Everything you need to know about marriage in Antigua and Barbuda

14 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Antigua and Barbuda 01

Antigua and Barbuda is an independent Commonwealth state in the eastern Caribbean. It consists of two Caribbean islands that form a country lying between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Antigua and Barbuda is one of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean as a result of its booming tourism industry and offshore financial services. The country has breathtaking resorts, reef-lined beaches, and rainforests, which are some of the reasons why foreigners decide to tie the knot there. 

Over 1,500 marriage ceremonies are performed every year in Antigua and Barbuda, and most of the weddings are either civil or religious marriages, as these are the only two types of marriages that are recognized and protected by the laws of the country. There are two types of marriage licenses couples may obtain during the civil registration: The ordinary license required the couple to reside in Antigua and Barbuda for a period of at least 15 days before the marriage application date, whereas the special license allows couples to get married as soon as possible within 24 hours. The special license required the payment of more money during the marriage registration. The country is majorly dominated by Christians, and a lot of weddings happen in the church; however, there is no official state religion. 

The country has a diverse population with various religious beliefs, including Hinduism, Islam, and Rastafarianism. The Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda guarantees freedom of religion, and the government does not discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs. Many couples choose to have a symbolic wedding in Antigua and Barbuda because it allows them to have a more personalized and intimate ceremony, often in a beautiful location, such as a beach or garden, and it may be less expensive than a legal wedding. Couples who choose this option often perform the legalities of marriage in their home country before proceeding with a wedding ceremony in Antigua and Barbuda. Continue reading to find out more about how marriages are performed in this country.

Civil marriages 

In Antigua and Barbuda, civil marriages are performed in the civil registry by a state-authorized registrar. The process of getting married civilly in the country involves the submission of certain documents by both foreign and Antiguan spouses. After all marriage procedures are concluded, the registrar will issue a marriage certificate to the spouses, which will ensure that their marriage ceremony is legally valid in Antigua and Barbuda and other foreign countries. The marriage certificate also offers several benefits and marriage entitlements. The minimum age for marriage in Antigua and Barbuda is 18 years old. According to the Matrimonial Causes Act, both parties must be at least 18 years of age and not already married to someone else.

The matrimonial causes act allows an exception to the minimum marriage age rule, which states that individuals who are 16 or 17 years old may marry with the consent of a parent or guardian, and individuals who are 15 years old or younger may marry with the consent of a judge. An important condition that must be met by both spouses is that they must not be in any form of partnership or marriage with another person in Antigua and Barbuda or other foreign countries. Foreign spouses may be required to provide a single status certificate or the equivalent of such a document from their home country stating that they are single and eligible for marriage. 

Spouses who were married in the past must show that their previous marriage was legally terminated during registration by submitting either a valid divorce or death certificate. The registrar may conduct an in-person review for the spouses to ensure that they are both on the same page and entering the marriage according to their own free will and consent. Foreign spouses are not allowed to marry in Antigua and Barbuda if they are prohibited from contracting a marriage in their home country or are facing criminal charges. Both partners must be in good mental and physical health before proceeding to the registry to begin the marriage application and registration process. 

As stated above, spouses may either opt for an ordinary or a special license. The waiting periods and residency requirements for both types of licenses are different. The normal residency requirement in Antigua and Barbuda is for reigning spouses to be in the country 15 days prior to the marriage application. However, the special license allows foreigners to get married with no residency requirement or waiting period. The documents submitted by foreigners must include an apostille proving their legitimacy. Also, they must be translated to English by an accredited translator if they were issued in other foreign languages. The documents that must be submitted by spouses are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid identification document such as a national ID card or a valid passport
  • Government-issued birth certificates
  • Proof of marital status. The declaration must be signed and stamped in Antigua and Barbuda.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to separated or widowed spouses who show that their previous marriage was legally dissolved.
  • Deed Poll. This applies to spouses who changed their names prior to the marriage registration.
  • A parental consent affidavit stamped by the notary must be submitted by spouses under the age of 18.

Religious marriages 

Religious marriages in Antigua and Barbuda also require the couple to meet certain criteria and submit some documents. Christianity is the dominant religion in the country, and most marriages are performed by a registered priest or pastor in the church. Only about 12 percent of the population belongs to other religious groups, with Muslims representing only 0.3 percent of the total population. In Antigua and Barbuda, religious marriages are recognized as legally binding if they are conducted by a legally authorized person and are registered with the government. 

The process for registering a religious marriage is similar to that of a civil marriage. The couple must obtain a marriage license from the Registrar General's Department. To get married in the church, the couple will be required to inform the priest beforehand so that the prenuptial classes can commence. The class is usually mandatory for all spouses looking to get married in the church, and it may run for up to 6 weeks.

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Marriage traditions in Antigua and Barbuda

Exchange of wedding bands

This is a ceremonial rite that is performed in religious weddings where the bride and groom exchange wedding bands as a symbol of their love and commitment, and the bride will often wear a white dress and a veil, symbolizing purity and innocence.

Money Dance 

This is a marriage ritual that is usually performed during the wedding reception. Here, the guests pin money on the bride and groom as they dance. This part of the ceremony keeps everyone elated and is considered a symbol of good luck, wealth, and prosperity for the couple.

Jumping the Broom

This ceremonial rite is popular in Antiguan traditional weddings, where the couple will hold hands and jump over a broom together. It is a symbolic act used to represent the couple sweeping away their past lives and starting a new one together in love and commitment.


Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages are prohibited in Antigua and Barbuda. There is no recognition for same-sex relationships, including unions, partnerships, and marriages. Homosexuality and same-sex sexual activity have been legal since 2022, and the laws have also ensured that there are discrimination protections for same-sex couples. However, most of the marriage entitlements and benefits, such as adoption, are not enjoyed by same-sex couples, and they are also not allowed to head households in the country.

Polygamous marriages

Polygamy is illegal in Antigua and Barbuda. The Marriage Act of Antigua and Barbuda states that a person can only be legally married to one person at a time. This means that a person cannot practice polygyny and be legally married to multiple partners at the same time. If a spouse is found guilty of polygamy, they may face legal consequences, including imprisonment for up to seven years. Additionally, any marriage ceremony performed for a spouse who is already legally married is considered null and void.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws of marriage in Antigua and Barbuda are governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Marriage Act. According to these laws, before marriage can take place, the groom and bride must submit a notice of intended marriage to the office of the registrar at least three days before the chosen wedding date. Marriage in Antigua and Barbuda can either be civil or religious. Couples are allowed to choose which marital union they prefer. To contract a civil marriage in Antigua and Barbuda, the groom and bride must be at least 18 years old. Anyone under the age of 18 but above the age of 14 is allowed to contract marriage. However, the concerned party must obtain parental consent for marriage. 

It could be a written consent or a verbal consent. In the absence of parental consent, the couple can obtain permission from a legal guardian. The groom and bride have to obtain a marriage license permitting them to hold the ceremony in the country. Couples have to wait at least 15 days or less to be able to obtain a marriage license. The groom and bride must not be legally married to another person while trying to contract a new marriage agreement. They are both required to be single at the time of marriage. They should either be unmarried, divorced, or widowed. If any of the spouses is divorced, he or she is required to submit a final copy of the original divorce decree to the civil registry. The certificate of marriage and death of the former spouse must be submitted to the authorities by the widowed spouse. 

A civil marriage must be conducted by an authorized marriage officiant. Marriage by proxy is not allowed in Antigua and Barbuda; both parties have to be physically present. The couple is required to provide at least two witnesses who must be at least 18 years old and also have valid identification documents. The couple should ensure that all required documents are up-to-date and submitted on time to the civil registry for verification. Religious marriage in Antigua and Barbuda can only take place after all the requirements of the couple's religious institution have been fulfilled. It must be performed by an authorized minister or priest, and couples may be required to attend premarital counseling classes before receiving a certificate. The groom and bride must not be related to one another by any means.

Rights

In Antigua and Barbuda, the rights of a wife in marriage are the same as those of a husband. Both parties have the right to make decisions concerning the health and comfort of the family, the right to work, the right to fair treatment and respect, etc. Married couples have the right to own, use, and dispose of property as they wish. At the time of marriage, they are granted the right to decide which marital regime of property should be in effect during the course of the marriage. 

This right ensures that property is well protected and managed by couples. Regardless, they both have the right to use property as they wish, irrespective of the chosen marital regime. They have the right to live together in the matrimonial home. The husband and wife have the right to decide on the permanent residence of the family as well as live together in the same house except in cases where the husband or wife has to live somewhere else, but he or she must be granted permission by the court. Married men and women have the right to seek financial support from one another when needed. 

If the marriage is no longer viable, the bride and groom have the right to seek a divorce. The divorce petition may be filed based on the mutual consent of the couple or on the fault of one of the spouses. They also both have the right to receive custody of the children; the parent who best represents the interests of the children is granted custody. Wives and husbands are protected by laws against domestic violence. In the event of abuse, they have the right to seek legal protection and assistance.

Costs

Various factors contribute to the cost of getting married in Antigua and Barbuda. The choice of wedding ceremony, the financial ability of the couple, and the size of the wedding are important factors that need to be taken into consideration when determining the cost of getting married in Antigua and Barbuda. A civil marriage in the country costs less because the couple only needs to pay certain fees to obtain a marriage license. The cost of a marriage license in Antigua and Barbuda is around $200. 

This fee covers the cost of the license and any important legal documentation. Couples may need to pay extra fees if they wish to have the ceremony at a different location. The cost of a wedding ceremony and reception depends on the preferences of the couple, what they hope to achieve, the guest list, etc. The wedding budget often ranges from $2,000 to $20,000 or more. This covers the cost of the wedding attire, transportation and accommodation, flowers and decorations, food and drinks, photography, etc.

Duties

The duties of the husband and wife in a typical household in Antigua and Barbuda are equally important. These duties must be carried out, but they are not specifically defined by law. They are also not distributed based on gender norms. The husband and wife are obligated to contribute to the general welfare of the household. It is the duty of both parties to work together to ensure the smooth running of the home. They are obligated to maintain and properly manage household resources. 

The husband and wife have a duty to support each other emotionally and financially, be committed to the marriage, respect one another's opinions and beliefs, etc. While there is no gender stereotype, in Antigua and Barbuda, a wife is traditionally obligated to keep the home and raise the children. And on the other hand, the husband is responsible for the economic and financial well-being of the family. In marriage, they are expected to prioritize the welfare of the children. The husband and wife have a duty to work together to ensure that the children have a sound moral and educational upbringing. Even in the event of divorce, the duties and responsibilities of the husband and wife towards the children continue.

Final Thoughts   

There are various marriage traditions that are performed in Antigua and Barbuda based on the religious backgrounds of couples as well as their traditional customs. Getting married in the country is straightforward, and if couples are willing to pay more, they can register their marriage in just a day.

All civil marriages must be performed by authorized marriage officers or registrars for them to be legally binding. The marriage license and certificate must be obtained from the registrar general’s department. Also, couples must register their marriage in the presence of two unrelated witnesses. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriage in Antigua and Barbuda.

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