For many years there were only two ways to get married in the Dominican Republic: via a judge or a catholic priest. After all, the Dominican Republic is a Catholic nation — there is a reason why ‘Dominican’ is in the country’s name.

With this arrangement both Catholics as well as atheists were served, but members of different denominations had to get a judge and have a separate, second ceremony in a church, temple or meeting hall. This was fine for most religious organizations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but not enough for churches such as the evangelical churches on the island.

Thus evangelical and protestant churches felt that they deserved the legal right to perform weddings out of the control of the Vatican to officiate marriages. Then, after years of lobbying by these churches the government finally relented — and bestowed the honor of the first non-Catholic, religious wedding to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (who ironically had not even lobbied for it).IMG_9710-Small

The ceremony was held at the headquarters of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and joined the lives of Baldwin Ventura Rodriguez, 26, and Leydi Laura Cabrera Sanchez, 21, members of the religious organization “Jehovah’s Witnesses” which are very active in the country, although not as large as that of the evangelicals. (F)

Prior to the wedding various spokesmen from different Evangelical churches were allowed brief speeches, thanking the various pastors and leaders involved for their hard work in lobbying for this right. The spokesman of the Jehovah’s Witnesses thanked God. (F)

Before the actual wedding ceremony began the president of the JCE, Roberto Rosario led a ceremony where he handed the credentials for religious marriages to the Christian Church Inc., to the Dominican Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses, inc., And the Christian Word Life Church Inc. — those being the only congregations that met the legal requirements out of the 435 that had applied. The JWs were chosen as the first group to be allowed to perform the ceremony, since they were known for their orderly behavior and simple ceremony. (F)

The ceremony of the JWs consisted of a short marriage speech, followed by the reading of the legal vows as laid down by the JCE, performed by Rafael Geovanny Ortíz, a member of the JWs. To conclude all in attendance were invited to join in singing the song ‘What God Has Yoked Together”.

For the couple it was not just the happiest day in their lives, but also their 15 minutes of fame.

The great councils and institutions of the Evangelical Christian community in the country were not present at the first religious wedding ceremony, as they disagreed with the way that they felt the ceremony was handled and that the privilege had not been given to them, despite their heavy lobbying. Several of the member that were present attempted to stage a walk-out, but only a few were seen leaving the ceremony and the walk-out went by unnoticed. (F)