The Special Marriage Act: How can a Foreigner marry an Indian Citizen?
In Indian, marriage is considered as a sacred institution. Marriage is an integral part of the Indian culture. India is a home to several diverse culture and religion. Arranged marriages are common in India. Most parents view arranged marriage as a viable way of getting a man and a woman to tie the marital knot. Parents take a huge interest in marriage, right from the day the potential couples met till the day the marriage materializes. This may not be unconnected to the fact that parents are more experienced and wiser than the children, and will surely decide the best for them.
Before now, marriages took place without the knowledge of both the man and the woman involved. The parents of the bride and groom usually meet to decide the fate of the children. However, a lot of things have changed nowadays. The bride and groom are usually carried along from the beginning to the end.
In India, caste and religion exert a lot of influence on the marriage institution. Parent chooses a potential bride/groom for their children from the same religion and caste as theirs. Up until now, some states forbid inter-caste marriages. The caste system is very rigid in India. It is expected that a young adult should marry from the same caste. Those people that deviate from this norm as seen as an outcast in the society.
In view of the above, the Indian parliament promulgated the 1954 Special Marriage Act to streamline the process of marriage. The Act also provides a special form of marriage for the Indian masses regardless of religion and caste, as well as, other national living in India. This article will take a look at the Special Marriage Act of 1954, wedding tradition and custom, and the necessary paperwork and documentation in order to get married in India.
SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT, 1954-
The 1954 Special Marriage Act is an Act of the Indian parliament enacted in order to provide a marriage template for the Indian people and foreign nationals living in the country irrespective of caste or religion. The Act was promulgated during the 19th century as a piece of legislation. Before the 1954 Special Marriage Act, the 1872 Act lll was in vogue. Due to a lot of irregularities and inadequacies found in the 1872 Act lll, the Indian parliament came up with the Special Marriage Act. The 1872 Act lll was introduced by Henry Sumner Maine in order to permit a young adult to get married to whomever they love under the new civil marriage law.
The 1954 Special Marriage Act has three major objectives which include;
- To provide a special form of marriage in certain cases,
- To provide for registration of certain marriages and,
- To provide for divorce.
WHAT TYPE OF WEDDING IS POSSIBLE?
In India, religious weddings and civil ceremonies are legally recognized. Civil ceremonies are usually conducted at the office of a marriage registrar. On the other hand, religious marriage involves the issuance of a marriage certificate by the religious body conducting the marriage. However, for Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs, potential couples must obtain a marriage certificate through the local marriage registry. In India, same-sex marriages are not recognized as of now.
HOW CAN A FOREIGNER MARRY AN INDIAN CITIZEN?
A foreigner who lives and works in India can get married to an Indian citizen. Under the Special Marriage Act of 1954, it is clearly stated that at least one of the potential couple must have stayed in India for a period of 30days before applying to get married. The Indian local police will issue you with a certificate to prove that you have stayed in the country for more than 30 days.
However, as a foreign national, you will need some additional paperwork, but it’s not necessary to apply for citizenship in order to get married. You will need to consult with a lawyer to draft an affidavit confirming your interest in the marriage. Also, foreign marriage certificates are recognized. If you have been married previously in your home country, you can apply to register your marriage in India. Your home country marriage certificate will be recognized.
After doing all your necessary paperwork, you will then submit a notice of intended marriage to the closest local registry office. Before submitting the notice, you must present evidence of residence in India, which will be issued by the Police. Plus, you will present copies of your birth certificate, passport, and photographs.
When you get to the registry office, you will be required to sign 3 copies of your notice of marriage. You will also confirm your address and names to the registrar. If after 30 days period, there is no objection to your documentation, you will then be legally married to an Indian citizen.
NECESSARY PAPERWORK AND DOCUMENTATION-
The paperwork or documents to present depends largely on the type of wedding you intend to have. On the average, the following documentation will be required before your wedding day;
- Proof of Residency and Address in India for at least 30 days. You should have this document before you apply to the registry.
- A valid passport for both parties
- Original birth certificate for both parties
- Ration Card or Visa indicating your length of stay
- Certificate of Single Status or no impediment indicating that you’ve not been married before.
- Letters of no objection obtained through your home country’s embassy stating that you willingly consent to the marriage.
- Death Certificate or divorce paper if you’ve been previously married or widowed
- Passport sized photographs
For those intending to get married in a Catholic setting, the potential couple needs to obtain a certificate of no objection from the Catholic’s parish priest. Plus, you may present a confirmation and baptism certificates.
WEDDING CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS IN INDIA
Weddings in India consist of customs and tradition. These customs and traditions are optional to the intending couple, but it is an important subject to consider. The table below shows some of the customs and traditions you might consider including in your wedding plan
|Tradition and Customs||Explanation|
|Mauli||15 days prior to the wedding, the mauli (string) is tied to the groom and his parents to ask the gods for a safe wedding day|
|Union of Souls||It’s common to tie the bride’s safi to the groom’s scarf to symbolize their coming together|
|Henna||Traditionally, an Indian bride covers her skin in Henna, which is applied by her female friends and family members|
|Sangeet||Guests will perform a sort of talent show with choreographed dances, musical numbers and skits in honor of the couple|
|Bou Bhat||The day after the wedding, the groom’s family and friends have a lunch, wherein the bride is formally invited to the family. The groom pledges responsibility for the bride and gives her a sari as a gift|
HOW TO REGISTER A MARRIAGE UNDER THE SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT?
Registering a marriage under the Special Marriage Act requires the same documentation and paperwork as prescribed for Hindu Marriage Act. Both parties will give a minimum of 30days notice to the sub-registrar where one of the intending couples resides. The Act provides that potential couples do not need to print wedding cards and present a priest’s certificate. The marriage registration will take place immediately after the wedding. The registration fee is between 100 to 200 Rupees.
The registrar will paste a copy of the marriage notice on his office board. If there is no objection to the notice, say from divorced wife/husband, then the marriage would be registered under the Special Marriage Act within 30 days from the date of publication. However, if there is an objection, it is now the duty of the marriage officer to conduct an enquiry. After completing the enquiry, the registrar would then formally register the marriage.
The following are the documents to submit when registering a marriage in India;
- Application form signed by the couple
- Evidence of date of birth
- Proof of residence
- Affidavit by both parties stating date and place of marriage, marital status, date of birth, nationalities
- Marriage invitation card if available
- Certificate from a priest in case of a Catholic wedding
- Certificate of conversion if the couples are converts
- Attested copy of the divorce decree if applicable
- Death certificate where applicable
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE-
The following are the benefits of a marriage certificate;
- You will need a marriage certificate if you are opening a bank account or applying for a passport.
- A marriage certificate is useful when you want to obtain a visa
- A marriage certificate is also important when couples want to trade abroad on a spouse visa
- The marriage certificate will enable a spouse to claim the life insurance benefit or a bank deposit in case a party dies
THE COST OF A WEDDING IN INDIA-
In India, weddings are viewed culturally as a one-time grandiose party which exerts a huge financial implication of the family savings. It is a common trend for families involves to invite friends, associates, to a wedding ceremony. Sometimes, some families take loans to cover wedding expenses. That said, it is important to do a proper planning before kick-starting the wedding process. The table below shows the average cost of a wedding in India.
|ITEMS||ADMINISTRATIVE COST (RUPEES)|
|Saris and clothing||200,000|
TOP WEDDING LOCATIONS IN INDIA
The table below shows some popular locations you may consider for your wedding;
|Zenana Mahal (Udaipur)||The candlelit queen’s palace in the city palace complex, located in ‘city of lakes’|
|Lebua resort (Jaipur)||A resort and spa with French influence in the ‘pink city’ known for its royal palace|
|Coconut Lagoon (Kerala)||An old feudal village located southern beach region, with canals tea gardens|
|Snow Valley Resorts (Manali)||A hideaway amidst pinewood forests in the Himalayas|
|Oberoi Amarvilas (Agra||A luxury hotel in one of the oldest historic cities in India, near the Taj Mahal|
|The Taj West End (Bangalore)||A legendary hotel with graceful gardens and spacious lawns|
|Reis Magos Fort (Goa)||The oldest fort in Goa, restored, in a beach destination popular with foreigners and festival goers|
|Leela Palace (New Delhi)||A luxe space in a tourist capital, easily accessible for foreigners|
|Krishnam Dhani (Pushkar)||A resort in a city filled with famous temples|
|Thaker Farm (Ahmedabad, Gujarat)||A farm located in vibrant western city filled with palaces and forts|