Marriage between lovers from different nationalities is more common than usual now and so stating clearly how to get married legally in Nigeria becomes most imperative to avoid falling into fraudulent hands who will fake the process for the real thing.
That said, civil marriage in Nigeria is important since it sees the marriage with the eyes of the law and also serves as evidence of a marriage contract between partners. But before proceeding to have a civil wedding, you need to know some very important things.
Civil marriage is backed by law as enshrined under the Marriage Act, Chapter 218 of Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1990. Accordingly, there’re two major marriage registries in Nigeria:
1. Federal Marriage Registries: LAGOS – Ikoyi Registry ”covers all those resident in Lagos, South-South, South East and South West” ABUJA – Wuse 2 ”covers all those resident in the Northern region.”
2. All States have various Registries at the State and Local Government level. Whichever kind of marriage registry you choose, the process involved in having a civil wedding follows the same guidelines which have been summarized below:
How to file marriage notice
After a concluded decision to have a civil wedding, the bride or groom to be will obtain a form from the registry of choice to indicate intentions to marry. The form will be completed and submitted with two coloured passport photographs.
The form is then posted for public notice, after the expiration of the notice and payment of the attached Fee – which differs at registries, the Registrar would issue a Form C after the following criteria have been met and satisfied:
That either of the parties has been resident within the district in which the marriage is intended to be celebrated.
That each of the parties to the intended marriage ‘not being a widower or widow’ is twenty-one years old, and if under that age, the consent hereinafter made requisite has been obtained in writing and is annexed to such affidavit ‘meaning you have to get written permission/consent from the bride-to-be’s parent or legal guardian.’
That there is not an impediment of kindred or affinity or any other lawful hindrance to the intended marriage.
That neither of the parties to the intended marriage is married by customary law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is proposed to be contracted.
Once the requirements mentioned above have been confirmed, the couple would swear an affidavit before the registrar or recognized minister of religion. During the sworn affidavit, the registrar would reiterate the above Prohibitive degrees and also explain the penalties involved.
Failure to disclose a breach in any of the above makes the defaulter liable to two years imprisonment. Thereafter, the Registrar signs a declaration/affidavit to show that the couple understands the implications under the law and have met and satisfied all that has been required of them.
Upon proof that there is no lawful impediment to the proposed marriage, and that the necessary consent, if any, to such marriage has been obtained, the Minister will dispense with the giving of notice, issue the certificate, and grant his/her license, known as Form D, authorizing the celebration of a marriage between the parties named in such license.
The couple then selects a date for the wedding, usually within three months from the date the notice was placed with the registry.
On the wedding day, the couple alongside their family members and friends would go to the registry to finalize the marriage proceedings. There would be other couples that will also show up for their own celebration, and as such, each couple is given a specific time that must be adhered to as part of the process of getting married in Nigeria
The ceremony is usually not longer than 30 minutes. During the proceedings, the Registrar would print the marriage certificates in duplicate and with counterfoils as in the FORM E. The officiating minister will fill up in duplicate a marriage certificate with the particulars required by Form E, and enter in the counterfoil the number of the certificate, the date of the marriage, names of the parties, and the names of the witnesses.
The certificate will then be signed in duplicate by the officiating minister, by the parties, and by two or more witnesses to the marriage. The minister has also signed his name to the counterfoil will deliver one certificate to the parties, and within seven days, thereafter file the same in his office.
Every Registrar will then register the marriage in a book called the Marriage Register Book, every certificate of marriage filed in his office according to the FORM F… and viola! You’re married! The civil wedding has proven to be the cheapest among the other types of marriage ceremonies in Nigeria, although it has a long process and all criteria must be met. And it is the most protected process of getting married in Nigeria.