You are planning to marry in Peru? First of all, “Congratulations”! Tying the knot in Peru is a simple and easy process, at least if you have a general understanding about the process and, in case a foreigner is involved, have all the necessary documents on hand.
And as with all bureaucratic processes in Peru expect a delay here and there, some running around and the one or other frustrating day before you finally can say “I do”. To make the whole process easier and smoother for you, find below a detailed overview of what it involves in getting married in Peru.
Civil Wedding in Peru
Only civil ceremonies are legal in Peru. So, if you plan to wed in church, have a romantic celebration on the beach, the blessing of a Shaman, an adventure wedding or whatever, you first have to get legally married.
The civil ceremony is performed at the municipality where you plan to marry. Be aware that at least one partner has to be a legal resident of Peru and that most municipalities request that at least one partner is living in this municipality.
As regulations change quickly in Peru and necessary documents and processes vary a bit from municipality to municipality, the first step on your way to marriage is to check the exact requirements with the municipality where you plan to marry so when you submit your paperwork all your documents are in order and, especially important for foreigners, no surprises come up that may delay your special day for weeks or even months.
To give you an overview about the general requirements, here a list of documents usually required.
Requirements of civil marriage in Peru
- Application form – The application form includes general information about the bridal couple and the witnesses. The bridal couple has to declare their will to marry before the municipality (usually each municipality has a form letter available)
- ID – original and a readable copy of the up-to-date DNI (Peruvians) or passport / carné de extranjería (foreigners)
- Birth certificate – Peruvians need to present an original certified copy of their birth certificate (depending on the municipality not issued over 3 months ago), foreigners an original birth certificate with Apostille or legalized and if necessary translated into Spanish (depending on the municipality not issued over 3 to 6 months ago) *
- Certificado de soltería – The “certificate of being single” is an official document stating that you are single, divorced or widowed, so free to marry. Depending on the municipality, Peruvians can either provide a so-called “Constancia Negativa de Matrimonio” issued by Reniec or a sworn statement declaring their civil status. For foreigners, it’s more complicated, as in many countries such a certificate doesn’t exist. So, it’s time to get a little creative. If you are already in Peru one option is to ask the municipality where you plan to marry if an affidavit signed in front of a notary in Peru is accepted. If yes, great; just go to the nearest notary and sign; problem solved quickly and easily. If not, another option is to get in contact with your embassy and asked them to notarize a sworn statement in which you declare that you are single (unmarried, divorced, widowed). As you are not the first with this problem, many embassies will do so and are prepared (check with the municipality, if they accept it, most do). Be aware that in most cases this document issued by the embassy has to be legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and if not in Spanish be translated by an official translator. If the municipality where you plan to marry won’t accept above two options and you hopefully have someone back home able to help or if you are still in your home country, check if there are any official government-issued documents in your home country stating your civil status or if any government office can issue a document confirming your civil status. If these two are a no, you have two options left: sign an affidavit in which you declare that you are single (unmarried, divorced, widowed) in front of a notary public in your home country or ask the authority responsible for issuing marriage certificates in your home country for a copy of your one. If you are unmarried, they won’t find anything and you will have an official paper stating this. Know that this document issued outside Peru as well needs an Apostille or has to be legalized and translated into Spanish.*
- Domicile certificate - Most municipalities request that at least one partner is living in the municipality where the wedding is taking place. If one partner is Peruvian for some municipalities the address on the DNI is enough, others request a sworn statement from a notary and still others ask for a utility bill (electricity, water, phone) including copy.
- Certificado médico prenupcial – Most municipalities request a medical exam, the so-called certificado médico prenupcial, before they allow you to marry. Best ask at the municipality which doctor / clinic to use. Both partners have to go together. The medical exam includes a quick general health check, some talk about STIs / STDs and giving a blood sample which is tested for HIV/AIDS and other STIs / STDs. The results and the certificate are usually ready in a day or two.
- Witnesses – Most municipalities request the presence of two witnesses when submitting the paperwork and the same two witnesses on the day of the ceremony. The witnesses shouldn’t be family members, should know the couple for a longer period of time and have to present an official ID (DNI, passport, carné de extranjería) including copy. As the wedding won’t take place if a witness present when submitting the paperwork doesn’t show up on the big day, choose reliable and trustworthy people.
- If divorced – additionally to above-mentioned requirements, most municipalities request some sort of proof that a former marriage was resolved legally. This could be the final judgement of the divorce, a divorce decree, a municipal divorce resolution or any other official divorce documentation. Please ask at the municipality where you plan to remarry which documents are required. If these documents were issued outside Peru, they need an Apostille or have to be legalized and if necessary, translated into Spanish.* Be aware that some municipalities have a waiting period before divorcees can remarry. Some municipalities as well request a pregnancy test from women who want to get remarried within less than 300 days of their divorce.
- If widowed – usually only the death certificate of the former spouse is requested, but some municipalities as well ask for the former marriage certificate. So, to be on the safe side, please ask at the municipality where you plan to remarry which documents are required. If these documents were issued outside Peru, they need an Apostille or have to be legalized and if necessary, translated into Spanish.* Be aware that some municipalities request a pregnancy test from women who want to get remarried within less than 300 days of the death of their former spouse.
* Any foreign document used in Peru
As soon as you have all the paperwork together, the worst part is over and you can relax a bit. The next step is to submit all documents to the municipality (don’t forget to bring your witnesses), pay the fee for the ceremony and choose the day for your wedding (after submitting the paperwork there usually is a waiting period of at least a week or two until you can marry; be aware that in case the municipality is busy, the next free date might even be 2 or 3 months away). You can as well choose if the civil ceremony should take place in the municipal building or if the official should come to a special location to perform the ceremony (extra costs involved). Most municipalities then request that the bridal couple publishes a marriage announcement in a local newspaper and submit the entire page with the marriage announcement as soon as it's published.
You are nearly done. The last step to get legally married in Peru is the civil ceremony itself. As in most countries around the globe, it’s usually nothing spectacular or super festive; a private affair mostly celebrated only with the closest family members and best friends. The ceremony might take around 20 to 30 minutes. The official performing the ceremony might talk about marriage as the union of two persons, the legal responsibilities that come with it, the rights and obligations of the spouses or similar. The only things for you to do, are listening, saying “Si, quiero” or “Si, acepto” at the right moment, otherwise all your hard work of the last weeks or months would have been in vain, and sign the marriage certificate.
Congratulations! You made it and are now legally married in Peru.
After the ceremony there usually is only a small lunch or private reception with close family members and best friends. Only if the couple doesn’t have a religious wedding later, the big celebration follows (see below under Wedding reception).
Religious Wedding in Peru
As already mentioned above, you can only be legally married in a civil wedding. A religious wedding is optional and can only be held after the civil ceremony. Nevertheless, the religious wedding is a huge affair in Peru and most couples decide to give their vows in front of God, the extended family and friends in a church as well.
Each religion has its own requirements to marry in church, but as over 80% of Peruvians are catholic, here a general overview of the requirements for a catholic wedding in Peru. For exact requirements, please get in contact with the corresponding congregation.
- ID (DNI for Peruvians, passport or carné de extranjería for foreigners)
- Birth certificate
- Baptismal certificate (legalized by the ecclesiastical notary of the Archdiocese)
- Certificate of Confirmation (legalized by the ecclesiastical notary of the Archdiocese)
- Religious pre-marriage counselling
- 4 witnesses (2 for the groom, 2 for the bride), can’t be family
- Official marriage certificate or proof that the civil ceremony is arranged and held before the religious
- “La proclamación” (public announcement of the upcoming religious wedding either during the Sunday mass or in the church magazine or on the notice board of the parish)
- Fee or donation
While for the civil ceremony you are in most cases bound to the municipality where at least one partner of the bridal couple lives, the religious ceremony can usually take place in whatever church you choose. However, entering marriage in the presence of God in popular churches or even impressive cathedrals might come with a waiting period of several months and an elevated price tag. You should consider that you have to transport your wedding party to the church, then to the reception venue and back home.
The religious ceremony is followed by a huge reception at the most beautiful or prestigious venues the couple or their parents can afford. It often includes lots of delicious food and an open bar, wedding cake, photographer, music and dancing, an entertainment program with professional dancers or animators for example and party games; so generally, a large night-long celebration.
Most couples hire a wedding planner to organize everything or book a special wedding package which often includes a catering and event planning service at one of the countless hotels or clubs. But honestly, it’s not rocket science to organize it (partly) on your own and if you shop around save some bucks along the way. This brings us to the costs of a wedding in Peru.
Wedding costs in Peru
As everywhere around the globe, you can celebrate a beautiful and memorable wedding on a budget, but as well spend tens of thousands of dollars for a luxury event.
Depending on the type of wedding (only civil ceremony with small or large reception, religious ceremony in Lima’s cathedral with huge reception, destination wedding, adventure wedding,…), chosen venue (garden of your in-laws or 5 star luxury hotel), number of guests (0 or 250), self-planning or wedding planner, home-cooked food or exclusive caterer and other choices such as dress / suit, rings, decoration and flowers, photographer, music and entertainment, necessary transport and accommodation costs and all the other little expenses, you can spend a few thousand or tens of thousands. The sky or better the budget you are willing to spend, your or your parents’ financial resources, savings or limit of the credit card is the limit.
The largest investment of a wedding in Peru is usually the venue of the reception, catering and decoration. But other important though most often smaller expenses such as invitations, dress, ring, make-up, hairstyle, flowers, music, entertainment, cake, photographer, car and transport add up quickly and shouldn’t be forgotten.
So generally the overall costs for a nice, average wedding in Peru with 50 to 100 guests is around US$ 8,000 to US$ 10,000. You can do it for less, but as well more if you add the one or other “luxury”. Average larger weddings (100 – 200 guests) with more luxury might set you back US$ 15,000 up to US$ 30,000 and huge weddings (over 200 guests) and / or super exclusive events can easily reach up to US$ 50,000.
No matter if you plan a wedding on a budget or an exclusive event, it’s always worth to shop around; the most expensive isn’t always the best.
Destination wedding in Peru
Because of its diverse landscapes, countless attractions and rich historic and cultural past Peru offers a wide range of wedding or vow renewal options for everyone: from a religious ceremony in one of the many impressive churches, to a romantic ceremony on the beach, to a rustic ceremony at a private hacienda or bodega, to a traditional Andean ceremony with Shaman in the Sacred Valley, to an exclusive ceremony in one of the numerous luxury hotels, to an exotic ceremony in the jungle, to an adventure event around Machu Picchu or on the Amazon River…
All of above options are only symbolic ceremonies. So, couples usually first marry officially in their home country (or if at least one partner is a legal resident of Peru at the local municipality) and then “elope” to Peru for a once in a lifetime experience.
Same-sex marriage and civil union in Peru
To this day the Peruvian Constitution defines marriage as a stable union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage or civil unions are not possible in Peru and same-sex marriages performed abroad aren’t recognized.
And even though prominent gay representatives already push for years for a new legislation that would allow same-sex couples to wed and even the one or other judge ruled in favor of gay couples fighting for their right to marry or to have their foreign marriage recognized, the conservative majority in Peru’s Congress, the powerful Roman Catholic Church and other government institutions until now successfully prevented such a thing.
When in January 2018 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica ruled that countries in the region that signed the American Convention on Human Rights (which Peru has) should legalize same-sex marriages or unions, supporting marriage equality in Latin American countries, the hopes were high that Peru finally had to act. A law change was expected in a reasonable timeframe, but unfortunately until today nothing of the kind happened.