Everything you need to know about marriages in Bolivia
Bolivia is a South American country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage. The country allows native Bolivians and foreign couples to conduct marriage ceremonies every year. There are different types of marriages celebrated in the country, namely civil, traditional, and religious, as well as symbolic marriages. Of all the types, symbolic marriages are the easiest because couples do not need to meet any requirements set by an authority or make any document submissions prior to the ceremony. However, civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legal in the country.
With a civil marriage, couples are able to obtain a marriage license and certificate. Generally, a civil marriage that is conducted in Bolivia is recognized in other countries in South America and the rest of the world. The legal marriage age in Bolivia is 18 years, and both spouses must have attained this age before they are allowed to marry. A marriage cannot be contracted between two people who are related by blood or affinity. This applies to people who are siblings or close relatives. In addition, a mentally incapacitated person cannot legally marry in Bolivia.
Both partners are required to know each other’s health statuses before making marriage preparations. Female spouses who were previously married and would like to remarry in the country must wait a period of 300 days from when the previous marriage was terminated before they are allowed to enter a new marriage. Most people in Bolivia organize a civil marriage and then perform a church marriage shortly after. Continue reading to discover more about the types of marriage in Bolivia and what they entail.
A civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legally binding in Bolivia. It often takes place at the civil registry and is performed or officiated by an authorized notary or registrar. For a marriage to be legally binding in a country, a civil ceremony must take place, and a marriage certificate must be obtained. As stated earlier, most couples in the country hold two separate wedding ceremonies. The first one is the civil ceremony, while the second one is the church ceremony (or the couple's religious ceremony).
A major requirement that must be met by couples in the country is the marriage age of 18 years. An officiant will not perform the marriage ceremony if both or either of the spouses are below the age of 18, except when there is written parental consent. In the past, the minimum marriage age for males used to be 16 years, and that for females was 14 years. Both spouses must have the freedom to marry in Bolivia and be fully eligible at the time of the marriage.
To be eligible for marriage, both spouses must be single at the time of submitting a marriage application. A person who is still in a marriage is not allowed to enter another marriage unless the previous one is annulled and legally terminated. This directly implies that a spouse must either be single, divorced, or widowed. The spouses must use the registry in the same district as their place of residence, and the documents that may be requested can be slightly different. The documents that are typically requested during the marriage registration process are listed below.
- Original and photocopies of the national identity card or valid passports of both spouses
- Both spouses are required to submit their government-issued birth certificate, which includes all the necessary data about them.
- A document stating that there is free will to marry must be provided by the spouses. This will serve as evidence that the spouses are deciding to marry each other as a result of their free will and not any form of threat or coercion.
- Consular certificate. This is to be provided by a foreign spouse. The document is usually issued by the Consular Representative in the spouse’s home country to show that they have the freedom to conduct a marriage in Bolivia.
- Divorce or death certificate. Spouses who were previously married must provide either of these documents in the case of separation or the death of a former spouse.
- Both spouses are required to provide at least two witnesses who are of legal age and have no blood relations with either of them.
After all the required documents are submitted, the marriage registrar goes through them and verifies the information to ensure everything is correct. If documents were requested from foreign authorities, they needed to be translated into Spanish and apostilled with an official authorization stamp. These documents may take more time to verify, which can extend the waiting period. After a few weeks, the couple should be able to obtain a marriage certificate from the registry’s office.
The predominant religion in Bolivia is Christianity. Over 75% of Bolivians are under the Roman Catholic Church denomination. Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Protestants, and others make up the rest of the population. There aren't many Muslims or people with other religious beliefs in the country. Religious marriages are not legally binding in Bolivia. Therefore, couples who want to perform a religious wedding ceremony have no choice but to hold two wedding ceremonies, with the first one being the civil ceremony.
Religious marriages are available to both foreign nationals and Bolivians, and the Roman Catholic Church has various conditions that must be met before the couple is allowed to marry. Some of these conditions are general and the same as those of civil marriage, such as the minimum legal age and no marriage allowed between blood relatives. Some churches may request the marriage certificate obtained civilly from the spouses before they conduct a marriage ceremony in the church. In church ceremonies, the priest or pastor has the authority and decides on the requirements, eligibility, and course of the program for the service. Some priests may allow spouses to make some adjustments to the service program that are unique to them and even draw up their own vows.
Bolivian marriage traditions
The first dance
This ceremonial rite is performed by couples after the church and civil ceremonies are concluded. Bolivian wedding receptions are often held at night, and the bride and groom have to take to the dance floor to do a couple’s dance and open the ceremony. The couple's waltz is more than just romantic or heartwarming. It can get quite comical and cause people to laugh during the ceremony because the floor may be tiled or made to be slippery on purpose, and the couples, especially the bride, may find it difficult to show off all their dance moves.
Pacena and Chuflay
Bolivian weddings involve a lot of drinking. The pacena and chuflay are alcoholic beverages that are served during the wedding celebration. Depending on the couple's preferences, the DJ will play a variety of traditional and interesting western music during the event. The guests usually have drinks in abundance, which are drunk all through the night while dancing and having a good time.
The wedding cake is an important aspect of wedding ceremonies. Of course, the cake used in the wedding ceremony is always quite delicious, and everyone looks forward to getting a piece of it. The cake is decorated with beautiful ribbons and ornaments. It is common for the cake to include a ring, and the girl that gets the cake piece with the ring is predicted to be the next person to marry in the gathering.
Same-sex and polygamous marriages
Same-sex marriages are recognized in Bolivia. In the past, people were allowed to have the legal status of being a homosexual in the country and also freely participate in same-sex sexual activities. However, in 2020, Bolivia started recognizing same-sex civil unions, which provide same-sex couples with most of the marriage rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy.
Polygamy is illegal in Bolivia. The offense of committing this crime is referred to as "bigamy," and it can lead to the payment of fines as well as imprisonment. A spouse is only allowed to be married to a single partner at any given point in time.
Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties
Bolivia is a country that attaches so much importance to the concept of marriage; therefore, the laws of marriage in the country must be fulfilled by couples before marriage can be legally binding. Persons who are related either by blood, through marriage, or by adoption are not permitted to marry one another; couples who share a common ancestral link are prohibited from contracting marriage. The law only recognizes civil marriages; any other form of marriage, such as religious or customary marriages, does not have any legal value. A civil marriage must be held regardless of whatever form of marriage has been contracted in the past. A civil registrar must preside over the union in the presence of two witnesses. Couples are only allowed to contract monogamous marriages; polygamy is prohibited in the country.
Couples in monogamous marriages who wish to enter into a new marriage have to dissolve the existing one to be able to contract a new one. A certificate of divorce or death in the event of widowhood must be presented by couples who have been previously married to verify their marital status. Divorcees and widows have to observe a 300-day waiting period before a new marriage contract can be agreed upon. The legal age for marriage for both men and women is 18 years; however, minors within the ages of 14 and 16, respectively, can contract marriage provided parental permission is obtained. Exceptions are made for orphans or pregnant minors. Consent from both parties is very crucial when contracting marriage; the couple must be in a sound state of mind to be able to give consent to marriage.
Free and full consent must be given by the couple; it must be void of any form of influence from third parties. Marriage can be declared void on so many grounds, one of which is mental illness. Foreigners who wish to marry in Bolivia can do so at the consulate of their country. The law grants permission to the embassies to conduct marriages for foreigners with a number of restrictions. Forced marriages and child marriages are prohibited but widely practiced among people in the rural areas of the country. Many couples in Bolivia often live together for at least a period of three years before officially getting married, which is an indication that cohabitation or de facto unions are allowed in the country.
Same-sex activities and marriages are now recognized and protected by the laws of the country. Before marriage can be legally binding, couples have to prove to the authorities that they are capable of contracting marriage and that there is no legal impediment to marriage; this law applies to both nationals and foreigners. All foreign documentation provided must be apostille-certified and translated by an official translator. The verification of documents must be done by appropriate authorities before couples are granted permission to marry. Marriage must be recorded in the civil registry of one of the spouses' domicile residences.
Bolivian couples have access to equal rights in the home and society by virtue of marriage. Once marriage is contracted, the couple has the right to work and earn a living without facing any form of discrimination or limitations at the workplace. Just like every Bolivian citizen, married couples have the right to own property as they see fit; however, they get to decide under what marital property regime the marriage is contracted. They have the right to sign prenuptial agreements, which state that couples have the right to own whatever property they acquired before and during marriage separately.
The couple has the right to decide if they wish to have children or not. They both have the right to exercise parental control and authority and also be recognized as the legal guardians of the children. They also possess the right to raise the children according to their respective moral and religious beliefs. The couple has the right to exercise their respective conjugal rights, which can only be restricted on legitimate grounds such as the health of one of the spouses. In the event of the collapse of marriage, couples have the right to file for and finalize divorce on mutual grounds or for specific reasons such as infidelity or desertion, and custody is granted to whichever parent has the best interest of the children at heart.
Also, the couple has the right to be actively involved in any political or socioeconomic activity without facing any restrictions. They both possess the right to make important medical decisions in emergencies. Both parties have equal inheritance rights. In the event of the death of one of the spouses, the right to own, use, and discard property automatically belongs to the surviving spouse. They both have the authority to make important decisions affecting the family's welfare, such as the family's residence.
Marriage in Bolivia is very important and symbolic, and couples often make sure traditions and customs are embedded in the celebration. A civil wedding in Bolivia costs Bs. 196 if the ceremony is held at the civil registry office; if it is held outside the premises at a chosen location, couples should expect to pay around Bs. 346. This cost covers the marriage certificate and the family books and decree. A traditional wedding in Bolivia costs more than a civil wedding due to the various traditions that are practiced.
The average cost of a wedding in Bolivia is estimated to be around $5000–$10,000. The cost of alcohol at the wedding makes up the long and expensive wedding budget. Bolivians are known to drink a lot of alcohol at weddings, which is considered offensive if refused. The wedding cake, the wedding dress, and even the food all have symbolic meanings. The size and number of guests at the wedding determine how much will be spent on the reception venue and the food at the wedding. Couples can hire the services of a wedding planner to put together a wedding budget that is affordable for both parties, or they can sit down together and prepare a wedding budget on their own terms.
Many households in Bolivia are run by women, so the traditional stereotype that men are supposed to take on the role and responsibility as the head of the household does not really stand in Bolivia. The couple has a duty to one another and then to the children in the home. They have a duty to love, respect, and provide support for one another. The couple has a duty to provide for the needs of the children in the home; the educational and moral upbringing of the children is the responsibility of both parents.
In Bolivia, either couple can take on the role of the other. The husband can decide to help the wife out with domestic chores and take care of the children. They both have an obligation to jointly contribute to the welfare of the family according to their financial means. The proper management of the home and its finances rests on the shoulders of the couple. They both have a duty to ensure the moral and social inclinations of the family.
Marriages between spouses in Bolivia offer several advantages. There are rights and benefits married couples are entitled to, and partners are able to enjoy work benefits for married spouses and process their residency and citizenship easily (for foreigners). Spouses who want to get married in the country must ensure all the marriage conditions and requirements have been fully met by them to avoid any future issues.
Bolivia has various amazing wedding locations, such as the Casa de Eventos, the Arbol de Molle, and Le Mansión. These wedding destinations are available to both native Bolivians and foreign nationals in the country to commemorate their marriages. Traditional rituals may be performed by couples according to their religious beliefs and communal customs. Once the civil marriage has been conducted and a marriage certificate has been obtained, the couple is recognized as being formally married in the country. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriages in Bolivia.
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