Everything you need to know about marriage in Myanmar

6 May 2023·21 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Myanmar 01

Myanmar is a southeast Asian country with a large number of culturally diverse ethnic groups. The country was formally known as Burma, and it has over 100 ethnic groups. Thousands of marriages are held every year in the country, and most of the foreigners who also get married in Myanmar are Asian. The marriage laws in the country are quite unique and different from those of most other countries in the world. Myanmar has its own civil code that guides the legal activities and marriage laws of the Burmese, but other religious and customary laws are also recognized by the country. This means that a Buddhist in the country is bound by the laws of Buddhism, and a Muslim living in the country is also under the laws and principles of Islam.

However, there are still some general laws that must be followed by everyone living in the country, regardless of their own religious or regional beliefs. For instance, marrying multiple people is not allowed, even if one is a Muslim. The country is generally regarded as a Buddhist nation because the majority of the people living there are Buddhists, implying that most of the marriage principles fall under that faith. In Myanmar, the legal age to get married is 18 years. This law was enacted in 2019 in response to the country's high rate of child marriages. Now, there are no shortcuts, and the minimum marriage age must be attained before marriage is allowed to take place. The rest of the article will show you more about marriage in Myanmar and the top marriage locations in the country.

Civil Marriages

A civil marriage is legally binding in Myanmar. This implies that spouses who get married through a civil marriage are recognized and protected in Myanmar as well as other countries in the world. A civil marriage takes place in the civil registry office and is performed by a state-authorized registrar. Before the marriage preparation starts, the couple is required to make an official declaration of their intention to marry in the country. This declaration must be made at the local office where the marriage ceremony will be performed. The registry office used for the marriage must be in the municipality or district where at least one of the spouses resides. The declaration of marriage document will state that the spouse has not been in any marriages in recent years and is currently single. 

Foreign spouses will need to request this document from the concerned authorities in their own home country. The declaration must be legal and properly authenticated by the country. Also, there are certain fees that will be paid by the spouse before marriage is allowed. The country's marriage laws are quite diverse. The general age of marriage is 18 years; however, this age can differ from religion to religion. The most important thing to note is that a marriage ceremony will not be conducted for a person who is below the legal age. The person getting married must not be mentally challenged. They must be in the right state of mind and health before proceeding with marriage. 

A civil marriage cannot be performed in a case where one or two people were forced to marry each other as a result of threats, coercion, brutal force, etc. The spouses will need to confirm with their registry office to know the duration of validity for the documents to be provided. Some may be three or six months prior to the wedding. The documents that are required from both partners who want to get married in Myanmar are stated below.

Documents required 

  • National identity or passport. Myanmarese will need to provide a national ID card, while foreign spouses are required to provide a valid passport.
  • Copies of birth certificates were provided by both spouses.
  • Proof of residency This document will show that a spouse has been living in Myanmar for the stipulated time prior to the marriage ceremony.
  • A deed poll. This applies to spouses who changed their name in the past, either due to personal reasons or a previous marriage.
  • Certificate of freedom to marry This paperwork will show that a spouse is single and permitted to get married without any obstacles from a third party.
  • Divorce and death certificate Either of these pieces of paperwork is to be provided if a spouse was formally married to a person who became deceased or separated.
  • The spouses must submit receipts for the payment of all required fees.

All the certificates submitted must be translated into Burmese by an accredited translator, and they must be endorsed by the embassy or consulate of the foreign spouse's home country. The documents must be legalized with an apostille stamp, and witnesses may also be required for the registration process. This information will be provided by the registrar in charge.

Religious and traditional marriages

The majority of the people living in Myanmar practice Buddhism. Over 90% of the country are Theravada Buddhists, and the rest of the percentage is shared by other religions. These religions include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and others. Marriages conducted under the principles of various religious beliefs are equally recognized and protected by the laws of the country. In Myanmar, Buddhists consider marriage to be a secular activity that is not related to religion in any way. Marriage ceremonies are not typically celebrated by Buddhists; however, some Myanmarese still conduct celebrations in place of the marriage ceremony. 

Some people prefer to perform their marriage celebration in their own residence, while others may rent wedding venues or other locations dedicated for the purpose. Christians in the country have church services to commemorate marriages, and after the church service, a reception party is often held in another separate venue. Some Buddhists who will still like to have a party may just set up a small gathering where different people will be invited to share food and drinks. It is customary for them to recite the Parittas, where one of the elders gives advice to the young couple on how to have a happy married life and live peacefully.

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Myanmarese marriage traditions

Wedding procession 

The wedding procession begins with one or two young girls carrying a basket of flowers. These ladies will be dressed in proper court attire, complete with long-sleeved jackets and long silk ornaments that dangle on the ground. The groom's parents immediately follow the girls down the red carpet-covered aisle. They are also adorned in beautiful silk garments that make them stand out in the crowd. After they enter, the bride's parents walk down the aisle, followed by the bridesmaids.

Wedding garlands 

This is a unique tradition practiced in Myanmar. Here, the wedding rings and garlands are bestowed on the bride and groom by a couple who have a long-lasting marriage and have only been married once. In ancient times, the bride and groom used to garland each other, but this has changed over the years.

Wedding costume 

The wedding costumes in Myanmar are usually extravagant with vibrant colors. They are meant to accentuate the couple and make them look very beautiful and elegant. Generally, the wedding party is dressed in silk, consisting of a silken waist garment, a silk turban, and even a silk train. The most popular material used in attire is silk.

Same-sex and polygamous marriages in Myanmar

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Myanmar. Two people of the same sex are not allowed to conduct any form of marriage in the country. There are various legal consequences and discriminations that are faced by those who practice same-sex sexual activity or even marriage. Other forms of relationship, such as civil unions or registered partnerships, are not allowed for same-sex couples, and they have no rights or benefits under the act of marriage in the country.

Polygamy is also illegal in Myanmar. This type of marriage was outlawed in 2015. Before this time, it used to be practiced by some Myanmarese; however, it is now illegal, and the offense of this crime is referred to as "bigamy," which can result in imprisonment and the payment of fines. A spouse is only allowed to marry one other spouse. Both foreigners and native Myanmarese nationals must ensure that their previous marriage was formally terminated before proceeding to marry again in the country.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws governing marriage in Myanmar are not based on a specific set of rules; rather, couples are required to comply with the laws and rules of their various religious beliefs. Since Buddhism makes up about 80% of the population in Myanmar and Christians, Muslims, and Hindus make up the remaining 20%, the laws guiding marriage are either based on the Buddhist women's special marriage and succession act of 1954, the Islamic marriage act, the Christian marriage act, or the Hindu customary law. Customary, religious, or civil marriages are all possible in Myanmar. Couples do not necessarily have to hold a ceremony before they are recognized as husband and wife; many nationals often live together for a while and then announce that they are married. 

The legal age for marriage under the civil code is 18 years old, but since the marriage laws are based on the different religious laws, both parties have to be 21 years old before they can enter into marriage under the Christian Marriage Act, while under the Buddhist laws, couples have to be 18 and 20 years old, respectively. Still under the Buddhist laws, if the woman is under the age of 20 and wishes to enter into marriage, she has to receive parental consent. The law recognizes and protects cohabiting couples; however, the couple must have the intent to eventually get married. The practice of monogamy is the only legitimate form of marriage in Myanmar. Couples must not be in any legal relationship at the time they contract a new marriage. 

If a woman is still legally married and attempts to enter into a new marriage, the man that she intends to marry would be punished for adultery. Consent is a very important feature of a valid marriage, and couples have to be mentally stable upon contracting marriage. Couples have to give their free and willing consent, void of any form of undue influence from third parties. Forced marriage is a crime under the law of marriage in Myanmar; couples must be in a sound state of mind to give consent and must not be under any form of duress at the time of marriage. Child marriage is illegal in Myanmar; a person has to attain the legal age for marriage before a marriage can be considered legally binding. 

The law allows the marriage of a non-Buddhist man and a Buddhist woman. Couples who have been previously married are required to provide a certificate of divorce or death in the case of widowhood. Homosexual relations are strictly prohibited in Myanmar, and perpetrators of this act are liable to a jail term of up to 20 years. Foreigners are permitted to get married in Myanmar provided they are capable of contracting marriage and provide necessary documents such as a certificate of no impediment, birth certificates, and identity documents.

Rights

The rights of marriage in Myanmar tend to favor women; however, couples have access to a number of equal rights in the country. Under the customary law of marriage, couples have the right to decide whether or not to bear children, to exercise parental control, and to be regarded as the legal guardians of the children. The couple has the right to practice their various religions without any restrictions and raise the children according to their moral beliefs. If a Buddhist woman marries a non-Buddhist man, she has the right to practice her faith without any restrictions from her husband. 

The couple have the right to be referred to as the heads of the household; however, the husband is often perceived as the head of the household. The couple has the right to file for and initiate divorce; the man does not have the right to divorce his wife without any legitimate reason. The couple has the right to receive custody of the children; the husband often takes custody of the male children and the wife takes custody of the female children. If the children are still very young, the woman gets custody of both the male and female children. If a non-Buddhist man divorces a Buddhist woman, she not only has the right to receive custody of the children and compensation from her husband, but she is also entitled to ownership of any shared property.

Under property and inheritance rights, couples have equal rights to own, use, and discard property as they see fit. However, women tend to face a number of obstacles when it comes to inheriting property from their late or divorced husbands. They both have the right to take up prospective jobs and positions in their various chosen career paths. The husband and wife have the right to report any form of violence against them or the family as a whole. They both have the right to make important decisions that affect the general welfare and wellbeing of the family and to decide on the moral inclination of the family.

Costs

Since ceremonies are not so common in Myanmar, couples who wish to hold a wedding ceremony are allowed to do so without any restrictions. Many Myanmar ceremonies are often very simple and involve only immediate family members; however, this is not the case among the society's wealthy class.
An average wedding costs around $3,000–$4,000, excluding the compulsory bride price or gifts the husband must present to the bride's family. Depending on what the bride's family requests, these gifts can cost up to $2,500 or more. A traditional and more expensive wedding in Myanmar takes a lot of planning and preparation, and the cost of the wedding is often borne by the groom. An average wedding reception venue for just about 10 guests costs around $1500-$1,800. Venues that can accommodate more guests are frequently more expensive than the cost listed above. A proper wedding budget has to be in place to ensure the adequate spending of money. Couples can hire the services of wedding planners to reduce the stress of having to put together a working wedding budget.

Duties

The household duties and responsibilities of couples in Myanmar are very straightforward. The man is obligated to perform his role as the head of the house, therefore providing maintenance for his wife and children. The wife is often in charge of the domestic housework, and she is seen as the primary caregiver for the children. The husband must not bully or disrespect his wife, and the wife, on the other hand, has a duty to always obey and provide care for her husband. The husband and wife are required to be faithful to one another and resist the interference of outsiders in their marital affairs. The husband must be gentle and very loving to his wife and prohibit any form of disrespect toward her from his family members. 

The wife is responsible for the management of the household; she is required to maintain and be meticulous with the expenses of the family. The couple has an obligation to provide a proper moral and educational background for the children in the home. The wife has a duty to care not only for her family but also for her parents and her husband's parents; she is required to give gifts to her family and her husband's family. The man is obligated to ensure his wife is well dressed and adorned with beautiful apparel and jewelry.

In Summary 

Myanmar marriage ceremonies are beautiful events in the lives of the Myanmarese. There are various customs and traditions that are practiced by citizens of the country. Some of the most popular venues for weddings in the country are the Pan Pacific Yangon, the Wyndham Grand Yangon, the Rose Garden Hotel Yangon, and the Rosewood Yangon.
In Myanmar, marriage between two people who are related by affinity or a direct link is not allowed. This shows that a person is not allowed to marry a sibling or parent they are related to, either by blood or adoption. The certificates submitted during the marriage registration must be properly legalized so as to ensure that the marriage is valid and recognized not just in Myanmar but in all other parts of the world. This article is a complete guide to everything you need to know about marriage in Myanmar.

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