Everything you need to know about marriage in Indonesia

22 Feb 2023·19 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Indonesia 01

Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia, officially known as the Republic of Indonesia. The country is popular for its various natural attractions and has over 17,000 islands. In Indonesia, over 1.7 million marriage ceremonies are performed every year by Indonesians and other foreign nationals. The two main types of marriages celebrated in the country are civil and religious marriages. These two types of marriages are legally binding and recognized by the government of the country; however, civil marriages can only be performed after a religious marriage has been held. Other forms of marriage in the country include symbolic and secular marriages, but they are not very common and hold no legal validity. 

Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims in the world, with over 80% of the people living in the country being of the Islamic faith. Christianity is the second-largest religious group, followed by Hinduism and then others. The legal marriage age in the country is 19 years. This implies that both spouses getting married in the country must be at least 19 years old. The marriage age for female spouses used to be 16 years old before, but it will be raised to 19 in 2021. This marriage age applies to both citizens of the country as well as foreigners. The divorce rate in Indonesia is very high. 

Marriages in Indonesia have been facing a steady increment in the number of divorces, with more than 1000 divorces happening every year. In 2021, over 400,000 divorce cases were recorded, and this high number is a result of the financial problems that stem from marriages as well as domestic violence. A lot of women have filed for divorce due to being physically abused in their marriage relationships. The rest of this article will touch on the types of marriages in the country in more detail, as well as the duties of both Indonesian spouses.

Religious marriages

Religious marriages are the major types of marriages in Indonesia, and only these types of marriages are fully recognized and protected by the laws of the country. The predominant religion in Indonesia is Islam, and most marriages held in the country follow Islamic principles and laws. Generally, inter-faith marriages are not permitted in the country. For a marriage to happen between two people in Indonesia, the spouses must be of the same religion. The documents required, as well as the specific conditions that couples must meet, are determined by their religious bodies. 

The marriages between Muslims in the country take place at the office of religious affairs, or the Kantor Urusan Agama (KUA). This authority is in charge of issuing a marriage book, referred to as the Buku Nikah, to the couple. This book usually includes all the legalities of the marriage, and sometimes it may be used by the family to record major official happenings such as birth or death. Upon the completion of a Muslim marriage ceremony in Indonesia, couples do not need to perform a civil marriage again. There are certain documents that are required before a Muslim marriage is allowed to take place in Indonesia. These are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • Valid means of identification. Indonesians may provide a national identity card, and foreign spouses may provide a valid passport.
  • Both spouses are required to provide copies of their birth certificates. This document must include the names of their parents in the correct order.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage This document is required from foreign nationals getting married in Indonesia, and it must be obtained from the embassy or consulate of their home country in Indonesia. The certificate is basically a sworn affidavit taken in the presence of a consular officer at the consulate or embassy stating that the spouse is allowed to perform a legal marriage in Indonesia. Once this document is issued, it must be used by the spouse within the next four months after it is obtained because its validity is only for a four-month period.
  • Both spouses are required to submit passport photos with a red or blue background.
  • Divorce or death decree. Either of these certificates must be submitted by a spouse who was previously married but became widowed or separated.
  • Temporary residence permit card. This must be provided by a non-Indonesian spouse, and a visa message may also be requested depending on the registry where the marriage is being performed.
  • Spouses who reside in Indonesia may be required to submit a citizenship and endorsement letter issued by the police in the country.
  • A foreign spouse who works in Indonesia is required to submit a tax receipt or proof of tax settlement. All documents that are obtained from foreign authorities must be translated into Indonesian by an accredited translator.
Everything you need to know about marriage in Indonesia 02

Civil marriages 

Civil marriages in Indonesia are mostly performed by expatriates. This type of marriage typically involves two ceremonies. The law states that a religious marriage must be conducted before a civil marriage in the country. The religious marriage must have been performed based on the principles of the couple's respective religious associations. Spouses who have conducted a religious marriage must register the marriage in a civil ceremony to avoid future paperwork issues. The civil registry issues the marriage certificate to the couple, and this ensures the validity of such marriages both in Indonesia and in other foreign countries. 

Non-Muslims in the country must perform a civil marriage before they can be regarded as being officially married in the country. Upon the submission of all documents, the couple will have to wait for a period of 10 days before obtaining the marriage certificate. Sometimes, couples may hold their civil ceremony in conjunction with their religious ceremony. This implies that an authorized registrar from the state will be present during the religious ceremony to officially register the marriage. This option is great; however, it attracts some additional fees. The documents required for religious marriages are generally the same as those for civil marriages. The major variations may just be in the number of some required documents, such as passport photographs, etc.

Marriage traditions in Indonesia


This is a ceremonial rite that is performed in the Bataknese culture. The sinamot refers to the dowry or bride price that is paid by the groom's family. The custom is for the amount of the dowry to be based on how well educated the bride is. The higher her level of education, the higher the cost of the dowry. In cases where the groom pays a large dowry, he will do everything possible to avoid a future divorce in order to avoid wasting all of the dowry.


This is a one-of-a-kind marriage ritual practiced by the Banjarmasin in the country.Here, the bride and groom are carried on the shoulders of dancers instead of walking down the aisle the way it is done in traditional marriages.

The Wafer 

This ceremonial rite is performed by the Biak, and it refers to the blessing of the marriage ceremony. Here, the bride and groom are required to smoke a cigarette or cigar at the beginning of the ceremony and then feed each other potatoes or taro. Marriages without this act are generally not seen as being official.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Indonesia 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


Over 87% of the population in Indonesia are Muslims, which makes it widely recognized as a Muslim country; however, citizens are allowed to practice other religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, etc. The laws guiding marriage in Indonesia are based on the various religious rules and regulations of those who wish to enter marriage. In Indonesia, only religious marriages are recognized; couples who wish to contract marriage must be of the same faith; interfaith marriage is illegal. Christians must only marry Christians, and Muslims must only marry Muslims.

Muslim marriages do not need to be registered with the civil registry; however, other religious marriages, such as Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., must be registered at the civil registry after the religious ceremony has been held, at which point a marriage certificate would be issued. The legal age for marriage is 19 years for men and 16 years for women; minors who wish to contract marriage must have parental permission or a court's permission; however, different religions have their own stipulated age range. Consent from both parties must be obtained after it is verified that they both understand the concept of marriage. 

The consent obtained must be of the free will of the couple and cannot be influenced by third parties. Those who wish to marry must not enter marriage under duress; it must be contracted voluntarily. Foreigners who wish to get married in Indonesia have to provide a certificate of no impediment stating the ability of such a person to be able to contract marriage. Other documentation, such as identity documents and birth certificates, must be submitted too. Same-sex activity and marriage are illegal in the country; same-sex couples face a lot of discrimination and are ultimately punished under the law. 

Polygamy is only allowed for people of the Muslim faith; a Muslim man is allowed to marry more than one wife provided he proves to the authorities that he has the ability to provide for and treat them all equally. A woman, on the other hand, is not permitted to marry more than one husband. If one or both couples have been previously married, they must submit a certificate of divorce or death to the appropriate authorities to prove that they do not have any subsisting marriage. Marriage is not permitted between people who have a direct blood connection, an alliance connection through marriage, or an adoption connection. At the time of marriage, two witnesses must be available to testify to the authenticity of the union.


The various religions in Indonesia spell out the rights of couples in marriage. Under Muslim law, the husband has the right to practice polygamy; he is allowed to marry up to four wives, provided he has the means to. This right is not available to couples in other religions. Generally, couples have the right to decide whether they want to have children or not; they also have the right to decide the number of children they wish to have and which religious, moral, and political upbringing is best for the child. Couples have equal rights to inheritance and property; they can decide whether to own property jointly or individually, and they can also decide under which marital property regime they wish to contract marriage. 

In the event of the death of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse automatically receives the property belonging to the deceased spouse. They have the right to work and receive meaningful pay without facing any form of discrimination at the workplace. They both have the right to participate in any form of political activity without limitations. Both parties have the right to initiate divorce based on a mutual decision or for specific reasons such as alcoholism, desertion, etc. 

The husband and wife have the right to exercise parental authority and assume the role of legal guardians of the children. Under Islamic law, the husband has the right to divorce his wife by saying "I divorce you" three times; however, such a verdict still requires the approval of a court. The wife has the right to demand maintenance for herself and the children from her husband. Both the husband and wife have the right to receive respectful treatment from one another and also to decide which common family name they wish to adopt.


Across the world, weddings are getting more expensive, yet young couples often go out of their way to achieve the wedding of their dreams by saving up for years or taking out loans to celebrate one of the most important events of a man's life. In Indonesia, an average wedding costs around Rp 116 million, which is approximately $8,200 for around 500 guests and the honeymoon experience. When it comes to how lavish a wedding is, the couple's financial ability and what they hope to achieve are also factors. The groom often pays for the cost of the ceremony; couples can, however, decide to split the cost of the wedding budget. 

Expensive, lavish, and large weddings are the norm in Indonesia; wedding ceremonies often last for as long as three days. Many families see this as an avenue to show off their financial status or to gain a reputation in society. Many couples go into debt because of this need to show off, and it inevitably affects the financial wellness of the family. The attire of the couple, the wedding reception venue, music, photography or videography, food and drinks, a long list of guests, and all other miscellaneous expenses all make up the expensive wedding budget in Indonesia.


The family is considered to be the most important part of the community structure; therefore, couples have to fulfill their respective roles and responsibilities in order to ensure the proper management of the family. The duties of couples in Indonesia vary from each other; the duties of the husband and wife are spelled out according to their respective religions. Generally, the husband is seen as the head of the home; therefore, he has a duty to provide for the family. He is obligated to provide maintenance for his wife and children. 

The wife, on the other hand, is expected to obey her husband, care for the household and the children, manage the finances of the family properly, and also respect the family members of her husband. The husband and wife are obligated to love one another, be committed, and provide mutual support for one another. The welfare of the family and children should be their primary duty. They must provide a conducive environment for the upbringing of the children. A sound educational and moral background for the children is a responsibility that all couples must fulfill. Even in the event of divorce, the husband and wife still have to perform their various duties, such as paying alimony or child support.


Indonesia is a culturally diverse country, and different ethnic groups have their own unique ways of conducting marriages based on their regional or communal customs. Same-sex relationships are not recognized or protected in the country, and this includes partnerships, unions, and marriages. Same-sex individuals, however, have legal status in the country. Homosexuality is allowed in Indonesia, and same-sex individuals are allowed to adopt children, but same-sex couples or households headed by same-sex couples are generally not allowed to adopt children in Indonesia.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. The population of Muslims in the country is largely dominated by Sunni Muslims, with only a small fraction of them being Shia Muslims. Polygamy is legal and widely accepted in the country. As a matter of fact, this type of marriage is not only practiced by Muslims in the country. The Balinese, as well as the Papuans, also practice polygamy. However, some spouses still refrain from practicing polygamy due to the high cost of taking care of multiple partners. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Indonesia.


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