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Marriage matters

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Although other ministers or pastors may be present and could help in the marriage ceremony, it is the licensed marriage officer who must administer the declaration (the vows) to the couple. Only a licensed marriage officer may sign the marriage certificate, and this is returned to the Registry.{{more}}

Marriage Officer

A person who wishes to become a licensed marriage officer must be a minister of religion or other persons as may be entitled to appointment under the provision of the Act. After the application is made to the Ministry that deals with religious affairs, the Registrar is instructed about the candidate. The candidate must know the Marriage Act and any amendment pertaining to it thoroughly. The Registrar would conduct an interview to ascertain that the candidate knows the law. The Registrar thereafter informs the Minister of the suitability of the candidate and the successful candidate is announced in the Gazette.

The Registrar and Deputy Registrar of the court can also perform marriages. In fact, they are presently the only non-religious persons who conduct marriage ceremonies here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Place of marriage

According to the law, as long as the couple presents a licence, the marriage can be solemnized between the parties, according to such form and ceremony as the parties may see fit to adopt. This has been interpreted quite widely. We have become accustomed to marriage ceremonies in churches and places of worship, but marriages have been performed at the Botanic Gardens, hotels, on the beach, on ships or in houses. Persons come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from abroad to solemnize their marriage at a place of their choice. Whether local or a foreigner, the choice of places is wide, provided that there is a licensed marriage officer, two witnesses and a valid licence. The marriage must be performed between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. with open doors. The Registrar, on the other hand, does not have a wide choice and is confined to his or her office. The law, however, provides for the marriage to be solemnized with open doors and between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Some other countries have laws that enable the Registrar to perform marriages in other places outside chambers. Perhaps our legislators saw marriages outside the Registry as an additional strain on the Registrar.

Marriage in articulo mortis

This is what is known as deathbed marriage. A marriage officer can perform this marriage without marriage banns. The marriage must be solemnized in the presence of two witnesses. The parties must have lived together and be over the age of eighteen years. The marriage could be registered after the ceremony.

Late registration of Marriage

Where a marriage has been solemnized, but for some reason the information was not registered or was erroneously or imperfectly registered or where the information is lost or destroyed, either of the parties could apply to have the marriage correctly registered. The marriage officer has a duty to return the duplicate to the registry to be processed.

In many cases, it is when the couple requires a marriage certificate that they discover that the formal procedures were not followed. There was a case where the couple did not sign the marriage certificate. The parties should not wait more than a month to seek a marriage certificate. If the parties are dead, then a child of the parties or other lawful representative of such parties could make the application.

A notice of the intention of the parties must be given in two consecutive publications of the Gazette and the published notice must be attached to the application to a judge in chambers for an order.

After an order is made to this effect, the Registrar must register the marriage and issue the relevant certificate.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]

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