A vibrant port city, Cartagena is fast becoming a popular, international wedding destination, proving to be a firm favourite amongst US couples opting to wed abroad.

Situated on the Caribbean coast, boasting colourful architecture and a tropical climate, the cultural Colombian setting is an exciting, dramatic wedding location to share with family and friends.

A Guide to Getting Married in Cartagena

If you dream of a destination wedding a little less ordinary, Colombia is certainly going to tickle your tastebuds!

In this guide, we speak to Cartagena based wedding events planner Daniela Vélez of DVEntique to unearth the process of getting married in this eclectic city, from wedding legalities to venue selection plus a personal insight into her top locations and guest experiences.

What does Cartagena have to offer couples marrying abroad?

I was born and raised in Cartagena, more than recommending my city as a wedding destination, I highly endorse it for the indescribable experience that my clients and their guests will cherish, a profound encounter that engages all the senses in unimaginable ways.

The magic preserved in its design and architecture can be felt in its squares, museums, colonial villas, and walls, radiating the full splendor of “magical realism.”

Cartagena’s historic center, is like stepping into a time machine and reliving the past. As you walk by, you’ll encounter ancient horse-drawn carriages, immaculately preserved facades, particular street names, and embellishments that enhance the charm of the walled city.

The City’s people, art, culture, and gastronomy unveil the secrets of a paradise that, to the rhythm of coastal flavors, embraces and captivates. Cartagena offers everything at your fingertips: a variety of activities, places to visit, the sea, the sand, remarkable architecture, and, to top it off, an unparalleled warmth, both in its people and its climate.

It is a city inherently romantic, known as the “Romantic Capital of the Americas”, It evokes character and sentimental essence that makes it so much more than just sun, beach and breeze. Cartagena is one of the few cities where you have the opportunity to combine art, leisure, history, beach and culture in a unique environment.

It is for all these reasons that I highly recommend Cartagena as a dream destination, where weddings are more than just an event, it becomes,  as we love to say “a lifetime memory”!

Legal requirements for getting married in Cartagena

Religious Ceremonies

Catholic church weddings can take place in Cartagena from couples who reside abroad or outside the Archdiocese of Cartagena.

The Marriage License (Nihil Obstat) must be processed at your local parish and sent via certified mail, at least one month in advance of your wedding date.

For this, the main priest of your local parish must send the Marriage License (NIHIL OBSTAT), signed by him and the bishop of the area or his delegate, along with the Nihil Obstat and a copy of each of your passports and 2 recent photos of each one (passport size). These documents should be sent directly to the Archdiocese of Cartagena or to the Church where the ceremony will take place, following their respective instructions and protocols.

Civil Ceremonies

To celebrate a civil ceremony, it’s mandatory that at least one of the members has Colombian nationality. If both are foreigners, the civil marriage cannot be celebrated.

If one of the individuals is Colombian, they must send an authenticated copy of their civil registry (issued at least 3 months previous to the wedding date), a power of attorney signed by both parties (provided by the notary, and the couple only needs to fill in the information and their signatures) so that the wedding planner can submit the documents to the notary, and a copy of their citizenship ID card. The foreign individual must present the following documents: an authenticated copy of their birth certificate translated to Spanish by a certified official translator (which must be apostilled or authenticated by the consulate), a copy of their passport with the last immigration entry stamp, and a “single status” certificate or its equivalent with an apostille.

Symbolic Ceremonies

If the couple wants to have a symbolic ceremony, they do not need any type of documentation. However, they must hire an officiant to conduct the desired symbolic ritual, or alternatively, assign or bring someone (it can be an officiant, a family member, or a friend) to perform the symbolic rite.

The best time of year to get married in Cartagena

The best time to get married in Cartagena is from December to April, which is the dry season. From May to August, the rains are more frequent.

Dates to avoid getting married in Cartagena include;

  • During electoral periods (presidential, mayoral, and gubernatorial elections) because the government prohibits alcohol consumption.
  • “Fiestas de Noviembre” or Independence festivities are celebrated in November, the traditional parade closes off one the city’s main avenues, it would be best to avoid scheduling your wedding during these times due to potential logistical challenges and increased crowds.
  • It is not advisable for couples to marry during the high tourist season due to the high demand, resulting in increased hotel rates. The high tourist season in Cartagena falls from late December to the second weekend of January, Holy Week in April, and from mid-June to mid-July during the mid-year school vacations.

Do you need to visit Cartagena before getting married?

It is not mandatory for couples to visit the city beforehand, but it is recommended to explore the area and tour various venues weddings before booking, as they each obtain their own, unique personality.

If you do not have the time to travel and conduct a venue scouting, as a professional planner I can carefully select venues to consider, having the experience of choosing wedding spaces that consistently align with couple’s expectations.

How long should you be in Cartagena before and after the wedding ceremony?

There’s no set rules but it’s advisable to arrive between 3-4 days before the wedding. If you plan on having pre-wedding events such as welcome drinks, beach days and/or rehearsal dinners, it’s recommended to arrive at least 3- 4 days before the beginning of any of theses destination wedding events.

Wedding Venues in Cartagena

Venues suitable for wedding events in Cartagena each have there own unique charm, many with a rich architectural history. For weddings of over 100 guests, my top wedding venue choices in Cartagena are: Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa, Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, Casa 1537 and Baluarte San Francisco Javier.

Colonial houses and boutique hotels are perfect intimate wedding venue options in Cartagena. A former Colonial home in the heart of the walled city, Amarla Cartagena has been transformed into an artisan, Boutique hotel, creating a paradisiac setting for intimate, micro-wedding celebrations in the highly desirable destination of Cartagena. Positioned in center of Cartagena de Indias’ Old Town, the eclectic building is a mix of colonial and Cartagenian architecture featuring seven en-suite rooms and a rooftop terrace ideal for romantic ceremonies.

Discover | Wedding Venues in Cartagena

Cartagena Wedding Experiences

Besides strolling the city as the evening falls, visiting Castillo de San Felipe, taking pictures in front of colorful colonial villas and walking along the beach, there are other experiences that Cartagena Offers;  Rosario Islands, private walking tours, cooking experiences, sunset cruise, visiting the National Aviary of Colombia, lodotherapy at the Totumo Volcano, bike ridse, Popa Convent, hop on hop off bus sightseeing, street food tour, party bus tours, walking the streets of Getsemaní, sunset and cocktail rooftop experiences, Inquisition Palace (MUHCA), Museo del Oro, walking the plazas, visiting Historic Churches, SPA days, shopping at La Serrezuela, visiting Las Bóvedas, visiting art galleries, Colombian coffee at the different cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

Wedding planning in Cartagena

Hiring a wedding planner in the destination city where you decide to hold your wedding has significant benefits.

In addition to our extensive knowledge of venues that can align with your preferences, and our familiarity with all the industry vendors, at DVEntique we will be responsible for coordinating and overseeing all aspects of the organization throughout the planning process. Most importantly, we will ensure that everything is executed correctly and according to the agreements made with each vendor during the wedding day.

This allows you to enjoy their special day without worrying about setup, vendor supervision, or event management, enabling you to have an unforgettable and stress-free experience.

We offer a personalized approach to the wedding planning experience, comprising a team of professionals with 10 years of experience, specializing in crafting custom weddings that are truly unique to each couple. By only taking on approximately 12 weddings per year, we can devote our full attention to our clients.

Our full-service planning ensures every single detail is taken care of throughout the entire wedding planning process and on the day of the event. We consider our couple’s individual needs and desires to create an event that blends their aesthetics and vision, resulting in a functional and unforgettable experience. This is why we take pride in saying that we create lifetime memories!

Couples can get in touch with Daniela at DVEntique via https://www.dventique.com/contact-us.