Everything you need to know about marriage in Montserrat

8 Sep 2023·19 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Montserrat `01

Montserrat is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, famous for its extremely volcanic landscape and hills. The country is dominated by Christians, but people living there have the freedom to practice any religion of their choice. Every year, Montserratians and foreigners from other countries get married in either a civil, religious, or traditional marriage. Most marriages include an infusion of religious and traditional marriage rituals. Couples who wish to get married in a civil or religious ceremony have certain marriage criteria they must meet. In a civil marriage, there are documents that must be submitted by the couple getting married as well as various payments that must be made. 

In traditional Montserratian society, arranged marriages were often used to strengthen family ties and ensure that a family's wealth and property were passed down to future generations. Parents would often arrange marriages for their children in order to secure advantageous social or economic connections for the family. For example, a wealthy family might arrange for their daughter to marry the son of a prominent local businessman in order to secure a beneficial business partnership. In addition to these practical considerations, there were also cultural and religious reasons for arranged marriages in Montserrat. For example, many families on the island are deeply religious and may have arranged marriages in order to ensure that their children marry someone who shares their religious beliefs. 

Although the practice of arranged marriage is becoming less common in Montserrat, it is still practiced by some families on the island. However, as the island becomes more modern and as people become more exposed to Western culture and values, the idea of marrying for love is becoming more accepted. Today, many young Montserratians are choosing to marry partners they have met and fallen in love with rather than those chosen for them by their parents. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages in Montserrat as well as their popular customs and traditions. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

In Montserrat, there are various procedures that must be performed by couples who wish to get married in a civil marriage. This type of marriage is legally binding in Montserrat and other territories or countries in the world. Civil marriages in Montserrat must be performed by state-authorized marriage registrars in a civil registry. The whole process of getting legally married in the territory begins with the publication of the couple’s intention to marry. Both spouses are required to go to the civil registry in their municipality to publish their marriage bans, which serves as a public announcement that they are ready to settle down with each other. The publication of banns must be made at least three months before the desired marriage date of the couple. 

The couple will be presented with a marriage application form as well as the necessary documents to be submitted. The documents include a photo ID from both spouses, proof of their residence, and their birth certificates. Foreign spouses may be required to provide more documents than native Montserratians because they will need to prove they are eligible for marriage in their home country. A foreign spouse who is not allowed to contract a marriage in their home country is not allowed to get married in Montserrat. It is the duty of the registrar to carry out verification checks to ensure all foreign spouses are within their legal rights to get married. The minimum legal age for marriage in the territory is 18 years for both male and female spouses. 

Under special circumstances, minors may be allowed to marry, but they will be required to submit parental or guardian consent. If the parents or guardians of such a spouse are not present due to death or other unforeseen events, the court may grant the approval. After the notice of marriage is entered into the registrar’s book, the couple will go through a waiting period of 21 days. This waiting period is for the purpose of checking if any legal impediment to the marriage will surface. If no objection is filed within this period, the registrar will proceed to issue a certificate of notice. After the marriage license is obtained, the couple will be authorized to perform their civil marriage and obtain a valid marriage certificate. The documents that must be submitted by both spouses are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification. This includes a national ID card or a valid passport.
  • Foreign spouses must provide valid proof of residence in Montserrat.
  • Two witnesses must be provided by both partners. These witnesses must be aged 21 or 
  • A divorce decree or death certificate must be provided by separated or widowed spouses, respectively.
  • Certificate of No Impediment to Marry
  • Written parental or guardian consent must be provided by spouses under the age of 21.

Religious and traditional marriages

Monserrat is majorly dominated by Christians, with the most popular denominations being Anglicanism, Pentecostalism, Methodism, Roman Catholicism, and Seventh-day Adventism. Church wedding ceremonies in the territory include various ceremonial rites, and they are officiated by registered ministers such as priests or pastors. Religious and traditional marriage rituals are often performed together by Montserratians. 

They are both recognized as legal marriages under Montserrat law, as long as they are conducted in accordance with the requirements of the relevant religious or traditional laws and customs. Religious marriages must be conducted by an authorized religious official of the particular faith and must also be registered with the government. Traditional marriages are recognized by the laws of Montserrat as long as they follow the customs, traditions, and practices of the community involved. All the religious and traditional principles governing the act of marriage

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Marriage traditions in Montserrat

Dowry

In traditional Montserratian society, the groom's family would often provide a dowry to the bride's family as part of the marriage agreement. This dowry is usually paid in the form of money, property, or other valuable items. Only after the dowry has been paid in full will the marriage ceremony be performed. Dowry payment is no longer required for all marriages performed in the territory.

Wedding ceremony

Montserratian wedding ceremonies are traditionally held in a church and are typically conducted by a Christian minister. The ceremony is often attended by members of the congregation and other invited guests from both sides of the family. It is usually followed by a reception, where guests enjoy food, music, and dancing.

Brightly colored dresses

The traditional attire for the bride in Montserrat is a brightly colored dress, often made of cotton or silk, with a full skirt and a fitted bodice. The dress can be adorned with lace, ruffles, and embroidery. The bride usually completes her look with a head wrap and a pair of earrings, a necklace, or a bracelet. white shirt, long-sleeved cotton shirt, and dress pants. The groom's shirt is often embroidered with intricate designs, and it is worn tucked into the pants. Men also wear a head wrap and sometimes a matching vest.

Same-sex marriages 

There is no recognition for same-sex unions, partnerships, or marriages in Montserrat. Since 2001, homosexuality and same-sex sexual activity have been legal in the country. LGBT members face legal challenges that non-LGBT members do not face in the country. There are no discrimination protections, and homosexuals may face discrimination or stigmatization on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity in Montserrat.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamous marriages are illegal in Montserrat. The practice of any form of polygyny is prohibited and highly discouraged in the country. The majority of the people living in Montserrat are Christians, and the practice of polygamy is not allowed under the principles of Christianity. The practice of polygamy in Montserrat may result in legal consequences such as the payment of fines or imprisonment.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws regarding marriage in Montserrat are based on the laws of England and Wales, as the island is a British Overseas Territory. In order to get married in Montserrat, both parties must be at least 18 years of age. Anyone who has not reached the stipulated age must be at least 16 years of age to be able to contract marriage under special circumstances. If one of the spouses or both are underage, they are required to submit written parental permission to the appropriate authorities. In the absence of parental permission, a legal guardian is allowed to give consent to marriage. Couples must give their full and willing consent to marriage without any external influence. The couple must not be under any form of duress before they give consent to marriage. The groom and bride must not already be married. They must be single at the time of marriage. 

If one of the spouses has been married before, he or she must either be a divorcee or have been widowed to be able to contract a new marriage agreement. The divorced or widowed spouse is required by law to submit proof that the previous marriage is no longer existent by presenting a certificate of divorce or the death certificate of the former spouse alongside other important documents to the civil registry. The groom and bride must also not be in any registered civil partnership, as this would mean they are committing the offence of bigamy. Couples must also give notice of their intent to marry at least 28 days before the ceremony. Both parties must also provide proof of their identity and nationality, such as a passport or birth certificate, and proof of residence in Montserrat. 

In Montserrat, civil and religious marriages are recognized to have legal value, so couples can choose to have a religious ceremony or a civil ceremony. It must be performed by a licensed marriage officiant or an authorized priest or minister of religion. Civil ceremonies can take place at the Registrar General's office or at an approved venue chosen by the couples. Religious marriages can take place at the venue of the religious institution of the couple or at a chosen venue that must be approved by the religious authorities of the couple. Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Montserrat. The groom and bride must not be related in any way. None of the couple is permitted to marry any of their family members, whether immediate or extended. It is considered incestuous.

Rights

As Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory, the rights of couples in Montserrat are largely based on English common law. This means that Montserrat couples have the legal right to marry as well as the legal protections and responsibilities that come with it. This includes the right to live together and make decisions about the management and ownership of property. They have the right to choose the marital regime of property that will determine how property is distributed in the marriage. They can choose between a joint and separate marital regime. According to the law, the husband and wife have the right to sign a prenuptial agreement, which protects the property and any financial assets belonging to the couple in the event of divorce. They are both granted the right to seek financial support from each other in the event of separation or divorce.

On the topic of divorce, the husband and wife have the same right to initiate divorce. The husband and wife have the right to contract divorce mutually, or it could be based on one of the couple's faults. Couples also have the right to adopt children and to make medical decisions for each other in the event that one partner is unable to do so. Additionally, married couples in Montserrat are also entitled to certain social security and tax benefits that are not available to unmarried persons in the territory. The husband and wife have equal legal guardianship rights over the children. They both possess parental rights over the children, even in the event of divorce. The husband and wife are both granted equal inheritance rights upon the death of one of the spouses.

Costs

The cost of getting married in Montserrat will vary depending on a number of factors. These factors are divided into variables and fixed factors. The type of ceremony you want is considered one of the fixed factors in determining the cost of marriage in Montserrat, while the location of the wedding and reception is considered a variable factor.

In general, you will need to pay a $200 (EC$) fee to obtain a marriage license from the Registrar General's Office. Couples will also need to pay for the services of a licensed marriage officer, such as a minister or justice of the peace. The cost of this service is typically around $200 EC. Additional costs may include hiring a venue for the ceremony, purchasing wedding attire, and paying for wedding photography.

Duties

There are no fixed duties and responsibilities for married couples in Montserrat. The duties and responsibilities are subject to change, and they evolve to provide greater equality and protect the rights of both parties in a marriage. Legally married couples have certain legal duties and responsibilities to each other when they are married. Both partners have a duty to maintain the household and take care of any children that they may have. This includes cleaning, cooking, and providing for the children's needs. The husband and wife should ensure that the children are provided with a proper and sound educational and moral upbringing. Couples have a duty not to cause physical or emotional harm to each other. 

This includes not engaging in domestic violence or abuse. Couples should be able to communicate with each other effectively and clearly express their feelings and thoughts. During a marriage, the husband and wife have a financial obligation to each other. In the event that one of the couple is earning more than the other, the higher-earning spouse is required to contribute more to the welfare of the family. The needs of the family should be met as often as possible. This includes providing for basic needs such as food, clothing, and housing, as well as contributing to joint expenses.

Final Thoughts 

Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory, and the majority of the marriage laws are similar to those of Britain. A marriage in Montserrat is considered legal when it is conducted by a licensed wedding officiant and both parties are within their legal capacity to contract a marriage in the country. Foreign spouses will be required to submit documents showing that they have the freedom to contract marriage overseas.

Common law Marriage is generally not recognized in Montserrat. A couple living together, even if they have been together for a long time, is not considered to be married under Montserrat laws unless they have undergone a legal marriage ceremony and have a valid marriage certificate. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Montserrat.

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