Getting married in India: A complete guide

13.10.17
7 minute read
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Getting legally married in India isn’t a simple process. Between a lengthy wait time, nuanced legal customs and a plethora of details to consider. However, the trade-offs may be worth it for you. For families with Indian heritage, wedding in India means adhering to sacred traditions and rituals that go back several generations. An Indian wedding is ornate, colourful and of a larger scale than you might expect in the west. If you want a wedding full of costumes, flowers, music and days of celebration and sacraments, consider India.

In this post, we’ll help you with everything you need to know about getting married in India. For an overview on the legal considerations, common customs and suggested venues across the country, read on.

Weddings in India: What type of weddings are possible?

Civil ceremonies and religious weddings are both recognised as legally valid in India. Civil ceremonies are performed at the marriage registrar’s office.

Religious weddings are common in India. For most religions, the marriage certificates issued by the religious authority are sufficient to recognise the marriage. However, for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists, couples must also obtain a marriage certificate through the local marriage registrar.

Same-sex marriages aren’t legally recognised in India.

What are the legal requirements to get married in India?

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 dictates a 30-day requirement for residency in India, which means that at least one party of the wedding has to be living in India for at least 30 days before applying to get married. You’ll have to prove it from a certificate issued by the local police station.

An expat or foreign national marrying an Indian citizen will need some additional paperwork, but doesn’t need to become a citizen of India in order to get married.

Additionally, India recognises foreign marriage certificates, so if you’ve gotten married abroad, you won’t need to legally register your marriage in India. Non-resident couples might choose to get legally married in their home country and then have a ceremonial blessing in India instead, as that is simpler.

What do you need to get married in India?

Necessary paperwork and documentation

The documentation required to get married in India will depend on the type of wedding you’re going to have. At a minimum, you’ll need the following documents in advance of your wedding day:

  • Proof of Residency and Address in India for at least 30 days prior to the application, for at least one of the parties

  • A valid passport for both parties

  • Original birth certificate for both parties
  • Visa or Ration Card for any foreign parties involved in the marriage that will last longer than 30 days, indicating your length of stay
  • Certificate of No Impediment/Single Status stating that you’re not already married
  • No Objection Letters stating that you willingly consent to the marriage, obtained through your home country’s embassy
  • Divorce Papers or Death Certificate if you’ve been previously married and divorced or widowed
  • Passport sized photographs

For a Catholic wedding, the bride and groom will obtain your ‘No Objection’ certificate from your parish priest that acknowledges the wedding and permits the couple to marry at a church in India. You also may need additional documentation, such as baptism certificates and confirmation certificates.

The process

You have to submit your Notice of Intended marriage to the local registry office, as well as evidence of your or your partner’s residency, certified copies of passports and birth certificates and photographs. Only one member of your party needs to be present to submit the notice.

If you’re a foreigner marrying an Indian citizen, you’ll also need to visit a lawyer to create an affidavit confirming that you’re a willing party to the marriage. This is in the absence of the presence of parents who are there to ‘give you away.’

At the registry office, you’ll then sign three copies of your notice of intended marriage, and confirm your names and addresses to the registrar. If no one objects within the 30 day period before your wedding day, you can be legally married, again at the registrar. You’ll need three witnesses present, and several copies of the passports and proofs of address for all of your witnesses.

To obtain your marriage certificate, you should visit the local marriage registrar’s office which is generally in a court or municipal building. There’s a 30-day waiting period after your wedding, and then you can obtain your certificate which counts as legal proof that you’re married. In total, you should expect to spend at least 60 days in India, between both 30-day waiting periods before and after your wedding.

What fees are involved?

Weddings in India are typically large, drawn-out affairs. As a result, they can be expensive. However, ‘expensive’ is a relative term - your western money may go further in Indian rupees (₹).

Expect to pay administrative fees that vary by region. If you’re a foreigner, a local registrar may quote you up to ₹75,000 (about €1,000) in administration costs. However, under the Special Marriage Act, an application for registration is only ₹150, and ₹100 for registration under the Hindu Marriage Act for religious weddings. Make sure that you don’t fall prey to overpaying for administration costs. Typically you should only expect administrative fees for your marriage application and for the issuance of your marriage certificate. You may need to pay an additional ₹400 or ₹500 for any affidavits that are required.

Another way you may be overpaying is through currency exchange fees. Make sure to budget your wedding wisely by using a service like TransferWise which allows you to transfer money without worrying about crazy bank fees and unfair exchange rates. TransferWise offers the same real exchange rate you can find on Google and adds only a small, transparent fee.

What should I know about wedding ceremonies in India?

As long as you’ve applied properly for your wedding, you’re free to marry in a venue and location of your choice. Many people choose to get married in temples, on boats, outdoors, or in churches or temples. You can also marry directly at the registrar where you apply for your marriage certificate.

The following embassy and consulate websites will supply additional information about your wedding and requirements if you’re a foreign national:

The cost of a wedding in India

Weddings in India are culturally viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime, grandiose party that has a lot of implications about the prosperity of the families involved. They also tend to last up to a week, with events, meals and celebrations every day. It’s not uncommon for families to invite over a thousand people and take out loans just to cover wedding costs.

That said, it’s possible to have a wedding for the equivalent of a few hundred Euro, so plan according to what you can afford. Here are some estimated costs for a 100-person destination wedding in India:

Item Approximate cost
Jewelry ₹500,000
Venue ₹200,000
Saris and Clothing ₹200,000
Invitations ₹50,000
Transportation ₹50,000
Catering ₹800,000
Wedding planner ₹500,000
Photographer ₹50,000
Administrative Costs ₹500
Other Decor ₹100,000

Top wedding locations in India

The following are popular wedding locations in India:

Location Description
Zenana Mahal (Udaipur) The candlelit queen’s palace in the city palace complex, located in ‘city of lakes’
Lebua resort (Jaipur) A resort and spa with French influence in the ‘pink city’ known for its royal palace
Coconut Lagoon (Kerala) An old feudal village located southern beach region, with canals tea gardens
Snow Valley Resorts (Manali) A hideaway amidst pinewood forests in the Himalayas
Oberoi Amarvilas (Agra) A luxury hotel in one of the oldest historic cities in India, near the Taj Mahal
The Taj West End (Bangalore) A legendary hotel with graceful gardens and spacious lawns
Reis Magos Fort (Goa) The oldest fort in Goa, restored, in a beach destination popular with foreigners and festival goers
Leela Palace (New Delhi) A luxe space in a tourist capital, easily accessible for foreigners
Krishnam Dhani (Pushkar) A resort in a city filled with famous temples
Thaker Farm (Ahmedabad, Gujarat) A farm located in vibrant western city filled with palaces and forts

Wedding traditions and customs in India

Indian weddings are full of traditions and customs, most of which are considered optional to the couple getting married. You might consider including some of the following in your ceremony:

  1. Mauli: 15 days prior to the wedding, the mauli (string) is tied to the groom and his parents to ask the gods for a safe wedding day
  2. Union of Souls: It’s common to tie the bride’s safi to the groom’s scarf to symbolise their coming together
  3. Henna: Traditionally, an Indian bride covers her skin in Henna, which is applied by her female friends and family members
  4. Sangeet: Guests will perform a sort of talent show with choreographed dances, musical numbers and skits in honour of the couple
  5. Bou Bhat - The day after the wedding, the groom’s family and friends have a lunch, wherein the bride is formally invited to the family. The groom pledges responsibility for the bride and gives her a sari as a gift

A wedding in India will surely require planning, time and money. However, it’s also sure to be a celebration that’s remembered by your family and friends for a long time to come.

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