Everything you need to know about marriage in Palau

5 Sep 2023·19 min to read
Articles

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country and microstate in Oceania. The country is an archipelago of over 500 islands and a part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean, famous for its jellyfish lakes, pristine dive sites, and other beautiful natural attractions. Every year, both native Palauans and spouses from other countries enter into various types of marriages in the country. Marriages in Palau are solemnized in a civil, traditional, or religious ceremony. It is possible for couples to get married in a symbolic marriage; however, they are not very common in Palau. Civil and traditional marriages are the only types of marriages legally binding in Palau, and couples must get their marriage registered for them to be recognized as being officially married in the country. 

In Palau, marriage is traditionally considered to be a significant and sacred institution, and it is often arranged by the families of the bride and groom. The traditional Palauan marriage ceremony is a significant event, involving many customs and rituals. The ceremony is usually conducted by a traditional leader and includes offerings to the spirits of the ancestors, as well as traditional dances and songs. Marriage is also viewed as a legal union in Palau, and it is governed by laws and regulations. Civil marriages are conducted by a judge or government official and are considered legally binding. In recent years, there has been a shift towards civil marriages, as they offer more legal protection and rights to the couple than traditional marriages.

Marriage is also a social and cultural institution in Palau; it is considered a way to create a family and establish a home, and it is an important step in adult life. In Palau, marriage is valued as a way to strengthen family and community ties. In the past, traditional marriages used to be very popular, but this has steadily changed over the past few years, mostly because marriages that are not performed in the civil registry are not recognized in other countries, and they hold limited legal grounds in Palau. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages and the various marriage customs and traditions in Palau.

Civil marriages 

Civil marriages in Palau are performed by state-authorized marriage officers in the town hall or civil registry. These marriages generally involve procedures that must be followed by both spouses, regardless of their country of origin. To complete a civil marriage in Palau, both partners will be required to obtain a marriage license and a marriage certificate. Only after the certificate has been obtained will the couple be eligible for marriage benefits in the country. To contract a civil marriage in Palau, both partners must be 18 years of age or older. Exceptions may be allowed for spouses between the ages of 16 and 18; however, they will be required to provide written parental or guardian consent as well as court authorization if applicable. 

To begin the marriage application process, both partners will be required to fill out a marriage application form, which may be obtained from the office of the clerk of courts in the judicial building. After the application form is obtained, both partners will be required to fill it out with their correct details and attach the necessary documents requested from them. Both spouses will have to submit their valid photo IDs and also provide witnesses during the registration process. These witnesses must also provide their photo ID, and they must not be related to either of the spouses. 

There is generally no medical examination or laboratory test required to get married in the country; however, getting a checkup before concluding the marriage process is a good idea. It will ensure both partners have complete information about their health statuses. The couple will be required to pay a marriage license fee at the Treasury Office and obtain a receipt afterwards. The official languages in Palau are Palauan and English. All documents submitted during the marriage registration must be presented in either of these languages. Foreign documents must also be notarized and apostille with an authorization stamp from the issuing country's authorities.

Spouses who were previously married will be required to provide documents showing they are no longer married, and both partners will be required to submit a single status affidavit. This is for the purpose of showing the bride and groom are single and facing no legal impediment, such as still being in a previous marriage. Once all the documents are submitted and there are no issues with the information, the local marriage officer will schedule a marriage date with the couple and issue a marriage license to them. The documents that must be submitted by both spouses are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid photo ID such as Palauan national ID or valid passport
  • Government-issued birth certificates for both partners must be provided.
  • Both partners must provide two witnesses who have the legal capacity to act as such during the registration.
  • Divorce or death certificate. Separated or widowed spouses must present either of these documents to show they legally terminated their previous marriage.
  • Single status certificate. This document must be submitted by both spouses as evidence that they were single at the time of marriage and are facing no legal restrictions.

Religious Marriages 

Religious marriages in Palau are typically a combination of ceremonial rites from the couple's religious beliefs and ethnic group. The predominant religion in Palau is Christianity, with about 80 percent of the total population. Even though the country is dominated by Christians, citizens have the freedom to practice any religion of their choice. Other Palauans are under other religious beliefs, such as Islam, Mormonism, Modekngei, and others. In the country, church marriages are performed by priests or pastors. To begin the marriage process in the church, both partners will be required to make an announcement of their upcoming marriage. 

This may be done in the official church bulletin or during one of the church services. After the announcement is made, both partners will be required to visit the priest to be informed of the necessary documents or criteria they may need to meet. There is usually a prenuptial marriage counseling class organized by the priest. In most cases, it involves multiple sessions that can span up to a month or more. Church weddings are mostly concluded with a wedding reception later in the day.

Marriage traditions in Palau

Cheroid

The process of marriage in Palau begins with a formal request for the bride's hand in marriage, called a "Cheroid," which is made by the groom's family to the bride's family. If the request is accepted, a series of ceremonies and feasts are held to celebrate the engagement and prepare for the wedding. This tradition is still popular today and is considered a significant cultural tradition in Palauan society.

Chad Ra Ua

The Chad Ra Ua ceremony is a traditional Palauan engagement ceremony that takes place before the wedding. It is a formal presentation of gifts from the groom's family to the bride's family and a way for the families to formally agree to the marriage. The ceremony is also a time for the families to get to know each other and for the groom's family to formally request the bride's hand in marriage.

Wedding Feast 

Traditionally, a wedding feast is held to celebrate the union of the couple after the conclusion of the formalities. The feast is a large and lavish affair, with food and drinks being served to the guests. During the feast, traditional music and dancing take place. The bride and groom are also typically presented with gifts and well-wishes from their families and friends. The feast is a central part of the wedding celebration in Palau and is an important cultural tradition.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriage is constitutionally banned in Palau. Same-sex activity and homosexuality have been legal since 2014. Members of the LGBT community in Palau face various legal challenges that are not experienced by non-LGBT members. Same-sex couples are not allowed to head households or enter marriages and unions. The marriage rights and benefits in Palau are not available to spouses of the same sex; however, they are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is not recognized in Palau. In the country, marriage is a union between a single man and a single woman. Multiple spouses are not allowed to be in the same union or marriage as each other. Palau is primarily dominated by Christians, who practice only monogamous marriages according to their religious beliefs. Polygamous marriages are not common, even in rural areas.

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The Palau National Code defines how marriage is carried out in Palau. The laws regarding marriage are based on traditional customs and practices. According to the code, there are certain restrictions on marriage, such as a prohibition on marrying a close relative. The groom and bride are not allowed to marry anyone in their immediate family or extended family. Marriage between people who share a common ancestral link is prohibited. In Palau, civil marriages, religious marriages, and customary marriages are all recognized. However, to be able to get married, regardless of the type of marriage, the groom and bride have to be of the same faith. It does not apply to religious marriages alone. The groom and bride must fulfill the age requirement and be at least 18 years old to get married. 

Anyone who has not reached the age of marriage but wishes to be married must be at least 16 or 17 years old, but they must be able to provide written parental permission. In the absence of one, a legal guardian may be allowed to give permission. Both parties must give their consent to marriage willingly. They must not be put under pressure or duress, nor should threats or violence be used to obtain their consent to marriage. The groom and bride must be in a sound state of mind to be able to contract marriage. If one of the spouses is not mentally fit or is unstable, the marriage would be prohibited from taking place. Anyone who uses force to conduct a marriage faces legal ramifications. In addition The marriage ceremony must be performed by a traditional chief, a religious minister or priest, or a government official. 

The couple must register their marriage with the government. Polygamy, or the practice of having multiple spouses, is not legal in Palau. The Palau National Code, which governs marriage and family law, recognizes only monogamous marriages, and any person found to be in a polygamous marriage can be subject to legal penalties. The country's constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which implies that same-sex marriages are prohibited in the country. Foreigners are allowed to contract marriage in Palau. However, they must fulfill the requirements for marriage specified in the Palau national code. There must not be any legal impediment to marriage, and they must be permitted to get married in their home country; otherwise, they would not be allowed to get married in Palau.

Rights

The Palau national code does not only specify the laws of marriage in Palau; it also states the rights and privileges couples who are legally married enjoy in the country. Couples who are legally married in Palau are entitled to certain rights and responsibilities, such as the ability to make medical decisions for one another. The husband and wife enjoy equal next-of-kinship rights. They both have the right to make one another their next of kin and make important medical, financial, and economic decisions on behalf of one another. They both have the right to inherit property from each other. 

Upon the death of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse has the right to all property and financial assets that belonged to the deceased spouse. The groom and bride have the right to claim certain government benefits by virtue of marriage. Spouses in Palau possess the right to file taxes jointly. This assures couples of certain tax benefits, unlike unmarried men and women who have to file taxes separately. Both have the right to seek legal protection from domestic violence and abuse. The husband and wife have equal parental rights over the children. 

They have the right to legal guardianship of the children, and they also enjoy the right to exercise parental authority over the children. The husband and wife have the same right to initiate divorce. The divorce petition may be filed based on mutual consent or based on the fault of one of the spouses. such as desertion, domestic abuse, imprisonment for up to two years, etc. After divorce has been granted, both parents have the right to receive custody of the children. The parent that best represents the interests of the children is granted custody.

Costs

To be legally married in Palau, couples are required to obtain a marriage license, which is estimated to cost around $100. The total cost of the ceremony itself plus the fees of the marriage officiant is around $250–$300. Couples who are looking to get married should typically expect to spend a lot on the ceremony. There would be an exchange of gifts, the payment of certain fees, which can also be called the "bride price," etc. 

The average cost of a wedding in Palau is estimated to be around $3,000–$10,000. This cost is determined by the type of marriage, the location, and the financial capability of the spouses and their families. Customary marriages and religious marriages in Palau are always more expensive than civil marriages.

Duties

In Palau, couples can decide to share responsibilities equally, while others may have more traditional roles with one partner taking on more responsibilities than the other. Usually, in a traditional Palauan society, the man is responsible for providing for the family. He is responsible for the financial and economic well-being of the family. The woman is responsible for taking care of the home and children. She is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the home and its resources. However, with the influence of western culture, this is changing, and many women in Palau are now working and contributing to the family's income. 

Therefore, couples both have a duty to jointly contribute to the welfare of the family. They are also both responsible for the welfare of the children. The educational and moral upbringing of the children is the responsibility of both the husband and wife. The husband and wife are responsible for the safety of their family. They are both responsible for ensuring their safety and the safety of all the family members.

Final Thoughts 

A lot of marriage traditions that used to be celebrated in ancient times are still popular in Palau today. Marriages are special events in the country that include a lot of preparations from both sides of the family. The process of performing a civil marriage in Palau is also straightforward.

The nature of marriages in the country is monogamous. Even in ancient times, polygamous marriages were not very popular in the country. There are generally no medical requirements to get married in Palau for both Palauan nationals and foreigners from other countries. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Palau.

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