Everything you need to know about marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands

21 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands 01

The Northern Mariana Islands are a U.S. commonwealth territory in the Pacific Ocean. The Northern Marianas is an archipelago made up of 14 islands, with the most popular ones being Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The territory is famous for its pristine blue waters and soft white sand, making it a popular spot for tourism and destination weddings. Every year, both foreigners and residents of the Northern Mariana Islands get married in the country through civil, religious, and symbolic marriage ceremonies. Both civil and religious marriages performed in the country are legally binding and have international validity; however, symbolic weddings in the country have no legal grounds. Most times, couples would have completed the formalities of their marriage in their home country before proceeding to perform a symbolic wedding ceremony in the Northern Mariana Islands. 

These weddings are mainly for the memories and beautiful ceremonial rites they contain. However, civil and religious weddings are legally binding. These marriages require the couple to submit some documents and also meet certain criteria before they are allowed to contract a marriage in the country. These will be touched on later in this article. The Chamorros are the indigenous people of the Northern Mariana Islands, and their culture has been shaped by a mix of indigenous, Spanish, and American influences. A lot of traditional weddings in the territory are performed based on the customs and traditions of the Chamorros. 

The island of Saipan in Northern Mariana Island is the most popular destination for weddings in the territory. The island features a wide range of wedding venues, including traditional Chamorro-style huts, beachside chapels, and large resorts. Some of the most popular activities for wedding couples and their guests include snorkeling, diving, and exploring the island's World War II-era sites. The laws governing the act of marriage in Northern Mariana Island are similar to those of the United States. Continue reading to find out more about the types of marriages in the country as well as the customs and traditions guiding them. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages

In the Northern Mariana Islands, civil marriages are legally binding and recognized by law. There are certain conditions that must be met by spouses before they are allowed to perform a civil marriage in the territory. The marriage must be conducted by a state-authorized marriage registrar in the civil office. Both of them getting married civilly must have reached the minimum age of marriage in the country. The marriage laws of the Northern Mariana Islands have stated the minimum age of marriage to be 18 years for both male and female spouses. Under special circumstances, a spouse aged 16 or 17 may be allowed to get married provided that they have obtained a court order or parental consent prior to the marriage application. Both partners are required to provide a valid means of identification and residence. 

Both foreigners and Northern Mariana Islanders who wish to get married in the country must be able to demonstrate that they have the legal capacity to contract a marriage. They must provide supporting documents that show they are single at the time of applying for marriage. This includes the submission of a single status certificate, divorce or death certificates, and other required documents as requested by the registrar. Both partners will also be required to provide valid witnesses during the marriage ceremony. Foreign spouses who are making use of wedding planners may seek their help for the provision of witnesses during the marriage registration and ceremony. In the Northern Mariana Islands, there is a three-day waiting period after the marriage license is issued before the ceremony can take place. After the ceremony, the marriage certificate must be signed by both parties, the officiant, and two witnesses. 

The signed certificate is then returned to the clerk's office for registration, and a certified copy of the certificate is issued. the However, the marriage registrar will only issue a marriage license if all the information that was submitted is valid. After the submission of documents, the registrar will verify the information with the concerned authorities before proceeding to schedule the marriage with the couple. If any issues are found with the submission of documents, the registrar has the authority to postpone or decline the couple’s request to marry in the registry. All documents obtained from foreign countries must be translated into English, Chamorro, or Carolinian. These are the official languages in the country, and documents that are in languages other than these must be translated by an accredited translator. All documents must also include an apostille proving their validity and legitimacy. The paperwork that must be submitted by both spouses is stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification. Northern Mariana Islanders may submit a national ID card, and foreign spouses may submit a valid passport.
  • A residency identification card must be submitted by spouses as proof of their residence in the territory.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to separated or widowed spouses who must demonstrate that their previous marriage was legally terminated.
  • An original live birth certificate may be accepted in some cases; however, it is not a major requirement.
  • Written parental consent or court order of a spouse between the ages of 16 and 18

Religions marriages 

Religious marriages are recognized and protected under the laws of the Northern Mariana Islands. The territory is dominated by Christians, with the Roman Catholic Church being the largest denomination, followed by the Independent Christian and Protestant churches. Buddhism is the second-most popular religious belief in the country. To have a religious marriage ceremony in the Northern Mariana Islands, the couple must first obtain a marriage license from the clerk's office or registry. 

The religious ceremony must be performed by a person authorized by the religious organization to perform marriages. After the ceremony, the marriage certificate must be signed by both parties, the officiant, and two witnesses. The signed certificate is then returned to the clerk's office for registration, and a certified copy of the certificate is issued. Church weddings usually include various ceremonial rites, from the processional to the exchange of vows and rings, and they often last about two to three hours.

Everything you need to know about marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands 02

Marriage traditions in the Northern Mariana Islands

Singsong

The singsong is a traditional Chamorro music and dance performance that is often performed during the wedding reception. It was performed by the couple as a way of symbolizing and expressing their love and appreciation for each other. This marriage ritual is still widely performed in the territory.

Rice Throwing

In Northern Mariana Islanders' wedding ceremonies, it is customary for rice to be thrown at the groom and bride as they leave the wedding ceremony. The rice is thrown at them by friends, family, and other guests, and it symbolizes prosperity and fertility in the couple's lives.

Coconut Money 

This is a traditional custom in the territory where the groom presents money wrapped in coconut leaves to the bride's family as a symbol of his willingness to support her. This tradition is not very popular in urban areas, but it is still performed in many rural communities.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages are legally binding in the Northern Mariana Islands. Spouses of the same gender obtained the right to perform legally recognized and protected marriages in the territory in 2015. However, same-sex sexual activity and homosexuality have been legal since 1983. There are some discrimination protections offered by the government to same-sex couples, and most of the rights and benefits of marriage are also enjoyed by couples of the same sex.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is illegal in the Northern Mariana Islands. The territory is governed by a similar set of laws as the United States, and in accordance with U.S. federal law, polygamy is prohibited in all states and territories. Violation of this law can result in criminal charges and penalties. Also, the country is primarily dominated by Christians, who do not practice polygamous marriages under their religion. Therefore, cases of marriages with multiple spouses are quite rare in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Everything you need to know about marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

In the Northern Mariana Islands, civil marriage, religious marriage, and customary marriages are allowed. However, religious and customary marriages do not hold any legal value. Anyone who wishes to be married under these two forms of marital union would still be required to have a legal ceremony and register the marriage at the civil registry. The laws of marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands share certain similarities with the laws of marriage in the United States. This is so because the Northern Mariana Islands are one of the overseas territories of the United States. Under the civil laws of marriage, the groom and bride must have attained the legal age to be able to contract marriage. 18 years old is the legal age for marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands. Minors may be allowed to contract marriage if their parents provide written permission.

In the absence of parental consent, permission from a legal guardian or a court's ruling is applicable. The law recognizes same-sex marriages. Same-sex couples are allowed to contract marriage without any restrictions in the Northern Mariana Islands. Just like in the United States, the groom and bride are required to be single at the time of marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands. They must either be widowed, unmarried, or divorced. They must not be in any legally constituted marriage. Before marriage can take place in the Northern Mariana Islands, the groom and bride are required to obtain a marriage license from the Clerk of Court. The civil ceremony must be performed by a judge, minister, or other authorized official. They do not have to fulfill any residency requirements to get married. 

The groom and bride are required to provide proof of their identities, such as a government-issued ID, passport, birth certificate, etc. There is no blood test requirement for couples to fulfill in the Northern Mariana Islands. However, couples are advised to ensure that they are medically compatible to avoid problems in the future. Marriage between foreigners and mixed marriages are allowed in this territory. However, the foreign spouse must be eligible for marriage in his or her home country. They must be able to prove their single status and also prove to the authorities that there is no legal impediment to marriage. According to the law, the husband and wife must not be related to each other in any way. Incestuous marriages are against the law in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Rights

According to the law of marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands, all men are equal before the law; therefore, couples enjoy equal rights and benefits from marriage. The husband and wife have the same right to work, right to property and inheritance, right to legal guardianship of the children, etc. They both enjoy the same right to exercise their political and legal rights in marriage. In the event of domestic violence, the husband and wife have the right to seek legal assistance. Couples have the same right to exercise parental authority over their children when necessary. 

In the event of a breakdown of marriage, both the husband and wife have equal rights to finalize divorce in the Northern Mariana Islands. After a divorce is granted, the husband and wife retain parental rights over their children. They both have the right to receive custody of the children. Couples have the right to live together in the same marital residence. They are both granted the right to support one another when needed. They both enjoy "next of kinship" rights, where they both have the right to make each other their next of kin. 

In the event of any crisis or medical emergency, they are both granted the right to make medical decisions for one another. In the Northern Mariana Islands, couples have the right to inheritance and property in the event of the death of one of the spouses. Couples do not only enjoy the right to inherit; they also have the right to make decisions on the disposition of the remains of the deceased spouse. They have the same right to work and receive equal payment for that work, regardless of gender or marital status.

Costs

Couples have to take a lot into consideration when preparing a wedding budget in the Northern Mariana Islands. The total cost of getting married in a country is determined by a number of factors, such as the couple's preferences, their financial ability, the time of the wedding, etc. Before marriage can take place in this territory, the couple must obtain a marriage license, which costs around $50. Couples have a variety of wedding venues to choose from. Couples who choose a beachfront hotel should expect to spend around $500 to $2,000 or more. 

Hotel wedding venues often have wedding packages for couples to choose from. These packages cost around $2,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the size of the wedding and the services provided. Hotel accommodations in the Northern Mariana Islands cost around $67 to as much as $105 per night. The cost of catering at a wedding ceremony in the Northern Mariana Islands depends on certain factors, such as the number of guests, the type of food served, etc. Couples should prepare to spend anywhere between $5 and $70 per person.

Duties

The duties and responsibilities of couples in an average family in the Northern Mariana Islands are similar to those of couples in the United States. The husband and wife have a duty to provide financial support for one another and the family as a whole. This includes paying for necessary household expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, etc. They both have a duty to love and support one another. There should be respect and commitment to one another. They also have a duty to be faithful to one another and avoid having extramarital affairs. 

Couples do not only have to fulfill their duties to one another; they also have to carry out their duties and responsibilities as parents. They are both responsible for providing for the basic needs of the children according to their means. They must ensure that the children are protected and safe from any form of harm. They have a duty to provide a sound educational upbringing and a proper moral background for the children. The husband and wife are both responsible for the total health, comfort, and welfare of the family. Even in the event of divorce, the husband and wife retain parental responsibilities for their children.

Conclusion 

Marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands is a memorable occasion, and couples may decide to have both their wedding and honeymoon there. The Northern Mariana Islands offer a range of activities for honeymooners, including golf, spa treatments, and island hopping.

The Northern Mariana Islands, as a U.S. territory, follow U.S. federal law regarding marriage. This means that the legal requirements for getting married in the Northern Mariana Islands are the same as in any other state or territory of the United States. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to know about marriage in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Related