Getting Married In Panama As An Expat – What You Need To Know

Getting Married In Panama As An Expat – What You Need To Know

First comes love, then comes marriage…Whether it be that you’ve fallen head over heels for a Panamanian or you simply chose the country as a wedding destination, here are the steps and requirements for a foreigner to get married in this piece of paradise. More expats are moving to Panama and more foreigners are retiring to Panama. Time to learn how to get married in Panama!


Civil Marriage

In order to have a legal marriage, you must first go through the whole civil process which includes a lot of paperwork. First, you’ll need blood tests—very romantic. 

The law requires you to have a certificate of prenuptial health which is basically a medical exam and lab tests the Ministry of Health deems convenient. These should be done by a legally authorized medic within 15 days prior to your wedding day. The lab tests required are:

  • Hemoglobin electrophoresis
  • Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) 
  • Cell biometry
  • Urinalysis
  • HIV

You’ll also need 2 witnesses over the age of 18 that are not relatives of either the groom or the bride.

Back to the paperwork…

Expats or foreigners have their own set of requirements:

  1. Birth certificate and proof of your unmarried status (certificate of non-impediment). Both documents need to be apostilled or authenticated by the Panama Consul in the country where the documents were emitted. They should then be taken to the department of Legalizations and Authentications in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Panama (located in Plaza Aventura Business Center in Tumba Muerto also known as Via Ricardo J. Alfaro). In case you don’t have the certificates mentioned above you’ll need a Notarial Affidavit that states your general information (name, date of birth, address, your parents’ information, and your single relationship status). If you have a cédula (Panamanian ID) stated as E, you will need to provide your certificate of non-impediment properly notarized.
  2. A valid passport.
  3. The foreigner or expat should be in Panama legally.

Once you have your paperwork ready to go, you’ll need to go to the Municipal Family Court, Civil Registry offices, or other entities authorized to perform civil marriages, depending on either the bride or groom’s home address. Prenups are also a thing here with divorce rates increasing worldwide. Panama has a lot of rich people who need to ensure they are legally protected.

Once both parts have all the required documents, the date is then set. The minimum amount of time to present your documents before the wedding is 5 workdays. The date will then be chosen based on availability. 

If you’re a religious person and have always dreamed of getting married in a church, the first step is to be legally married, and then a whole other set of requirements are needed…


Marriage In A Church

  1. Pre-marital course: you will both need a certificate of attendance. These courses are held in 9 different churches in Panama City and it’s recommended to take the course 6 months before the wedding.
  2. Marriage record: this is a spousal affidavit done before the priest and 2 witnesses that know the couple well, family members or relatives can’t be witnesses. It’s recommended to make the appointment 2 months before the wedding. 
  3. Certificate of baptism (one for each spouse) recently expedited in the last 6 months. For foreigners, the certificate needs to be updated and authenticated by the bishop from his/her country.
  4. Original or photocopy of your civil marriage certificate.

The marriage should take place in your own parish or where either the bride or groom live. With permission and a license from the bishop or the parish itself, the marriage can be done in another parish. The cost is between $100-$500. In order to lock in the date, you will be asked to make a partial payment in advance. If it’s a popular parish, you’ll have to schedule about a year in advance.


Marriage Ceremony (not in a church)

Weddings on a beach, Panama Viejo or elsewhere are also another option. If it’s only a symbolic ceremony, you’ll only need to make the normal wedding arrangements with the venue and find someone to officiate the weeding. Buenaventura is a very popular beach wedding venue. Panama has many beautiful beaches to get Married.

To make it legal, you’ll have to go though the civil marriage process prior to the symbolic ceremony. While on the topic of venues, you have the other side of wedding preparations which include caterers, decorations, and so on and so forth. If you opt for a wedding planner it will most likely make your life a whole lot easier. However, if you’re marrying into a Panamanian family, chances are they’ll want to be heavily involved and may even offer to divide the workload.  

It’s not uncommon for family members to cook and take care of the decorations. 

You may also want to take into consideration the parking capacity of the church or establishment you choose.

A lot of work goes into getting married. It is a journey which both parts should be prepared for. Getting past the wedding paperwork and preparations is just the first step which is why wedding planning is stressful, not just in Panama, but in any part of the world. Start researching the best hospitals in Panama. But with the right information and lots of patience, the Panamanian wedding of your dreams can actually happen… even if you’re an expat.