The laws regulating the solemnization of marriages among the Christian community in India is laid down by the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872. Initially enacted by the British-Indian administration, Christian marriages in the country are performed by an authorised Minister or Priest in a church. After the marriage ceremony is completed, the minister or priest registers the marriage and issues a certificate of marriage in the name of the couple and thereby, makes it official. To register a marriage officially, it is essential for each party to the union to make an application to the concerned authority that is located in their vicinity regarding the intention of marriage.
For the marriage to be valid under the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872, specific requirements need to be fulfilled. According to the Act, it is a necessity that either one or both the parties involved in the marriage be Christians. Therefore under the Act, a marriage may be termed as void and redundant unless one of the parties taking part in the union is governed by a different law that forbids such a wedding on the grounds of prohibited degrees of relationship.
According to The Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872, the following are required to be fulfilled to constitute a valid marriage.
- The age of the Bridegroom must not under twenty-one years and, the age of the Bride must not be under eighteen years.
- Both the parties of the marriage must give voluntary consent to the ceremony and should not be obtained by misrepresenting facts or under compulsion or undue influence.
- Neither of the party should have a living spouse at the time of the marriage.
- The marriage must be performed in the presence of a person licensed to grant a certificate of marriage and at least two reliable witnesses.
The following documents are required for the registration of a marriage under the Indian Christian Marriage Act.
- A completed application form with precise details.
- Passport-sized photographs of both the parties to the marriage.
- The Certificate of Marriage issued by the Minister or the Priest who performed the marriage.
- Two photographs from the Wedding of the rituals along with an Invitation to the Wedding.
- Residence proof and the proof of Age of both the parties to the marriage.
- An affidavit certifying the mental condition and the marital status of both the parties.
Individuals Eligible to Solemnise
The following individuals are authorised to solemnise a Christian marriage as per the Indian Christian Marriage Act.
- By an individual who has received the episcopal ordination and is authorised to solemnise a marriage according to the rules, rites, ceremonies and the customs of the Church of which he is a Minister.
- By an individual who is a Clergyman belonging to the Church of Scotland and is authorised to solemnise a marriage according to the rules, rites, ceremonies and the customs of the Church of Scotland.
- By an individual who is a Minister of Religion who is authorised to solemnise marriage with a license as per the Act.
- By an individual who is licensed under the Act to grant Certificated of marriage between Christians in India.
Marriage Registrar Conditions
Various conditions are mentioned in the Act that has to be followed by the Marriage Registrar to perform a Marriage ceremony. The following terms have to be met if the Marriage Registrar has to perform the marriage as stated by the Act.
Notice of Intended Marriage
Either of the party must submit a written application or a notice of the intended marriage to Marriage Registrar that resides in the same vicinity as the parties. This is done to notify the concerned authority of their intention to get married. If both the parties live in different locations, it is essential that each party makes a separate notice in writing to the Marriage Registrar that is located within their area of residence. The written application or notice of the intended marriage is recorded into the “marriage notebook” and is put up in the notification area of the office for public viewing.
Pledge before the Registrar
Either of the party to the marriage must make a personal appearance before the Marriage Registrar before the certificate of notice has been issued. The party should appear before the Registrar by pledging the following.
- That there are no obstacles, natural inclinations or other legitimate impediments to the intended marriage.
- That the place of their residence is within the locale of the marriage registrar.
If either of the parties is a minor, the consent of one of the persons that are listed below is of great importance to perform the marriage.
- Father of the Minor, if alive and well.
- The authorised Guardian of the Minor if available.
- The Mother of the Minor, if no other individual is authorised to such a consent resides in the country.
Certificate of Notice
Once the pledge is taken before the Marriage Registrar by either one of the parties to the intended marriage, a Certificate of Notice is issued. Once the pledge is done, the Registrar wait for four days to issue the certificate. After the period has lapsed, the Marriage Registrar has the power to grant the Certificate of Notice. Information such as the address of the Church or the Chapel or any other place that the marriage rituals are expected to be performed are stated in the Certificate of Notice. This Notice would not be issued if is stopped by anyone stating apparent reasons why the testament ought not to be granted. The issuance of the certificate of notice makes it mandatory for the marriage to be performed with two months from the date of publication. Failing to do so would make the certificate of notice redundant and new certificate would be required.
Performance of the Marriage
Under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, a Christian Marriage is performed between the parties to the marriage with accordance to the rituals which is considered to be essential and proper by the Minister or the Priest designated to perform the wedding. The presence of two eligible witnesses other than the minister or the priest performing the marriage is a mandatory requirement at the marriage ceremony. A marriage cannot be performed if it is not performed within two months from the issuance of the certificate of notice. In such a case, a new certificate of notice has to be applied for and issued to solemnise the marriage.
Time and Place
The Indian Christian Marriage Act clearly states where Christian marriages should take place at and the time at which it should be performed. The time for performing a Christian marriage ritual has to be scheduled between the timeframe of six in the morning to seven in the evening. The place that Christian marriage has to be performed is at a Church or a Chapel. Some special considerations and requests are granted that give flexibility to the time and place to conduct the marriage ceremony.
Registration of Marriage
An application for registration of the marriage is made by both the party to the concerned authority in whose jurisdiction either of the parties has been residing. The wedding is registered by the Marriage Registrar who was present at the marriage and performed the union of the couple in the Marriage Register. An acknowledgement slip of the registration with the authorised signatory of both the parties along with the witnesses present at the time is recorded. This is then attached to the Marriage Register and thereby indicating that the marriage was registered officially. These slips of acknowledgement are sent out at the end of the month to the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Christian marriages in India may also be endorsed under a special provision without prior notice.
Correction of Errors
Any person who comes across an error in the form or substance of a marriage entry in the Register of Marriages must bring it to the notice of the person who registered the marriage in the first place. The authorised individual should make the changes within one month of discovering the error. The error must be corrected in the presence of the persons married or, in the case of either of their deaths or absence, in the presence of two other credible witnesses. The correction must be made by the entry in the margin without any alteration to the original entry. The authorised person has to sign the marginal entry and add the date of such a correction made. This marginal correction should be made in the certificate of the marriage as well. Every entry made under this section should be attested by the witnesses in whose presence the correction was made.