As the sleuths among you will have guessed from the title, we got married in Belize! This was not a pre-planned part of our trip but we decided a few weeks ago it would be a fun and interesting way to make ourselves official. It was all very relaxed, totally mad and completely informal, which suited us down to the ground. We hadn’t planned to go to Belize at all, but the marriage requirements there were so much simpler than Guatemala, which included putting an announcement in the paper 3 weeks beforehand!
When we arrived in Belize we found:
- Proper customs for the first time. Our bags were searched and we were questioned about fruit we may be attempting to smuggle into the country(!)
- The 90s hit ‘Mr Boombastic’ being blasted at top volume from a nearby house
- A young looking Queen on the Belizean dollar – it is an English speaking, Commonwealth country
- Cheerful notes everywhere such as ‘We offer the swellest ride beneath the Southern skies’ on a bus ticket, and ‘Without litter, Belize will glitter!’ on posters
- Nick getting heckled for having messy hair: “You rocking the bedhead boy!”
Armed with nonspecific internet info, we set about trying to get ourselves hitched (alongside visiting beaches and beautiful Mayan ruins).
Step 1: Finding a Senior Justice of the Peace
It turns out everyone and their Grandmother is a Justice of the Peace in Belize, but finding one qualified to do weddings is easier said than done. At Placencia beach we went on several wild goose chases, including tracking down ‘Mr Percy’ from the tremendously specific address “near the football field”. Our next stop was San Ignacio, where yet another muddle of red herrings led us in a neat circle around the town visiting various JPs and ending up right where we started! Finally we found a charming Belizean gent called Mr Roches, a senior JP who was able to help us fill out our marriage application. We also visited a tiny local jewelers in the town square, who made us some placeholder silver rings.
Step 2: The Legal Malarkey
To process our marriage license we visited the ridiculously cute government buildings in the teeny capital city, which looks like a University campus in a small palm tree filled park. We tracked down the Attorney General’s Office (cunningly mislabelled ‘Department of Health’), then went to pay our fee in the Treasury; a bit like a village post office with a birthday list for 8 employees on the wall and a very smiley man with a big calculator. Whilst our license was being processed we spent a few days in the beach village of Hopkins, where we bobbed around in the clear water watching pelicans, and narrowly escaped getting run over by fishing boats as they zoomed out of the sea and halfway up the beach with no warning! For some foolish reason we also tried local banana wine, which is exactly as horrible as the name suggests.
Step 3: The Marriage
We chose to get married out here to have a fuss-free, backpacker wedding day, and we certainly managed that. In true laid-back Belizean style, we had neither a time nor a place confirmed for the wedding beforehand, just a vague plan to call Mr Roches when we arrived back in town with our license. On the morning of our wedding we collected our marriage license from the Attorney General’s office and celebrated with a healthy (ahem) breakfast of spicy Belizean meat pies. In our usual scruffy manner we had planned to get married in whatever clean clothes we had with us, but as most of my stuff was full of sand from the beach I scooted into a second-hand market stall that morning and picked up a dress for the ceremony for $2.50! Arriving back in San Ignacio in an ancient bus blasting reggae music, we called Mr Roches who told us the ceremony would go ahead at the courthouse in 90 minutes. This gave us just enough time to check into our guesthouse, grab lunch at the market and change before zooming out to the courthouse with hair still wet from the shower.
In a magnificent twist of fate, the courthouse option wasn’t possible due to a trial overrunning, so we ended up having the ceremony IN A PUB BEER GARDEN! Mr Roches created a makeshift formal courtroom on a picnic bench in between a motorbike and a tree, as we tried not to burst out laughing at how hilariously perfect it was for us. The eccentric ceremony included an excellent tour de force of Mr Roches’ opinions about things, such as how much better society used to be under British rule(!), a reminder that I shouldn’t dominate Nick ‘just because of womens’ liberation’ and some very sweet thoughts about marriage in general. I had my fingers ready to cross behind my back in case the word ‘obey’ featured in my side of the vows, but thankfully they were modern and the same for both of us.
Feeling rather dazed afterwards, we wandered through to the front of the pub to have our first beer as wife and husband and let it all sink in. We of course used this as an excuse to go out for a fancy meal that night, involving 18oz steak and the greatest mashed potato known to man (it had 7 ingredients besides potato!). Overall it was a brilliantly surreal day, and was just as chilled, random and fun as we could have hoped.
Hasta la proxima!
P.S. Aside from our 2 weeks in Belize we have been in Guatemala (blog to follow), and have just arrived in Mexico for our final few months.
P.P.S If you’re interested in getting married in Belize, this blog is super helpful: getting married in Belize.