Everything you need to know about marriage in the Solomon Islands

17 Aug 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in the Solomon Islands 01

The Solomon Islands are an archipelago in Oceania that consists of six major islands and over 900 small islands. The country is famous for its remarkable biodiversity and beautiful natural attractions. Every year, both foreigners and Solomon Islanders perform different types of marriages in the country. Couples get married in either a civil, religious, traditional, or symbolic wedding ceremony. Civil and religious marriages are very popular in the Solomon Islands, and their procedures are quite different. Civil marriages are performed by government officials, while religious marriages are conducted by ministers of the couple's religion, such as pastors, priests, imams, etc. 

Most symbolic weddings in the country are performed by foreigners due to the high level of freedom it offers all couples. In symbolic weddings, there are no strict requirements or formalities to be followed, and spouses have the freedom and flexibility to perform any ceremonial rite based on their preferences. Civil and religious marriages have strict marriage requirements that are laid out by the registered marriage officers in accordance with the civil codes and principles of the respective religious beliefs of the couples. Under the country's marriage act, the legal minimum marriage age is 18 years for both male and female spouses. In some special cases, spouses between the ages of 15 and 18 may be allowed to marry provided that they have parental consent and judicial permission. 

However, there is a high level of disjuncture between customary marriages and formal civil marriages in the country. Under customary marriages, a lot of spouses get married before reaching the age of 15. These marriages are performed based on indigenous customs instead of statutory laws. The prevalence of child marriages in the Solomon Islands is 21 percent for marriages before the age of 18. About 6 percent of marriages are contracted by spouses before reaching the age of 15. The majority of these marriages are performed as a result of the country's high level of gender inequality in most customary marriages. As you read on, you will find out more about marriages in the Solomon Islands and their various customs and traditions. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages

In the Solomon Islands, civil marriages are performed by the registrar of marriages in the civil registry. This type of marriage is legally recognized and protected in the Solomon Islands and other foreign countries. Couples are required to choose the registry office in the municipality or district where they reside for the wedding ceremony. To perform a civil marriage, there are different processes involved, from obtaining a marriage license to the final issuance of a marriage certificate. The procedure of getting married civilly begins with an official marriage application, which must be performed in person by both spouses. The couple must head to the civil registry to give their notice of intended marriage to the registrar. 

The notice period is usually 14 days prior to the wedding ceremony, and the couple is required to sign the notice of intended marriage and fill in the appropriate information. After the wedding ceremony, the couple must also provide the registrar with a certified copy of the marriage certificate issued by the marriage officer. After the marriage application is completed, both partners are required to attach all the necessary documents needed to complete the marriage registration. Both spouses must provide valid photo IDs and proof of age. They are required to provide two witnesses who have the legal capacity to act as such. The witnesses must not be relatives of both spouses, and couples are often advised to choose witnesses with good legal standing. 

The witnesses chosen must be reliable to avoid postponement or delays on the wedding day as a result of their not showing up at the expected time. The official language in the Solomon Islands is English, and all documents submitted must be in this language. In some cases, the documents obtained from the home country of foreign spouses may be issued in other languages. Before being submitted to the Solomon Islands, these documents must be translated into English by an accredited translator. The actual marriage ceremony is also performed in English. Therefore, couples who do not speak this language may provide an authorized interpreter during the ceremony. 

Most civil marriage ceremonies last for only 20–30 minutes, but the procedure of submitting the required documents may take a few weeks. Both spouses who wish to perform a civil marriage must have reached the age of 18 except if they have parental or judicial consent that may allow them to get married if they have reached the age of 15, as stated earlier in the introductory section. Both spouses must not be related to each other, and they must give verbal consent of their own free will to get married. All documents submitted are often verified to ensure they have legal grounds in the country. The documents both spouses are required to submit are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid photo ID such as a national identity card or a valid passport
  • Proof of address This document applies to foreign spouses, and they must submit a recently issued proof of address showing they have been residing in the Solomon Islands.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage This document must show that a spouse is facing no legal obstructions and is both single and eligible for marriage.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to previously married spouses. They simply provided either of them with proof that their previous union was legally terminated.
  • Certified copies of the birth certificates of both spouses must be provided.
  • Both partners must provide two witnesses within their legal capacity to act as such.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are recognized in the Solomon Islands, and these marriages are performed in accordance with the laws of the regional traditions or religious bodies of the couples. The predominant religion in the Solomon Islands is Christianity, and Anglicanism is the largest denomination. Most of the marriages performed in the Solomon Islands follow Christian marriage rites. 

Nevertheless, the country allows freedom of religion. Spouses can practice any religion of their choice and get married according to their principles, provided they do not go against the civil codes of the country. To get married in a church, both partners must contact the priest or pastor to announce their intention of marriage and begin the wedding preparations. In some churches, spouses may make an announcement during the church service, often inviting everyone to the upcoming ceremony.

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Marriage traditions in the Solomon Islands

Betrothal Ceremony

This is a pre-wedding ceremony that is very important in marriages in the Solomon Islands. Here, the groom's family formally asks for the hand of the bride in marriage. Upon the approval of the bride's family, there is usually a bride-taking ceremony where the bride is formally given to the groom and his family.

Gift-giving

It is customary for the groom and his family to present various gift items to the bride's family. This is usually performed after the conclusion of the betrothal ceremony, and the gifts are different from the bride price. These gifts are meant to be a kind gesture and a symbol of respect.

Bride Price

To perform a traditional marriage in the Solomon Islands, the bride's family will present a list of items to be provided to the groom’s family. This is done before the actual wedding ceremony takes place. The bride price is usually issued according to the financial capacity of the groom, and it may include money, livestock, etc.

Same-sex marriages

Two people of the same sex are not allowed to perform a marriage in the Solomon Islands. It is illegal to be a homosexual and perform same-sex sexual activities in the country. Perpetrators of this act may face legal consequences of up to 14 years' imprisonment. Even though the penalty has not been implemented, legalization is still being considered. There are no discrimination protections, and members of the LGBT community face legal challenges that are not experienced by others in the Solomon Islands.

Polygamous marriages 

In the Solomon Islands, both civil and customary laws do not allow polygamous marriages. Marriage must be performed between one man and one woman. In ancient times, there used to be cases of polygamy in the country; this has changed in recent times. Polygamy is very rare in the Solomon Islands. Marriages in the country continue to be monogamous.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

There are various laws governing the act of marriage in the Solomon Islands, which must be abided by couples to ensure the validity of their marriage in the country. In the Solomon Islands, the groom and bride are required to be single. They must be single, divorced, or widowed. If any of the couple have been married previously, they are required to ensure that the marriage has been dissolved. In the case of divorce, the concerned party is required to submit a copy of the original divorce decree certificate. In the case of widowhood, the certificate of marriage and death of the former spouse must be submitted to the appropriate authorities. The Islanders Marriage Act governs the country's marriage laws. 

According to this act, the minimum legal age for marriage in the Solomon Islands is 15 years. However, parental consent is required for anyone under the age of 18 who wishes to enter into a marriage contract. In the absence of parental consent, a court ruling is applicable. The laws stating the legal age for marriage are not applicable to customary marriages. Civil marriages, religious marriages, and customary marriages are recognized as legally binding in the Solomon Islands. A civil marriage must be conducted by the district registrar, while a religious marriage must be conducted by an authorized minister or priest. Customary marriages must be carried out properly according to the customs and traditions of the country. 

A notice of intended marriage must be submitted to the civil registrar, after which a marriage license would be issued, allowing the couple to contract marriage. Marriage must be contracted based on the free will of the couple. The groom and bride must give their free and willing consent to marriage, void of any external influence. Any marriage formed through the use of force or violence violates the marriage laws outlined in the Islanders' Marriage Act. Foreigners are allowed to be married in the country. 

It is important to note that before marriage can take place, the foreign spouse must be able to prove to the authorities that there is no legal impediment to marriage and that she is legally capable of contracting marriage from his or her home country. Incestuous marriages are against the law in the Solomon Islands. Anyone who wishes to be married must not be closely related to one another. They must not share any form of affinity. The couple is required to provide at least two witnesses at the time of marriage. The witnesses must not be close relatives of the couple, and they must have valid documentation.

Rights

In the Solomon Islands, the husband and wife enjoy various rights in marriage. However, there are some restrictions placed on these rights due to traditional stereotypes, and they often affect women. According to the Islanders Act, once marriage is contracted, the couple has the right to enjoy their fundamental rights alongside the specific rights made available by virtue of marriage. The right to work, the right to justice, and the right to legal guardianship of the children are all granted to the couple. The husband and wife have the same right to be recognized as the legal guardians of the children. 

However, the husband is believed to be more appropriate for this role, and the wife is only allowed to take on this role when the husband is not mentally stable or is dead. The groom and bride have the same right to work, but there is no law that guarantees equal payment for work done. Married women are not fairly treated at the workplace. Couples are granted the same right to be actively involved in politics. They have the same right to vote and be elected to public government offices. They both have equal citizenship rights, but the wife does not enjoy the same right as the husband to change, acquire, or confer their nationality on their foreign spouses or on their children. 

Both husband and wife have the same right to access financial and economic resources. Spouses do not need to obtain permission from one another to be able to access credits, open bank accounts, or make investments. The law grants the husband and wife the same right to file for divorce. They both have the right to initiate divorce on mutual grounds or based on the fault of one of the spouses. Some of the fault-based grounds include adultery, desertion, imprisonment, infidelity, sodomy, domestic violence, abuse, etc.

Costs

Getting married in the Solomon Islands is quite expensive. The practice of paying a bride price is rampant in the country. Therefore, while calculating the total cost of marriage, couples should endeavor to add the cost of the bride price, which is not fixed. The cost of marriage is estimated to be anywhere from 3,000 dollars to 10,000 dollars. However, couples and families who want to perform grand weddings may end up spending as much as 40,000 dollars. 

There are various factors that determine the cost of a wedding in the Solomon Islands, such as the couple's preferences and the wedding budget. The cost of an average wedding can include expenses such as the ceremony and reception venue, catering, flowers, photography and videography, wedding attire, and entertainment.

Duties

Traditionally, in the Solomon Islands, the duties and responsibilities of couples in marriage are divided according to the various gender roles of the couple. An average home in the country is male-dominated. The couple bears the majority of the duties and responsibilities of marriage. The husband has a duty to be dominant, self-reliant, etc. He is expected to be able to take care of himself and his family members single-handedly. The wife, on the other hand, is expected to be fragile and obey her husband at all times. 

The husband is responsible for the total and general welfare of the family. He is obligated to provide for the material needs of the family. The wife is responsible for the domestic housework. She is expected to cook, clean, and ensure that the house is in order at all times. She has a duty to take care of the children and cater to their needs according to her means. The couple is obligated to provide for the educational, moral, and emotional needs of the children according to their various means.

Conclusion 

The Solomon Islands are known for their beautiful natural scenery and diverse culture, which make the country an attractive destination for a wedding or honeymoon. The country is home to a variety of picturesque beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant coral reefs that offer couples and their wedding guests opportunities for outdoor activities, such as diving, snorkeling, and hiking.

Getting married in the Solomon Islands in a formal, recognized ceremony involves the submission of various documents and the meeting of some criteria. Couples must go to the registry to find out what documents they need to submit to the marriage registrar. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in the Solomon Islands.

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