Everything you need to know about marriage in Turkmenistan

24 Apr 2023·19 min to read
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Turkmenistan is a central Asian country dominated mostly by Sunni Muslims. Thousands of marriages take place in the country every year, and foreigners are allowed to marry in the country if all requirements are met. Marriages are very important events in the lives of the Turkmens. When spouses get married, it often represents the continuity and supremacy of the family in the community and country at large. There are various unique traditions celebrated during Turkmenistan weddings that must not be skipped by the couples getting married.

Various forms of marriage are held in the country, from civil marriages to religious, customary or traditional, and symbolic ones. However, civil marriages are the only ones that are legally binding and recognized under the laws of the country. In the old days, the marriage laws guiding who a Turkmen could marry used to be very strict. Marriages only took place when the bride and groom were from the same tribe. Things have changed now, and this law is no longer strict. Many Turkmens now marry spouses from other tribes and even other countries.

The country is dominated by Muslims, and religious marriages follow the Islamic principles of sharia law. The minimum legal age for marriage in the country is set at 18 years, and spouses must have reached this age before proceeding with marriage except in special circumstances where an 18-year-old is permitted to marry with parental consent. Continue reading to find out how civil and religious marriages are performed in the country. 

Civil marriages 

A civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legally binding in Turkmenistan. It is conducted by a notary or authorized registrar and takes place in the registry office. The registry office where the marriage will be performed must be in the same district as the couple's residence. It is mandatory for spouses to have their marriage officially registered by submitting all the required documents and meeting the necessary criteria. Civil marriages are performed in the country's registry office or in the consulate or embassy of the spouses in foreign countries. The marriage registration must be attended by both spouses, and the use of proxies is not permitted. 

Couples must be of the required legal age before proceeding with marriage plans, and those below this age must receive written parental consent from their parents giving them permission to do this. Both partners must be single at the time of marriage. Turkmenistan has strict laws about polygamy, and it is strictly not accepted. The spouses must also ensure there is nothing or no one that can cause an objection to the marriage between them. For a marriage to be recognized and protected by law, it must be properly registered, and a marriage license must be obtained by the spouses. The documents required to marry in Turkmenistan are stated below.

Required Documents 

  • National identity card or valid passport. These respective documents must be provided by Turkmen and foreign spouses.
  • Copies of the birth certificate
  • Certificate of single status. Before marriage is allowed, spouses must not still be in a previous relationship or marriage. The couple must ensure their civil status is valid.
  • Deed poll. This paperwork is not always requested, but it may be needed in cases where a partner changed their name.
  • Proof of residency Foreign spouses must have been living in Turkmenistan before going ahead with the marriage.
  • Divorce and death certificates Widowed or separated spouses must file paperwork to prove that their marriage was legally ended.
  • Payment of all the required fees

Religious marriages 

In Turkmenistan, religious marriages are not legally binding. Couples who want to perform a religious marriage must first conduct a civil marriage and ensure they have been lawfully registered. Most of the people living in Turkmenistan are Muslims. Couples who want to perform a religious marriage must first conduct a civil marriage and ensure they have been lawfully registered. Most of the people living in Turkmenistan are Muslims. Only a fraction of the population is comprised of orthodox Christians and other religions. This shows that a lot of the religious and customary marriages will be based on Islamic principles. Under the Muslim faith, there are some conditions that must be met by spouses before they are allowed to marry. 

A formal, binding marriage contract is drawn up in which the rights and responsibilities of the bride and groom are outlined. It is customary for the parties to provide witnesses during the course of signing the marriage contract. Also, the contract must be signed in the presence of the marriage officiant, the imam. The ceremony is mostly performed in the mosque; however, it may be conducted in the bride's house if the imam approves it. The groom's mahr is usually settled after negotiations between the groom's and bride's families. There is no maximum to how much a mahr can be, and it all depends on how wealthy the marrying parties are. Under sharia law, a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman. 

After marriage, she automatically adopts the Islamic faith of her husband. However, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man unless the man has agreed to fully convert to Islam before the marriage. Muslim marriages may be celebrated in two parts. The first one will be a ceremony attended by only family members and close friends of the bride and groom, while the second can be an elaborate party in a different wedding venue, often the reception. Here, hundreds of guests are invited to celebrate with the couples, and the newlyweds also receive several gifts during the celebration.

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Marriage traditions in Turkmenistan

Extravagant bridal dresses

The tradition is for a woman to appear in vibrant, beautiful dresses and be adorned with expensive jewelry in her wedding ceremony. The bride must stand out, and traditional attire with various colorful patterns and designs is worn. The ceremony is regarded as one of the most important days in the lives of the couples, and they go all out on the kinds of outfits worn.


The kerchief refers to the headscarf that is used in wedding rituals. The procession is often decorated with colorful kerchiefs, and young female guests also add a colorful kerchief to their dresses. The handkerchiefs are supposed to represent beauty and happiness. Towards the end of the ceremony, the groom may give more guests handkerchiefs as a way of warding off evil.


The Takhya is one of the most important ceremonial rites in Turkmen wedding ceremonies. It is the headdress that is worn by both the husband and wife during the ceremony. Some people believe it brings them good luck and protects them from illness. Takhyas are always designed with high-quality fabrics, and the men's are differentiated from the women’s by the types of patterns used. These headdresses have been worn since ancient times and are still a major ritual in weddings to this day.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


Marriage in Turkmenistan is only solemnized when all the rules and laws have been fulfilled and all documentation has been verified. The family code in Turkmenistan defines marriage as the voluntary union of a man and woman established within the legal framework of marriage in the country. The minimum legal age of marriage in the country for men and women used to be 18 and 15 years, respectively, but it has now been adjusted to 18 years for both men and women. Minors may be considered for marriage under special circumstances, but parental consent is required; otherwise, the marriage is null and void. The country is largely Muslim, but the laws of marriage are not founded on Islamic laws but on civil laws; therefore, only civil marriage is legally recognized and protected by the law of the country. Religious and customary marriages are not illegal, but they are not considered to be legally binding, so intending couples may only hold religious or customary marriages after a civil marriage has been contracted. 

The civil marriage must be held at the state civil registry in the presence of the civil registrar and two witnesses chosen by the couple. The use of coercion to contract marriage is illegal; kidnapping the bride and forcing her to contract marriage with the use of force is a crime punishable by law. Marriage must be contracted with free will; therefore, the free and full consent of both parties, void of any form of interference from third parties, must be obtained before marriage can be contracted in Turkmenistan. If one of the couple is not mentally stable, such a union would not be recognized because it is believed that they both do not have the capacity to give proper consent to marriage. De facto relationships are allowed in the country; couples who are not legally married but have lived together for at least 3 years may be allowed to continue such a union without having to contract a formal marriage. Polygamy is prohibited in Turkmenistan. 

Couples must be single while contracting marriage; persons who are still legally married and wish to contract a new marriage would not be allowed to do so under the law; such persons would have to annul such marriage before a new one can be contracted; and if it is a woman who gets a divorce from her previous marriage, she has to wait for at least 300 days before another marriage can take place. Proof of nullification of a previous marriage, such as a certificate of divorce or death in the event of widowhood, must be provided if one or both parties have been married before. Turkmenistan nationals who wish to marry foreigners are allowed to do so. Before now, foreigners would have had to pay $50,000 before permission would be given to contract marriage, but this law has been scrapped, and marriage between Turkmens and foreigners can be contracted freely and in accordance with the laws of the country. Marriage is forbidden between people who share the same ancestral link, whether by blood, marriage, or adoption. A compulsory medical examination, which must involve an HIV/AIDS test, must be done by both couples and the result presented to the civil registry.


In addition to the provisions for equal rights of men and women in society embedded in the country's constitution, the Turkmenistan family law specifically mentions the equal rights of husband and wife in the home by virtue of marriage. When a marriage is no longer working, both the husband and the wife have the legal right to divorce; nevertheless, Turkmenistan's society frowns on divorce, so very few couples actually use this right. According to the law, men and women have equal inheritance rights; however, due to the stereotype mindset that women are only meant to be mothers and primary caregivers of the family, limitations are placed on their rights to advance their educations and careers. 

Couples have the right to guardianship and parental authority, and they also possess the right to raise children, whether biological or adopted, according to their religious, moral, social, political, and economic beliefs. The couple have the right to protect their family from any form of violence or hurt that might come to them. Property acquired during marriage by either of the spouses, even if one of the spouses does not have a formal job, is jointly owned, and the spouses have the right to use and dispose of the property. Both spouses have the right to make decisions that influence the welfare and wellbeing of the family, such as choosing the residence of the family or the type of education to give the children.


Weddings are a big deal in Turkmenistan, and they show the importance of the family in society. Turkmenistan nationals always have large extended families, and weddings are always seen as avenues to show off one's wealth and social status. In the country, a compulsory bride price must be paid, and it often costs as much as $10,000. Negotiations can be made between the groom and the bride's family to settle on an amount that favors both sides. The groom's family is responsible for the entire cost of the ceremony, which can last up to three days, and many families begin saving for their sons' weddings as early as childhood. 

According to tradition, around 300–1000 guests are invited to Turkmenistan weddings, as it is considered an insult if one person is not invited to the ceremony. The cost of renting a venue for the ceremony depends on the location of the venue and can cost as much as $4000. The accommodation and feeding of guests, photography, transportation, and attire of the couple all make up the entire cost of a wedding, which is often very expensive. Many Turkmens are now celebrating their weddings according to the dictates of Islam to reduce the cost of hosting extravagant wedding ceremonies.


According to the provisions of the family code, husband and wife are obliged to build their relationships on respect, love, mutual agreement, and loyalty. This creates a conducive atmosphere for couples to start a family. The care and welfare of the children are the responsibility of the couple, and the couple is also responsible for the provision of education for the children and all material needs of the family. The Turkmenistan society gives responsibilities to couples based on gender roles. Women are expected to take on the roles of mother and wife, take care of the children, and attend to all the needs of their husbands. However, in more modern households, these roles can be taken on by anyone. 

Many women have now become the heads of households while still combining domestic work with formal employment due to the absence of their husbands. The couple is obligated to choose a common family name, which is often the husband's family name. Turkmen couples show intentionality in keeping familial bonds with their extended families, as they are all important to the development of the children and the household. Many couples put the interests of the family before their individual interests. Couples are required to come to a mutual agreement and create an environment where they can both conveniently combine household responsibilities with other work activities outside the home.


Turkmenistan has strict marriage laws about polygamy. Multiple people are not allowed to legally be in a marriage together under both the civil and customary laws. Same-sex marriage is prohibited in the country. The act is criminalized for males only and can result in up to 5 years' imprisonment. Same-sex couples have no marital rights available to them. Furthermore, there are some documents and conditions that must be met by foreign nationals who want to perform their marriage in Turkmenistan.
A certificate of single status must be provided by a foreign spouse to show they are free to marry and are not currently in a union with another person. There must be proof that there are no objections to going either home or abroad. Foreign government documents must be notarized and apostille. These documents must all be translated into Turkmen by an accredited translator. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to know about marriage in Turkmenistan.