Everything you need to know about marriage in Nepal

18 May 2023·19 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Nepal 01

Nepal is a South Asian country popular for being multilingual, multiethnic, and multicultural. Every year, thousands of marriages are celebrated in this country by Nepalis and other foreigners. There are different types of marriages through which spouses get married in Nepal, namely: civil, religious, traditional, and customary marriages. The country gives couples the opportunity to become officially married in different ways. Unlike some countries where a recognized marriage can only be performed civilly, Nepal allows both civil marriages and other types of marriage ceremonies that are legally binding. Families play a huge role in Nepali weddings, and most families in the country are patriarchal and directly headed by men. 

There are some families that are headed by women in a matriarchal system, but they are not as common. The man heading a family is referred to as Malik, and his authorities are not just restricted to his immediate family. He oversees the affairs of the extended family as well as family workers under him. Nepal is one of the countries with the highest minimum age for marriage in the world. Before a male or female spouse is allowed to get married, they must reach the age of 20. The minimum marriage age in most countries is 18 years, and there have been movements in Nepal towards reducing the marriage age. 

Couples who are under the age of 20 and want to get married are required to provide parental consent. Despite the fact that Nepal has a high marriage age, there are still millions of brides in underage marriages. Over the years, the government has been trying to curb these types of marriages. In Nepal, there are various formal and informal laws or rules guiding the act of marriage. The formal laws are mostly from the constituted country, while the informal ones are mostly from religious belief, ethnicity, or region. As you read on, you will gain in-depth knowledge about how marriage is performed in Nepal. Let’s get started.

Civil and court marriages

Civil and court marriages are both recognized and legally binding in Nepal. Both foreign and Nepali spouses are able to conduct this type of marriage in a district court or registry office. A judge or state-authorized registrar is in charge of officiating a civil marriage in Nepal. There is a strict process that must be followed when registering marriages in the country, and this starts with the submission of an application form for marriage registration by both spouses to a ward or registry office that is located in the same municipality where either of the spouses lives. During the marriage registration, there are certain documents that must be submitted by the spouses for documentation, and after submission, the spouses often go through a waiting period. During this period, the ward office and other concerned authorities verify all the paperwork to ensure the spouses are who they claim to be and there are no issues or obstructions that may arise and prevent the marriage from happening or render it invalid. Couples who want to conduct a marriage must not be related to each other. This will be touched on later in this article. Below are the documents that must be submitted by couples before they are allowed to get married.

Documents Required 

  • A national ID card or valid passport
  • Both spouses must submit an application for marriage registration.
  • Copies of passport photos must be submitted by both spouses as required.
  • Citizenship photocopy. This document may be required by foreign spouses who are getting married in the country.
  • Copies of a government-issued birth certificate
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to spouses who were previously married and are now widowed or separated. Spouses may be able to obtain this document from the ward office in the country.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage: This must be provided by the male and female spouses to show that they are both unmarried and are facing no prohibitions or obstructions preventing the marriage.
  • Proof of residency: This document may be required for a court marriage registration. A letter from the ward office may be obtained.
  • Both spouses must provide at least two witnesses who are of legal capacity to act as such in the country.

Spouses who are originally from another foreign country may have to request some documents from their home country or the consulate of their home country in Nepal. In this case, all documents requested must be translated into the official language of the country, Nepali, and they must include an apostille as evidence of their legitimacy.

Religious and traditional marriages

Marriages in Nepal are widely celebrated according to the religion, ethnic group, or community of the respective spouses. Religious and traditional marriages are also recognized and protected under the laws of the country. Nepal has a diverse religious background as there are multiple religions in the country, and the way marriages are performed under each one is different. The main religions in Nepal are Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Kirat. Furthermore, the predominant religion in the country is Hinduism; therefore, most of the marriage ceremonies that take place are according to the principles of this religion. Traditionally, marriages in Nepal are either arranged or love marriages. 

Arranged marriages used to be very popular in the past, and they are still practiced by some families in the rural area. In arranged marriages, the families are responsible for deciding who their child marries by choosing potential partners for their child. The two families used to have more to do with the pre-wedding planning than the actual spouses getting married. However, this has changed with time, and spouses are now marrying for love. The male and female spouses usually have a courtship during which they get to know each other better and decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives with their partner. Most times, Hindu marriages are celebrated over several days and include a lot of elaborate and lavish ceremonial rites. Both families also actively participate in the marriage rituals performed.

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Marriage traditions in Nepal

Diyo 

This is a unique marriage ritual that is performed in Nepalese wedding ceremonies. The Diyo ritual is a Hindu tradition that takes place during the actual ceremony as a way of warding off evil spirits. The light from the diyo signifies prosperity, purity, and good luck in the lives of the newlyweds and their family members.

Dubo Ko Mala

This is a ceremonial rite that is unique to the Hindu religion. During the ceremony, the norm is for the bride and groom to wear a grass mala. The grass mala is worn around their necks, and the representation of the Dubo Ko Mala is to symbolize a long and happy marriage for the couple in good health. The Mala grass does not fade, and it is believed that the love the husband and wife have for each other will also remain permanent.

Supari 

This refers to the traditional ceremony performed by spouses in the Newari community where the family of the groom accepts the bride and the two families are joined together as one. Here, the custom is for the bride to give all the family members betel nuts. She starts from the oldest family members to the youngest, and they are required to take one betel nut and return the rest to the bride.

Same-sex marriages 

Nepal does not recognize same-sex marriages. Marriages held between two people of the same sex hold no legal ground in the country, and these types of marriages face discrimination and punishments that are not faced by opposite-sex spouses. However, Nepal is still regarded as one of the most progressive countries in Asia in terms of LGBT rights. Homosexuality is legal in the country. Same-sex sexual activities are also allowed in the country and have been this way since 2007.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is illegal in Nepal. Marriage is generally regarded as a union and connection between a man and a woman based on social and cultural factors and activities. A man is not allowed to be legally married to more than one woman in the country, and likewise for women. Polygamous marriages are not very popular in the country, and those who are involved in this type of marriage may face imprisonment as well as the payment of fines.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs, and Duties

Laws and Rights

In Nepal, a marriage is regarded as a union between a man and a woman. This simply implies that two spouses of the same gender are not allowed to marry each other in the country. This law applies to both Nepali nationals and other foreign citizens. Spouses getting married to each other must be eligible for marriage in terms of age and civil status. The legal age for marriage in Nepal is a minimum of 20 years old. This marriage age must be reached by both spouses before they are permitted to proceed with the marriage application and registration. Under some special circumstances, the law permits marriage to take place between two people who are younger than the minimum marriage age in the country, provided that they have parental or guardian consent.

A person who is still in a marriage is not allowed to get married again in Nepal. This applies to both marriages performed in the country and those held in other foreign states around the world. Before a man and a woman can be regarded as husband and wife, they must have a marriage agreement. The marriage agreement states the terms and responsibilities of both spouses in the marriage and is required by domestic law. In Nepal, a marriage is only legal and valid if it is entered into with the mutual and free consent of both partners. Marriages that are performed under duress, threats, fraud, or coercion are nullified in accordance with the laws of the country.
Both the man and woman have equal rights in a Nepali marriage. 

They are both entitled to and can retain ownership of their own assets during the marriage. Spouses have the right to decide if they will give their other spouse the authority to make use of the assets. A man is only allowed to marry one woman at any given time in the country. Polygamous marriages are prohibited and illegal in the country. However, even though these types of marriages are punishable crimes according to the law, there are conditions that may make them possible. The marriage becomes legally binding if a polygamy offender serves one to three years in a federal prison, according to the country code. 

This means that subsequent marriages will hold the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits as the first marriage. Both spouses have the right to request a divorce in Nepal. Some of the grounds for divorce include desertion for an extended period of time (three years or more) by either party, if a spouse has taken actions that may end the life of the other spouse, physical and mental abuse, infidelity, or a terrible health condition such as underlying venereal diseases. Both spouses have the right to inherit. In Nepal, a widowed wife and her children are entitled to the property of their late husband.

Costs 

There are various expenses that are incurred when conducting a marriage in Nepal, and these expenses largely depend on the type of marriage that is being performed. Just like in other countries, performing court and civil marriages requires a lot less money than traditional and religious ceremonies. During the marriage registration, an "unmarried certificate" must be obtained by the partners getting married, and the cost of obtaining this document can range anywhere from NPR 300 to NPR 2200. Other expenses during the civil marriage registration include the cost of a temporary stay letter and court expenses (affidavits and more). Spouses who do not speak Nepali will be required to pay for the official interpreter, who will handle all translations during the ceremony.

Religious and traditional weddings in Nepal can cost anywhere between NPR 300 and NPR 5,000,000. There are various expenses that come into play with these types of weddings, with the major ones being the cost of transportation, catering, and renting a venue. Couples who are performing their marriage according to the principles of a religion or community where wedding rings are used will also need to purchase rings. Other expenses include photography, make-up, bridal dresses, decorations, and even the honeymoon. It all depends on how big the wedding is. Some couples prefer small wedding ceremonies with only a few friends and families, whereas others make sure their wedding ceremony is something everyone remembers. Big Nepali weddings usually have over 200 guests celebrating the newlyweds.

Duties

In a Nepali marriage, the wife and husband are regarded as equals, and they owe each other the duty and obligation of fidelity. Married couples are not meant to have extramarital affairs with other people, and both spouses must be loyal and always support each other. Support is required in matters that affect each individual spouse as well as the family at large. There are no provisions in the laws of the country that say the wife is a subordinate and must obey everything her husband says.

In Nepali marriages, financial and household responsibilities are meant to be shared between both spouses. The husband and wife can discuss how the various responsibilities will be shared in the family. In some families, the husband is regarded as the primary provider who must provide the necessities required to live a comfortable life for his wife and their children. He has to ensure the children are properly enrolled to get the best education within his reach. 

The wife is supposed to be a strong supporter and backbone for the entire family. She is meant to take care of her husband and children and ensure they are living well and facing no issues. Both spouses are responsible for protecting the family and raising their children according to their own moral standards and religious or ethnic principles.

Final Thoughts  

Nepal is a very diverse country in terms of ethnicity and religion. The country includes millions of spouses that perform marriage ceremonies in several different ways. Most of the marriages performed in the country are either Buddhist or Hindu ceremonies, and the respective traditions of these marriages are followed. Foreigners are also allowed to get married in the country, provided that they are eligible for marriage and can provide all the required documents during the marriage registration.

Marriage ceremonies in Nepal can typically last several days. The ceremonial rites performed are usually split into different days, and apart from the major marriage, there may be subsequent ceremonies during the week in the respective family houses of the husband and wife. Every religion or ethnic group has their own unique way of conducting marriages in the country, and there are certain marriage traditions that have been in existence for several years. Marriage traditions have been passed down from generations to generations, and there are spouses in rural communities who still practice the same marriage traditions that were around in ancient times. We hope this article has provided you with all the information you need to know about marriage in Nepal.

 

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