Everything you need to know about marriage in St. Maarten

26 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in St. Maarten 01

Saint Maarten is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean. Every year, over 250 marriages are performed in the country by foreigners and native Sint Maarteners. Sint Maarten is popular for its stunning beaches, festive nightlife, rum drinks, and casinos. Couples may get married in the country in a civil, religious, or symbolic ceremony. However, for a marriage to be legally binding in the country, it must be registered in a civil ceremony. Other types of marriages are not legally recognized or protected under the laws of the country. Most couples in Sint Maarten perform multiple marriage ceremonies, where a civil ceremony is conducted first before a religious or symbolic wedding. Due to their flexibility, foreigners typically contract symbolic weddings in the country.

With this type of marriage, couples often have all the freedom to conduct the ceremony and other rituals according to their own preferences without any interference from the law or the need to make necessary submissions of certain documents. Sint Maarten is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; therefore, the legal requirements for getting married in the country are governed by the Dutch civil code and regulations. Getting married in Sint Maarten can be a relatively straightforward process, but it does involve meeting certain legal requirements and submitting certain documents. The process will be easier if both spouses are residents of Sint Maarten, as they will be required to present fewer documents. But if one or both spouses are not residents, they will be required to present more documents, which will be stated further below in this article. 

The island has a diverse culture and a mix of Dutch, French, and Caribbean influences. The traditional marriage customs on the island may vary depending on the ethnic group or community, but generally involve a combination of religious and cultural practices. For example, some couples may have a traditional church wedding, while others may have a traditional ceremony that incorporates elements of both Dutch and French culture. Additionally, some couples may also have a traditional Caribbean wedding ceremony that includes music, dancing, traditional food, and other marriage rituals peculiar to the Caribbean. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages in Sint Maarten as well as the marriage customs and traditions in the country. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

In Sint Maarten, a civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legally binding. This type of marriage is recognized across Sint Maarten and other foreign countries, Sint Maarten, and other foreign countries. Civil marriages involve a lot of procedures that must be carried out by the couple as well as the marriage officer for them to hold legal validity in the country. Partners who wish to get married in Sint Maarten are required to submit a request for marriage at least 14 days before the intended marriage date. Civil marriages are usually performed in the church's marriage hall. However, spouses have the freedom of choosing another location where they can get married, provided that they have received authorization from the registrar. The conditions for marriage in the marriage hall may be different from those of marriages performed in other locations. 

Couples are required to provide a minimum of two witnesses and a maximum of four witnesses for marriages to be performed in a marriage hall; however, the number of witnesses that must be provided for marriages outside the marriage hall is six. The witnesses provided must have reached the legal age of 18 in the country and may have the legal capacity to act as witnesses. Both partners getting married must be law-abiding citizens or foreigners who are facing no legal prohibitions or restrictions that may prevent the marriage from taking place. Civil Saint Martin's Day and St. Patrick's Day are celebrated Monday through Saturday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Depending on the status of the respective spouses and the civil registry where the marriage is being registered, there may be a need for the submission of some additional documents. Both the couple and their witnesses will be required to provide valid photo IDs. 

If the marriage officer requests additional documents from a couple, the marriage registration will not be processed until all the requested documents and information are complete. Following the submission of all required documents and payment of all required fees, the civil registrar will begin the process of registering the couple's marriage. Both partners must have reached the age of 18 to marry in Sint Maarten. This applies to both Sint Maarteners and other foreign spouses. In some exceptional cases, a 16- or 17-year-old spouse may be allowed to marry provided that they have parental or guardian consent. All documents obtained from a foreign country must include an Apostille stamp obtained from the city hall or the concerned authorities in the embassy or consulate of the foreign spouse’s home country. Both partners will be required to state their professions as well as the names of their parents. The paperwork required from both partners is stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification. This includes a national ID card or a valid passport.
  • Both partners must provide certified copies of their birth certificates.
  • Two to six witnesses must be provided by the couple, depending on their status as explained above.
  • A recently obtained declaration of marital status must be provided by both spouses if they are unmarried. This document must be obtained within three months of the wedding.
  • Divorce or death certificate. Either of these documents must be provided by spouses who were previously married as evidence that they terminated such marriages.
  • Both partners must provide documents stating their profession and that of their parents.
  • The names of the parents, mother's maiden name, place of birth, and birth date must be provided.
  • Written parental or guardian consent must be provided by partners under the age of 18.

Religious marriages 

Sint Maarten is dominated by Christians, who make up over 80 percent of the total population. The rest of the population includes Hindus and citizens with no religious affiliations. Religious marriages do not hold legal validity on their own, and they may only be performed after a civil ceremony is concluded and the couple has received a marriage license and certificate. Church wedding ceremonies are performed by registered ministers of religion such as pastors or priests, and they usually include various ceremonial rites. 

The ceremony begins with the processional, where the groom and his groomsmen enter the church first, followed by the bridesmaids and the flower girls. The ring bearers and the bride are usually the last to enter the church. Church weddings are very important ceremonies to a lot of Sint Maarteners, especially those in rural communities.

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Marriage traditions in St. Maarten

Conch Fritters and Roti

These refer to some of the most popular traditional dishes served in St. Maarten weddings. Conch fritters are fried balls of conch meat, flour, and spices, often served as an appetizer or snack, and roti is a Caribbean dish made from a type of flour tortilla filled with meat, vegetables, and spices.

Exchange of rings

Rings play a major role in St. Maarten marriages. The couple exchanges rings as a symbol of their love and commitment to one another during the ceremony. This is usually done after the couple has exchanged their vows. The ring serves as a bond between the couple for life.

Sip and savor

This is a unique ceremonial rite performed in Sint Maarten wedding ceremonies. Here, the couple takes a sip of a special drink and shares a bite of traditional food, symbolizing their unity and commitment to share their lives together. This is often performed in traditional marriages.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages are not legal in Sint Maarten; if such a marriage is performed in the Netherlands, it will be recognized in Sint Maarten. The country also offers discrimination protections based on sexual orientation. However, there are still legal challenges that are faced by same-sex couples that are not experienced by other opposite-sex couples.

Polygamous marriages 

In Sint Maarten, polygamous marriages are illegal. A man is not allowed to marry more than one woman, and likewise, a woman. Marriages in the country are governed by the Dutch civil code, which recognizes only monogamous marriages. If multiple spouses enter a marriage together, they may face legal consequences, and the other marriages performed after the first one will be nullified and invalid under the laws of the country.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws of marriage in Sint Maarten are similar to the laws of marriage in the Netherlands. This is so because Sint Maarten is a part of the Netherlands. Therefore, the requirements for marriage and the procedure for marriage in Sint Maarten are based on Dutch laws. To be legally married in Sint Maarten, intending couples must be at least 18 years of age or older. However, there is an exception to this rule. If one of the parties is 16 or 17 years old, they may be allowed to get married, provided there is written parental consent. In the absence of parental consent, a legal guardian is allowed to give permission. It is important to note that if one of the parties is under 16 years of age, he or she would not be allowed to contract marriage in Sint Maarten, regardless of the consent of the parents or legal guardian. 

According to the law, the couple must be single at the time of marriage. They must not be in any legally constituted marriage. If any of the couple has been married in the past but the marriage ended as a result of divorce or the death of one of the spouses, the concerned party is required to submit a copy of the original divorce certificate or the marriage and death certificate of the former spouse to the civil registry. Couples must not be closely related to each other. They must not be directly linked by blood or indirectly linked through marriage or adoption. The groom and bride must provide valid identification documents such as a passport, national ID card, driver's license, and birth certificate. 

Non-residents of Sint Maarten may be required by law to provide additional documentation, such as a certificate of no impediment, to confirm their marital status before marriage can take place. It is also required that one of the parties reside on the island for at least one day before the wedding. The wedding ceremony must be performed by a civil registrar or a person authorized by the government of Sint Maarten. The law also states that before marriage can take place, the groom and bride must consent to marriage. They must be in a sound state of mind to be able to give consent to marriage. If either of the spouses is not mentally fit, the marriage would be prevented from taking place. Additionally, force or violence must not be used to obtain consent from couples or to contract marriage.

Rights

When marriage is contracted, married men and women get to enjoy certain rights exclusive to marriage in addition to their various basic rights. Couples have the right to own, use, and manage property as they wish. Both parties have the right to decide on the marital regime of property that should be in effect during marriage. They both have the right to be recognized as the head of the home. The wife has the same right as her husband to be involved in the decision-making process concerning the wellbeing of the family. 

Both the husband and wife are equally entitled to inherit. At the demise of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse has the right to inherit the properties, land, and other assets of the deceased spouse without any restrictions. Married men and women have equal legal guardianship rights and parental authority over their children. In Sint Maarten, a husband and wife have equal citizenship rights. Both parties have the right to retain, acquire, or change their nationality, as well as confer it on their foreign spouses. Marriage does not infringe on the rights of the couple to vote and be voted for. Married men and women have the right to participate in politics and government without any restrictions. 

They also have the same right to participate in economic and financial activities outside the comfort of their homes. They have the right to own businesses, be gainfully employed, and make investments as they wish without having to seek permission from one another. Spouses have the right to seek legal assistance in cases of domestic abuse or violence. The husband and wife have the same right to file a divorce petition and exit the marriage once it is perceived that it is no longer retrievable.

Costs

There are a lot of factors to be considered when determining the cost of getting married in Sint Maarten. Factors such as the type of wedding, the size of the wedding, the location of the event, the choices of the couple, etc. To contract a civil marriage in Sint Maarten, the groom and bride must obtain a marriage license, which is estimated to cost around 180 to 270 Netherlands Antilles guilders, or approximately $100 to $200. 

The average cost of a wedding in the Netherlands is around 50,000 Dutch guilders (approximately $30,000). This includes expenses like the wedding venue, catering, photography, videography, wedding attire, and flowers.

Duties

Like in the Netherlands, couples have duties and responsibilities to perform in marriage to ensure the family functions as the foundation of society. The husband and wife have various roles to perform in the home, all of which are equally important. One of the husband's responsibilities in marriage is to be the provider. He is responsible for the economic and financial well-being of the family. He is expected to protect the family from any form of harm. He is obligated to take care of his wife and the children and ensure that their various needs are met as often as possible. 

The wife, on the other hand, is tasked with the roles of mother, wife, and primary care giver in the home. She is expected to take care of her husband and the children at all times. She is obligated to be welcoming and approachable at all times. The husband and wife both play a vital role in ensuring the needs of the family are adequately met. They both play an important role in ensuring that the children are properly taken care of. The educational, moral, physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the children is the responsibility of the husband and wife.

In Summary 

In Sint Maarten, weddings are important ceremonies that involve various marriage rituals from the couple as well as their family and friends. Couples may decide to perform both religious and civil ceremonies. But a civil ceremony must be performed for the marriage to be legally binding.

Both partners will be required to submit certain documents during the marriage registration procedure. Some churches also request additional documents, such as a baptismal certificate, from both spouses before solemnizing their marriage. Partners must reach out to their pastor or priest to be informed of the specific documents that may be required. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Sint Maarten.

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