By Elias Bwambale
A civil marriage is a wedding ceremony conducted by an official, such as a registrar of marriages or some other authorised person, in the presence of two witnesses.
It takes place at the office of the authorised person and all that is required of the intending couple is that they are of sound mind, single, above 18 years and have no blood relations with each other.
In Kampala, the person authorised to conduct such weddings is the Registrar General while in districts outside Kampala; it is the Chief Administrative Officers. This type of marriage is distinguished from those solemnised in church, in the
Mosque or those conducted in accordance with the rites of an African community.
While typical customary, Mohammedan or church marriages cost millions of shillings, for quite often they are huge with long guest lists, a civil marriage will cost no more than sh260,000 for a Ugandan couple or $210 for foreigners, being fees payable to the Registrar.
The only guests are the two people who witness the marriage. If this is not pocket friendly, then I don’t know what is!
Although it is said that money can’t buy love, the lack of money can certainly be an impediment to a matrimonial tie with the love of your life should you not opt for a civil marriage.
In a customary marriage, a wife is by and large at risk of having a co-wife as and when her husband chooses to marry another woman. She has no remedy under the law in as far as stopping him from so doing is concerned. It is for this reason that a woman should opt for a civil marriage in which a wife enjoys protection from such acts.
A husband who contracts another marriage before a civil marriage is dissolved would be guilty of bigamy and liable to punishment for that offence.
The chances of celebrating an illegal marriage are high in churches because more often than not, unauthorised churches have gone ahead to conduct weddings!
Such weddings are considered to be nonexistent in the eyes of the law and as such, the parties thereto are deemed to be living a lie. This also translates into a husband or wife not being able to administer the estate of the deceased spouse.
Remarkably, a person stands no such risk in a civil marriage wherein the parties simply contract a valid marriage before a Registrar.
Likewise, a customary marriage will be deemed illegal no matter how much energy and expenses are poured into it, if it is not registered. Noteworthy is that registration after the expiration of six months following celebration of the marriage attracts a fine.
Outstandingly, once you are given a marriage certificate from the Registrar’s office in a civil marriage, no further registration is required!
Although in the church and Mohammedan marriages, it might appear impossible to marry a person who professes a different religion from yours without either one of you converting, a civil marriage has no such limits.
It is inter-religious, inter-caste and inter-national in nature. Clearly, it envisages intermixing of people at schools, work places and entertainment centres and enables them unite in a matrimonial tie regardless of their background.
Without the consent of the parents in a customary marriage, you might not be able to marry the love of your life.
In a civil marriage, however, no such consent is required provided both of you are above the age of 21 years. Put differently, this means that one would be free to choose a marriage partner without undue influence from parents or guardians!
Owing to all the aforementioned, you will, before long, discover that a civil marriage is quite the ideal way to start a life together.
The writer is a lawyer