Everything you need to know about marriage in Trinidad and Tobago

23 May 2023·22 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Trinidad and Tobago 01

Trinidad and Tobago, a dual-island Caribbean nation, is famous for its diversity and mix of African and Indian cultures. Marriage is regarded as the union between a man and a woman, and there are various ways through which couples get married in the country. The major types of marriage in Trinidad and Tobago are civil, Muslim, Hindu, and Orisa marriages. All the marriages are performed in accordance with the customs and religious beliefs of the couples getting married, except the first one. In some cases, spouses conduct symbolic and secular marriages; however, they are not very common due to the fact that they hold no legal grounds.

For a marriage to be recognized in a country, it must be registered by an authorized registrar or officiant. Most times, the religious bodies are registered under the law to conduct legal marriages, and the clergyman will have received authorization to ensure that every marriage ceremony is performed to have the same legal status as civil marriages. In Trinidad and Tobago, the legal marriage age is 18 years, but the marriage laws guiding this rule are quite different from those of most countries. The spouses who have not reached the age of 18 may be permitted to marry in the country so long as they have parental consent. 

Basically, the marriageable age of spouses is dependent on their religious beliefs. Muslims in the country have a minimum marriage age of 12 years, whereas Trinidadian and Tobagonian Hindus have a legal marriage age of 16. This implies that even though they are in the same country, a Hindu spouse cannot marry a partner from another religion if they are under 16, and likewise for other religions as needed. The other sections of this article include some of the various marriage traditions as well as the laws and rights guiding the act of marriage in the country.

Civil marriages 

In Trinidad and Tobago, civil marriages are the most widely performed type of marriage. This marriage is very common due to its universal legality. Civil marriages performed in Trinidad and Tobago are recognized in other countries around the world. Civil marriages are performed by two major bodies, namely superintendent registrars, popularly called wardens, and marriage registrars. The marriage is conducted at the civil registry where either or both spouses reside, and generally, marriages are only recognized as being legal if performed by a licensed marriage officer. The marriage registration process begins with the publication of banns to declare the intention of both spouses to marry each other; however, this is different from that of most other countries. 

In Trinidad and Tobago, couples can post banns on the same day their marriage ceremony will take place. However, this is not a rule. Some couples decide to publish the banns a few weeks or months before the actual marriage ceremony; however, the rule is that the marriage must be performed not more than 6 months from when the banns were published. The couple also has the responsibility of taking down the banns after a period of seven business days if nothing comes up as an issue to prevent the marriage from happening. The witnesses provided by the spouses will also need to submit some documentation, such as copies of their national identities, to the marriage officer. 

After all the marriage procedures and submissions are complete, the duty of the registrar is to submit the marriage to the registrar general and issue a marriage certificate to the spouses, which is usually still in a soft-copy or computerized format. Both spouses must be fully eligible for marriage in the country by having single status at the time of the application. Marriage applicants cannot be related to each other, as this is regarded as incest, and incestuous marriages are strictly prohibited. Civil marriages can only happen as a result of the free will and consent of both partners, and spouses below the legal marriage age must provide parental consent and proof of their religious laws that permit the marriage to take place before proceeding. There is some paperwork that is required from the two spouses before they are able to obtain a marriage document. These are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • National identity card or valid passport for a Trinidadian and Tobagonian couple or foreign spouses, respectively.
  • Proof of address There must be proof of where either spouse lives, especially if they are not citizens of the country. An electric bill can suffice for this.
  • Copies of both certificates. The spouses must ensure their birth certificates include all their necessary information in the correct arrangement and format.
  • Two witnesses must be provided by the spouses. They must both be at least 18 years old and have the legal capacity to act as such.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to spouses who were previously married and are now widowed or separated. If a document is obtained from a foreign country, it must be notarized and apostilled by the concerned authorities.

Religious marriage 

Religious marriages are also recognized and protected by law in Trinidad and Tobago. The major religions in the country include Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Furthermore, Muslim, Orthodox, and Christian marriages are also quite common. These marriages hold legal ground when they are performed by registered and authorized religious officiants, such as clergymen, under the stated religions. The Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches are the most popular Christian denominations, and they have certain rules and requirements that must be met by couples before they are allowed to marry. 

In Trinidad and Tobago, Catholic churches require the spouses to show certificates of their baptism, holy communion, and confirmation. Also, there is a premarital class that is mandatory for couples getting married. The priest usually conducts these classes, which may take up to six weeks to complete. During the church service, the spouses are pronounced husband and wife after the exchange of rings. Generally, the process of planning and preparing for religious marriages can take up to several months, and customary marriages can be quite expensive.

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Marriage traditions in Trinidad and Tobago

Lehengas or ghararas

These are popular attires that are worn during Muslim marriage ceremonies in Trinidad and Tobago. The lehengas include a short blouse and flared skirt that are paired with a dupatta, while the ghararas are more fitted and worn on the waist. Most times, it reaches the knees. This bridal attire is also adorned with various accessories and jewelry.

Wedding Reception 

Trinidadians and Tobagonians are quite big on reception parties. After the church service is concluded, the newlyweds are escorted with their wedding party and other guests to a new location for the reception. The reception party usually runs from noon until later in the night and includes a lot of dancing and resting. Traditional music is played, and the guests often sing along.

Wedding Favors 

In a typical Trinidadian and Tobagonian wedding ceremony, the custom is for the newlywed couple to receive various wedding gifts from the guests. Generally, the type of gift presented is up to the guest. It can be in the form of money or other gift items. These gifts are usually given to the newlyweds during the wedding reception.

Same-sex marriages

Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Trinidad and Tobago; however, the status of being a homosexual is legal. This status has been legal since 2018. LGBT people in the country face legal challenges and other forms of discrimination that opposite-sex couples do not. Same-sex couples are unable to enjoy marriage rights and benefits in the country.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is not recognized under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago. A man is only permitted to marry a single woman, and vice versa. The practice of this type of marriage can result in legal consequences; however, this type of marriage is not frequently criminalized in the country. This is due to the fact that customary marriage laws are also recognized and Muslims are allowed to practice polygamy.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

There is a civil code that regulates the laws of marriage in Trinidad and Tobago. However, the different religious institutions have various laws that guide marriage in the country. There are four officially recognized forms of marriage that couples can contract: civil marriage, Muslim marriage, Hindu marriage, and orisa marriage. According to the laws guiding civil marriages, the legal age for marriage is set at 18 years for both men and women; once Nationals have attained this age, they are permitted to contract marriage without any restrictions. The laws of Muslim marriage set the minimum age for marriage at 12 years for females and 14 years for males. The law believes that once a man and woman have reached puberty, they can contract marriage with the permission of their parents or legal guardian, also known as a wali. This causes an increase in child marriages in the country. 

The Hindu marriage laws set the minimum age for marriage at 14 years for women and 16 years for men. The laws guiding Orisa marriage set the minimum age of marriage at 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. The law specifically defines marriage as the voluntary union between a man and a woman, which, in other words, prohibits same-sex marriage in the country. Homosexual activity is not illegal, but it is not permitted to enter into marriage. The definition also mentions that marriage must be entered into voluntarily, so couples who wish to enter into marriage must do so voluntarily and must also give their free and willing consent to the marriage. The law does not expressly state the prohibition of forced marriages, but kidnapping a bride for the purpose of marrying her is considered an offense that is punishable with at least 10 years' imprisonment.

 The law recognizes informal and de facto unions. Couples who wish to live together as husband and wife but do not want to enter into an official marriage agreement are permitted to do so, and these unions are regulated by the cohabitation act of the country. According to the law, any official who conducts marriages between minors without the permission of parents or appropriate authorities faces penalties such as fines, imprisonment for up to 7 years, and the revocation of their license to conduct marriages. Civil marriage, Hindu marriage, and Orisa marriage must be conducted by an authorized marriage celebrant; otherwise, the marriage would not be considered legally binding. Polygamy is considered illegal according to the civil laws guiding marriage in the country. 

However, under various religious laws, such as the Muslim Marriage Act, men are allowed to contract marriage with more than one woman. Under any other form of marriage, polygamy is prohibited. At the celebration of marriage, the couple must present at least two witnesses, and they must be able to provide valid identity documents. The law also states that bigamy is illegal; neither of the couples must be in any marriage while contracting a new marriage; they must be single at the time of marriage. If either or both couples have been married in the past, they both must submit proof that such a marriage has been dissolved in the form of a divorce or death certificate. 

Foreigners are allowed to enter into marriage in Trinidad and Tobago provided they are eligible for marriage in their home country; those who are restricted from entering into marriage in their home country cannot gain asylum in Trinidad and Tobago. Both nationals and foreigners have to provide all required documents to the appropriate party for verification before marriage can be contracted.

Rights

The rights of husband and wife in Trinidad and Tobago are regulated by the laws of marriage in the country. The rights of couples who contract Muslim marriages, Hindu marriages, or Orisa marriages are regulated by these laws, but there is a common ground where all these laws meet and make general provisions for the rights of couples in the country. One of the most important rights couples enjoy in Trinidad and Tobago is the right to procreate, perform their roles as the legal guardians of the children, and exercise parental authority when necessary. 

Both the husband and wife have the right to file for divorce in special circumstances such as desertion, abuse, alcoholism, an unruly attitude, etc. If none of these reasons exist, the couple has the right to finalize divorce on mutual grounds when it is noticed that the marriage is no longer retrievable. They both have the right to testify in court, and their testimonies have equal value in a court of law. They are also entitled to the custody of the children, but the custody would only be granted to the parent that is believed to have the best interests of the children at heart. 

They both have the right to inheritance and property; the couple can decide to choose a martial regime of property, which would regulate how property is owned, used, and discarded. At the demise of one of the spouses, the property and estate of such a spouse automatically go to the surviving spouse. In the situation where a Trinidadian or Tobagonian woman marries a foreigner, she also has the same right as a man who marries a foreigner to confer their nationality on their children born outside the country.

Costs

Getting married in Trinidad and Tobago is relatively easy and affordable. The cost of getting a marriage license for couples who wish to contract civil marriage is estimated at TT$62.50 and an extra TT$25 for a valid copy of the marriage certificate. The number of guests invited to the ceremony largely affects the budget and the wedding as a whole; therefore, couples have to know the exact number of guests they want at the wedding ceremony. A wedding venue always takes up a very large part of the wedding budget. 

Couples who do not want to spend so much on the wedding venue can decide to have an intimate ceremony at local restaurants or in their backyard because the average cost of a wedding venue ranges from $8,000 to $35,000. The flowers and decorations at the wedding venue take second place after the cost of the venue. The taste of the couple, the number of invited guests, the decorator, and the style of the decorations all contribute to the expensive cost of a wedding decoration. The average range for the cost of food and drinks for guests ranges from around $295 to $460 per guest. 

The total cost would be derived based on the number of guests invited. Couples should expect to spend around $16,000–$35,000 on photography and videography. The couple's attire is also an important part of the wedding budget. Couples who wish to patronize big brands must be financially stable, while average couples can easily buy from local brands or rent their wedding attire. The total cost of a wedding ceremony in Trinidad and Tobago is determined by the financial ability of the couple.

Duties 

The duties of a husband and wife in Trinidad and Tobago are governed by the country's marriage laws. A lot of emphasis is placed on the role of the family in society; therefore, the husband and wife have specific roles to carry out to ensure the proper management of the family. They both have an obligation to provide mutual love and respect, as well as mutual assistance, for one another. The husband and wife have a duty to protect one another and the family as a whole; they are responsible for ensuring that the family is not in any form of danger or harm. 

The educational background and moral upbringing of the children are two of the most important duties of the husband and wife. They are responsible for the provision of the material needs of the family and can decide to jointly contribute to the financial and total welfare of the family. The law does not state that the woman is obligated to obey her husband at all times; the opinions of both parties must be respected in order to ensure the smooth running of the family. 

While there is equality in the division of duties in the family, the woman is still seen as the primary care giver of the family; she is responsible for doing all the domestic house chores and providing care for the children and her husband, while the husband assumes the role of provider of the family. Nevertheless, these roles and responsibilities are carried out interchangeably.

In Summary 

Marriage traditions in Trinidad and Tobago are quite unique, especially when it comes to the type of attire worn. Various groups and communities have unique attire that is worn during marriage ceremonies to showcase their ethnicity as well as religious beliefs. Hilstein Manor and Palexaura Villa are some of the most popular wedding venues in the country.

The majority of marriages performed in the country are civil marriages, owing to how widely recognized they are in Trinidad and Tobago and other countries around the world. Even though polygamy is not recognized under the civil laws of the country, it is still widely practiced; however, same-sex couples still have no recognition or protection under the country’s laws. This article is a full guide to everything you need to know about marriages in Trinidad and Tobago.

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