Everything you need to know about marriage in Samoa

27 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Samoa 01

Thousands of marriages are celebrated every year by native Samoans and foreigners from other countries. Samoa, also known as Western Samoa, is a Polynesian archipelago famous for its waterfalls, volcanic islands, long stretches of sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, and lava fields. The country is also known for being a popular spot for destination weddings. One of the major reasons behind this is the high number of foreigners that visit Samoa annually. Tourism is one of the major backbones of the economy. Weddings are big deals in the Samoan culture, and they usually involve a lot of expenses for the families of the bride and groom getting married. Traditionally, the bride and groom's families will each select a wedding dress for the bride. She will be required to wear both on her wedding day: one at the wedding ceremony and the other one at the reception. 

In Samoa, most of the customs and traditions of regions and ethnicities are infused with religious practices. Therefore, when Christian marriages are performed, there are usually several marriage rituals based on the customs of the bride and groom, either at the reception or in another separate ceremony. In Samoa, the most popular types of marriages performed are civil, religious or traditional, and symbolic weddings. However, only a civil marriage is legally binding. If couples wish to perform any other type of marriage, they will be required to register with the Ministry of Justice and obtain a marriage license and certificate before proceeding. Marriages that are performed without a marriage certificate are null under the law, and they have no legal grounds.

There are several ancient traditions that used to be performed in Samoan weddings; however, many things have changed over the years. Many weddings are now performed alongside some ceremonial rites of western culture. In the past, the bride and groom would be watched by their close family members and other relatives. On the wedding night, the newlyweds will make love on new, clean white sheets. If the sheets become stained with blood, it signifies that the bride was a virgin, and she would have brought honor to her family. However, if there was no blood, it often resulted in issues where the bride’s family was considered dishonored. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages in Samoa and the popular marriage traditions in the country. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

In Samoa, a civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legally binding. Civil marriages in the country are performed by state-authorized marriage registrars at the offices of the registrars in the Ministry of Justice. This type of marriage usually includes several procedures that must be followed by the bride and groom for them to complete the registration process and be regarded as being officially married. In Samoa, one of the most important criteria for marriage is the age of both spouses. According to the Consolidated Acts of Samoa 2008 and the Marriage Ordinance 1961, the minimum legal age of marriage is 19 years for female spouses and 21 years for male spouses. 

In special cases, there may be exceptions allowed to these ages, where a female spouse aged 16 and a male spouse aged 18 are allowed to contract a marriage. There are few cases of child marriages in the country, and about 11 percent of all Samoan marriages are entered by spouses who have not reached the age of 18. About 1 percent of these spouses get married before the age of 15. Registrars verify the ages of both partners with appropriate authorities to ensure they are both of legal marriage age. Both partners will be required to provide supporting documents such as a valid photo ID and their birth certificates to support the claims of their ages. 

Marriages in Samoa may only be performed when both partners give their free will and consent. Forever marriages are prohibited, and registrars will not join two partners together if it is perceived that one or both of them are being forced to marry by threats, coercion, fraud, etc. To begin the marriage registration process, couples are required to fill out an application for a marriage license at least 10 days before their wedding day and at most three months prior to the ceremony. The application must be completed and submitted to the Ministry of Justice either in person, by fax, or by email. 

There are no strict residency requirements to get married in Samoa. However, it will be easier to arrive in the country a few days prior to the wedding ceremony. This will give you enough time to make all necessary preparations. All documents provided by foreign partners must be translated into either English or Samoan before their submission, as these are the official languages in the country. They must also be notarized and apostilled by the concerned authorities. The documents both partners are required to submit are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification. This includes a national ID card or a valid passport.
  • Both partners must submit certified copies of their birth certificates.
  • Decree absolute or divorce certificate This applies to previously married spouses, and either of the documents must be submitted by them to show they legally dissolved all previous marriages.
  • Both partners must provide two witnesses within their legal capacity to act as such.

Religious marriages 

Religious marriages are important to Samoans. This type of marriage does not hold legal grounds on its own, and it must only be performed after the civil ceremony is concluded. Over 98 percent of the population are Christians, with about 54 percent identifying with the Protestant sect of Christianity. Most marriages are performed in the church, and the respective churches have marriage conditions or criteria that must be met by both spouses before they are allowed to perform the marriage in the church. 

Both partners will be required to visit their parish priest or pastor to be informed on the necessary requirements they must meet as well as any documents they may be required to present in order for the wedding day to be booked. Church weddings usually begin with a procession, and it is customary for the groom and his best man to enter the church first. After everyone has entered, the bride will be walked down the aisle by her father for the marriage ceremony to commence. Church weddings in Samoa mostly take place in the morning.

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Marriage traditions in Samoa


This is a unique tradition in Samoa, where the groom's family makes an official request for the bride's hand in marriage from her family. Once the bride's family accepts the marriage proposal, further marriage preparations continue, and gift items are presented to the bride's family.

Several Bridesmaids 

In Samoan weddings, every member of the family gets to play a role in the wedding ceremony. It is common for weddings to have up to 20 bridesmaids or even more, depending on how big the wedding is. The number of bridesmaids is usually matched by the groomsmen too. The more the merrier when it comes to Samoan weddings.

All-night Partying 

Samoans are big on wedding celebrations. Wedding receptions often last for several hours, until midnight. There are various games and ceremonies that are performed during these times. Traditional food and drinks are also shared with a DJ or live band, keeping everyone entertained.

Same-sex marriages 

In Samoa, there is no recognition for same-sex unions, partnerships, or marriages. Homosexuality and same-sex sexual activities are illegal. People who practice these acts may face serious penalties of up to 7 years' imprisonment. This has not been enforced; however, the legalization of this bill has been proposed. There are no serious discrimination protections, and only in some cases can homosexuals receive employment discrimination protection based on sexual orientation.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamous marriages are illegal in Samoa. According to the 1972 Samoan Marriage Act, marriage is only allowed between one man and one woman. If it is discovered that there are multiple spouses in a relationship, it may result in the payment of fines as well as facing legal challenges such as imprisonment. Cases of polygamous marriages are extremely rare in the country.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


The performance of marriage in Samoa must be done by an authorized government official or an authorized minister of religion. Under the Marriage Act of 1972 and the Marriage Regulations of 1974, which guide the act of marriage in Samoa, anyone who wishes to be married must not be in any legally subsisting marriage while trying to contract a new marriage agreement. The husband and wife are obligated to be single at the time of marriage. The marriage act of Samoa requires couples to be either unmarried, divorced, or widowed. If any of the spouses is a divorcee, he or she is required to submit a copy of the original certificate of divorce to the civil registry. In the case of widowhood, the concerned party is required to submit the death certificate of the former spouse before the new marriage can be authorized. 

The law also states that marriage can only take place between two eligible people. Anyone who does not meet the age requirement would not be allowed to contract marriage in Samoa. The legal age for marriage is set at 21 years for men and 18 years for women. However, certain exceptions are made for people who have not reached the legal drinking age. A man can contract marriage at the age of 18 and a woman at the age of 16, but they must have written parental consent. In the absence of parental consent, a legal guardian can give consent to marriage. Both parties must give their consent to marriage voluntarily. In Samoa, it is illegal to use force or threats to enter into a marriage contract. The law requires anyone who wishes to be married in Samoa to have valid identification documents such as national identity cards, birth certificates, etc. 

In accordance with the Marriage Act of 1972 and the Marriage Regulations of 1974, persons who wish to be married must not be related within any degrees of consanguinity or affinity. Incestuous marriages are strictly prohibited in Samoa. A marriage license must be obtained at the civil registry by the couple before marriage can take place. The couple must be able to provide at least two witnesses at the time of marriage. They must be at least 18 years old and have valid identification documents. Any marriage conducted without an authorized minister or marriage license is deemed void. Religious marriages are believed to hold legal value in Samoa. Therefore, couples can decide to hold either a civil wedding or a religious ceremony. Sexual acts carried out by same-sex couples are illegal in Samoa, and they are punishable. Therefore, same-sex marriages are illegal in Samoa.


Married men and women are eligible to enjoy marriage rights once marriage is contracted. Anyone who is unmarried may not be granted the rights and benefits available to married couples in Samoa. In accordance with the marriage laws in the country, the husband and wife enjoy equal rights in marriage and even at the dissolution of marriage. Married men and women enjoy the right to secure financial assets as well as landed properties. The husband and wife have the same right to own property, individually or jointly. It depends on the marital regime of property decided upon at the time of marriage. 

They both have the right to sign a prenuptial agreement, which protects the properties of both parties in the event of divorce. On the topic of divorce, both the husband and wife have the same right to file a divorce petition and exit the marriage. Divorce can be filed based on the mutual consent of both parties or based on the fault of one of the couple. Some of the fault-based grounds upon which divorce can be initiated are desertion, infidelity, imprisonment, domestic abuse, etc. After divorce has been granted, couples enjoy the right to get custody of the children.

The parent who best represents the interests of the children would be granted custody. The husband and wife have the right to legal guardianship of the children. They both enjoy the right to exercise parental authority when necessary. The husband and wife have the same unrestricted right to participate actively in politics and government. They both have the right to vote and be elected to public government offices. They enjoy the right to freedom of movement and speech. The couple does not need to obtain permission from one another to be able to move around or express one's feelings and thoughts.


There are different variables, fixed costs, and factors that determine the total cost of a wedding in Samoa. The time of year when marriage is to take place is one of the major determinants of the cost of marriage in Samoa, as are the financial abilities of the spouses, their preferences, etc. During the wedding season, it is always expensive to host a wedding in Samoa. The total cost of a wedding is estimated to be around $1,500–$3,000. 

But during the wedding season, things are often very expensive, and the average wedding budget is estimated to be around $4,000–$10,000. Couples can easily hire a wedding planner to help map out how the event will go and how much it will cost. This would help reduce the stress that comes with having to plan a wedding budget.


There are various duties and responsibilities that need to be performed by couples in Samoa. An average household in Samoa is patriarchal, and this is noticeable in the way things are done in the family. Wives are often responsible for the care and management of the home and its occupants, while men are seen as the providers of the family. The husband and wife are both responsible for the general welfare and well-being of the family. Both men and women are designated as the head of the household. They both play very important roles in the decision-making process concerning the welfare of the family. 

The husband and wife are both responsible for the health and comfort of the children. They must ensure that the children are provided with a proper and sound educational upbringing. Good morals must be instilled in them by the couple. The husband and wife should be able to provide a safe and conducive environment for the growth and development of the children. The couple should always carry out their respective duties toward one another. Duties like loyalty, fidelity, commitment, love, etc.


The process of getting married in Samoa is quite easy and hassle-free. Both Samoan nationals and foreigners may contract civil, religious, or symbolic marriages. Symbolic marriages are mostly performed by foreigners who have conducted the formalities of their marriage in their home country. Weddings in Samoa can be expensive, and proper planning should be done.

Symbolic weddings can be held in a variety of settings, depending on the couple's preferences. This includes beaches, parks, private residences, and so on. Some popular locations for symbolic weddings in Samoa include the Tafua Rainforest Preserve, the To Sua Ocean Trench, and the Botanical Gardens. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriage in Samoa.