Everything you need to know about marriage in the British Virgin Islands

18 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in the British Virgin Islands 01

The British Virgin Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, famous for its reef-lined beaches and as a popular yachting destination. Over 200 marriages are performed every year in the territory by both foreigners and Virgin Islanders, and it is easy to obtain a marriage certificate that is valid internationally. The territory has different elements that make it a top spot for destination weddings for couples all over the world. There are no strict residency requirements to perform a marriage in the British Virgin Islands. Most couples are able to obtain a marriage license within a day. The process of making a marriage application may be done in person or online. This ensures that couples are allowed to begin their marriage application prior to their arrival in their country. 

The islands offer beautiful beaches, clear blue waters, and a tropical climate that make for a perfect setting for a wedding. Many resorts and hotels on the islands offer wedding packages that include everything from the ceremony to the reception and can help couples plan every aspect of their special day. Couples who wish to get married in the British Virgin Islands have the freedom to perform various types of marriages, ranging from symbolic to civil, religious, and secular marriages. Civil and religious marriages hold legal grounds and are recognized and permitted under the laws of the territory. However, symbolic and secular weddings are not legal or binding ceremonies. These types of marriages are performed based on the preferences of the couple, and they hold no legal presence in the British Virgin Islands. 

Even though these types of marriages are not legally binding, they are becoming increasingly popular because they do not require any marriage registration or license and may be performed in any location chosen by the couple. A British Virgin Islands symbolic wedding ceremony may take place at the beach, a private villa, or a garden. The most interesting thing about symbolic weddings in the territory is how much they can be personalized to suit the couple's preferences. Most people who perform these types of marriages are foreigners who may have previously conducted a civil marriage in their home country. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages in the British Virgin Islands and their various traditions. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

In the British Virgin Islands, civil marriages are performed by a state-authorized marriage registrar in the registrar-general’s office or the civil registry. Marriages performed by a registrar are legally binding in the territory and other foreign countries. The process of getting married in the British Virgin Islands is simple; however, spouses are still required to submit certain documents and meet a set of criteria before they are allowed to contract their marriage in the territory. The couple may make an official application for their intention to marry online. They are simple and straightforward in their instructions on how to fill it. After the application is completed, the couple must submit it to the marriage officer of their choice. 

The application for the marriage license must be made in person by the spouses at the registrar general’s office. The registrar general's office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. If a marriage ceremony is to be performed outside of these hours, it may result in the payment of additional fees. One of the most important marriage conditions that must be met by spouses is the minimum marriage age. The marriage laws of the British Virgin Islands set the legal marriage age at 18 years old for both male and female spouses. However, there may be an allowance for marriage in some exceptional cases. If a spouse has reached the ages of 16 or 17, they may be allowed to marry by obtaining a special license to marry with the provision of parental or guardian consent. After the marriage license is issued to couples, it will be valid for a period of three months from the date it was signed. 

The marriage ceremony must be performed by the couple within this period, and they must provide valid witnesses who have reached the age of 18 or above. If the marriage is not performed within the stipulated period, it will render the marriage license invalid, and the couple will be required to begin the marriage registration process all over. There are two types of marriage licenses that can be obtained by couples. There is an ordinary license that allows foreign spouses to get married provided that they have been residents of the British Virgin Islands for 15 days or more. The second type is a special license that allows a foreign spouse to get married in the British Virgin Islands after residing in the territory for just one day. This requires the payment of additional fees that may amount to about double the amount paid for an ordinary marriage license. Both partners will be required to show proof of their identities and marital status, as well as other necessary supporting documents. The documents that must be submitted by both spouses are stated below.

Documents Required

  • Proof of identity. This includes a national ID card or valid passport.
  • Proof of residence and date of arrival Foreign spouses are required to provide paperwork showing how long they have resided in the territory.
  • Both partners must provide valid witnesses who have the legal capacity to act as such.
  • Proof of marital status Divorced partners must provide certified copies of their degree of absolute custody or death certificates of their deceased spouses.
  • Written parental consent provided by spouses between the ages of 16 and 18

Religious marriages

Religious marriages are recognized and protected under the British Virgin Islands' laws, provided that they are conducted by a licensed minister and registered with the government. The territory is multiethnic, with a mix of blacks, Hispanics, whites, Indians, and others. Marriages in various territories are performed in distinct ways as ethnic groups have their own special marriage rituals performed using weddings. The predominant religious belief in the British Virgin Islands is Christianity. The largest denomination is the Methodist Church, and most marriages are performed in this church. 

To begin the marriage preparation process, both partners must approach the pastor to make an official declaration of their intention to marry. The pastor will conduct an interview before the wedding is scheduled to ensure both partners are fully aware of the implications of marriage and are willing to spend the rest of their lives together. To be legally binding, their church marriage must be registered at the registrar general's office once it is completed.
 

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Marriage traditions in the British Virgin Islands

Engagement Ceremony

This is a very important pre-wedding ceremony that is attended by both families. Here, the families of the bride and groom come together to formally announce the engagement and also begin the wedding preparations. It also serves as a way of getting more familiar with other future family members.

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

This is a ceremonial rite where separate parties are organized for the bride and groom. These parties are organized by the groom’s best man and the bride's maid of honor, as well as their other close friends. The parties may include drinking and sharing different memories as the couple transitions to a new life.

The First Dance

During the wedding reception, it is customary for the newlyweds to have their first dance. Here, music is played while they are cheered on by the guests to take the dance floor and show some dancing moves. In some cases, the guests may form a big circle, and the couple will have to dance in the middle of the circle.

Same-sex marriages 

In the British Virgin Islands, homosexuality and same-sex sexual activity have been legal since 2001. However, same-sex couples are not allowed to be in a relationship with each other. There is no recognition for same-sex unions, partnerships, or marriages. Members of the LGBT community face various legal challenges and discriminations that are not experienced by non-LGBT members. There are no marriage entitlements or benefits for same-sex couples.

Polygamous marriages 

In the British Virgin Islands, polygamous marriages are prohibited and illegal. The Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance, which governs marriage and divorce in the territory, specifically states that "a person shall not marry any person while still being lawfully married to any other person." Violation of this law can result in criminal charges, including bigamy, which is punishable by imprisonment as well as the payment of fines.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The British Virgin Islands have specific laws and requirements for getting married. Under the laws of marriage, 18 years is the legal age for marriage in the country. Anyone who wishes to be married and is under 21 years of age must obtain written consent or verbal consent from a parent or a legal guardian. The groom and bride must not already be legally married. Before marriage can take place, a marriage license must be obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Labor. Marriage by proxy is not allowed in the British Virgin Islands. The application for marriage must be made in person by the couple. They must be able to provide valid identity documentation, such as proof of citizenship, a national identification card, a birth certificate, etc.

After the marriage license has been issued, the groom and bride are required to wait for a period of three days before the ceremony can take place. The wedding ceremony must be performed by a legally authorized marriage officer. The couple is required to provide at least two witnesses, who must be present at the ceremony. If either of the couples has been divorced, a copy of the divorce decree must be presented. In the case of widowhood, the marriage and death certificates of the previous spouse must be submitted. In the British Virgin Islands, marriage certificates should be collected from the civil registrar after the ceremony. In this British overseas territory, religious marriages are legally recognized, and they must be performed by a minister of religion who is authorized to solemnize marriages by the government. 

The minister must be a member of a recognized religious organization and hold a government-issued marriage officer's certificate. The process of contracting a religious marriage is very similar to the process of contracting a civil marriage, in the sense that a marriage license must also be obtained and a waiting period of three days must be observed before the ceremony can take place. Like civil marriages, the ceremony must be performed in the presence of two witnesses. Customary marriages, also known as traditional or indigenous marriages, are allowed but not legally recognized in the British Virgin Islands. 

This implies that couples who wish to marry under traditional customs and practices are still required to follow the legal requirements for marriage and obtain a marriage license before marriage can take place. The ceremony must be performed by a legally authorized marriage officer. It's important to note that this might be different for different ethnic groups living in the British Virgin Islands. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in the British Virgin Islands. The Constitution of this British overseas territory does not currently provide for same-sex marriage. However, LGBT rights are protected, and they are allowed to carry out same-sex activities.

Rights

The rights of married couples in the British Virgin Islands are encoded in the British common laws. In general, husband and wife have equal rights as humans and by virtue of marriage. Once marriage is contracted, they get to exercise fundamental human rights alongside marriage-specific rights such as the right to file joint taxes, the right to exit marriage, and the right to own property, among many others. The husband and wife have the rational right to name each other as next of kin. This is also known as "next of kinship" rights. In cases of emergencies, they both have the right to make important decisions on behalf of one another. Marriage automatically gives the husband and wife legal guardianship of their children.

They are both granted equal parental rights. However, these rights must not be misused, and they cannot be revoked. The husband and wife have the right to receive equal pay for work done. Any form of discrimination as a result of their marital status is against the law. When one of the spouses dies, the surviving spouse is entitled to inherit all of the deceased spouse's assets. If there is a written will, the inheritance will be divided according to the dictates of the will. The couple has the same right to own, use, and manage property as they wish, regardless of the marital regime of property chosen at the time of marriage.

Costs

The cost of getting married in the British Virgin Islands can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the location of the ceremony, the type of wedding package chosen, and the number of guests. Some of the costs include the marriage license fee, which is estimated to be around $300. The cost of the ceremony itself can range from anywhere around 700 dollars for a simple intimate wedding or a beach wedding to over 5,000 dollars for a more elaborate and extravagant event. 

Couples should expect to include the cost of any additional expenses in the wedding budget. Expenses like the flowers and decorations, photography and videography, transportation, catering, and music and entertainment at the event Couples can consult wedding planners to get an accurate estimate of the total cost of getting married in the British Virgin Islands and also reduce the stress that comes with planning a wedding.

Duties

Married couples have a responsibility and duty to one another, to the children in the home, as well as to the family as a whole. The welfare of the children is one of the couple's most important duties in marriage. The husband and wife must ensure that the children are provided with adequate care according to their means. The couple is required to provide a safe and conducive environment for the growth and development of the children. The children should be provided with adequate educational and moral upbringing, which would ensure that they grow up to become upstanding citizens of the country. 

The husband and wife are both responsible for the economic, financial, and general wellbeing of the family. They are both obligated to contribute to the health and comfort of the family. Married men and women are obligated to love and respect one another, live together in the same matrimonial home, provide adequate support and assistance for one another, and ensure that there is loyalty, fidelity, and commitment to the marriage.

Conclusion 

The British Virgin Islands is a popular territory for destination weddings due to its beautiful scenery and weather. Couples are allowed to perform both legal and symbolic weddings. A legal wedding in the British Virgin Islands typically involves obtaining a marriage license and having the ceremony conducted by a licensed minister.

The marriage ceremony must be registered with the government, and both spouses are required to have witnesses present. The witnesses provided must not be relatives of either the male or female spouse. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriage in the British Virgin Islands. 

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