A Panamanian Civil Wedding

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

Soraya and Jorge are now happily married. And I was privileged to attend.

The wedding was a very tiny affair – they have been together over six years now. The only ones there were the happy couple, the judge, the two witnesses and the photographer (me). Soraya had the usual bridal nerves, phoning to remind me to be ready on time to leave for the judge’s office. Jorge was nervous, too, but covered it better. Each of them was very busy pretending nothing particular was happening. It was quite cute to watch.

I went over to Soraya’s house early, both so I could photograph some of the preparations and to lessen her nervousness about my being on time. I shot a few stills of her applying her makeup and a few of “the bride posing.” Then a few more of the happy couple after Jorge was dressed and ready to go.

We drove to the municipal building and parked, argued with the parking attendant, showed our identification at the front desk and proceeded to the waiting area. The witnesses arrived shortly after, then nothing much happened for quite a while.

Finally, we were ushered into the judge’s chambers, where four chairs ranged opposite her in front of her very spacious desk – two for the couple and two for the witnesses. As the photographer I was given explicit permission to roam about and take pictures at will, which we all appreciated, especially me.

The Judge for the Civil Wedding

The Judge Makes It Legal

Once every one was settled, the judge began counseling the novios (bride and groom). Four heads nodded in agreement as she read through and explained the Panamanian laws regarding marriage. Finally, all the articles were read, and she asked the big question, which was framed interestingly: “Jorge, do you insist on marrying Soraya?”

And Jorge replied, “Correcto.” The judge, his bride and both witnesses burst into laughter. The judge smiled at him and asked him again, “Si o no?” And of course, it was “Si!” And a source of amusement for the remainder of the day.

Soraya also insisted on marriage with Jorge, the rings were exchanged, and the deed was done.

We returned to Soraya’s home for a glass of champagne brought by the witnesses, took more photos, and the party broke up. The next day the newlyweds left on the their honeymoon at Playa Blanco.

The Rings

The Rings

I had never attended a civil wedding ceremony before, not even in the States, so this was first for me on several counts. It was simple, straightforward and loving. That last might seem a bit strange for me to say, but the judge’s attitude can only be described as warm and caring. The other civil office personnel were less so, but still supportive. Both witnesses and I were delighted with the whole thing. And in spite of Jorge and Soraya’s attempts to downplay the day, it was still a serious milestone, still an important marker in their lives, and I felt quite privileged to be part of it.