Everything you need to know about marriage in Malta

16 Jun 2023·21 min to read
Articles

Malta, a European country, is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean known for its historic sites and breathtaking scenery. Every year, over 19,000 marriages are performed in the country by Maltese nationals and other foreigners. Malta is a popular country for destination weddings, and tourism is important to its economy. If a foreigner performs a civil marriage in Malta, such marriage is also recognized and protected in their home country. The country allows four types of marriages and unions, namely civil and religious marriages as well as civil unions and cohabitation. 

All these relationships are recognized and protected under the laws of the country, and they are performed in different ways. Cohabitation is generally the cheapest marriage option for Maltese couples because there is generally no payment involved. Couples living together in a romantic relationship are allowed to declare themselves husband and wife with no issues. The legal marriage age in the country is 18 years for male and female spouses. This age limit applies to both Maltese nationals and foreign spouses. A spouse between the ages of 16 and 18 can only marry under special circumstances with valid reasons. Such a spouse must have parental or guardian consent. All the legal unions available in Connecticut are also enjoyed by same-sex couples. 

Couples who fall under this category have the freedom to perform a marriage ceremony under the marriage type of their choice. Child and forced marriages are illegal in Malta, and performing any such marriages can result in a legal consequence of three to five years imprisonment. The rate of child marriages in the country is very low, and all the marriage laws regarding the age of spouses are fully enforced. The marriage age in Malta also applies to foreign spouses. Continue reading to find out more about marriages in Malta and how they are performed.

Civil marriages 

A civil marriage performed in Malta is legally binding. Such marriages take place in the marriage registry and are officiated by a state registrar. Civil marriages are often performed by both foreign and Maltese spouses because the guidelines are straightforward and there are no restrictions based on one’s religious beliefs, ethnic background, or gender. In most cases, the registry where the ceremony takes place is one that is situated in the same municipality as the spouses' residences. The marriage application and registration process officially begin with the publication of banns. 

The application must be submitted to the public registry within a period of three weeks to six months before the date that has been fixed for the ceremony. Marriages in Malta and Gozo have different registries that spouses may contact. Both partners are required to contact the Malta public registry's marriage registry section if the marriage is being conducted in Malta. If the marriage is to be performed in Gozo, the Gozo public registry, Victoria, Gozo, must be contacted. The couple is required to provide some important details, such as the place of marriage, the date of marriage, the ceremonial rites to be followed, as well as all the required oaths and affidavits. 

There is a high level of couples getting married in the country, and couples are often advised to book an appointment at the public registry within a three-month period from when the marriage will take place. The original copies of the identity cards of the bride and groom as well as those of the provided witnesses must be submitted. Witnesses who are not Maltese nationals are required to provide a copy of their valid passport along with their residence card. 

Foreign documents that have been obtained from other countries must be translated by an accredited translator into Maltese or English. Also, all foreign documents must include an apostille as a stamp of authorization. The banns published are often displayed to the public for a period of 8 days. During this period, the registrar observes the documents and information submitted to ensure they are accurate. This registration must be completed at least four weeks prior to the wedding ceremony. The documents required are listed below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid form of identification (national ID card or passport)
  • For births not registered at the Malta public registry, spouses to whom this applies are required to submit copies of their birth certificate.
  • Both partners are required to provide two witnesses who have the legal capacity to act as such.
  • Divorce decree or death certificate. Either of these documents must be provided by spouses who are widowed or separated.

Religious marriages 

In Malta, religious marriages are recognized and protected by law. The majority of the people living in Malta are Christians. The Roman Catholic Church accounts for about 83% of the population, while other denominations like the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Protestant Church, and others take up about 5%. 

The rest of the population is made up of Muslims and irreligious or atheist Maltese nationals. Religious marriages in the country can either be registered in the church, the spouse’s respective place of worship, or in the marriage registry. The information that must be submitted to the marriage registrar is stated below.

Notification details to the registrar

  • Both partners must provide information about the church where the marriage will be performed.
  • The full name of the ceremony’s officiating priest
  • The surname of both partners upon marriage as well as the family name they are adopting
  • The scheduled date of marriage

Most of the documents required during the civil marriage registration process are also required in the church; however, there are additional documents that must be submitted by both spouses depending on their denomination. The Catholic Church requires the baptismal, holy communion, and confirmation certificates of both spouses. The priest often conducts premarital counseling for both couples and grants them the freedom to marry in the church.

Civil unions and cohabitation

In Malta, civil unions are recognized, and they generally hold most of the rights and obligations offered in marriages in the country. Same-sex couples are allowed to enter civil unions with legal protections and marriage entitlements offered by the government.

Cohabitation is also widely accepted across the country. Two spouses are able to declare themselves couples in a relationship after living together for a long time. Cohabitation does not include all the formalities of civil or religious marriages, and couples are able to handle most of the procedures involved themselves. In fact, to cohabitate, two people just have to be in a romantic relationship and live together.

Marriage traditions in Malta

Flower girls and bridesmaids

In typical wedding ceremonies around the world, the bride and groom often choose a certain number of people to play various parts in their wedding ceremony. However, this is different in Malta, where spouses often choose several people to join the wedding party, and there are often numerous flower girls and bridesmaids because the more, the merrier.

First dance

During the wedding reception, the maid of honor and best man may share a toast and say amazing things about the couple. The dance floor is then opened up by the newlyweds, who must first do their own dance, often choreographed, to welcome other guests to the dance floor.

Souvenirs 

This is an important aspect of the wedding ceremony, and it is customary for the newlyweds to share souvenirs with the guests as a way of thanking them for coming. Souvenirs can range anywhere from soap bars to gift boxes, appliances, and more, depending on how much the spouses are willing to spend.

Same-sex marriages 

Marriage between two people of the same sex is legal in Malta. This type of marriage has been legal since 2017. In the past, civil unions were allowed for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, but now, same-sex couples can get legally married and enjoy the rights and benefits of a civil marriage.

Polygamy in Malta

Polygamy is illegal. The act of marrying multiple spouses is regarded as a crime in Malta and is called bigamy. This is a criminal offense that can result in jail terms, and before a man or woman is allowed to enter a new marriage, they must first legally or annually terminate their previous marriage. Separation alone does not give a married spouse the right to marry another person.

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws of marriage in Malta are relatively simple and straightforward. The law requires the presence of at least two witnesses at the ceremony; they must be at least 18 years old and related to the couple. There are four types of marital unions recognized under the law: civil marriages, religious marriages, civil unions, and cohabitation. Civil marriages can be conducted at the civil registry or at a location chosen by the couple that must be approved by the civil registrar. Religious marriages must be held at the religious institution of the couple and conducted by an authorized priest or minister before they can be declared legally binding. 

Unlike other countries that require foreigners to have met a certain residency requirement, foreigners who wish to enter into marriage in Malta are allowed to do so without fulfilling any residency requirement. However, they must be eligible for marriage in their respective home countries before they can contract marriage in Malta. The minimum age of marriage in the country is set at 16 years for both males and females; anyone who is within the age bracket of 16–18 years may only be allowed to get married after consent from both parents has been obtained, or, in the absence of one, the permission of a legal guardian or a judge. Persons who are considered minors and have not reached the stipulated age for marriage are not allowed to enter into a marriage agreement under the law. 

The consent of both parties involved in contracting marriage is important; they are both required to give their free and voluntary consent to marriage without any external influence. Any marriage that is contracted without the consent of the parties involved or a marriage where the consent of the groom and bride is forcibly obtained through the use of violence or threats is considered void, and proper punishment is enforced on persons who plan, execute, or conduct such marriages. Same-sex activity, unions, cohabitation, and marriages are legal in Malta. LGBTQ couples are allowed to contract marriage and receive the benefits, protections, and rights available to non-LGBTQ couples in the country. 

As stated earlier, cohabitation is also a recognized type of marital union, so men and women who wish to be recognized as partners and want to live together but do not want to go through the process of contracting a civil marriage are allowed to do so. If the couples have lived together for at least 3 years or have children together, they are allowed to register the marriage, and a certificate would be issued. Monogamy is the only recognized form of marriage in the country; both the husband and wife must be single at the time of marriage. 

If either spouse has been previously married and has the marriage certificate from the previous marriage(s), an affidavit drawn up by a solicitor stating that no form of marriage has been contracted since the date divorce was finalized, and if the marriage was dissolved due to widowhood, the valid certificate of the first marriage, the death certificate of the deceased spouse, and an affidavit stating that no form of marriage has been contracted since the date divorce was finalized must be presented.

Rights

Couples in any type of marital union in Malta have equal rights and responsibilities in the home. Like many countries in the world, couples have the right to file for divorce; however, this right is only available to married heterosexual couples who can decide to file for divorce jointly or on the account of one spouse. The requirements needed to finalize a divorce are the same for the husband and wife; however, before the divorce proceedings can commence, the couples must have lived separately for at least 4 years before the date of the hearing on the divorce case, and it must be determined by the judge that the marriage is no longer retrievable. 

The laws of marriage in Malta provide the husband and wife with the same right to be recognized as the legal guardians of the children even after divorce has been finalized. They are both entitled to receive custody of the children, and which parent gains custody would be decided by the court. Spouses have the right to give birth to children and jointly decide on the number of children they wish to have; they are also granted the right to exercise parental authority over the children when necessary. 

Same-sex couples in Malta are allowed to adopt children and raise them according to their various moral beliefs. The right to inheritance is provided for married heterosexual couples; the surviving spouse is entitled to inherit both land and non-land assets of the deceased spouse without any discrimination or limitations due to gender, age, or race. Spouses have the right to work and receive equal remuneration for work done at the workplace.

Costs

The cost of marriage in Malta is relatively affordable compared to many western countries. Couples who wish to have a civil ceremony would be asked to pay €52 in legal administration fees at the civil registry. A church wedding ceremony would cost couples around €102. Couples who choose to have a religious ceremony would be required to pay a fee of €120 for curial administration fees. The average cost of a wedding in Malta ranges from €3000 to €15,000, depending on the number of people invited to the ceremony and how wealthy the family is.

Around 40% of the wedding budget goes into the rental of the venue, which is estimated to range from €2,000 to €4,500. Couples who do not want to spend on a venue can just host a reception for two to twenty people at a nice restaurant, which costs anywhere from €1,000 to €7,000. Around €40–€80 is spent on food and drinks for each guest at the ceremony. The attire of the bride and groom combined costs an average of €4000. 

Photography and videography at the event cost around €4,500. Decorations, flowers, and transportation cost around €1,200. Hairdressing costs an average of €150–€250, and make-up costs around €80–€150. The costs stated above are not fixed, as they can easily increase depending on what the couple hopes to achieve and how much they are willing to spend on the event. In order to reduce the stress of putting together an effective budget, a wedding planner can be hired to bring all the desires and wishes of the couple to reality.

Duties

Couples in formal marriages and informal unions have equal responsibilities and duties to perform in the household. The husband and wife are both recognized as the heads of the family, and they are both tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the family is well catered for. They are both obligated by law to provide respect for one another and moral and material assistance when needed, and they both just have to be committed to the family. 

Couples have a duty to take care of the children and provide for all their needs (physically, materially, emotionally, and mentally) according to their various means. They are obligated to provide proper educational and moral upbringing and ensure that the children have a conducive environment for growth and development. The husband and wife have a responsibility to protect themselves as well as the family as a whole. 

While there is equality of duties among couples, the wife is often in charge of all the domestic housework, and she is obligated to ensure that the family is in good condition, while the husband is tasked with the responsibility of being the provider. They are both required to be reliant on one another and jointly contribute to the health, comfort, and wellbeing of the family.

Final Thoughts 

Malta is a beautiful country with amazing wedding customs and traditions. The country allows both Maltese nationals and foreigners to conduct various kinds of marriages, which are recognized and accepted by all.

Malta allows proxy marriages, and in cases where one of the spouses is unavailable on the marriage day due to one reason or another, a representative may act in their place. Proxies are allowed during the marriage application process too, and after submission to the registrar, the spouses will have a 90-day period to conduct the marriage. This article is a full guide to everything you need to know about marriage in Malta.

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