Everything you need to know about marriage in Haiti
Haiti is a Caribbean country famous for its rich folklore, customs, and traditions. Marriage is held to a high degree of importance in Haitian families, and both Haitian nationals and foreigners are allowed to perform marriages in the country. Haiti is a matriarchal society, and the responsibility of taking care of children and households falls on the shoulders of women in families. Marriages are either performed at the registry or in a religious place of worship. These are generally regarded as civil and religious marriages.
Unlike other western countries, official marriages in Haiti are not very common, and a lot of spouses usually live together for several years in a common-law marriage before deciding to tie the knot in a religious or civil setting. Most Haitians usually focus on education, which takes several years to complete, and avoid spending money that can be put towards education on marriage. Sometimes, courtship periods may last up to five years or even more before the marriage ceremony eventually happens. The marriage age in Haiti is 18 years, and this applies to both male and female spouses. Foreigners are also required to have reached this age before contracting a marriage in Haiti, even if the marriage age in their own country is below 18.
If there is a high level of urgency or other valid reasons, the judge may authorize a person younger than the age of 18 to get married; however, there must still be parental consent provided. Informal marriages are mostly performed in rural communities, and as stated, they are not recognized in the country. Spouses who organize church marriages are also required to sign their marriage license, which can be done during the ceremony. Continue reading to find out more about the marriage practices in Haiti.
As stated above, civil marriages are legally binding and protected under the laws of the country. Both foreigners and Haitians can perform a civil marriage. In order for a marriage to be legally recognized in Haiti, both spouses must receive a marriage certificate and sign the marriage license, regardless of whether the ceremony is held at the registry or in a church. Civil marriage ceremonies usually take only a few minutes (about 20–30 minutes) and are performed in the registrar's office or any other authorized venue by the registrar. Haitian marriages may also be performed in the embassy or consulate of Haiti in a foreign country; however, there may be additional fees paid as well as the submission of some special documents. Spouses are required to provide evidence of their civil status.
Foreign spouses can request this document from the concerned authorities in their home country, but Haitian nationals can obtain it from the civil registry office in the municipality where they reside. To get proof of their civil status, the spouses are required to submit a consular registration card and original copies of their birth certificates. If the birth certificate is not available at that time, an extract from the national archives may be used in its place. Also, the spouses must provide two witnesses. Foreign spouses must provide a certificate of no impediment to marriage.
Any certificate obtained from a foreign country must be translated into French or Haitian Creole, as these are the official languages in the country. In some cases, the certificates obtained must be endorsed or exchanged for another document that is accepted in Haiti. The locally accepted version of this document is often provided by the embassy or consulate of the foreign country in Haiti. Also, foreign documents must be legalized by ensuring they are apostilled and legalized by the right authorities. Most times, spouses are required to provide witnesses during the process of swearing an affidavit in court.
Before spouses get married, it is advised that they conduct medical examinations and tests to determine if they are facing no underlying issues and are fully fit for marriage both physically and mentally. In some registry offices, this is not mandatory, but it is necessary to take all precautions to avoid facing issues that can be prevented with the marriage in the future. To complete the marriage application and registration process in Haiti, the following documents must be submitted at the right time:
- A well-completed marriage application form must be submitted by the spouses.
- Both spouses must provide a valid means of identification. In most cases, they are to come along with the original and photocopies.
- Divorce and death certificate Separated or widowed spouses must submit either of these documents as applied to serve as evidence that they lawfully terminated their previous marriage.
- Deed poll. This may be requested from spouses who changed their names before the marriage registration for one reason or
- The two partners are required to provide two legal witnesses during the civil ceremony and registration. These witnesses must be Haitians and legally eligible to act as witnesses.
Marriages performed according to the principles laid out by religious bodies and organizations hold legal grounds in Haiti. Haiti is a secular country, and according to the constitution, there is no established state religion; however, the country is dominated by Christians. Christians in Haiti make up over 80% of the total population of the country. In descending order, the Protestant church, the Roman Catholic church, irreligion, and voodoo are the buggiest denominations and churches in Haiti.
Even though the country generally recognizes religious marriages, those performed under the principles of voodoo are still not recognized or legally accepted. Church marriages in Haiti usually last 2-3 hours, and there are various ceremonial rites that are performed during the ceremony. Here, the pastor asks the general congregation during the service if there is anyone who objects to the marriage and does not wish for the bride and groom to be joined together.
If there are no objections, the bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife. During the service, both spouses exchange vows and rings, and the pastor also says a prayer, wishing them prosperity in their union.
Haitian marriage traditions
The processional of Haitian marriage ceremonies is quite unique compared to that of other western countries. Typically, the wedding party walks down the aisle while low background music is played; however, in Haitian weddings, the wedding party usually takes rhythmic and choreographed steps together as they approach the altar.
This is a unique ceremonial rite that is still quite common in Haiti. Here, some couples may decide to choose the same type of outfits the bride and groom are wearing for their wedding ceremony or reception. Most times, this tradition is performed for the beautiful memories it holds. The outfits worn by the other people are usually less designed.
Partying all night
Haitian wedding receptions usually run for several hours, and various engagements can continue until very late in the night or even the next day in some cases. During the reception, various traditional foods and drinks are shared between the guests, and the DJ plays upbeat music to turn up the crowd and get people dancing.
Same-sex and polygamous marriages
Marriage between two people of the same sex is not allowed in Haiti. The country has no recognition for same-sex marriages or unions. The general public does not support homosexuality, and although it has a legal status, members of the LGBT community face discrimination and legal challenges that are not experienced by others.
Polygamy is prohibited in Haiti. A man is only allowed to be married to one woman at a time; likewise, for women. Both partners are not allowed to be in a legal marriage with multiple people. However, it is common knowledge that a lot of Haitian men have been known to have two or three girlfriends and even give birth to children with them without facing legal consequences.
Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties
Marriage in Haiti is guided by laws and rules that are entrenched in the Constitution, which indicates that all couples who wish to enter into marriage must fulfill all requirements before marriage can take place. In Haiti, where the legal age of marriage is 18 years for men and 15 years for women, exceptions for minors are only possible if the president gives permission for such marriages to be held under very special circumstances. Once the legal age of marriage is attained, all citizens can enter into marriage without any limitations. Minors, upon reaching the legal age of marriage, cannot request the annulment of their marriage after six months of contracting marriage. Then there is the matter of the sex.
Same-sex marriage is not recognized by the law, and homosexual activities are legal in the country. De facto, unions are allowed in the country; in fact, many couples are in informal unions as so little regard is given to the concept of marriage in the country. The law recognizes both civil and religious marriages; couples are allowed to contract civil or religious marriages, whichever suits them best. A civil marriage, however, must be conducted at the civil registry, and a religious marriage must be conducted at a religious institution or the place of worship of the couple. Foreigners are allowed to marry in Haiti provided there is no legal impediment to marriage; they must be permitted to marry in their home country before they are allowed to enter into marriage in Haiti.
Polygamy is illegal in the country, and the largely Christian population is also a factor. Men and women are only permitted to marry one partner at a time. As a result, couples are therefore requested to be single at the time of marriage registration; they must not be in any existing relationship at this time. If either or both couples have been married in the past, they are required to submit proof such as a certificate of death or divorce to prove that such a marriage has been dissolved. Then there is the matter of the sex. Both the husband and wife must be in good health to be able to consent to marriage; they are both required to give their consent voluntarily in order for the marriage to take place.
The law gives equal rights to the husband and wife to exercise parental authority over the children; before now, the husband had the right to exert authority over his wife, but the narrative has changed, removing the woman from being under the authority of the husband and granting her the right to exercise authority in the home. Both the husband and wife have the right to decide on the residence of the family; they are both involved in the decision-making process that affects the welfare of the family.
The husband and the wife have the right to file for and finalize divorce without any restrictions; prior to this time, the wife only had the right to file for divorce if she had proof that her husband had been committing adultery. Both the husband and wife have the right to receive custody of the children, but the interests of the children are considered first before custody is granted.
Couples have the same right to inheritance; no discrimination is placed on the right of the wife or the husband to an inheritance at the demise of one of the spouses. Both husbands and wives have the same right to own property, use it, and discard it as they see fit. They also have the right to decide which marital property regime the marriage is contracted under, which would determine how property is divided in the event of divorce. Spouses have the right to work and receive equal remuneration for their work without facing any form of discrimination at the workplace.
They have the right to be recognized as the legal guardians of the children, and they are also permitted to adopt children, provided that they have the means to. They have the right to vote and be voted for; they can fill any government positions without any restrictions. Couples have the right to retain, change, and confer their nationality on their children if they are born outside the country or their foreign spouses do so.
Marriage is not a big deal to Haitians; they are comfortable living as husband and wife under informal unions. Marriage is believed to be for the wealthy alone, as a large percentage of the population lives below the poverty line, and it is always a Herculean task for couples to be able to gather money for a wedding ceremony. Also, the continuous unrest within the country is also a determining factor as to why many couples do not really look forward to having a wedding ceremony.
An average wedding in Haiti costs around $500; many couples have to save for years to be able to meet this budget, and while more wealthy families don't find it difficult at all, middle-class and poor families often have to borrow money to be able to host these ceremonies. A lot of improvisation is done at the ceremony; instead of renting a venue for the wedding reception, it is held in the backyard of the house of one of the parents or in an open space belonging to a family member. More lavish ceremonies are held in halls.
Many couples rent their wedding gowns from older couples with only minor alterations. Some of the best hotels in Haiti cost an average of $100 per night, so foreign couples who want to have a destination wedding in the country should expect to spend a significant amount of money on transportation and accommodation.
In Haiti, the duties of the husband and wife are not equally distributed. The wife has more responsibilities at home than the husband. The husband is responsible for providing for all the needs of the family, both physical and material. The husband and wife have an obligation to ensure that all the children in the household are brought up according to the beliefs, norms, and morals of the family.
They both have a duty to one another to show respect for each other's opinions, be committed to one another, and provide mutual support when necessary. They have a duty to protect the family from any form of harm or violence that might come to them and to ensure that no disrespect comes to the family name.
They are both expected to respect each other's families at all times. The wife is obligated to take care of the home by cooking, cleaning, and caring for her husband and the children. They both have a responsibility to be involved in decisions affecting the family's health and comfort.
Haiti has some peculiar marriage traditions that are not found in other Western countries. Getting married in the country is quite straightforward, and both foreigners and Haitians can get married within a short time frame as long as all the required documents are complete.
Some of the top wedding venues in Haiti include Abaka Bay Resort, the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel, and Auberge Villa Cana. All the documents that must be submitted during the civil marriage application and registration are stated above. Foreign spouses must face no marriage prohibitions in their home country before conducting a marriage in Haiti. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriage in Haiti.
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