By Barrington H. Brennen,
March 4, 2015
too many people have little or no idea what is legally
required in a marriage ceremony in The Bahamas. A greater
number of people do not know that many of the items in our
wedding ceremonies are only traditions which are not
required by law nor demanded in Holy Scripture.
order in a civil society, marriage between two consenting
male and female adults must be legally regulated by the
Government. If this is not done there will be chaos.
who can attend a wedding ceremony? The correct answer is
anybody. No wedding ceremony can be performed secretly.
However, it can be a “private” ceremony, which means that
only a few really know about the ceremony and attend it. A
wedding ceremony is legally and spiritually a public affair.
According to The Marriage Act of The Bahamas, the ceremony
must take place “with open doors.” You cannot legally
prevent anyone from attending your wedding ceremony. The
only exception will be if there is a protection order or
restraining order against a specific person or persons.
insulted if they do not get an invitation to attend a
wedding ceremony. They feel that having not received one
indicates that they are not wanted at the ceremony. This is
far from the truth. Usually most couples announce plans for
the wedding in a public forum or a church. This is
sufficient knowledge and invitation to attend any wedding
ceremony. However, the wedding reception, which is not
required by law, can be, and is usually restricted.
ago, couples would announce their engagement to marry and
wedding date in the newspaper. This is a wonderful thing
to do. It protects the integrity of the relationship itself
and the marriage. When someone reads of the intended
marriage in the newspaper or hears it announced in a public
forum, that’s sufficient to attend a wedding ceremony. Far
too much money is spent on elaborate wedding invitations
when couples cannot even afford the down payment on their
first rental or home.
Bahamas, what time of the day can a wedding ceremony take
place? According to The Marriage Act of The Bahamas, a
wedding ceremony is to take place between the hours of 6
a.m. and 8 p.m. Many thought that a marriage ceremony
cannot take place at night. If sun sets at 5:30 p.m., then
according to the Marriage Act 8 p.m. is truly in the night.
Hence, having a wedding at 6 p.m. or so is appropriate, as
long as the ceremony is completed before 8 p.m.
It is a
tradition in The Bahamas for the maid of honor and groomsman
to serve as legal witnesses in the wedding ceremony. This
is not legally required. The witnesses can be any one
present. In fact neither the law nor Holy Scriptures
requires a couple to have bridesmaids or groomsmen in a
wedding ceremony. These are only traditions, though
wonderful they may be. Far too many couples outdo
themselves by having too many bridesmaids and groomsmen
knowing that the budget is tight. Our weddings have become
too elaborate and expensive. The cost of the wedding does
not guarantee the health of the marriage. It is my view
that a couple should not be paying for a giant loan long
after the wedding ceremony.
point is at many wedding ceremonies, the bridal party has to
remain standing throughout the wedding. This is not required
by law. This is only tradition. The position of the bridal
party in the sanctuary, whether it sits or not, has nothing
to do with the importance or legality of the wedding
ceremony. Some of these ceremonies are so long, the parties
should sit. I have seen young participants and adults cry
and even faint because they were standing too long.
MAKES THE MARRIAGE LEGAL?
to having two witnesses and an open door, the person doing
the wedding ceremony is to be an appointed marriage officer
in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. A minister of the
gospel or clergy is not by default a marriage officer.
Marriage officers are approved by the Government after
taking a special exam. The Government will not approve many
marriage officers for a single congregation. While it is
true that some justices of the peace are marriage officers,
this is not the role of a justice of the peace. A marriage
officer and a justice of the peace have two different legal
marriage ceremony, marriage officers use all kinds of
statements, most of which are only
Barrington H. Brennen
The only legally required statements to be used by a
marriage officer in a marriage ceremony itself are: “I
do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment
why I, __________ may not be joined in matrimony to
_____________” This statement is for a bride and
groom to repeat. The second statement is: “I call upon
these persons here present to witness that I, ___________ do
take (or have now taken) _____________ to be my lawful
There is no
further legal requirement regarding marriage vows. I often
ask couple to make their own vows. This is another article
I will share in the future. Traditionally we hear in a
marriage ceremony: “Who gives this woman to marry this
man?” This is only a tradition which is not required.
Most individuals now realize that this is a sexist question
because both man and woman are marrying each other. This
tradition came from the ancient days when the daughter was
the father’s property and his consent was required to marry
and signed a contract. Two agreeing adults do not require
parental consent to marry in our society. I participated in
both of our children’s wedding ceremonies and the question I
asked was: “Who gives these two to marry to each other?”
Then father and mother of both the bride and the groom
stood and said: “We do.”
Barrington H. Brennen is
a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002