Cover Story – Costa Rica: destination weddings
Now that air travel has become more competitive and people are looking to make their big day even bigger, destination weddings have become very popular. Despite what many people think, they can offer less stress, be less expensive, and become a once-in-alifetime reunion opportunity for family and friends. Often the bride and groom will celebrate their honeymoon on the same trip. Not only does it save money, but it becomes part of the bigger experience for them and potentially for their guests.
Destination weddings also offer an environment where the only rule seems to be to break the rules. Tradition and custom, though allowed and even encouraged, are often the first thing couples abandon once they decide to leave their home country to tie the knot. You would never believe the excitement and fun everyone at the wedding can have when they are wearing bathing suits! Many of our destination wedding parties end up in a swimming pool surrounded by exotic vistas and pulsing with local music, especially the ones held at private villas.
But is it legal? This is often the first question people ask when they begin to consider the possibilities. Couples can choose to have a legal ceremony in Costa Rica, or just a symbolic one if they prefer to do the legal part in their home country. However, a legal ceremony is very easy in Costa Rica. Arrangements can be made for a lawyer to be present to validate the ceremony, and you can invite the minister or officiant of your choice to perform the vows. The newlyweds will receive their marriage certificate about two months after the wedding.
Symbolic ceremonies, on the other hand, can be performed by anybody the couple chooses. Usually, they ask a family member or friend or their spiritual leader. Typically, they will have had a legal ceremony in their home country prior to the symbolic one here, and perhaps also a celebration for their friends who cannot attend the destination wedding. It becomes a true win-win. What surprises most people is to discover that a destination wedding can be cheaper than a traditional one.
Couples can save money by combining their wedding and honeymoon together. And it is difficult to beat a tropical vacation in Costa Rica! Wedding guests pay for their own flights and accommodations, and there usually aren’t as many guests because of the logistics involved, so the ceremony costs are cheaper. Usually half of the invitees will attend. Another important factor is that couples don’t need to choose a fancy location or decorations because the beauty of Costa Rican beaches and nature is hard to beat! But of course, there are some costs. Expenses that should be considered include:
- A destination wedding planner to help you select the right venue and vendors
- Location of your ceremony location and reception venue
- Wedding attendants’ outfits
- Photographer — Advantages to choosing a local photographer include familarity with the challenges of shooting here, as well as the best spots for capturing the magic
- Music — Again, going local is a good idea. It can enhance the experience if the music truly blends with the atmosphere created by the culture and climate
- Decorations and flowers — Look for ways to take advantage of the natural flora of your location
- Thank-you favors and/or welcome bags with some local products for your guests
- Passports — Keep in mind that everyone attending your wedding will need a valid passport that does not expire for at least six months from the time of the wedding
Where is the best location for a destination dream wedding in Costa Rica? On the beach or in the rainforest? Mountian backdrop or volcano view? The possibilities are endless. The ceremony could be performed before a stunning infinity pool, or perhaps in front of a pristine waterfall.
Costa Rica offers the best quality services guaranteed to make the destination wedding an unforgettable experience. Though it can seem like an impossible task to choose your destination, a short conversation with an experienced local wedding planner can narrow things down quickly.
At Costa Rica Paradise Wedding, we have been fortunate to plan weddings at all the best locations in Costa Rica. And yes, we have our favorites. Manuel Antonio’s hidden beach, Playitas, is one of them. The last time we had a wedding there we saw a sloth family hanging lazily on a tree. It was a very popular attraction. Besides being an ideal setting for your wedding, Playitas offers many choices of beautiful hotels or private villas for the reception. Keep in mind that a villa is a great option for a party-oriented crowd because you can enjoy loud music and dancing all night long.
In the Guanacaste area, we love Playa Avellanas, Tamarindo, Playa Conchal, and Flamingo. Not only are the beaches pristine, but the surrounding towns have modern hotels and restaurants and their own local charm. If you want to experience Costa Rica from the Caribbean side, with golden sand and a tropical rainforest, choose Puerto Viejo. The El Cameleon Hotel is a spectacular location. Or if you are looking for places near San Jose, you don’t have to look far. The Punta Leona Hotel is just one hour away. And just a few minutes further is the boutique hotel, Villa Caletas, for those who want something a bit more unique. It’s a truly exotic hideaway with incredible ocean views and a European flavor. For couples seeking a higher-level wedding experience, literally, Costa Rica offers plenty of options: volcano vistas, hilltops overlooking the central valley, or the rugged rainforest mountains nestled around the valley.
In these vicinities, you can book your reception at a local restaurant that serves typical Costa Rican cuisine. Another unique possibility is to hire a local lady who makes delicious tortillas as a part of the entertainment. She can even teach your guests how to make them from scratch to enjoy fresh tortillas with dinner.
Planning for an adrenaline rush is nothing new in Costa Rica. So don’t be afraid to plan your wild wedding! Adventurous couples can get married on a canopy tour in the middle of a jungle. We had a wedding in which the couple actually got married on one of the zip line platforms. And another couple repelled down a waterfall immediately following the ceremony.
Ultimately choosing a destination for your wedding depends a lot on the feel you are striving for. For example, the Arenal Volcano is a sleeping giant nestled in the northern lowlands with beautiful views and thermal hot springs for therapeutic relaxation. You could not choose a more relaxing venue anywhere. Tamarindo is a laid back town with untouched beaches and sport fishing excursions, which will offer your guests a blend of relaxation and excitement. San Jose is a bustling city with old Victorian mansions lining its cobbled streets. The beach town of Jaco has verdant mountaintops and volcanic sand beaches for horseback riding and hiking. There are many wonderful options.
Of course, budget will factor into your destination decision. The perfect place for your wedding might be a 5-star full-service resort with luxury villas on the beach, a boutique resort off the beaten path in a magical cloud forest, or a small, modestly appointed mountain estate surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty. Whatever you decide, planning a wedding is a lot of work, and a destination wedding can be nearly impossible without help. That’s especially what a destination wedding planner is for. We have worked with most of the vendors, we are the voice of experience and the premium source of information and solutions for your arrangements.
You really only have one job to do: choose a qualified, experienced wedding planner, then trust them.
Once we understand your desires and parameters, we will be your advocates to make your wedding happen just the way you envision it.