Planning to have a small ceremony here and another one overseas? Here’s what you need to know…
Countless couples around the world have had to put their happily ever after on hold this year because of the pandemic. Some have postponed or cancelled their wedding plans, whilst others have decided to go through with a simple civil marriage ceremony, then have a larger-scale wedding celebration in the same location or overseas when the situation improves.
Even before we were hit by Covid-19, couples have been having multiple ceremonies. Same sex-couples, for example, might head overseas to be legally wedded but still want to have a ceremony where they live. Others might have friends that they want to celebrate with at one location, but also wish to have a ceremony with family across the globe.
Whatever your reason, as with most aspects of a wedding – cake, guests, presents, wine – the more the merrier. And this can go for the number of ceremonies you have as well. However, there are some things you need to be aware of before you jump into having multiple weddings to make sure everything is in order legally, and that you don’t run into any problems later down the road.
So, can I have two wedding ceremonies – one in Hong Kong and another one in a foreign country?
You certainly can. However, in Hong Kong and in most other countries, only the first marriage ceremony will be recognised as legal and valid. And the marriage will continue unless it is terminated by death or by law (i.e divorce or annulment). With that said, it is very important to ensure that the marriage ceremony is properly carried out and that you tick off all the necessary steps.
What should I bear in mind if I wish to get married overseas?
You won’t be able to register a marriage solemnised in a foreign country with the Registrar of Marriages in Hong Kong, but the overseas marriage will still be recognised as valid in Hong Kong as long as:
- You have the legal right to marry (i.e you are above 16 years old, are not within the prohibited degrees of relationship and are not a party to an existing marriage).
- You consented to the marriage.
- The marriage ceremony followed the legal procedures recognised by the laws in force at that time and at the place where the marriage was held.
If you are already a Hong Kong resident before you get married and are able to fulfil the legal requirements of your intended wedding destination, you will need to apply for a Certificate of Absence of Marriage Record (Form MR 35). This document certifies that you have not registered any marriage in Hong Kong. It’s recommended that you also apply for a search of marriage records in Hong Kong before applying for the certificate.
Once you return to Hong Kong, make sure to notify the Immigration Department of the change in your marital status. This can be done by completing the required form (Form ROP 18) and submitting it to the department.
If you wish to learn the legal requirements for specific wedding destinations outside of Hong Kong, it would be worth consulting an expert to make sure you won’t run into any issues going forward.
It’s important to note that having more than one wedding may have legal implications. The safest option would be to register your marriage in your place of residence before or after the wedding celebration in a foreign country. This way, you can ensure that your marriage is legal and valid, and still have your dream destination wedding!