Everything you need to know about marriage in Guyana

25 Jun 2023·19 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Guyana 01

Guyana is a south American country popular for its rich wildlife, natural attractions, and entertainment. Over 4,000 marriages are performed yearly in the small country, and both foreigners and Guyanese nationals are allowed to get married. The country is diverse in terms of religion and ethnicity, with various languages spoken by Guyanese nationals, from English to Creole, Urdu, Hindu, etc. There are various ways to get married in Guyana, such as through civil, religious, traditional, symbolic, common law, and secular marriages. However, not all types of marriages are recognized under the law. 

The constitution of Guyana only makes provisions for civil, religious, traditional, and common-law marriages. The process of contracting these marriages is quite different, and the requirements for them may vary depending on the civil code or customs of the region or community of the spouses. The legal minimum marriage age in the country is 18 years. However, under some circumstances, such as the girl getting pregnant before the age of 18, marriage may be allowed. The marriage ceremony will only take place with the provision of parental consent. In Amerindian communities, early, child, and forced marriages are quite common. 

In fact, about 30 percent of girls in Guyana marry before the age of 18. A major reason for this is the level of poverty in the country, where children may be seen as burdens, and gender inequality is also one of the contributing factors to this. In Guyana, wedding celebrations usually involve a lot of African customs and traditions that have been infused with local Guyanese traditions. Traditional weddings are often glamorous and lengthy. The rest of the article will help you learn more about Guyanese marriages. Let’s get started.

Civil Marriages 

Civil marriages are performed by an authorized notary or registrar, and they take place in the civil registry. This type of marriage is legally recognized and protected by law in Guyana. The first step in performing a civil marriage in Guyana is for both spouses to obtain a marriage application form. Depending on the registry, publication of the notices of intent to marry of both spouses may be required. This publication is done by the civil registrar, and there is often a waiting period after the publication. During this period, the registrar verifies the documents and information provided and also checks to see if anyone or anything comes up that can hinder the marriage and prevent it from happening legally. 

Spouses from other countries are expected to be eligible for marriage in their home country before proceeding to contract a marriage in Guyana. If a spouse is prohibited from marrying in their country due to age, crime, etc., they are also not allowed to get married in Guyana. Permanent residents in the country may choose to obtain a marriage license based on their preferences; however, foreigners must obtain a marriage license. Clinical marriages are also allowed in Guyana. 

In this type of marriage, the marriage officer is permitted to solemnize a marriage between two spouses when one of them is at the point of death. Banns or notice to marry, as well as a license, are frequently unnecessary. The medical practitioner is authorized to issue the certificate, and the couple will then be given a registration form by the marriage officer. To get married in the country, one of the partners must have been a resident of Guyana for a period of 15 days before the marriage application and registration. Marriage licenses must be obtained from the general register office at least two business days before the ceremony. 

Once the couple obtains a marriage license, it is valid for a period of 90 days from when it was issued, and it is the responsibility of the marriage officer or registrar to lodge the marriage registration at the general registry office within a period of 14 days from when the marriage was performed. To obtain the marriage license, spouses are required to lodge a petition as stated above. However, there are important conditions and details that must be stated in the petition to ensure its validity. These are stated below.

Petition Details 

  • The location of the civil registry as well as the name of the marriage officer solemnizing the marriage
  • The full names of both parties, including their first and last names as well as their occupations,
  • Residence information stating that one of the spouses has been living in Guyana for at least 15 days before applying for the marriage license.
  • Marital status shows whether either of the spouses has ever been married.
  • Awareness from both parties that they understand siblings and other close relatives are not allowed to get married.

Documents Required 

The documents that must be submitted by both spouses are stated below.

  • National ID card or valid passport
  • Original and photocopy of the birth certificate
  • The registrar may request an original stamp or court seal.
  • Divorce or death certificate showing that a previous marriage was legally terminated by a spouse
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage This certificate must show that both spouses are single and are facing no legal obstructions preventing the marriage from happening.
  • Deed Poll. This applies to spouses who previously changed their names.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are also recognized in Guyana. The country is multi-religious; however, most of the people living there are Christians. About 63 percent of the total population is Christian. The rest of the country is made up of about 25 percent Hindu, 7 percent Muslim, and others. Marriages are very important events in the lives of Guyanese, and their mode of celebration according to religion or traditions is evident. Church marriages often begin in the morning with a procession of the bride, groom, and other members of the wedding party. It is customary for the groom and his best

The man should enter the church first, followed by the others. The bride is often walked down the aisle last by her father or another respected male elder in the family if her father is absent. The church may also publish the notices to marry of both spouses to ensure that there are no remaining obstacles to the marriage. During the ceremony, the bride and groom exchange rings and vows declaring their love for each other. After, the priest pronounced the bride and groom husband and wife, and they were met with cheers by the attendees.

Common-law marriages

Common-law marriages are also recognized in Guyana. Spouses in a romantic relationship who have lived together in Guyana for at least 5 years are eligible for a common-law marriage. Common-law marriages are on the rise in the country due to how easy it is to contract them without incurring any major expenses. 

The submission of documents is not required in common-law marriages, but most of the conditions of civil marriages are also required. Spouses must ensure that they are eligible for civil registration even though they will not be performing such a marriage. This type of marriage also has most of the benefits of a civil marriage in Guyana.

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Marriage traditions in Guyana

Sangeet 

This is a ceremony that is performed before the actual wedding. A few days before the actual wedding ceremony, the families of the bride and groom often come together to share food and drinks and also sing various traditional folk songs.

Raksha Bandhan 

This is a ceremonial rite that involves the tying of cords around the wrists of the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. Marriage is seen as a stage in life that may be quite difficult and open to attacks, and the cord is supposed to symbolize protection for both spouses.

Sindoor 

Sindoor is a red powder that symbolizes a newlywed woman. The sindoor is often applied to a part of the woman’s hair after the ceremony to signify to the whole public that she is no longer single.


Same-sex and polygamous marriages

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Guyana. Guyana is the only South American country where same-sex sexual activities are prohibited. LGBT members experience legal challenges that are not experienced by others, and the practice of this type of union can result in imprisonment.

Polygamy is prohibited in Guyana. A man is not allowed to be legally married to more than one woman at a time, and vice versa. The offense of this type of marriage is referred to as bigamy, which is also punishable under the law.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

Getting married in Guyana is pretty straightforward and direct; the law makes a clear distinction between who can and cannot get married in the country. According to the law, there are conditions under which couples can get married, and these conditions must be fully met before marriage can be considered legally binding. Both the husband and wife must be single at the time of marriage; if they are not unmarried, they must either be divorced or widowed to be able to enter into a legally binding marriage agreement, because bigamy, where one or both spouses are still in a legal marriage, is prohibited in the country. Both parties must be adults before they can marry, which means that they must have reached the legal age of marriage, which is set at 18 years for both males and females. 

If anyone who has not reached this age wishes to get married, they must obtain parental permission; in the absence of one, the permission of a legal guardian or a court's ruling would be sufficient. Under the law, any marriage contracted with a person who has not reached the minimum legal age for marriage, which is 16 years, would be considered void. Marriage between persons who are related directly, either by blood or adoption or through an alliance in marriage, is prohibited in Guyana. The husband and wife are not allowed to marry their siblings, step-siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, etc. 

Marriage between people of the same sex is illegal in Guyana. Persons who do not have a full understanding of the concept of marriage would not be permitted to enter marriage as it would be contracted in ignorance, which is against the law. Marriage must be contracted willfully and voluntarily; the law states that in order for a marriage to take place, the husband and wife must freely consent to marriage. The use of force, threats, or violence to contract a marriage is prohibited under the law. 

Furthermore, marriage with a mentally unstable person is prohibited under the law; couples must be capable all around to be able to enter into a marriage agreement. The law only recognizes civil marriages. Marriage can only be conducted civilly in a civil registry and by an authorized civil registrar in Guyana. All formalities, such as filing an application for marriage, obtaining a license for marriage, or publishing banns, must be carried out before marriage can take place.

Rights

Married couples in Guyana have equal rights according to the laws of marriage in the country. They have the right to equal inheritance at the demise of one of the couple; the estate, land, and other properties of the deceased spouse automatically go to the surviving spouse without any discrimination as to gender. The wife has the same right as the husband to acquire, change, or renounce their nationality; they are also entitled to confer their nationality on their foreign spouse and children. 

Like many countries in the world, married couples in Guyana have the right to reproduce; they are entitled to decide on the number of children they wish to have, and they are also entitled to the right to raise the children according to their own beliefs. At the time of marriage, the couple has the right to decide under what marital regime they wish to contract the marriage. They can decide to own property jointly or separately; it all depends on the couple's preferences. 

They have the right to sign a prenuptial agreement that states that in the event of divorce, the couple's property will not be divided equally. Speaking of divorce, the husband and wife both have equal rights to divorce. When a marriage fails or for other reasons, the couple may choose to divorce, and their testimonies are equal in a court of law.

Costs

To be legally married in Guyana, the husband and wife are required to pay a sum of $6,000 each in order to obtain a marriage license. It is not the total cost of hosting a wedding in Guyana. The average cost of renting a hotel room starts at $123 per night, which means couples would be spending a lot if they decided to carry the cost of accommodating all their guests. The average cost of getting married in Guyana is estimated to be around $3,000–$10,000, depending on the financial status of the couple and how extravagant they want the wedding to be. The guest list is also a determinant of the total cost of marriage in Guyana. 

The cost of renting a hotel and the cost of food and drinks for guests at the event take up at least 50% of the wedding budget. Music and entertainment at the ceremony by a DJ or a live band costs around $1000-$1,500. Flowers and decorations cost around $700–$900. Transportation and gifts for guests cost around $400–$800, depending on the number of guests and the number of hours the vehicle would be rented for if hired.

Duties

Marriage comes with duties and responsibilities for husband and wife to perform in order to ensure that the family is properly managed. In Guyana, it is believed that the husband and wife are responsible for the welfare of the family. They are both obligated to contribute to the health and comfort of the family. The husband and wife must be available to one another as well as the children at all times. 

The family is considered to be the most important part of society; therefore, couples must carry out their various roles in the home to ensure the proper functionality of the family. The wife is often responsible for the domestic housework, and she is in charge of the proper management of resources in the home. 

The husband is obligated to be the provider for all the material and non-material needs of the family, and these roles can be taken on interchangeably by the couple. The husband and wife are obligated to love one another, be committed to the marriage, and provide mutual support and assistance for one another when necessary.

Final Thoughts 

A lot of the marriage ceremonial rites performed in Guyana are infused with traditions from Africa and some other parts of the western world. The country is dominated by Christians, and Christian marriages are the most common in the country.

Muslim weddings in Guyana often last up to three days due to the high number of rituals to be performed by the bride and groom as well as their respective families. After the Nikah ceremony is concluded, the rides family often throws a party or feast to be attended by family and friends. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Guyana.

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