Everything you need to know about marriage in Nicaragua

22 Jun 2023·21 min to read

Everything you need to know about marriage in Nicaragua 01Thousands of marriages are performed every year in Nicaragua, a Central American country famous for its volcanoes and lakes. Marriages are contracted in different ways in Nicaragua, namely civil, religious, or traditional, and de facto unions. The mode of performing these three marriages is different, but they are all recognized by law. The easiest way for couples to enjoy marriage rights, benefits, and other entitlements is by performing a de facto union. In fact, there is not much involved in a de facto union because the formalities of civil marriages and the ceremonial rites and rituals of religious and traditional marriages are totally excluded. Couples in a romantic relationship generally declare themselves husband and wife after living together for a certain period of time without actually registering their marriage. 

Nicaragua allows marriages to be performed by both foreign spouses and native Nicaraguans. During the process of registering a marriage, documents may be required from both spouses, and foreigners are often required to provide some additional documentation obtained from their own country. Nicaraguans are mostly Christians, and most marriages are performed in accordance with the principles of the church. Even traditional marriages may have their customs and rites combined with those of the Christian church. The country has a lot of beautiful locations that are used for wedding ceremonies. 

Some couples even opt for secular wedding ceremonies that may be performed at the beachfront, in parks, etc. according to their own preferences and desires. Before deciding to marry, partners must ensure that they have undergone all necessary health tests to ensure that there are no underlying issues or illnesses that could jeopardize the marriage. Apart from the issues it may cause for either or both partners, it may also result in problems for their offspring. Couples must ensure they are fully compatible before proceeding with marriage preparations. Continue reading to find out more about marriages in Nicaragua.

Civil marriages

In Nicaragua, marriages performed at the registry are the most common due to the fact that they are open to both foreigners and Nicaraguan nationals. Civil marriages are performed by a Nicaraguan notary or judge. The legal marriage age in Nicaragua is 18 years for both male and female spouses. In some special cases, spouses aged 16 or 17 may be allowed to get married with the provision of parental consent. Child marriages used to be a big issue in Nicaragua, but the number of child brides in the country has reduced at a steady rate over the past few years. About 35 percent of Nicaraguan women have entered marriage or union before the age of 18. Nicaragua does not allow marriages between people who are related by a direct link or affinity. 

This implies that no registrar or notary will contract a marriage for two people related by blood or adoption. Generally, civil marriages in the country are performed in two stages. Spouses must first go to the local civil registry office to make a marriage application. The application provided must be completely and correctly filled out by both spouses. After this is done, they are required to submit the form along with all the required documents. There are several important documents that cannot be avoided and must be submitted by spouses marrying in the country. The extra documentation generally depends on where the marriage registration is being performed as well as the nationality of either or both spouses. 

After the submission of all the paperwork, the application is reviewed by the registrar. This application usually takes only a few days. In most cases, the marriage application gets reviewed in 8 days. The registrar may carry out further verifications to ensure all the information provided by the bride and groom checks out. If everything is fine, the marriage certificate will be drawn up by the registrar. However, this is not usually done immediately on the same day, and the registrar often gives the couple another separate day to come and obtain their marriage certificate after the payment of the required fees. 

The only payment that is made during the marriage registration is for the issuance of a marriage certificate. In cases where spouses want to speed things up, they may fast-track the whole registration process by paying more. The normal waiting period for marriage certificates is 4–8 days, and the payment is usually C$35. Couples who want to obtain their certificate within a shorter time frame (usually within 24 hours) will need to pay double the normal amount, or C$70. The documents that are required from both spouses are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification from both spouses
  • Copies of government-issued birth certificates carrying all the necessary information about spouses and their parents' names
  • Original certificate of marriage. This document is issued by the judge. A notary deed can be used in its place.
  • If either of the spouses has a child or children, a copy of the birth certificate of such a child or children may be required.
  • Divorce or death certificates. Either of these forms, depending on which one applies, must be provided by spouses to demonstrate that they legally dissolved their previous marriage.
  • Both spouses may be required to provide witnesses during the marriage registration.
  • The receipt of the payment of all required fees

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are also quite common in Nicaragua. These types of marriages are performed in accordance with the principles of religious bodies, regions, and communities of couples. According to the Nicaraguan constitution, there is no official state religion, and Nicaragua is a secular state. However, the Roman Catholic Church holds a special status in the country. The population of the country is made up of Roman Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Atheists, and a very small number of Muslims. 

Church marriages are big deals to most Christian couples in the country, and spouses may not be regarded as officially married couples if a church wedding ceremony is not performed. Church weddings usually involve various ceremonial rites and criteria that must be met by both spouses. Couples should book the church where they want to get married months before the wedding date to ensure they get an assigned time.

Common-Law Unions 

Nicaragua recognizes common-law unions. Spouses in a romantic relationship are allowed to share a dwelling place for an extended period of time and declare themselves husband and wife. In most countries that accept common-law unions, such relationship arrangements generally enjoy little or no marriage benefits; however, the reverse is the case in Nicaragua. Spouses are allowed to enter de facto or common-law unions and enjoy most of the rights and benefits enjoyed by legally married couples. 

In fact, according to statistics, only one-sixth of the total number of couples in the country are in civil marriages. Both spouses must have no legal impediments and must actually be qualified for legal marriage in Nicaragua for their common-law union to be recognized and accepted by law.

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Marriage traditions in Nicaragua

The Processional

This ceremonial rite marks the beginning of a church wedding in Nicaragua. The groom and his best man are usually the first to enter the church, followed by bridesmaids and other members of the wedding party. It is customary for the bride and her father to walk down the aisle last.

13 gold coins

During the church service, the priest often says a prayer and blesses 13 gold coins. These coins are then presented to the groom. The groom owes the coins to his bride as a symbol of his love and trust in her with his material possessions.

Marriage Vows 

In a Nicaraguan church wedding, the ceremony is never complete without the marriage vows. During the mass, the bride and groom are supposed to exchange vows expressing their love for each other and how they will always be there for each other. The church provides vows for the couple; however, they are allowed to draw up their own personalized vows.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Nicaragua. Same-sex couples are allowed to perform same-sex sexual activities, but those who fall in this category are often faced with a lot of discrimination from employment, religion, medical benefits, etc.

Polygamy in Nicaragua

Polygamy is prohibited in Nicaragua. A man is only allowed to marry one woman at a time, and vice versa. The country is dominated by Christians, with over 85% of the total population, and polygyny is not allowed under the principles of this religion.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


Everyone is allowed to contract marriage in Nicaragua with the exception of same-sex couples because, according to the law, marriage is defined as a voluntary union between a single man and a single woman who have given their full and free consent for the purpose of founding a family. Therefore, couples of the same sex are not allowed to contract marriage, but they have legal status in the country. The definition also implies that before marriage can be allowed to take place, the bride and groom must give their voluntary consent to marriage; there must not be any use of force or violence to make the couple give consent to marriage. Additionally, couples must be in a stable state of mind to be able to contract marriage; they must be mentally, physically, and emotionally capable of contracting marriage. 

If one or both spouses are found to be mentally unbalanced, they will be barred from marrying. Another law of marriage that is derived from the definition of marriage in Nicaragua is that the bride and groom must be single at the time of marriage. The practice of bigamy, where the husband or wife are still in an active marriage, is prohibited in Nicaragua, and by implication, polygamy is also prohibited under the law. A man or woman is not allowed to marry more than one spouse at the same time. Another law of marriage that must be taken into consideration by all couples, whether citizens or foreigners, is the legal age for marriage. According to the law, the minimum legal age for marriage in Nicaragua is set at 18 years for both males and females.

Persons who are within the age bracket of 16–18 years are permitted to enter into marriage provided they have parental consent or, in the absence of one, the consent of a legal guardian or a court's ruling. Anyone who has not reached the minimum legal age for marriage is not allowed to contract marriage, and not only marriage but de facto unions as well. On the topic of de facto unions, persons who wish to be recognized as partners but do not want to formally contract marriage are allowed to do so by registering the union as a de facto union after they have lived together for at least two years, and this type of marital union is recognized to have legal value in Nicaragua. 

The law recognizes both civil and religious marriages; however, before religious marriages can be contracted, a civil ceremony must have been performed. Foreigners who wish to get married in Nicaragua must be eligible for marriage in their country of origin, and they must submit all required documentation for verification, after which the marriage would be performed by a notary or judge in Nicaragua and not at the consulate of the country of the spouses in Nicaragua. There must be at least two witnesses who are related to the groom and bride present at the time of marriage, and they must be able to provide valid identity documents.


Once marriage is contracted, the rights that are meant for married couples in the Constitution are made available and accessible to all couples, including couples in de facto unions. All married couples have the right to reproduce, and they have the right to raise the children according to their various moral, political, economic, or religious beliefs. The husband and wife have the same right to decide on the residence of the family. Married couples and couples in de facto unions are granted the right to freedom of movement; they are permitted to travel outside the country and move freely within the country without having to receive permission from one another. 

The wife has the same right as the husband to pursue ambitions, further or complete education if it was put on hold before marriage, and they both have the right to work and receive equal payment for work. Discrimination at the workplace as a result of one's marital status is against the law in Nicaragua. The husband and wife have the same right to file for divorce, and the law demands the same requirements from the husband and wife to be able to finalize divorce. Couples can decide to file for divorce based on mutual agreement or on the account of one of the spouses, such as the failure of one of the spouses to perform his or her duties in the home. 

After a marriage is dissolved, the husband and wife have equal rights to receive custody of the children from the marriage; custody is granted to the parent who prioritizes the children's interests. Both the husband and wife have equal inheritance and property rights; they are both entitled to own, acquire, and dispose of property as they wish. At the demise of one of the couple's members, the surviving spouse automatically inherits the land and non-land assets of the deceased spouse.


Getting married in Nicaragua is pretty affordable, as couples can easily have a small, intimate family reception after the civil ceremony has been performed. However, some couples can decide to have a more expensive wedding, which would probably cost more than a small family dinner. The average cost of a wedding in Nicaragua is estimated to be around $5,000–$10,000, depending on the number of guests invited, the financial ability of the couple, and what they hope to achieve. Nicaragua has increasingly become a destination wedding location for many couples across the world. 

The cost of a destination wedding for foreign couples would definitely be more than the average cost of an indigenous wedding in Nicaragua. Hiring a marriage officiant costs around $300; the flowers and decorations at the venue of the wedding cost around $100 to $200. Couples must take the number of guests invited to the wedding into consideration when making plans for decorations. An average wedding cake costs around $100–200. The total cost of the wedding ceremony is determined by all that the couple hopes to achieve and by their willingness to spend on this special occasion.


The average Nicaraguan society is largely patriarchal, but despite this stereotype, the duties, roles, and responsibilities in the household are divided equally among the couple. The husband and wife are recognized as the heads of the household; they are both responsible for the provision of all material and non-material needs of the family. While the wife is responsible for all the domestic housework, the husband is obligated to provide support and mutual assistance when necessary. 

Once they become parents, they both have an obligation to put the interests of the children and the family before their own. They are obligated to provide a good environment for the growth and development of the children. They must also ensure that the children have a proper moral and educational upbringing. All the needs of the children must be met, whether physically or emotionally, at all times. They are both obligated to love one another, provide protection, and also ensure that they maintain ties with their extended families.


Nicaragua is made up of different ethnic groups, from whites to blacks, Mestizos (mixed white and indigenous), and other indigenous people. Due to the fact that the country is made up of different ethnicities, marriages are performed in various ways.

In Nicaragua, the nuclear family forms the basis of the family structure. Marriages that have legal grounds are monogamous and between a man and a woman. If parental consent is not provided and a person below the age of 16 contracts a marriage, it will be rendered invalid. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriage in Nicaragua.

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