We took a trip in August 2023 to explore a a wedding in Costa Rica. Today I’ll share with you all the knowledge you need to have if this is something you are considering for yourself.
Everyone wants the storybook wedding, and there’s no better setting than on a pristine white sand beach at sunset, or a lush tropical garden with butterflies and a view of the sea. Luckily, you can have all of that – and more – in Costa Rica, so it’s no wonder why it’s one of the top destination wedding spots in the entire world.
In fact, nearly 60,000 people go to Costa Rica every year to tie the knot, filling their flight with friends, loved ones, and a lot of great memories on the way home (not to mention a few hangovers and regrettable decisions!).
Likewise, Costa Rica also plays hosts to countless bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, yoga and sports retreats and trainings, and corporate events – the perfect backdrop for whatever group setting you need to arrange.
Of course, the details of these various events can range from a never-to-be-forgotten, dream-like experience to a complete sh*t show nightmare, depending on your planning, the local guides or service providers you hire, venue, and accommodations. (And remember NOT to put drunk Uncle Bob at the same table as your first cousin, Eugena!)
Today, I wanted to share a few tips and highlights to help you immeasurably if you’re planning on walking down the aisle in Costa Rica:
Take plenty of time to plan
Planning a vacation successfully is hard enough but add a wedding, a rehearsal dinner, and making accommodations and arrangements for 20-100 other people into the mix, and you have a logistical mountain to climb! Not only do nice wedding venues book solid far ahead of time, but so do hotel rooms and resorts, so it’s best to start planning (and booking) your Costa Rican wedding at least a year and a half ahead of time. In fact, just start planning it after a good first date!
The wedding “counts” in your home country
There are plenty of scenic wedding destinations around the world that look great in the photos, but what young newlyweds don’t always realize is that their marriage conducted there won’t actually be officially acknowledged – or legal – back in the United States or Canada. However, any civil ceremony in Costa Rica IS legal in your home country. Of course, there are a lot of boxes to check, including applications, witnesses, a lawyer officiating, and a hefty fee. But at least you know that your wedding in Costa Rica “counts!”
It’s not just the beach.
Most couples (ok, most brides!) have visions of the perfect romantic wedding right on the beach. While seaside weddings make unbelievable backdrops for getting hitched, don’t discount other venues, like in the mountains, on a former coffee plantation, or right by a waterfall!
The easiest, there therefore best, way to plan your Costa Rican wedding is to enlist the help of a resort that specializes in hosting events and let them do all of the hard work! As you know, there are a LOT of moving parts and people who need to come together to pull off a wedding, and that’s even 100 times harder in a foreign country (and with a language barrier).
Certain resorts offer wedding packages that will take care of every detail. While they aren’t cheap, they still might be less expensive than comparable services in the U.S. or Canada, and it’s worth it to know that your wedding goes swimmingly.
A short list of gorgeous resorts that often host weddings includes:
JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, Guanacaste
Westin Conchal, Guanacaste
Dreams, Las Mareas
Riu Palace, Guanacaste
Zephyr Palace, Jaco
Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, Guanacaste
Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barcelo, Guanacaste
Dreams Las Mareas, El Jobo
Barcelo Langosta Beach, Guanacaste
Mariposa Hotel, Manuel Antonio
Like I mentioned, you’re probably better off getting a wedding package that includes the help of a wedding planner, the attorney officiant, the venue, etc. However, make sure to ask plenty of questions and take your time reading the fine print. For instance, maybe catering isn’t included, or the DJ, or the wedding cake is not included.
Smaller is sometimes better
While the big, luxurious resorts are regulars on the wedding circuit, don’t be afraid to contact some smaller boutique hotels and resorts, or even vacation rentals. They may do a great job hosting your wedding and give you even better service and attention.
Get references and check reviews
Any resort, wedding planner, or service can easily “sell you the sunshine,” getting you excited about how perfect your wedding will be and what a great job they do. However, to make sure there aren’t last minute glitches and disappointing run-ins, check their reviews as well, and ask for references. But, instead of asking them for five other couples you can talk to as references (they’ll just give you five who were happy), ask to talk to the LAST five couples they helped.
Photos and videos
The good news is that wedding photographers and videographers are abundant in Costa Rica, both with local Ticos and expats living there. Just make sure that you hire a wedding photographer specifically – not someone used to shooting surf shots or landscapes! Additionally, I recommend you getting a videographer who uses a drone since the zoom-out shot to see the jungle or beach will be priceless!
Hire a wedding planner
It may be fun for you to plan your own wedding but doing it via the internet from your home country is dangerous if you don’t have a local Tico or Tica service/wedding planner helping you out. There is so much that can be lost in transalation and even local customs, etiquette, and the knowing local resources will be invaluable.
Check the calendar
Costa Rica can get REALLY busy and crowded during the most popular weeks and months, so you may want to time your wedding of off-periods. You should also check the Costa Rican holiday calendar, so you won’t end up with hundreds of drunks, marching bands, or fireworks during your ceremony!
Hair and makeup
Aside from the wedding cake, the hardest service to find in Costa Rica will be hair and makeup, especially in the smaller towns and coasts outside of San Jose. So, you may consider bringing your own person down with you! They’ll get a great vacation and you’ll make sure everyone is taken care of and looking beautiful.
It’s a great idea to get travel insurance – for you and your whole wedding party!
Build a website
The logistics of bringing dozens or even scores of family, friends, and brides and groomsmen down to Costa Rica can be daunting. I suggest creating a website that will act as a spot for them to get all of the facts and info they need. The website can feature travel plans, the resort info, schedules, and detailed FAQs about passports, visas, transportation, dress codes, local customs, etc.
What’s the best part of a destination wedding in Costa Rica?
You’re already in the ideal honeymoon spot!