almonds. The couple is expected to stand over the cake and kiss without causing the cake to topple over. Doing so is a sign of prosperity.
- The day before the wedding, the families of the bride and groom host a party. Guests come to the party to bless the couple with happiness.
- Instead of a guest book, the Dutch create a wish tree. Guests will write their wishes for the couple on small pieces of paper and attach them to a small tree or branch situated near the couple's table.
- After the wedding, couples plant lilies-of-the-valley around their home so that they will remember their love each year that the lilies bloom.
- Desserts at a Dutch wedding include sugar cake, sugared almonds, and marchpane.
- Couples often walk from their homes to the wedding site together, holding hands. As they walk, villagers line the streets, commenting on the couple's appearance, and shouting well-wishes.
- Grooms do not typically have best men.
- The reception is a raucous occasion, filled with lots of loud music, dancing, eating, and drinking.
- The wedding cake is called a Black Cake, which is a spiced fruit cake soaked in rum.
It is recommended that couples marry on the St. Maarten side of the island to avoid a one month residency requirement.
To be married in St. Maarten, couples must begin preparing several months in advance. At least two months before they intend to arrive on the island, couples must write to request a temporary tourist permit. This permit will allow you to surpass the residency inscription process that may only occur if one or more parties is a resident of St. Maarten. To request the temporary permit, send your request, written in Dutch to the Lt. Governor at Government Administration Building Clem Labegas Square, P.O. Box 943, Philipsbourg, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles.
After the temporary permit has been granted, couples must go to St. Maarten 10 days before registering for a marriage license at the Civil Registry. The following documents, as well as $300(USD) will be required:
- Temporary Tourist Permit
- Birth certificate
- Airline ticket
- Notarized document stating names and addresses of each person's parents
- Notarized document stating parent's consent for those under 21
- 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
- Two witnesses who have also applied for and received a Temporary Tourist Permit
All documents must be translated into Dutch and have an apostille stamp. It is also important to note that divorced women must have been divorced for 306 days before they can remarry.
Whether you plan a wedding in which Dutch, French, and Caribbean traditions are honored, or you choose to carve your own path, the time you put into obtaining your marriage license will be worth it in the end.