Everything you need to know about marriage in Belize
Every year, over 1,500 marriages are celebrated in Belize, a Central American country famous for its tropical jungle, mountains, beaches, and coral reefs. Thousands of foreigners from different parts of the world visit Belize annually. In fact, the highest foreign exchange earner in the country is tourism. There are several natural attractions, and 80 percent of the country’s land mass is covered by pristine forests protected by the government. Both foreigners and Belizean nationals perform different types of marriages annually in Belize. Some of the most popular types of marriages in Belize include civil, religious, traditional, and symbolic weddings. Belize is diverse in terms of religion and ethnicity. There are 16 religions in the country, and the majority of the people living in Belize are Christians.
Furthermore, Belize has no state religion. Spouses are allowed to perform any type of marriage they prefer in the country. Some of the marriage traditions performed in Belize have been in existence for several decades. Most traditional marriages are performed in rural areas. Foreigners from other countries who get married in Belize mostly perform civil and symbolic marriages. Only a civil marriage is recognized and protected under the marriage laws of the country. Belize is guided by the civil code in the constitution, and even though spouses are allowed to perform marriages according to their religious or traditional beliefs, all the civil marriage rules must be followed. The traditional and religious principles of spouses must not supersede those of the civil code.
Marriage ceremonies performed in Belize are internationally valid. Once a couple obtains a marriage contract, they gain full entitlement to all marriage rights and benefits in the country. The minimum legal age for marriage in Belize is 18 years for both male and female spouses. With the provision of parental consent or judicial authorization, a spouse aged 16 may be allowed to marry. There are some cases of child marriages in Belize. According to statistics, about 26 percent of the population entered marriage before their 18th birthday. There is a 3 percent rate of child marriages before the age of 15. The rest of the article will touch on the marriage laws and rights in Belize as well as popular wedding traditions. Let’s get started.
In Belize, civil marriages are performed in a civil registry by an authorized marriage officer or registrar. This type of marriage is recognized in Belize and also holds international validity. Both spouses must provide all of the few hired documents and make their intention to marry known in person; however, certain agencies in the country make the marriage process easier for foreign spouses. To get married, both partners must visit the civil registry and see a marriage officer to make a declaration that they would like to get married in Belize. The marriage officer must ensure that both spouses enter the marriage voluntarily and with their own consent.
There are residency requirements for foreign spouses getting married in Belize. They must have resided in the country for at least 72 hours (3 days) prior to filing the petition to obtain a marriage license. Most of the documents required will be for the purpose of verifying the identities of both spouses as well as their marital status in Belize and other foreign countries. All documents provided during the marriage registration must be original. Furthermore, documents that were certified with the lifted seal of the original documents will also suffice. Foreigners may obtain some of the required documents from their home country or the embassy or consulate of their country in Belize.
These documents must be authenticated with an authorization seal or stamp, and they must be translated to English by an accredited translator if they were issued in any other language. After the three-day residency has been completed, both spouses may apply for a marriage license at the registrar's office. The application process is quite fast and usually takes one day. To complete the marriage application, both partners are required to provide certain documents, which will be stated further below in this article. Upon the completion of the one-day waiting period to obtain a marriage license, the bride and groom will be able to perform a civil ceremony. The ceremony is performed by the senior Justice of the Peace, who is authorized to marry people in Belize.
The ceremony may also be performed by a minister of a registered church. Both partners are required to provide two witnesses, usually a male and a female of legal age in the country. Generally, a blood test is not required to perform a civil marriage in Belize. However, it is the responsibility of the marriage officer to ensure both spouses are at least 18 years old. It is only under certain exceptions that a spouse under the age of 18 may be allowed to marry. Such a spouse must also be accompanied by parental consent. After the marriage ceremony is completed, the marriage must be formally registered with the registry department. It is only after this process is complete that both partners will be recognized as being officially married in Belize. The documents that must be submitted are stated below.
- A national ID card or valid passport
- Government-issued birth certificates must be provided by both spouses.
- Proof of address must be provided by foreign spouses.
- Both partners must provide two witnesses during the marriage registration.
- Divorce or death certificate. Either of these documents must be provided by previously married spouses to show they legally terminated such marriages.
Religious marriages are performed according to the principles of various religious bodies in Belize. The majority of Belizeans are Christians under the Roman Catholic Church denomination. About 40 percent of the people living in the country are Catholic, followed by members of the Pentecostal church. In fact, there are more people in Belize who have no religious affiliation than any other religion other than Christianity.
The bride and groom are joined together in the church by the priest or pastor in a 2- to 3-hour ceremony. The church service often involves a lot of marriage traditions, and both partners are required to exchange cows. The vows may be provided by the church or drawn up by spouses for a more personalized experience. Church marriages are very popular in Belize, and they are often performed after a civil marriage has been concluded.
Marriage traditions in Belize
The four cardinal points are used for spiritual significance during the marriage ceremony at the altar in Belize. The north refers to air, which symbolizes the breath of the spouses. The south refers to earth, symbolizing the body; the east refers to fire, which symbolizes the spirit; and the west refers to water, which is considered to be blood. All four elements represent life and add life during the ceremony.
During the wedding ceremony, it is customary for coral to be added to the holy site. The marriage rite is performed as a way of purifying the ceremony and removing all negativity upon the recitation of the required prayers. The purpose of the ceremony is to cleanse the auras of the bride and groom.
It is customary for a wedding party or reception to be performed after a Belizean church wedding is concluded. The newlyweds are accompanied by their family, friends, and other guests to a new venue where food and drinks will be shared. During the wedding party, the husband and wife are often cheered on by the guests to dance and participate in different games.
Two partners of the same sex are not allowed to be legally married in Belize. There is no recognition of same-sex marriages or unions in the country. Members of the LGBT community face legal challenges that non-LGBT members do not. Same-sex sexual activities were decriminalized in Belize in 2016. Under the constitution of the country, discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal, and this encompasses the sexual orientation of spouses.
Polygamous marriages in Belize
Polygamy is illegal in Belize. More than two partners are not allowed to be in a marriage with each other. Marriages in the country have a nuclear nature, and the offense of practicing polygamous marriages is known as bigamy. This may result in legal consequences and the payment of fines. Even in rural areas, the practice of polygamy remains rare.
Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties
The process of getting married in Belize is quite easy; couples are only required to fulfill the rules and demands of the laws of marriage to be able to contract marriage. Marriage in Belize is governed by the Marriage Act, and under this law, the couple must be single at the time of marriage. The groom and bride must either be unmarried, divorced, or widowed. If they have been married in the past, the law demands that they present proof of any previous marriage and any valid certification that the marriage had been dissolved. In the case of divorce, the concerned party is required to submit a decree absolute of divorce, while in the case of widowhood, a certificate of death of the former spouse is accepted. The law also sets the legal age for marriage at 18 years for both the groom and bride; they must have valid identification documents.
If either of the couple is under the age of 21, he or she is required by law to obtain written parental consent; in the absence of one, consent from a legal guardian is also admissible. In Belize, civil marriages and religious marriages are both legally recognized under the law; they both have legal value. Couples can decide to have a civil or religious marriage, but it must be conducted by an authorized marriage officiant or an authorized religious priest or minister. To be legally married in Belize, the couple is required to sign a marriage certificate, which must also be signed by two witnesses provided by the couple and the marriage officiant. The witnesses provided must be at least 18 years old and have valid documentation as well. There is no medical blood test requirement for couples.
The Marriage Act of Belize does not recognize same-sex marriages. However, same-sex couples are allowed to carry out homosexual activities, but they are prohibited from contracting marriage. In the same vein, civil unions are allowed, but they do not enjoy any legal recognition like official marriages. Couples who wish to be married in Belize must not be related to one another. Foreigners who wish to be married in Belize must be capable of contracting marriage in their home country before marriage can take place in Belize. There is a residency requirement that must be fulfilled under the Marriage Act of Belize: couples must have lived in Belize for at least 6 months to be able to contract marriage.
In Belize, a husband and wife have equal rights in marriage. The groom and bride have the right to live together and decide on the matrimonial residence of the family. They both have the right to make decisions concerning the wellbeing and health of the family. Being married in Belize does not put a limitation on the rights of couples; the groom and bride have the right to further education and to choose different career paths without any restrictions.
The husband and wife have the right to own property and dispose of it as they wish. The couple has the right to decide the marital regime of property that would be in effect throughout the duration of the marriage as well as in a prenup at the registration of marriage. Just like every citizen in Belize, married couples have the right to work and receive equal payment as well as fair treatment at their place of employment. Spouses have the right to initiate and finalize divorce on mutual grounds or for specific reasons such as adultery, domestic violence, abandonment, or imprisonment for at least two years. The husband and wife have the right to raise children according to the religious and moral inclinations of the family.
The right to legal guardianship of the children belongs to both spouses; they also enjoy the right to exercise parental rights and authority over the children. In the event of divorce, these rights are still effective; however, they must not be misused, nor can they be sidelined. The husband and wife also enjoy equal custody and visitation rights. In Belize, husband and wife have equal rights to participate in politics and government. They have the right to vote, be voted for, and run for public political offices.
There are a number of factors that determine the total cost of getting married in Belize; they vary from the financial ability of the couple to the list of invited guests. To be legally married in Belize, couples have to obtain a marriage license, which costs around BZD 200 for both couples, or approximately $100. After the fee for the license is paid, an administration fee of BZD 10 (approximately $5) must also be paid.
The cost of hosting a religious wedding ceremony depends on the various religious institutions. Couples can either have an expensive wedding or an inexpensive and intimate wedding. The location of the event, the size of the wedding, the cost of food and drinks, the attire of the couple, etc. determine the final cost of the wedding ceremony in Belize.
The husband and wife have various duties and responsibilities to fulfill in the home. They have an obligation to take care of one another as well as the children. The health and welfare of the children should be the couple's top priorities. They have an obligation to take care of the material and non-material needs of the children.
The provision of a proper educational and moral background is the responsibility of the husband and wife. Not only should the children be the priority of the couple, but the husband and wife should also look out for one another, love one another, respect each other's feelings and beliefs, be committed and faithful to the marriage, and provide mutual assistance and support for one another.
The husband and wife have a duty to jointly contribute to the health and comfort of the family and ensure that the resources in the home are properly managed. In essence, the husband and wife should endeavor to carry out their respective roles in the home so as to ensure that the family functions as the foundation of society.
In Belize, the process of getting married is straightforward. The country has residency requirements for foreign spouses. Anyone who is not a Belizean citizen is required to have resided in the country for three days. After the third day is complete, such a spouse may proceed to make a marriage application on the fourth day.
All marriages must be filed with the registry department to ensure their validity. The process of obtaining a marriage certificate usually takes five to six weeks. Most times, couples are provided with the option of having the marriage certificate mailed to them if they are not available to collect it in person. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Belize.
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