Everything you need to know about marriage in Macau

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

Macau, a Special Administrative Region of Greater China, is popular for its diversity. The country is a mixture of Chinese and Portuguese cultures, and over 3000 marriages are performed every year. The two main types of marriages in Macau are civil and religious, or "customary" marriages. These marriages both hold legal grounds in the country, and a civil marriage performed in Macau is recognized in other parts of Asia and the rest of the world. Families play a huge role in marriages in Macau. 

Marriages were frequently arranged between families based on mutual understanding, and the actual spouses getting married had little say in their own wedding ceremony or how it would be planned. When the male child is of legal age, his family will often seek out potential brides from other families who have a similar marriage standard. They used to choose brides based on several factors, such as beauty, education, job, etc. They may then allow their male child to choose the bride he prefers after they have obtained several brides. 

This type of marriage arrangement is no longer popular in the country, and a lot of Macanese nationals now marry for love. The legal age for marriage is 18 years, and most times, minors are not allowed to perform marriages. Only under social circumstances where it is ascertained that spouses below the age of 18 can handle marriage will a judge authorize such a marriage. Let’s go straight to the two major types of marriages in Macau.

Civil marriages 

A civil marriage performed in Macau is legally binding. This type of marriage includes various procedures as well as criteria that must be met by both spouses before they are allowed to get married. The registration of marriage is performed by the state-authorized registrar, who also conducts the marriage ceremony. The ceremony is often held in the registry’s office. The first step in getting married is for a spouse to visit the conservatory, where photocopies of the identification documents of both partners will be submitted. This step begins the marriage application, and at the end of the submission of all documents, a marriage certificate must be obtained by both spouses. 

Couples who would like to perform a religious marriage before a minister of worship who is registered and competent according to the Marriage Act must get a marriage certificate provided by the Conservatoire. Following the submission and confirmation of all required documents, a date is set for the completion of other marriage formalities. The date must be registered with the conservatory. The conservatory has the responsibility of going through the submitted documents and verifying their validity and legitimacy. This process usually takes five working days. After a request is submitted for all the documents, the couple can then proceed to register the marriage.

A power of attorney is allowed for both spouses, and in cases where one spouse is absent, only one spouse may continue with the marriage. Registration must be accompanied by an attorney. All the required documents and conditions of marriage must be met, such as the legal marriage age. The marriage of a minor who has no parental or judicial consent or authorization will not be performed in a civil registry. Also, a registrar will only conduct a marriage when it is between a man and a woman. Marriage between two people of the same gender is not allowed, and the registrar may ask the spouses to be sure the marriage is entered under the free will of both partners. The documents that must be submitted are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • The partners getting married must submit an original and a photocopy of their identity documents. Foreign spouses must provide proof of their entry into Macao. This can be a valid passport.
  • Both spouses are required to provide copies of their birth certificates. The document must include the names of the respective parents.
  • Two witnesses who are at least 18 years old must be provided during the marriage ceremony. In these cases, the conservatory may allow these two people to act as evidence of the age of the spouses in cases where they are unable to provide their birth certificates.
  • Single Status Certificate This mostly applies to foreign spouses getting married in Macau. The single status certificate must state the current marital status of the spouses and show that they are not married in Macau or any other country in the world.
  • Prenuptial agreement. Spouses who have signed a marriage contract deciding how the properties and assets of the husband and wife will be used during marriage or shared after must submit their prenuptial agreement to the
  • Divorce or death certificate. Separated or widowed spouses must be able to provide evidence that their previous marriage was properly dissolved.
  • Proof of residence. The original documents obtained from foreign countries must be apostilled and legitimized. Also, they must be translated into either Chinese or Portuguese, which are the two official languages of the country.

Religious and customary marriages

Religious and customary marriages are recognized in Macau. People who practice Buddhism predominate in the country, followed by Christians, specifically the Roman Catholic Church. The number of people who have no religious affiliation in Macau is also quite high. Generally, Buddhists do not perceive marriage as an event that needs to be celebrated before God. In fact, almost all the Buddhist marriages that happen do not involve ceremonial rites or service in the temple. 

A Buddhist typically conducts a civil marriage only; however, there are still some Buddhists who hold small services after the marriage registration as a way of celebrating their new marriage. Marriage in the Catholic Church is quite different. There are criteria that must be met by spouses, and although some of them align with those of civil marriage, there are some distinct laws that have been laid out by the religious body. Spouses are required to first go to the Macau civil registry office to obtain a marriage certificate before the church service, and in some cases, the marriage registration can be performed in the church. 

Catholic marriages are also very popular in the country due to the high population. Couples are usually advised to book several months or a year before the wedding ceremony. Pre-marital classes are also mandatory and are conducted by the priest.

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Marriage traditions in Macau

Bride Price 

In traditional Macanese marriages, the bride's family presents the groom and his family with a bride price that must be paid before the marriage is allowed to take place. The amount of the bride price usually depends on how wealthy the groom and his family are, and it usually includes jewelry, livestock, etc.

The newlyweds drive

The custom is for the newlyweds to drive around Macau accompanied by their wedding party as well as other family and friends. The bride says goodbye to her parents, and after three days, she goes back to say a final goodbye. When a woman gets married in Macau, she is supposed to join the groom's family, which implies she will not see her parents as often. Nowadays, instead of taking three days, this ritual is performed in one day.

Tea Ceremony

This is a unique tradition where tea is served to the elders of the families by the couple. This tradition is performed by the couple as a way of expressing gratitude to the elders of the family. The elders often present different gift items to the newlyweds.

 Same-sex and polygamous marriages

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Macau. The region does not recognize marriages or other forms of relationships, such as registered partnerships and civil unions, between two people of the same sex. Most same-sex couples face legal obstacles and discrimination in the country.

Polygamy is strictly illegal in Macau, and those who practice this type of marriage may face legal consequences. In ancient times, a man used to marry up to four wives in the region; however, the laws guiding the act of marriage now state that a man must not marry more than one woman at a time.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

Macau is one of the special administrative regions in China; therefore, the laws of marriage are pretty strict, and couples who wish to marry must obey all laws to the letter. In Macau, the legal age for marriage is 18 years; once the legal age of marriage is attained, all citizens have the right to get married; exceptions are made for minors who wish to get married under special circumstances, provided they have parental consent or a court's permission to contract marriage. Persons who wish to enter into marriage must be capable of contracting marriage in all its ramifications, and not only should they be capable, they must also prove to appropriate authorities that they are capable. 

Foreigners who wish to get married in Macau have to be eligible for marriage in their home country to be able to enter into marriage in Macau, and they must be able to prove their eligibility status as well as their current marital status to the authorities in Macau. There must not be any legal impediment to marriage, and foreigners should be able to prove this beyond any reasonable doubt. Civil marriage, religious marriage, and customary marriages are recognized by the law of marriage in Macau. If any of these forms of marriage are contracted, they are all recognized as legally binding. Couples who wish to enter into a civil marriage agreement must do so at the civil registry after all documentation has been submitted and verified as valid. 

A religious marriage must be conducted at various religious institutions by an authorized minister or priest. It is important to note that Catholic couples have to go to the civil registry to prove their identity as Catholics, after which the marriage would be conducted at the Catholic Church. According to the law, marriage is defined as the voluntary union between a man and woman with the purpose of founding a family; the definition indicates that same-sex marriages are illegal within the country. While gay marriages are illegal, homosexual activity is legal; however, it is met with a lot of discrimination that non-homosexual couples do not experience. The definition also indicates that the law requires that couples enter into marriage voluntarily and without the use of force; any marriage contracted with the use of force can be declared void, and anyone who allows such a marriage is liable to face punishment. 

Both parties must be in a sound and stable state of mind to consent to marriage. Marriage can be prevented if one of the couples is mentally unstable. In Macau, spouses must be single at the time of marriage; they must not be in any legally binding marriage while contracting a new one. Spouses who have been previously married must present proof that the previous marriage has been dissolved, in the form of a death certificate or divorce decree. Couples who are related by blood are not permitted to marry one another; couples must not share any form of affinity. Polygamy is illegal in Macau; couples are only allowed to marry one partner at a time.

Rights

The laws of marriage in Macau recognize the equality of rights and duties of husband and wife in marriage. They both have the right to file for dissolution of marriage if it is proven beyond all reasonable doubt that one of the spouses has failed to carry out his or her marital duties; however, if there are no specific reasons and the marriage is deteriorating, the couple can file for a divorce based on mutual consent. They both have the right to receive custody of the children. If the divorce is filed on mutual grounds, the couple can decide who gets custody of the children. If it is on specific grounds, the court decides who gets custody of the children. 

Both the husband and wife have the right to procreate and raise the children according to the various religious, traditional, and moral beliefs of the couple; they also have the right to decide the moral, political, socioeconomic, and religious beliefs or inclinations of the family. Spouses have the right to work, pursue various career ambitions, and also receive meaningful pay for work without facing any discrimination at the workplace. They both have the unilateral right to exercise parental authority over the children when needed and are also recognized as the legal guardians of the children. 

The husband and wife have the right to sign a prenuptial agreement and also decide which marital regime of property the marriage is contracted under at the time of marriage. If a joint regime is chosen, all properties owned by the couple before and during marriage become the joint property of the couple, which they both possess the right to use and discard as they see fit or after receiving permission from either spouse, and in the event of separation, the property would be divided equally between the couple. 

A prenuptial agreement allows couples to own property separately so that it is not divided equally between them in the event of divorce. They have the right to receive inheritance; in the event of the death of one of the couple, the estate, land, and non-land assets automatically go to the surviving spouse. Both husbands and wives have the right to inherit without any restrictions based on gender, age, or race. They also possess the right to adopt children, provided they have the means to do so.

Costs

The cost of marriage in Macau is greatly determined by how financially stable the couple and their families are. Contracting a civil marriage in Macau would cost couples a sum of 550 MOP, which includes the cost of the marriage certificate, the cost of organizing the marriage process, and the cost of the marriage seat. An average wedding in Macau costs around 96,000 MOP, which is approximately $12,000. 

The narrative influences couples to go above and beyond in order to gain social standing in society. Couples can decide to hire the services of a wedding planner, who would be in charge of the wedding planning and preparations, relieving the couple of the burden of putting together an effective wedding budget. Many middle-class couples often have small, minimalist ceremonies to reduce the expensive cost of getting married and avoid entering into debt. Couples spend an average of 6,000 MOP, which is approximately $790, on photoshoots, photography, and videography at the wedding. 

This cost is easily increased depending on the couple's goals. The wedding venues cost anywhere from $800 to $2000, depending on the location and size of the hall as well as the number of guests. Some halls offer catering services as part of a package deal for renting the venue, while others offer decoration services, etc.

Duties

The husband and wife have equal duties and responsibilities to carry out in the home. They both have duties as heads of the household to ensure the provision of basic amenities and all material needs for the family. The health and comfort of the family are the major responsibilities of the husband and wife, and they are required to jointly contribute to the welfare and wellbeing of the family. 

The primary duty of the husband and wife is to one another; they are obligated to provide mutual support and assistance for one another, respect each other's opinions, and be committed to one another. They are also obligated to provide a conducive environment for the growth and development of the children; a sound moral and educational background must be provided by the couple for the children. Spouses have a duty to protect the family from any form of harm or disrespect that might come to them.

Final Thoughts 

To get married in Macau, there are marriage conditions that must be met by the couple. Couples who want to conduct church marriages or other religious marriages may also be required to meet the conditions stated by such a religious body. Spouses must have reached the legal age of marriage before getting married in Macau.

The region celebrates various traditions for marriage, and most of these traditions are a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese customs. This is because the country is largely dominated by people from these parts of the world. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Macau.

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