In Nigeria, we have two kinds of recognized marriages;
- Customary marriage (this includes the Islamic Marriage)
- Statutory Marriage (
not white wedding)
In Nigeria, a statutory marriage overrides a customary (traditional) marriage. The statutory marriage backed by 'The Marriage Act' completely cancels the other. The Marriage Act governs statutory marriage in Nigeria. That is why it is simply referred to as Marriage under the Act.
A statutory marriage has the flavour of the law and recognizes just one man married to one woman. The law defines marriage as between just two people, one man and one woman. A statutory marriage can be conducted in either a registry OR a licensed place of worship (e.g a church)￼.
A 'church' wedding does not confer any legal status on a marriage if such church is not licensed or if the license has been revoked by law. We usually mistake a church wedding for a 'statutory marriage' and that is very far from the reality.
A ‘church’ marriage that does not comply with the processes as stipulated by the Act can best be described as a party.
Hence, always ensure that your worship centers are licensed and if it isn't, head to the nearest registry or Local Government Secretariat to be joined by a Registrar.
The statutory marriage is conducted by a Registrar OR a Minister of a licensed place of worship. Emphasis on LICENSED.
This means that if you were legally joined together by a Registrar, there is actually no need for a Minister (your pastor, reverend, bishop, apostle, spiritual leader etc.) to do the same again and vice versa.
Note: two things must be in place especially, a licensed place and a licensed person to perform the celebration.
Celebrating in these two places can at best be 'duplicity'. But we also understand the need especially in a religious society like Nigeria to want a church to 'bless' your marriage even after a registry celebration. However, one is enough and okay.
A ‘church marriage’ is not a civil contract. It only becomes one when it is affiliated to a registry and issues marriage certificates.
As such, it is not the church marriage in itself that is binding in law but the contract that emerges with the signing of the certificate.
The Big Controversy Between Registry and Church Wedding in Nigeria
Many Nigerian couples due to their upbringing believe that a wedding that is not held according to their religious belief is invalid.
A lot of Muslims and Christians hold that belief. These set of people do not see the registry wedding as something that is valuable.
In fact, most Nigerian couples will prefer to marry in the church or according to Islamic tradition than in the registry when given the choice.
Many see the religious weddings as the only legal wedding since they believe it is sanctioned by God. To many Nigerians, religious wedding supersedes any registry marriage.
Many couples do not consider themselves legally married until after they have done the church wedding. Many people do not even consider the traditional wedding as legal as the religious wedding.
The wedding certificates issued by religious institutions are seen as the paramount in Nigeria, as such even old couple still go back to renew their vows in the church if they hadn’t done it before.
Most Nigerians believe that the religious ceremony puts all the legal stamps on all marriages, after all they are tying the knot in the presence of men and God according to the beliefs they hold and that to them supersedes any registry marriage.
Many Nigerians consider registry marriage to be invalid that is why we have more religious weddings than registry weddings in Nigeria.
Religious weddings are more valuable to most Nigerians than registry weddings. Very few people marry in the registry. The conventional weddings are the traditional weddings and the religious weddings.