Puerto Vallarta Wedding Chronicles: Marriage Legalities (Chapter 9)

Bride and groom exchange rings at their Puerto Vallarta wedding
Join us as we navigate the legal intricacies of marriage in both Quebec, Canada, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

When I began researching the legal intricacies of tying the knot in both Canada and Mexico, I was perplexed multiple times. While the marriage process in Canada was pretty straightforward, we had to jump through hoops in Mexico. But I’m getting ahead of myself… 

We discovered our Canadian wedding officiant through weddingwire.com. The process was painless; he guided us through a brief application, which, along with our birth certificates, passports, and two witnesses, was all we needed. During our video call, he inquired about the type of ceremony we preferred, presenting options like a religious, spiritual, or non-religious civil ceremony. We chose a spiritual ceremony. On the elopement day, we signed additional documents that our officiant would handle. He advised us to wait six months for the official marriage certificate to reach our home in Mexico. One interesting thing that stood out, and that I only found out during the ceremony, is that under the Civil Code of Québec, both spouses retain their last names in marriage. If a married woman wants to adopt her spouse’s surname, the Directeur de l’état civil has to authorize it but only in an exceptional situation.

Things got more interesting when we legalized our marriage in Mexico. First of all, I didn’t realize we have to legalize it for a second time in our country of residence. I thought marriage in Canada would hold up everywhere, right? Wrong. We found out we had to marry in Mexico to be legally recognized in the country, and the process is more complicated. Along with the completed marriage application and birth certificates, we had to translate my Canadian birth certificate into Spanish, attend a two-hour Planned Parenthood lecture, obtain a physician’s certificate stating that according to blood tests and x-rays taken in Mexico, neither spouse suffers from any contagious disease, and then we had to bring all of our documents and four witnesses (rather than just two) at the Civil Registry Office. Oh, we also had to complete a statement as to whether we would maintain separate property and assets or have joint property.

(Warning: only read the following if you’re interested in marriage law in Mexico!)

In Mexico, marriages can be entered into under two main property regimes: community property or separate property. Under a community property regime, assets acquired during the marriage are jointly owned by the husband and wife. When a spouse dies intestate, the surviving spouse retains 50% of the community property, while the other half is distributed according to intestate succession laws. Community property assets exclude property acquired before the marriage or during the marriage as a gift or inheritance. If a marriage is under a separate property regime, each spouse maintains ownership of their individual assets. Upon death, the decedent’s separate assets are subject to intestate succession. (Intestate succession refers to the process of distributing a person’s assets and belongings when they die without a valid will.)

Diego and I discussed the assets we have coming into the marriage, the assets we are building together, and what would happen to those assets in the event of divorce or death. I know this is not the most pleasant conversation to have when you’re about to get married, but we thought it was important. It’s funny, this was probably the heaviest yet lightest conversation I’ve ever had. It was heavy in the fact that we were discussing two of life’s greatest fears: divorce and death. Yet it was light in the energy we both brought to the conversation. There wasn’t any fear, just a completely objective conversation about what we thought best in the worst-case scenario. The experience was oddly satisfying and humorous; we even found ourselves cracking up in the middle of it. At that moment, I felt immense gratitude for a relationship that fosters such openness, vulnerability, and yet, a sense of humor. In the end, we formulated an agreement that covered both our individual and shared assets, complete with a will. We believed it was in our best interest to articulate everything ourselves, leaving nothing to chance with intestate succession.

We often recommend that couples opt for a symbolic wedding in Mexico while having a civil ceremony in their home country. This approach eliminates the need to navigate the legal requirements for marriage in Mexico. In our case, Mexico is our home and it was a necessary step. It was also an eye-opening experience. Let me rephrase that. This entire wedding journey has been an eye-opening experience on so many levels, including the smaller, seemingly minor decisions. But I’m getting ahead of myself again! Let’s save that topic for next week’s final article where I’ll take an honest look at the last year of our entire wedding journey, comparing eloping to the wedding, favorite moments, and learning experiences.

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