Everything you need to know about marriage in Nauru

7 Sep 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Nauru 01

Nauru is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean famous for being the smallest island nation in the world as well as its coral reefs and white-sand beaches. Most people in Nauru are a blend of Melanesian, Polynesian, and Micronesian ancestry; therefore, marriages are performed in different ways based on the customs and traditions of the couple. Nauru, being a small island country, has a culture that values family and community. The traditional nuclear family structure is common, with extended family members also playing an important role in the upbringing and support of children. 

Marriage is seen as an important institution and is generally considered a lifelong commitment. Divorce is relatively rare in Nauru, and there is a strong emphasis on trying to work through any issues that may arise in a marriage. There are three major types of marriages performed in the country: civil, religious, and traditional marriages. Marriage in this country is usually conducted through a traditional ceremony that may include elements of Christian religion, customs, and practices. However, only civil and religious marriages are legally binding in Nauru; therefore, spouses who wish to contract other types of marriage must first obtain a marriage license and certificate from the registry. 

Wedding ceremonies are usually conducted in either Nauruan or English. The Child Protection and Welfare Act 2016 states that the minimum age for marriage in Nauru is 18 years. There are no exceptions, and the country has taken measures to prevent child marriages in the country. The minimum marriage age applies to both legal and customary marriages in the country. About 27 percent of all marriages are performed by spouses who have not reached the age of 18, and 2 percent of all spouses were married off before reaching the age of 15. As you read on, you will find out more about the types of marriages in Nauru and their requirements. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

A civil marriage in Nauru is performed by a state-authorized registrar in the civil registry, or registrar’s office. This type of marriage is legally binding in Nauru and other countries abroad. To get married civilly, both partners will be required to provide certain documents and also abide by a set of conditions. In Nauru, the legal age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Spouses who wish to get married in the country must have reached this age, except under special circumstances where they may be allowed to marry at a younger age if they have parental or guardian consent. Both parties must be unmarried and not closely related to each other. Spouses who were previously married will be required to provide valid evidence that their previous marriages were legally annulled or dissolved. 

For the marriage to be recognized and protected under the laws of the country, it must be registered with the Registrar of Marriages. Both parties must be able to freely and voluntarily consent to the marriage. If either party is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if they are being forced to marry, the marriage is not considered valid.

Before getting married, both parties must provide proof of identity and citizenship, and they may also be required to undergo medical examinations and blood tests. 

These tests and examinations will help reveal or detect any underlying health conditions that may prevent both partners from settling down with each other. Foreigners getting married in Nauru may be required to obtain certain documents from their home country. Since Nauru is not a very big or popular country, most countries do not have an embassy or consulate there. Foreign spouses are left with the option of bringing the required marriage documents along before their arrival in Nauru or officially requesting them in Nauru, which may take more time. 

The official language of Nauru is Nauruan, and all foreign documents submitted must be translated into this language by an accredited translator. The documents must include an apostille or authorization stamp to prove their legitimacy. After all the documents are submitted, the marriage officer will proceed to issue a marriage license to the couple and fix a date to perform the civil ceremony. Both partners will be required to provide valid witnesses during the official solemnization of their marriage. After the ceremony is completed, the registrar will present a marriage certificate to the couple. The documents below must be submitted by spouses getting married civilly in Nauru.

 Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification, such as a national ID card or a valid passport
  • Both spouses must provide recently obtained copies of their birth certificates.
  • Both partners must provide certificates of no impediment to marriage in Nauru.
  • Divorce or death certificate. Separated and widowed spouses must provide either of these documents to show they ended their previous marriage legally.
  • Both partners must provide two valid witnesses who have reached the age of 18 or above.
  • Payment of all relevant fees must be completed by the couple.

Religious marriages 

 In Nauru, religious marriage ceremonies are recognized as long as they comply with the country's laws and regulations. Couples must first obtain a marriage license from the Registrar of Marriages before having a religious ceremony. More than four-fifths of all Nauruans are Christians, and the majority of the religious marriages performed in the country take place in the church. Religious ceremonies in Nauru are performed by recognized religious officials, such as priests and pastors. Any religious leader performing a marriage must be registered and authorized by the government to perform marriages in Nauru. If a minister who is not recognized performs a marriage, it will have no legal recognition.

After the religious ceremony, the couple must register their marriage with the Registrar of Marriages. The registration process includes submitting the marriage certificate and other required documents. The other documents may include those unique to the church, such as the baptismal or holy communion certificate of both spouses. Religious weddings are very important in Nauru, and most church marriages are performed in the morning during weekends. After the church marriage is completed, most spouses agree to hold a second ceremony the same day, which includes the wedding reception where other ceremonial rites are conducted. In Nauru, the government and the church are separate, and the government does not regulate religious marriages or ceremonies. However, all religious principles must not contradict laws in the country’s constitution.

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Marriage traditions in Nauru

Marriage negotiations

Before a marriage is allowed to take place in Nauru, the families of the couple engage in negotiations to establish the terms of the marriage. This may include discussions about the bride price, which is a payment made by the groom's family to the bride's family. The bride price may include cash or other items, such as livestock.

Gift giving

The exchange of gifts between the families of the couple is an important aspect of traditional Nauruan marriage customs. The groom's family may give gifts to the bride's family as a symbol of goodwill and to demonstrate their commitment to the marriage. In some communities, the bride's family will also reciprocate the kind gesture and present various gift items to the groom and his family.

Traditional ceremony

The traditional Nauruan marriage ceremony may be conducted by a traditional leader and may involve elements of Christianity. The ceremony may include the exchange of vows, the sharing of a traditional meal, and the performance of traditional dances. This ceremony usually involves activities and performances from different members of both sides of the families, along with the couple and other guests at the wedding ceremony.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Nauru. Generally, Nauruans have the freedom to perform same-sex sexual activities or be homosexuals; however, they are not allowed to enter unions or registered partnerships. The country has limited protections for same-sex couples in terms of discrimination and stigmatization. Members of the LGBT community face various legal challenges in Nauru that are not experienced by other couples of the opposite sex.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamous marriages are strictly prohibited in Nauru. Spouses are not allowed to be in marriages or unions with multiple partners. If a person enters into multiple marriages, only the first one will be legally binding according to the laws of the country. The others will have no legal grounds, and such spouses involved will not enjoy any of the marriage rights and entitlements available to couples in the country. Generally, polygamous marriages are quite rare in Nauru.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws of marriage in Nauru are governed by the Marriage Act of 1963, which sets out the requirements and procedures for getting married in the country. According to this Act, the groom and bride must be at least 18 years of age to be legally married. No exceptions are made for minors who wish to be married in the country, even if they have parental consent. Underage marriages are considered void. The groom and bride are required to obtain a marriage license from the government. This grants the couple permission to get married in the country. Civil and religious marriages are allowed in Nauru. The couple can choose which type of marriage is best for them. The marriage ceremony must be performed by a government-approved marriage officer or, in some cases, an authorized religious leader. 

Under whichever type of marriage the couple chooses, they are not allowed to marry anyone they are closely related to. The groom and bride are not allowed to marry anyone from their immediate family or extended family. It is considered to be incestuous or consanguineous. Polygamous marriages are not recognized under Nauruan law. The groom and bride are not allowed to marry more than one person at the same time. Such an act is referred to as bigamy. Marriages performed under duress or with the use of force, threats, or violence are considered void. The law states that marriage must be contracted voluntarily and with the mutual consent of the couple. If one of the couple or both parties do not consent to marriage and the marriage is conducted, such a marriage would be annulled. Before entering into a marriage contract, the couple must be mentally stable and of sound mind. 

Couples must register their marriage with the government and obtain a marriage certificate in order to be legally recognized as married. The law requires couples to be single at the time of marriage. In the event that one of the spouses has been married before, they are required by law to provide proof that the previous marriage has been dissolved. In the case of divorce, the concerned spouse is required to provide a copy of the original certificate of divorce, while in the case of widowhood, the concerned spouse is required to submit a death certificate of the former spouse. Foreign marriages are also recognized as long as they were legally entered into in the country where they occurred and followed the laws of that country. Foreign spouses must also be eligible for marriage in their home countries and ensure that there is no legal impediment to marriage.

Rights

The husband and wife have joint and personal rights in marriage. These rights are protected by the law of the country, and any violation of these rights is considered an offense. The rights of couples in Nauru include the right to make decisions about the household and children, the right to inherit at the death of one of the spouses, and the right to receive support from one another. The husband and wife have equal access to civil rights, legal rights, political rights, economic and financial rights, etc. 

Married couples have the right to own property and make use of it as they wish. They have the right to choose whether a joint marital regime or a separate marital regime will be in effect during marriage. The husband and wife have the right to certain government benefits such as pensions, health care, and other welfare benefits. The wife has the same right as her husband to acquire, change, or retain their nationality. They both have the right to confer their nationality on their foreign spouses after all other requirements have been fulfilled. The husband and wife have the right to actively participate in politics and government. 

They have the fundamental right to vote and be voted for. The husband and wife are both granted the right to be recognized as the legal guardians of the children. They both have the right to exercise parental authority over the children. In the event of the breakdown of a marriage, both the husband and wife have the right to initiate divorce. The divorce petition may be filed based on the mutual consent of the couple or on the shortcomings of one of the spouses.

Costs

Despite the shaky economy of the country, getting married in Nauru is no joke. It is as expensive or inexpensive as the couple wants it to be. The average cost of a wedding ceremony in Nauru is estimated to be between $1,500 and $5,000. More elaborate weddings often cost more. It is estimated to cost around $20–124 to rent a room in Nauru. 

Couples who wish to cover the cost of the accommodations for their guests should expect to spend more. The cost of the wedding venue, wedding attire, decorations and flowers, music and entertainment at the event, and food and drinks for invited guests all sum up the total cost of marriage in Nauru.

Duties

Legally married couples have duties and responsibilities to carry out in the home. These responsibilities are to themselves, their children, and other family members. The husband is primarily tasked with the responsibility of providing for the family. He is obligated to ensure that all the needs of the family are met at all times. He must also ensure that the family fulfills its role as the foundation of society. The husband and wife are both obligated to maintain the family's resources and ensure that they are properly managed. 

The wife is often responsible for taking care of the home. She is expected to look after the children, her husband, and her in-laws. One of the most important duties of a wife in the home is to make herself available to her husband as often as possible. They are both expected to be physically and emotionally available for the children from their marriage and to ensure that they have a good and sound moral and educational upbringing.

In Summary

Marriages in Nauru are either performed by authorized government officials, such as a civil registrar, or by a registered minister of a religion. Other forms of marriage may be performed; however, they will hold no legal validity. For spouses to contract civil marriages in the country, there are certain documents that must be provided by them, which were stated earlier on in this article.

Nauru is a small country, and the population is relatively homogenous. Cultural practices and marriage traditions across the country are largely the same, and a lot of western traditions are infused with the local marriage practices in the country. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to know about marriage in Nauru.

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