Everything you need to know about marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

24 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 01

Thousands of marriages are performed annually in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines by native Vincentians and other foreign spouses. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island country in the Caribbean popular for its volcanic landscapes, yacht-filled harbors, and chic private islands. The natural attractions of the country make it a popular spot for couples looking to exchange vows in a tropical paradise. The country also offers a variety of venues and services for destination weddings, including hotels, resorts, and wedding planners. Couples from other parts of the world who wish to perform their marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines may contact any wedding planner beforehand to assist with the required documentation and make all necessary arrangements with the hotels, venue, and even witnesses. 

The most popular types of marriages performed in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are civil, religious, and symbolic marriages. Civil marriages are performed by licensed marriage officers who have been authorized by the country's government. The Marriage Act of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines regulates the appointment of marriage officers and sets out their responsibilities and qualifications. Marriage officers are usually appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. They are authorized to perform civil wedding ceremonies in accordance with the law. However, religious marriage ceremonies are performed by registered ministers of religions such as priests, imams, etc. 

These types of marriages must be registered for them to be legally binding. In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, couples may decide to perform a Symbolic wedding; however, such marriages will have no legal recognition or protection in the country. In most cases, foreigners who perform this type of marriage would have completed all the legal formalities involved in their home country before proceeding to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for their symbolic wedding. This way, they are able to have a lavish and memorable wedding celebration without having to worry about the procedure of obtaining a marriage certificate. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

 Civil marriages 

Civil marriages are performed by state-authorized marriage officers and registrars in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. These marriages are performed in the registrar's office or city hall. There are a few necessary steps spouses who wish to be married in a civil ceremony must take to ensure the validity of their marriage. The bride and groom must have spent at least one full day in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines prior to their scheduled wedding ceremony. This residency requirement does not allow spouses to get married on the date of their arrival in the country, and there are no exceptions allowed. Both partners will be required to provide certain documents during the registration before they are issued a marriage license. 

The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines marriage certificate must be obtained in person by both spouses at the attorney general’s office at the Ministry of Justice in the country. This license is very vital because, without it, the official marriage ceremony will not take place and the couple will be unable to obtain a valid marriage certificate that shows they are legally married and are entitled to marriage benefits in the country. There are fees that must be paid by the couple to obtain a marriage license, as well as payments for the license and stamps on the application forms. The forms must be completely filled out and signed by both partners. The bride and groom must state they are getting married of their own free will and are not related to each other by marriage or blood. 

Spouses who were previously married will be required to provide a divorce decree or a death certificate as evidence that their previous marriage was dissolved legally under the laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Partners who wish to marry in the registry must be single at the time of marriage in the country as well as elsewhere in the world. A foreign spouse who is already in another marriage abroad is not allowed to marry. There are no official medical requirements for a marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. However, to avoid future compatibility issues, it is advisable for couples to undergo the required blood tests and examinations to confirm they are not both facing any serious underlying medical conditions before marriage. 

All foreign documents must be apostilled with authorization seals and stamps. Also, foreign documents must be translated into English by an accredited translator, which is the official language of the country. Both partners must have reached the minimum marriage age of 18 years. If there is parental or guardian consent, a male spouse aged 16 and a female spouse aged 15 may be allowed to marry. If the minimum marriage age in a foreign country is higher than that of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, they may not be allowed to contract a marriage since such a marriage certificate will be invalid in the foreign spouse’s home country. The documents both partners are required to submit are stated below.

Documents Required

  • A valid means of identification, including a national identity card or valid passport
  • Proof of residency or arrival in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Divorce decree or death certificate. Spouses who were previously married are required to provide either of these documents as evidence that they terminated previous marriages legally.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage This document will show both partners are eligible for marriage and are facing no legal hindrances that may prevent the ceremony from taking place.

 Religious marriages 

Religious marriages are quite popular in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Christianity is the dominant religion in the country, with over 88 percent of the total population. Islam and Rastafari are minor religious beliefs, with less than 4 percent of all Vincentian nationals. In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, religious marriages are performed by authorized religious officials such as priests, ministers, or imams. 

Couples must obtain a marriage license from the Ministry of Legal Affairs before the ceremony can take place. Church weddings are often performed in the morning, and before scheduling a wedding date, both partners are often required to reach out to the pastor and make an official announcement. The priest will inform the couple of all the procedures they must follow for their church wedding to be valid. After the ceremony, the pastor or priest will be required to sign the marriage register and return it to the Ministry of Legal Affairs within three days. Upon the completion of the ceremony and submission, the marriage will be considered legally valid.

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Marriage traditions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Wedding Bands 

Most marriages performed in the country are in accordance with the principles of Christianity, and wedding bands are exchanged between the couple after the vows have been exchanged. The bands are usually made from gold, and they symbolize the commitment and love the partners have for each other.

Traditional Garb 

In urban areas, the norm is for the bride and groom to wear a white wedding dress and suit, respectively. However, in customary marriages, the couple may wear traditional garb, which includes brightly colored, traditional island clothing such as madras fabric and a straw hat for the groom, with the bride wearing a floral dress or skirt with a headwrap.

Wedding Reception 

Wedding receptions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are usually very colorful occasions with a lot of ceremonial rites. The reception often includes music, dancing, and multiple courses of foods and drinks.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Both the government and the majority of the people frown at homosexuality and same-sex sexual activities, and the practice of these acts may result in legal consequences of up to 10 years imprisonment. There is no protection from discrimination or harassment of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in the country.

Polygamous marriages 

Under the laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a man is not allowed to marry more than one wife, likewise a woman. The practice of a polygamous marriage may result in legal challenges, as only the first wife in the marriage will be legally recognized and protected by law in the country. Even though polygamous marriages are prohibited in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, there are still some rural communities where they are performed.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

Marriages in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are governed by the Marriage Act, which states the process and requirements for marriage in the country. The Marriage Act recognizes civil marriages and religious marriages; customary marriages do not hold any legal value, but they are commonly practiced. Anyone who wishes to enter into a customary marriage must first enter into a civil marriage in order for the marriage to be legally binding. Civil marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is only possible when the groom and bride have fulfilled the requirements of the law, such as the age requirement, marital status requirement, etc. The law requires couples to be mentally and medically fit to be able to contract marriage. The groom and bride must be in a sound state of mind to be able to contract marriage. The couple must also provide blood test results that are not older than 3 months to confirm their medical compatibility. 

Marriage must only be conducted between two people who have fulfilled the age requirement. The groom and bride must be at least 18 years old to be able to contract marriage. They must also be single at the time of marriage (unmarried, widowed, or divorced). There must not be any legal impediment to marriage. Before entering into a new marriage contract, any previous marriage agreements must be dissolved. If either of the couple is divorced, he or she is required to provide a copy of the original divorce decree to the authorities. In the case of widowhood, the concerned party is required to submit a certificate of marriage and the death of the former spouse. Both parties must provide proof of identity, such as a valid passport, national identification card, or birth certificate signed by both parents. 

Couples are required to observe a waiting period of one day between the submission of the notice of marriage and the wedding ceremony. Along with proof of identity, the groom and bride must provide proof of citizenship, and the marriage must be registered in the country within 14 days. In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, polygamy is not allowed, and any form of bigamy is a criminal offense. The law only recognizes monogamous marriages between one man and one woman. Same-sex marriages are legally recognized in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Homosexual couples are not only allowed to have registered partnerships; they are also allowed to start a family. Couples are not allowed to contract marriage with close family relatives. It is considered to be incestuous.

Rights

The laws of marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines make provisions for the rights of couples in marriage. According to the law, the husband and wife enjoy equal rights in marriage. The husband and wife have the right to work, the right to inheritance, the right to own property, the right to leave marriage, etc. Under the right to work, a husband and wife enjoy equal workplace rights. They enjoy the right to work and receive equal payment for that work. They must not face any discrimination as a result of gender or age, as it is against the law in the country. 

In accordance with the law, the husband and wife have equal rights to own property. At the time of marriage, the couple has the option of choosing which marital regime of property will be in effect during marriage. However, regardless of the marital regime of property, couples have the right to own and manage property as they wish. They both have the right to sign a prenup, which protects the property and financial assets of the couple in the event of divorce or separation. In the case of divorce, couples have the same right to exit marriage. When a marriage fails, both the wife and husband have the same right to initiate and finalize divorce. It could be based on mutual agreement or on the fault of one of the couple. 

Some of the grounds upon which marriage can be dissolved are desertion, infidelity, domestic abuse, etc. Marriage automatically confers permanent parental rights on couples. The husband and wife have equal legal guardianship and parental authority rights over the children. These rights must not be abused, as there are legal consequences. Spouses have the joint right to decide on the residence of the family because both the husband and wife play very important roles in the decision-making process of the family.

Costs

The legal fees to contract a civil marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are estimated to be around EC$520. This covers the fees for the marriage license, the ceremony, and the marriage certificate. The cost of religious marriages depends on the religious institution of the couple and the requirements of their various religions. However, couples should expect to spend anywhere from 540 East Caribbean Dollars to 2,162 East Caribbean Dollars, which is approximately $200 and $800, respectively. 

Traditional weddings may cost more due to the cost of the bride's dress and the different ceremonies to celebrate the customs and traditions of the couple and their families. The total cost of a wedding in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines depends on certain factors, but the total estimate is expected to be around 8,000 East Caribbean dollars to as much as 27,000–30,000 East Caribbean dollars.

Duties

The wife is expected to shoulder all household responsibilities while the husband is in charge of the family's finances in a typical Saint Vincent and the Grenadines household, but times have changed and there is no defined duty and responsibility of couples in the home. They are both responsible for the general welfare, care, health, and comfort of the family. They are both obligated to provide mutual assistance and support for one another at all times. 

They have a duty to love one another, be committed to the marriage, and ensure that there is fidelity and loyalty on both sides. They have a duty to carry out their conjugal responsibilities and ensure that the resources in the home are properly managed and protected. They have an important duty to care for the children. The needs of the children should be met as often as possible, and in return, the children have a duty to respect their parents at all times.

Final Thoughts 

Couples who wish to legally get married and obtain a marriage certificate in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines may do so in two different ways. The first method is by obtaining a Governor-General License issued at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, while the second method is by obtaining the license at the high court or Registry.

Marriage is important to many Vincentians, and many couples choose to marry in order to solidify their relationship and gain various legal rights and benefits. Civil marriages performed in the country are also legally binding in other parts of the world. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

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