Everything you need to know about marriage in Bahrain

11 May 2023·19 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Bahrain 01

Bahrain, officially known as the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a Western Asian country famous for its beautiful natural and artificial islands. Over 6,000 marriages are celebrated annually, and both foreign nationals and native Bahrainis are allowed to legally get married in the country. In Bahrain, there are two major ways in which spouses may get married: civil and religious, or traditional, marriages. Both forms of marriage are legally binding and protected by the laws of the country. The state religion of the country is Islam, and the marriage laws guiding the act of marriage are based on the principles of Islam. 

The majority of the people living in Bahrain are Muslims, with a small percentage of other religions and irreligious Bahrainis. In the country, polygyny is allowed and recognized by the government. This type of marriage is still practiced today; however, it is not as popular as it used to be due to the high costs involved in running a functional polygamous family. The marriage age in Bahrain is 18 years, and spouses who are younger than this age are not allowed to perform a marriage ceremony unless they have the written consent of their parents' approval. 

In the past, marriage used to be allowed for females aged 15 and boys aged 18, but this has changed over the years. The number of child marriages has steadily declined, and both male and female spouses must attain the minimum legal age before they are allowed to marry in the country. The country has various unique traditions that are performed during wedding celebrations. The rest of the article will touch on the major aspects of Bahraini marriages, such as the laws, rights, and traditions. Let’s get started.

Civil marriage 

In Bahrain, both foreign and Bahraini nationals are allowed to conduct a civil marriage. Civil marriages take place at the ministry of justice and the ministry of foreign affairs and are performed by authorized officiants and registrars. In the country, marriage is regarded as the beginning of a new family (Sunnah), and there is a marriage contract in place to guide the marriage practices and ensure loved ones are committed to each other. The minimum marriage age of 18 must be met by spouses who want to perform a civil marriage. In the case where a younger spouse wants to marry due to social or urgent reasons, they must get written consent from their parents or guardian, as well as a court authorization in some cases. 

A civil marriage can only be conducted between a man and a woman, implying that members of the same sex are not allowed to officially register their marriage in the church. There are certain conditions that must be met by spouses who want to get married in the country. a premarital medical examination. This must be conducted by both spouses to show that they are compatible with each other in terms of their mental and physical health status. A spider who has a venereal disease or mental illness may be prohibited from getting married in the country. This test is followed by marital advice from an accredited health center, which is delivered by a couple. It is expected to help the couple have a better marriage and know the right practices and attitudes towards a happy married life. 

Spouses who plan to marry must obtain a letter of approval from their place of work. This letter can be drawn up by their employer or fellow employees. An officiant or registrar from the Sunni or Jaffari endowments must be used during the marriage registration process so as to obtain a marriage license. The last step involved in being officially married civilly in Bahrain is for the couple to obtain a marriage certificate and accreditation. This document is often issued by either the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments. Both spouses are required to submit some paperwork during the marriage registration, which is stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification such as a national ID or valid passport
  • Copies of birth certificates that have been certified by the government or other relevant authorities
  • Parental consent. A written approval must be provided to allow the marriage of spouses under the age of 18.
  • Passport photographs must be provided by both spouses (foreigners and Bahraini nationals).
  • Letter of approval from the employer or sponsor.
  • Certificate of freedom to marry This may also be referred to as a "certificate of single status," which must serve as evidence to confirm that the spouses are currently single and eligible for marriage in the country.

In Bahrain, a man may be allowed to take a second wife and conduct a civil marriage. Firstly, a marriage application must be submitted to the Ministry of Justice or the Department of Islamic Affairs and Endowments. Typically, most of the marriage registration documents are requested just like they were in the first marriage. The judge in charge will look over the paperwork and approve the second marriage. Upon the judge’s approval, the application and registration procedures for the second marriage may start. 

One of the requirements to marry a second wife in Bahrain is the submission of a salary certificate. This document is issued by the spouse’s employer to show how much they earn and if they will be able to support multiple spouses. A letter of good conduct and premarital screening tests are also required. Foreign nationals getting married in the country must ensure that all the documents submitted are in the official language of Bahrain, which is Arabic. The documents can be translated by an accredited translator, and they must also be notarized and apostilled with an authorization stamp from the authority that issued them.

Religious Marriage 

Religious marriages are the most widely celebrated marriage ceremonies in Bahrain. These types of marriages are recognized and protected under the laws of the country. In Bahrain, over 70% of the total population is Muslim, and the rest of the percentage is shared among various religions like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and more. The country is generally guided by the practices of Islam, and all marriages that are performed in a sharia court are valid in the country. The traditional Muslim marriage involves a Nikah ceremony where different ceremonial rites are performed to join the couple together as husband and wife. 

The Nikah ceremony is usually kept as simple as possible and is mostly attended by family and close friends. However, there are some couples who may want to go ahead with their Nikah ceremony by inviting various guests. During the ceremony, the marriage certificate is signed by the spouses in the presence of the marriage officiant (Imam) and the two witnesses. The marriage contract includes all the terms of marriage as well as the respective roles and responsibilities of the couple. During the ceremony, the couple must go over the contract and sign it before the marriage celebration is allowed to proceed. 

Most of the Christians in Bahrain are Orthodox Christians, and the marriage principles and procedures set by the church are quite different from those of the mosque and the Muslim religion in general. To marry in the church, at least one of the partners must have been baptized. In Bahrain, if one of the spouses is a Muslim, the marriage must not be conducted in the church. Both spouses must be able to demonstrate that they are both eligible for marriage and are not barred from doing so for any reason, such as health or civil status issues. Both partners are also required to provide certified copies of their identification and residency. The church also requires at least two witnesses to be present during the marriage ceremony.

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Marriage traditions in Bahrain

Engagement Ceremony 

The engagement ceremony is one of the most important rituals performed in a Bahraini wedding. Here, the groom's family goes to the bride's house to make an official marriage proposal. The bride's family checks out the groom and his family and makes a decision on whether they want their daughter to join the family or not. In our country, marriage is not just a union between couples but also one between families. If the marriage proposal is accepted, a public announcement is made that the ceremony is coming up.

Wedding Ceremony

Bahraini wedding ceremonies are usually lavish occasions that last several hours. Couples send out invitations to their respective friends and different guests, and it is common for the average wedding ceremony to have hundreds of guests. Muslims usually hold a Nikah ceremony first, where only close family and friends are in attendance. After the ceremony, another gathering may be held where a proper party celebration takes place.

Wedding Reception 

Wedding receptions in Bahrain are usually anticipated by the couple, their family and friends, as well as the guests, due to the number of ceremonial rites that are performed, as well as food and drinks. Traditional foods are served to the guests, and there are usually several courses to keep them fed throughout the ceremony. Music and dancing are the most common forms of entertainment here, and the guests may present the couples with additional gifts as they dance and celebrate together.

Same-sex and polygamous marriages

Marriage between two people of the same sex is illegal in Bahrain. Same-sex sexual activity, however, is legal. It has been legal since 1976, but homosexuals are not allowed to get married, as that may result in them facing legal consequences such as jail terms and the payment of fines. Transgenders are allowed in the country, and a person may change their gender if they desire. Same-sex couples are not recognized or protected and cannot adopt children.
Polygamy is legal in Bahrain. According to Sharia law, a man is permitted to marry up to four wives at the same time. The country is dominated by Muslims, and polygamous marriages are often practiced only by spouses of the Islamic faith. Even though polygamy is recognized and widely accepted throughout Bahrain, it is not as common as it used to be. Polygamy comes with a lot of expenses, from the cost of conducting several marriages to the maintenance of multiple wives and children. This has discouraged many spouses from practicing it; however, it is still common in rural communities.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

The laws and rights guiding the act of marriage in Bahrain are generally under the principles of sharia law. A man is allowed to have multiple wives (up to four), provided that he is financially capable and can treat them all equally and fairly. A woman is not allowed to marry more than one man at a time, and polyandry is banned across the country. A Muslim man is allowed to marry a non-Muslim woman, but a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man, unless the man will convert to Islam. The legal marriage age in the country is 18 years for both males and females, and the only condition under which marriage may be contracted by spouses below this age is if parental consent is provided. 

The Islamic law that allows a husband to divorce his wife by saying "I divorce you" three times still holds in the country. In the case of divorce, the man is expected to still provide maintenance for his children and former wife (if she is unable to maintain herself). The man is the entitled custodian of his children, and once they reach the age of 10, he has the authority to take custody. Divorce may be initiated by the wife under certain grounds, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, imprisonment, mental illness, or desertion. There is a waiting period referred to as the "Uddah" that must be exercised by both partners in the case of divorce. This is the time during which neither of the couples is allowed to marry, and it is put in place to be fully sure either or both partners will not change their mind and decide to continue with the marriage.

The husband and wife have the right to raise their children according to their own moral beliefs. In Bahrain, the wife has the right to work and earn a living. A husband and wife have the legal right to divorce if certain conditions are met. The wife has the right to demand payment for maintenance from the husband upon separation. The husband and wife have equal rights to property and are entitled to their own assets and liabilities. Both partners have the right to perform conjugal activities, except in special cases where it may not be possible. Both partners have the right to adopt and provide support for each other.


The costs of getting married in Bahrain are dependent on some major factors, such as the number of guests, the venue to be used for the wedding ceremony, and accommodation. Couples can expect to spend up to BD 25 per guest or even more, depending on how long their marriage has been and how financially buoyant they are. 

Wedding expenses can range from transportation costs to photography, ornamental displays and decorations, catering, music, etc. Typically, marriages can cost up to BD 30,000 or more. Some couples save for several years so as to be able to afford the wedding costs when it is time for them to get married. The cost of a Bahraini wedding can be higher or lower than the typical average. It all comes down to the type of marriage the spouses are in and their financial situation.


The husband and wife are expected to have mutual love and respect for each other. Both partners owe each other the obligations of respect, fidelity, and support. It is the duty of the husband and wife to preserve the family and respect the respective relatives, such as parents and elders, of each other’s families. 

Both partners have the duty of raising their children and caring for them by providing all the necessities they require. Traditionally, the man is supposed to assume the role of providing financial maintenance to his wife and the entire household at large, while the wife is supposed to take care of her husband and children and make sure things are running smoothly in the household.

Final Thoughts 

Bahraini marriage ceremonies are extravagant gatherings that usually last several hours. The country has different exquisite venues that are perfect for both foreign and Bahraini spouses who want to get married in the country, such as the Al-Ghadeer wedding hall, the ART Rotana Amwaj Islands Hotel, and the Marmaris Wedding Hall.
Spouses must ensure that all the marriage conditions and requirements are met before proceeding with the marriage registration. Bahrain is a Muslim country, and the laws guiding marriage are all based on the principles of Sharia. This implies that Muslims in the country are not allowed to hold their marriages anywhere other than the Sharia court for the marriage to be legally binding. This article includes all you need to know about marriage in Bahrain.

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