Everything you need to know about marriage in Jamaica

19 Jun 2023·21 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Jamaica 01

Over 18,000 marriages are performed every year in Jamaica. The Caribbean island country is famous for its beautiful beaches and rainforests. The country is also a popular spot for destination weddings. Thousands of Jamaicans and other foreigners are able to tie the knot by performing a civil marriage in the country. Other forms of marriage that are recognized are religious or traditional marriages and de facto marriages. They do not involve all the formalities of civil marriages; however, they may include some of the procedures involved in a civil ceremony. 

The kind of marriage a couple has depends on their personal preferences. In Jamaica, spouses must reach the age of 18 before they are allowed to perform a marriage ceremony. Under special conditions, spouses between the ages of 16 and 18 may be allowed to contract a marriage. 8 percent of Jamaican girls get married before reaching the age of 18. Forced marriages are often only performed in rural communities, and there have been various procedures carried out to greatly reduce and stop the number of forced marriages in the country. Generally, the marriage laws of the spouses' religions may be allowed to govern their act of marriage. 

Under Islam and Hinduism, spouses aged 16 or older are also allowed to perform marriages that have legal grounds. Jamaicans are big on wedding traditions, and there are several ways in which marriages are celebrated. In fact, civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legally recognized throughout the country. Most marriages in the country, however, take place in the church, and the marriage procedures totally depend on the denomination of the spouses. The rest of the article will touch on more details about the types of marriages in Jamaica.

Civil marriages 

In Jamaica, civil marriages are recognized and protected under the country's laws. To get married civilly, the marriage must be officiated by a state-authorized registrar and take place in the civil registry or the registry’s office. Generally, Jamaica is one of the fastest countries to get married in the world. After making a prior request for the marriage application and registration, spouses may generally get married within a 24-hour period. Before the marriage registration is finalized, there are documents that must be submitted by both partners. The actual civil marriage ceremony does not take a lot of time. In most cases, the ceremony lasts less than 30 minutes. The short waiting period and simple procedure for getting married are some of the reasons why many foreigners marry in Jamaica. 

Foreigners who are just visiting and want to have a quick marriage are allowed to do so by visiting the website of the ministry of justice or giving the office of the ministry of justice a call. Civil marriages are only performed between spouses who are not related to each other and of opposite genders. Those related to each other by blood or adoption are not allowed to perform marriages in the country. Marriage is supposed to be a union between one man and one woman. Forced marriages cannot be performed civilly. During the marriage application and registration process, the registrar often conducts a small interview during which he or she aims to find out if both spouses are entering the marriage as a result of their own free will. 

Two partners getting married must give their own free will and consent. In addition, spouses under the age of 18 who want to marry in Jamaica are not permitted to do so unless parental or guardian consent is provided. All documents obtained from foreign countries must be presented in English, as this is the official language of the country. These documents must also be legalized with the use of an apostille provided by the concerned authorities in the foreign country or the embassy of such a country in Jamaica. The documents to be submitted are listed below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification, such as a national ID for a Jamaican national or a valid passport for a foreign spouse
  • Government-issued birth certificate provided by both spouses.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to widowed or separated spouses who have legally terminated their previous marriage.
  • Written form of parental consent for spouses who are below the age of 18
  • Certificate of freedom to marry This will serve as evidence that both spouses have the freedom to contract a marriage in Jamaica.

Religious and traditional (informal) marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are widely accepted and recognized under the laws of the country. The majority of the people living in the country are Christians, and Protestants make up the largest denomination under this religion. This is followed by the Roman Catholic Church and other Pentecostal churches. Rastafari and irreligious people are also present in the country. Traditional marriages in the country usually involve a lot of ceremonial rites and marriage parties, with activities involving the spouses and the whole village or community at large.

Traditional ceremonial rites are often combined with those of religious marriages, and the marriage preparations can take several months. Churches often hold a mandatory pre-nuptial counseling or marriage class that must be attended by partners before they are allowed to marry in the church. Most times, that of the Catholic Church lasts for a period of six weeks, and the church may also conduct some interviews to know if both partners are fit and ready for marriage. Church services last about one to two hours before the wedding reception, which often starts at noon and runs through the night.

De facto marriages

De facto marriages are also quite popular in Jamaica. Some couples may choose to live together in a romantic relationship and not legally perform a marriage ceremony, even though they are eligible for a legal civil marriage. Different couples have their own reasons for not wanting to contract a marriage, but in most cases, it is because of the high cost of performing weddings in the country. 

This type of union is recognized in Jamaica, and it is often referred to as a domestic partnership. For two spouses to be in a de facto marriage in Jamaica, they must both have equal eligibility to contract a marriage in the country, and they must also have given their free will and consent to be in such a union. Most of the laws and benefits that apply to spouses who are legally married also apply to those in de facto marriages.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Jamaica 02

Marriage traditions in Jamaica

Traditional Food 

There are two food items and ingredients that must be present at every Jamaican wedding. Wedding ceremonies are never complete without goat curry and rum. It is customary for a wedding goat to be chosen by the bride and groom; it is then killed and used in making a curry soup that is well-seasoned and left to cook for several hours. Guests often look forward to eating the meal.

Party all night.

Jamaicans have always been known to party hard, and their wedding ceremonies are no exception in this regard. Guests are often advised to wear comfortable shoes and outfits because wedding receptions typically last several hours and can run from noon until very late at night or midnight. There is usually a lot of cheering and dancing among the guests and the wedding party.

The Distribution

This is a ceremonial rite that is peculiar to Christian weddings. The bride is given away in the church during the service or mass by the bride's mother and father. Both parents walk down the aisle with their daughter before giving her away to the groom so as to get married and become one.

Same-sex marriages

Two people of the same sex are prohibited from getting married in Jamaica. Same-sex marriage became illegal and was constitutionally banned in 2011. Same-sex sexual activity and marriage can result in legal consequences of up to 10 years' imprisonment. However, this penalty is generally not enforced.

Polygamous Marriages

Jamaican men are only allowed to have one wife at a given point in time, and likewise for women. A Jamaican marriage is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman, and the offense of marrying multiple spouses is referred to as bigamy. This type of marriage is not common at all in the country, and only a few people in rural communities may practice it.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Jamaica 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The eligibility of spouses to be able to contract marriage in Jamaica is determined by the laws of marriage in the country. Informal unions are regulated by the law in Jamaica. Couples who wish to be recognized as partners but do not want to be in a formal marriage agreement are allowed to cohabit as husband and wife, and although they are not allowed to register their union, it is still recognized and protected by the law in Jamaica. Before the union can be registered, they must have lived together for at least 5 years. Religious marriages and civil marriages are both recognized by the law as having equal legal value; they must, however, be conducted according to the various laws of the respective institutions. Under civil marriage, the criteria for being able to contract marriage are that both parties must be at least 18 years old. 

Marriage between minors who are within the age bracket of 16–17 years is possible provided they have parental permission to contract marriage, and in the absence of parental permission due to certain reasons, permission from a legal guardian or a judge would hold equal value as parental consent. The consent of the groom and bride must be obtained before marriage can take place. To be able to contract marriage, they must be mentally capable, physically fit, and emotionally stable. If all these requirements are met, they should be able to give their consent to marriage willingly and freely, without any interference from third parties. Forced marriages are prohibited by the law in Jamaica; marriage should only be contracted on the terms of the groom and bride. The practice of bigamy is against the law in Jamaica. 

The groom or bride must not be in any legally binding marriage while trying to enter a new marriage contract; they must be single, and if either of the couple has been married in the past, they must present divorce papers or a death certificate of the deceased spouse to prove that such a marriage has been dissolved. The law does not allow marriage between persons who are related in any way—siblings, step-siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, etc. are prohibited from marrying one another. Persons from other countries who wish to get married in Jamaica can contract marriage within 24 hours of entering the country, provided they are eligible to contract marriage in their home country and all documentation required by law is provided for verification by the appropriate authorities. Before marriage, couples are not required to undergo any blood tests. Polygamy is not recognized by the law of marriage in Jamaica, and while some religions may practice it, it is not generally allowed in the country.

Rights

Couples have equal rights to inheritance, ownership of property, divorce, custody of the children, etc. All of these rights are enshrined and protected in the country's constitution. At the demise of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse has the right to inherit the property, estate, and all financial assets that belonged to the deceased spouse. This right is also available to cohabiting couples in the country. Both the husband and wife have the right to file for divorce jointly, by mutual agreement, or on the account of one of the spouses. It is the duty of the judge to try to reconcile the husband and wife; however, if it is believed that there's no hope of saving the marriage, its dissolution would be certified. 

After divorce has been finalized, both the husband and the wife have the right to receive custody of the children; the spouse that seems to have the best interest of the children at heart is granted custody. They are both recognized as the legal guardians of the children, and they are entitled to exercise parental authority. Wives have the same right as their husbands to work and earn a living; they have the right to work at any job that best suits their career paths. At the workplace, no discrimination or limitations must be put on the actions of couples due to their marital status. The husband and wife have the right to participate in all political and government-related activities. They have the right to vote and to be elected if they decide to run for any official political positions. 

They both have the right to give birth and adopt children, provided they have the means to do so. They have the right to decide how many children they wish to have, depending on the moral and political inclinations of the family. They both have the right to own property as they wish; they can decide to register marriage under a joint marital regime of property or a separate community of rights. A joint community of rights states that all properties owned before and during marriage belong to both couples, and in the event of a divorce, they would be split equally among the couple, while a separate property regime states that all property belongs to each spouse individually.

Cost

The total cost of marriage in Jamaica varies from one couple to another, depending on the financial ability of the couple and their families. The location of the wedding venue is a major determinant in the cost of renting the venue; some wedding reception venues charge around $500-$6000 depending on the number of guests invited to the wedding and the size of the ceremony. 

Couples who want their weddings to be properly coordinated but also do not want to be bothered with creating an effective wedding budget can hire the services of a wedding planner to put everything into reality. The average cost of hiring a wedding planner in Jamaica is around $700–$4,000. The venue decoration, as well as the flowers, corsages, and boutonnieres for the bride and groom, groom's men, and bridesmaids, cost between $1,000 and $3,000. 

The catering services at the event are estimated to cost around $80–$120 per person; therefore, if around 20 people are invited to the wedding, an average of $2,400 would be spent on food and drinks alone. A typical wedding cake costs around $200–450; this price is not fixed as different vendors have different prices depending on the type of cake ordered. In essence, couples should expect to spend around $20,000 to host a wedding ceremony in Jamaica.

Duties

The law does not specifically state that the woman is obligated to obey her husband at all times; however, she has a duty to honor and respect him, and he also is obligated to respect and love his wife at all times. The duty of properly managing the material and non-material needs of the family rests on the shoulders of the couple; they are obligated to ensure that the children have a good environment to grow up in. Deciding the moral inclination of the family is one of the important roles of the husband and wife in the home. 

They are both obligated to jointly contribute according to their means to the wellbeing and comfort of the family. The husband is regarded as the sole provider of the home; however, this role is not gender-specific, as the wife can also fill this role in situations where the husband is unable to do so. The same applies to the role of the wife as the primary caregiver of the family; while she is responsible for cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the family, this role is effectively taken on by both parties.

Final thoughts 

Jamaica’s marriage laws and rights are straightforward. The country allows flexibility when it comes to the type of marriage or union that holds legal status for spouses. Getting married in the country is not a tedious process, and a marriage registration can be finalized within 24 hours provided that there has been a prior application.

Foreign spouses are required to be able to show that they are eligible for marriage and are not prohibited by previous marriages or other issues that go against the marriage laws in Jamaica. There are various popular wedding destinations for Jamaican nationals and other foreigners to perform their beautiful ceremony. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Jamaica.

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