Everything you need to know about marriage in Hong Kong

20 Mar 2023·19 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Hong Kong 01

Over 30,000 marriage ceremonies are held every year in Hong Kong. The beautiful country is a popular choice for destination weddings, and marriages between foreigners are quite common in the country. The marriage laws of the country are quite lenient and allow marriages between Hongkongers as well as foreigners in the country. The legal age to marry in Hong Kong is 16 years, according to the Gregorian calendar, and spouses under this age are required to obtain parental or guardian consent and authorization before they are allowed to get married.

Hong Kong makes it easy for foreigners to get married in the country. This is one of the reasons why it is popular for destination weddings. Unlike in other countries, there are no residential requirements to get married in Hong Kong. Couples do not have to live in a certain municipality or district before they can marry. One of the most important documents in the marriage application process is the notice of intended marriage. Foreigners may also file this document; however, it must be done within three months of the wedding day. Let’s go straight to what a civil marriage in Hong Kong entails.

Civil marriage in Hong Kong

Civil marriages take place in the marriage registry, and they are officiated by an authorized registrar. Couples who want to get married must submit a notice of intended marriage to the registrar of marriages. This notice must be submitted by either of the spouses at least 15 days before the wedding day but not earlier than a period of three months. The notice of intended marriage is only valid for a period of three months, and upon the satisfaction of the registrar with all the details filled in the notice, a certificate of registration of marriages is issued to the couple. This certificate also has a validity period of three months, and the marriage ceremony must take place within this timeframe.
During the marriage application process, certain documents are required from the couples and must be submitted as soon as they are requested. These are stated below:

Required Documents 

  • A valid means of identification (Hong Kong ID, HKID)
  • A duly completed application form
  • A valid travel document. This applies to spouses who are not citizens of Hong Kong.
  • Original divorce or death certificate. This is to be provided by a spouse who was previously married. The previous marriage must have been lawfully terminated under the law as a result of the death of the former spouse or separation. 

Couples who want to get married at the registry on the day and time they have chosen must book an appointment within 14 days of the 3-month timeframe for the wedding ceremony. There are some fees that are required of both couples during this process. After the completion of the application process, the registrar issues a certificate of registrar of marriages to the couple. This is after the notice must have been displayed for a period of 15 days to be sure there is no obstruction to the marriage. This proof is a very important document that must be obtained by the couple getting married because a marriage cannot be performed even in a religious setting without it.
The spouses must provide at least two witnesses of legal age if the marriage is to be conducted at the registry.

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Religious marriage in Hong Kong

Religious marriages are recognized by law in Hong Kong; however, couples are required to first pass through the civil registration process. A notice of intended marriage must be given by both parties getting married, and a marriage license must be obtained by the couple. A Catholic Hong Kong marriage includes most of the general customs of any other Catholic wedding ceremony. It is sometimes mandatory for the couple to register and participate in a pre-marriage formation program. During this program, the couple is sensitized to everything they should know about the union they are about to start. The priest usually counsels the spouses and offers them advice on how they can have a happy marriage.

A priest has the authority to deny or delay a marriage ceremony for some reason (maybe he thinks the spouses are not fit for marriage). If a wedding is delayed by a priest, the decision cannot be changed or altered by a fellow priest, and only the bishop has the right to give the priest approval to continue with the marriage. Marriages are supposed to be between two baptized Catholic Christians. In cases where one of the spouses is a non-Catholic, they may require special authorization from the priest to get married.

Hong Kong marriage traditions

Hong Kong is a beautiful country with various unique marriage traditions. The multicultural society has a variety of customs and traditions that represent various things during marriage ceremonies. These are stated below:

Betrothal Ceremony

The betrothal ceremony is called the Gwoh Dai Lai, where the groom and his family officially make a proposal to the bride's family to ask for her hand in marriage. Here, the groom has to go to the bride's house with several gift items, such as wine, fruits, bridal cakes, and many more, along with a hefty sum of money. If the bride's family accepts the proposal, the bride and groom officially get engaged, and the bride's family reciprocates by also sending multiple gift items back to the groom's family.

Hair Combing 

This is a common and unique Hong Kong tradition that is performed on the night before the wedding ceremony. This ceremonial rite is performed in the bride's family house by a woman of virtue and good fortune. Here, the bride has to bathe in pomelo leaves and then sit facing the window, where the moon is clearly visible, while the woman combs her hair and chants traditional poems.

Tea Ceremony 

The tea ceremony is referred to as Ging Chaa in Hong Kong. It is regarded as the most important ceremonial rite. The purpose of it is to pay respect to the couple's parents and other elders in their families. The couples have to kneel down on cushions and offer tea to their families and other elder relatives. The bride's family usually goes first. Lotus seeds and red dates are often placed inside the tea cups to symbolize prosperity, happiness, and babies to come in the new marriage.

The Wedding Ceremony

The actual wedding ceremony is called the "fun lai," and it is characterized by beautiful music, jokes, speeches, and various foods and drinks. The custom during the wedding ceremony is for the bride and groom to start a drinking train. This is a tradition where the bride and groom, as well as their bridesmaids and groomsmen, go around the venue to make a toast to the guests.

Same-sex marriage 

In Hong Kong, marriage between two people of the same sex is illegal. This also applies to other forms, such as civil unions or registered partnerships. Most of the rights and responsibilities in marriages are not enjoyed by couples of the same sex. However, there are some limited purposes under which a same-sex union may be recognized in Hong Kong. These include inheritance rights, taxation, and civil service benefits. Couples who want to practice same-sex marriage must make sure they are complying with the laid-out laws in the country.

Polygamy

Polygamous marriages are illegal in Hong Kong. This type of marriage was banned in the Marriage Act of 1971. Only a fraction of the population is allowed to perform this type of marriage. Muslims may practice polygamy and polygyny, where a man is allowed to take more than one wife, provided that he marries the other wives lawfully and treats them all as equals.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws 

The process and laws guiding marriage in Hong Kong are very straightforward and hassle-free. All you need to do is abide by the laws and meet all requirements for legalizing your marriage. In Hong Kong, the legal age for marriage is 16 years; however, if both spouses are not up to the age of 21, they are expected to provide written parental consent or court permission before the marriage can be conducted. Intending Couples have to be single before entering marriage; therefore, if one of the parties has been previously married, a certificate of divorce or death has to be submitted to the appropriate authorities. Both parties must consent willingly to the marriage, and the ceremony must be conducted at the marriage registry or at any authorized venue of the couple's choice in the presence of two witnesses. Marriages celebrated according to the dictates of Chinese traditions and customs are recognized under the law and must be registered to make them legally binding.

According to the law, marriage must be between a man and a woman; marriage between people of the same sex is prohibited. Couples must not be related by blood through a direct link or alliance. A document stating the intent of the couples to marry, known as the "notice of intent to marry," must be submitted to the registrar of marriages at least 15 days before the wedding date and not earlier than 3 months from the date. Upon approval from the registrar, a certificate of marriage shall be issued, allowing couples to get married within the time frame of 3 months. All necessary paperwork, including identity documents and travel documents (for foreigners), must be available while submitting the notice. 

A fixed fee of HK$ 305 must be paid in check to "The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region." Forced marriage is a punishable offense under the law. If proper consent has been obtained from either of the parties and someone goes ahead to hold the marriage, he or she is liable to pay a fine of $50,000 and could face a jail term of two years. The notice and all other paper work kept by the registrar must not be altered in any way because it's a punishable offense, and defaulters could face a jail term of six months and are liable to pay a fine of $50,000. Anyone who is not capable of getting married and pretends to do so shall be sentenced to a 2-year jail term and shall pay a fine of $50,000 when caught.

Rights

The constitution has made provisions for the rights of couples in Hong Kong, and these rights are strictly protected by the constitution. Husband and wife are seen as equals when deciding on the affairs of the home. They both have the right to own personal property, to choose their residence, and to practice any religion as they see fit. The wife has the right to employment, but she must put into consideration the welfare of her family and ensure that there's a balance between the two. They have the right to engage in socioeconomic and political activities as well as procreation and proper family planning. 

According to the law, husband and wife have the right to inherit each other's property in the event of the death of one of them. They both have rights to own common property by virtue of marriage; however, if a prenuptial agreement has been signed before marriage, whatever property is acquired by spouses during marriage belongs to either of them separately. Both parties have the right to reside in the chosen matrimonial home; however, it's not compulsory. The husband and wife have the right to raise their children according to their own beliefs and moral inclinations. Both the husband and wife have the right to live with dignity, with self-respect, and with the protection of the family from any form of harm. Both parties have the right to keep their surnames.

Costs

The cost of getting married across the world is getting increasingly expensive as time passes. The cost of getting married now is more expensive than it was five years ago. Despite this setback, many families in Hong Kong still spend extravagantly on weddings; some start saving for the event at the birth of the child, while others take out loans for the event. In Hong Kong, the cost of the wedding is borne by the groom's family, and he is obligated to give money to the bride's family. Hong Kong is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, and this reflects on the way weddings are planned. 

The Hong Kong wedding industry makes about HK$18.7 billion annually, all thanks to the insatiable need to host a lavish wedding ceremony. According to researchers, the average cost of marriage in Hong Kong is estimated to be around HK$360,577 and can easily increase depending on the financial status of the families. Couples aim to have memorable weddings, and as a result, they would not find it hard to put all their resources into the ceremony. 

This estimate covers everything from the banquet to the honeymoon experience. The banquet alone takes about 50% of the wedding budget, followed by the rings and jewelry, which take up to 18%. Getting married in Hong Kong is a very expensive affair, and it's used to show the financial status of families, which creates the constant need for competition among families.

Duties

The duties and obligations of husband and wife in Hong Kong are based on ancient customs and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Despite the modernization of the concept of marriage, couples are still expected to fulfill certain roles and responsibilities in the family. Duties in the family are not based on gender roles; the husband or wife can take up roles in the home as they see fit upon reaching a mutual agreement. 

The husband and wife have a responsibility to respect each other, to be loyal to one another, and to respect the elders while caring for the young. Spouses have a duty to contribute to the welfare of one another. Couples are tasked with the responsibility of raising their children and ensuring that they are provided with proper education and upbringing in a conducive environment to facilitate proper development. The children also have a duty to respect and support their parents. Even in the event of divorce, couples still have a duty to provide support for the children until they are adults.

In Summary 

The process of getting married in Hong Kong is pretty straightforward. For a marriage to be held in the country, there are requirements and documents that must be submitted by the spouses. A notice of an intended marriage is one of the most important documents during the marriage application. The couple must fill it out correctly and submit it to the registrar of marriages. If the registrar is satisfied with all that has been submitted, he may then go ahead and give the couples a license, which can enable them to lawfully get married.

The legal age to marry in Hong Kong is 16 years, which is lower than that of many countries. Same-sex marriages are not recognized by law in the country, and they generally offer no benefits offered to marriages in the country. Polygamy is also illegal in Hong Kong. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to know about marriage in Hong Kong.

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