Everything You Need to Know About Marriage in Guatemala

16 Apr 2023·19 min to read
Everything You Need to Know About Marriage in Guatemala 01

Guatemala is a Central American country with a rich culture and ethnicity. Civil and religious marriages are both legally binding in the country, and couples can get married by performing either of the two types of marriage. Guatemalans also have unique wedding traditions that are performed during traditional marriages. Generally, religious and traditional marriages are classified as one by some Guatemalans because both ceremonies may be held on the same day. Common-law or de facto marriages are also recognized and protected under the laws of the country. 

However, couples must have lived together continuously for at least three years, and a declaration of their union must have been made. The spouses can declare their marriage in the presence of a notary or mayor.

Before spouses are allowed to get married, the minimum legal age must be met by both sides. Previously, the minimum age for marriage was 14 years for girls and 16 years for boys, but this has been changed to 18 years for both partners. Parental consent must be provided before couples under the age of 18 are allowed to get married, with justified reasons and provisions. Child marriage in Guatemala has been mostly influenced by poverty, education, ignorance, and tradition. It used to be rampant in the past but practices of this act have greatly reduced. Before partners are able to marry in Guatemala, they must be able to show proof that they are single and have no restrictions preventing them from conducting a marriage in the country. The rest of the article will show marriage traditions as well as the laws, rights, and costs of marriage in Guatemala.

Civil marriages 

A civil marriage is performed by a notary or mayor and must be conducted in the registry. This type of marriage is legally binding, and a civil marriage performed in Guatemala is recognized not only in the country but also in other parts of the world. Civil marriages are often conducted within minutes, usually within 15 to 30 minutes; however, the process of carrying out the marriage application and registration may take several weeks or even months to complete.
During this time, the notary and other authorities go through the conditions and documents submitted to ensure everything is completed correctly and all the details submitted are genuine and original. Couples who are getting married must ensure that their current health status allows marriage. A partner who is not in the right frame of mind or who suffers from mental illness is not permitted to marry in the country. Before partners enter a marriage, they must ensure their eligibility and have no impediments to the marriage.

Required Documents 

  • A birth certificate of both spouses must be provided. This certificate must include their date of birth as well as their parents' names.
  • National ID or a valid passport
  • Certificate of single status. This document has to be submitted by both spouses to show they are currently single and not tied to any other person through marital affairs.
  • Proof of residency Foreign spouses must have been living in Guatemala before proceeding with marriage arrangements, and this document must be provided to serve as evidence of this.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This. It’s provided by partners who were previously married but got separated or widowed.
  • Both partners must provide witnesses during the registration.
  • Affidavit of eligibility to marry Both spouses must be able to prove that they are not prohibited from getting married in the country. There must be no current impediments to marriage.
  • Newspaper publication. This applies to foreign spouses. A declaration of marriage must be made by foreign spouses to make the general public aware of their incoming marriage.

Religious marriages 

Religious marriages are recognized and protected by law in Guatemala. Like most other Central American countries, Guatemala is dominated by Christians. A large percentage of the residents of the county are Roman Catholics of the Christian faith. Civil marriages are way cheaper than religious marriages; however, Guatemalans generally do not mind the cost, and church weddings have a high level of importance in the country.
There are some Catholic Church traditions that must be followed by both spouses before they can marry. Both or either of the partners must be Christians under the Roman Catholic Church denomination, and they must have been baptized. Marriage is not allowed between spouses who have not been baptized. Some of the documents that must be provided by spouses include a baptismal certificate as well as a holy communion and confirmation certificate. This proves them to be true Christians in the church, eligible for marriage.
Couples must have also received appropriate counseling from the priest before proceeding to get married. Pre-marital classes are required in most churches, and couples who have not completed all lessons are not permitted to marry in the church. Also, religious bodies such as churches or mosques do not allow same-sex marriages. It is both prohibited under the laws of the church and the civil code of the true country.

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Marriage traditions in Guatemala

Ila Pedidai 

This unique marriage tradition refers to the engagement ceremony where the groom meets his future in-laws to ask for the hand of their daughter in marriage. The groom’s family also presents various gift items to the family of the bride, and both the groom and his family must do their best to win the hearts of the bride's family. They must be satisfied before they can approve the marriage proposal and give the groom an opportunity to marry their daughter.

Wedding Ceremony

In Guatemalan marriages, both the couples and their respective families are being united together. There is often a wedding party that includes the ring bearer, flower girls, best man, and maid of honor. All the parties have different tasks to be carried out during the course of the ceremony. Kids play multiple roles during the marriage traditions, and the wedding ceremonies can last up to a full day when both the church service and reception are considered.


This is the concluding ceremonial rite in Guatemalan marriages that refers to the union of both families. Here, the community elders pour smoke on the newlyweds and their parents. They are required to kneel down for this rite, and it symbolizes the official joining together of both families. After this is concluded, food and drinks are served, and the marriage celebrations continue with traditional music and guests dancing.

Same-sex marriages and polygamy

Two people of the same sex are not allowed to get married in Guatemala. The union between same-sex couples is not recognized or protected under the laws of the country. It is legal to be a homosexual in the country, but one is not permitted to get married legally.
Polygamy is prohibited in Guatemala. This offense is regarded as bigamy in the country and can attract jail terms and fines. Couples are not permitted to have more than one spouse at a time. All previous marriages must be terminated before entering a new one.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


In order to get married in Guatemala, a couple, both foreigners and nationals, must follow all of the country's marriage laws and regulations. Guatemala is a secular country, and it recognizes civil marriages, religious marriages, and civil unions, also known as de facto unions, between couples who have lived together for up to 3 years. However, a religious wedding is only legal after a civil wedding has been contracted. After so many years, Guatemala increased the legal age for marriage from 14 and 16 for both boys and girls, respectively, to 18 years. Minors, even with parental consent, are not allowed to marry under any circumstances. Both parties must be capable of contracting marriage, understand the concept of marriage, and give their full and willing consent before the marriage can be legal. A marriage contracted without any form of consent or with the use of force is prohibited by law, and such a marriage can be declared void by a judge. Offenders are liable to face punishment. 

Marriage between members of the same family, both nuclear and extended, is illegal in Guatemala. Persons who are related directly by blood, through alliance in marriage, or through adoption are not allowed to marry. The marriage must be performed before a mayor, notary, authorized priest, or minister at the civil registry or at the church in the presence of two witnesses chosen by the couple. Foreigners are not allowed to get married in the embassies of their countries in Guatemala; the wedding must be performed by a civil servant in Guatemala or by a lawyer. For couples in civil unions, a declaration must also be made by the couple before a notary to authenticate the validity of the union. The law states that couples have to do a mandatory medical examination and submit the certificate to the civil registry. In Guatemala, marriage between people of the same sex is illegal; marriage can only be contracted between heterosexual couples. 

Only persons who are single are allowed to get married under the law in Guatemala; couples are required to be single at the time of marriage; however, if one or both spouses have been married before, proof of the non-existence of such a marriage must be presented. This could be in the form of a divorce or death certificate, which must be presented before the appropriate authorities. A woman who has been divorced must wait for 300 days before she can contract a new marriage. Polygamy is illegal under the law; persons are not allowed to marry more than one wife in Guatemala. Marriages between citizens of Guatemala living abroad are legally recognized and protected by the law. Proxy marriages are allowed in Guatemala, provided permission has been obtained from the appropriate authorities. If one of the parties is mentally unstable, he or she would not be granted permission to contract marriage. All necessary documents required by the law from nationals and foreigners must be submitted and verified before a marriage can be declared legal.


There are several rights that come with getting married. Couples are open to a number of rights that are not available to unmarried citizens by virtue of marriage. However, since same-sex marriage is not allowed in Guatemala, only married heterosexual couples have access to these rights. The right to procreate and adopt children is available to married couples and couples in de facto unions. Couples have the right to work and be paid for their efforts, as well as the right to participate in all political and socioeconomic activities. If one or both spouses get married to a foreigner, they both have the right to keep their last name and their nationality. 

Spouses have the right to own property and financial assets separately if a prenuptial agreement has been signed before marriage. A prenuptial agreement ensures that any property obtained before and during the course of marriage is owned separately by both spouses and, in the case of divorce, won't be split between them. However, if a prenuptial agreement is not in place by default, property owned by couples before and during marriage is jointly owned by both parties, and in the event of separation, it is split equally among the couple. Couples have the right to file for divorce either on mutual grounds or if there's any reason. Both men and women possess the right to inherit the property of their spouses in the event of their deaths.


When it comes to creating a wedding budget, couples should always have the mindset that not everything on the budget is fixed. The kind of ceremony, the number of guests, and the type of memories the couple aim to create are major determinants of how much weddings in Guatemala cost. An average wedding in Guatemala costs around Q50,000, which is approximately $6,421, and it all depends on how much money couples have, how much they are willing to spend on the ceremony, and how grand or lavish they want the ceremony to be. An average of about $2,000–$2,500 would be spent on the venue; this already takes quite a lot from the wedding estimate. The videography and photography would also cost around $1,500, but they could easily cost more depending on what the couple is aiming for. Catering and drinks, decorations, guest gifts, and entertainment all cost a lot but can be minimal depending on how financially capable the couple is. To avoid the stress of putting together a wedding budget, couples can hire the services of a wedding planner. In recent times, Guatemala has become one of the fastest-rising places to hold destination weddings for foreigners, which contributes to the rapid growth of its wedding industry.


Responsibilities in the household in Guatemala fall on the shoulders of the husband and wife; they both have duties and obligations that they need to carry out in the family. In the household, the husband and wife have equal rights and responsibilities and should make decisions based on mutual agreement. They have the responsibility to secure the family's place of residence and ensure that everything needed for raising the children and securing the family's welfare is put in place. The couple are both obligated to jointly contribute to the health and comfort of the family and ensure that all that is needed for the family's maintenance is provided. The husband is expected to provide protection for his wife and also offer assistance whenever necessary. When it comes to childcare and motherhood, women are seen as the primary care providers of children. However, the responsibility is shared between couples; they are both responsible for the care of the children until they are no longer minors. The couple is obligated to provide proper education for the children; the duty to provide adequate moral and social upbringing for the children rests on the shoulders of the couple. They also both decide on the moral, political, and economic inclinations of the family.

Final Thoughts 

Thousands of marriages are held every year in Guatemala by foreign and native nationals born in the country. Child marriages were once common in the country; however, the law has since been tightened, and couples must be at least 18 years old to marry unless proper parental consent is provided. There are several beautiful locations for weddings in the country, which makes it a great spot for destination weddings.
Religion is a very important subject in Guatemala, and religious marriages are very popular in the country. As stated earlier, most Guatemalans are Christians, and more than 80% of all marriages annually are held in the church. Before they can marry, couples must submit the necessary documents to their respective churches and ensure they meet all of the marriage conditions. In cases where both or either of the spouses are not eligible or within their legal and Christian faith capacity to marry, the priest may postpone or cancel the marriage. This article includes all you need to know about marriage in Guatemala.