There was a small discussion at Plurk on which when marriage is deemed valid in Sinagapore, given 3 scenerios:
Most people replied said it is ROM. It is not wrong. I contended that at church or at a reception/wedding dinner, you can claimed being married.
My law lecturer, for some reason kept talking about marriage in Singapore, even though it is not directly important to my studies in business law. That got me diving into the legal text on AGC website. 1.5 hours of irrelevant studies into law.
Note and disclaimer: I try my best to interpret the statute, no matter how limited. No one should take this post as a absolute. In doubt, please consult a competent lawyer.
The statue that governs marriage is the famed Women’s Charter, the one law that is unique to Singapore. That is according to my law lecturer again. I read the statue (it was quite confusing with all the sections and subsections).
Part 1 – Prelimary: Covers that usual definations that are required in the statute.
Part 2 – Monogamous Marriage: Covers marriage before 15th Sep 1965; what is considered void marriage and offence; continuance of marriage. Not of importance to the subject at had. How many of us are even born before the abovementioned date?
Part 3 – Solemnisation of Marriage: Most of this Part is simplified in the ROM website. It talks mostly about the procedure of getting the marriage registered and solemnised. Section 24 is of some interest here:
24. —(1) If the parties to any marriage contracted and solemnized under this Act or under any previous written law relating to Christian or civil marriages shall desire to add to the marriage so contracted and solemnized the religious ceremony ordained or used by the church or temple of which the parties or one of them are members or is a member, it shall be competent for them to present themselves for that purpose to a clergyman, minister or priest of such church or temple, having given notice to that clergyman, minister or priest of their intention to do so; and that clergyman, minister or priest, upon the production of a certified copy of the certificate of the marriage, may, if he sees fit, read or celebrate the marriage service of the church or temple to which he belongs.
(2) Nothing in the reading or celebration of such service under subsection (1) shall be held to supersede or invalidate any marriage so previously contracted and solemnized, nor shall such reading or celebration be entered as a marriage in any register of marriages kept according to the provisions of this Act.
Section 24 says that the wedding ceremony can be conducted in church/temple/religious places only if there is a certified copy of the certificate of the marriage, meaning to say, the couple has to go through ROM first. Yay! Our answer!
Wait, not so easy. Marriage in the first place is a widely accepted custom that is recognised by the Government. In turn, the Government adopt this as a Customary Law. There are other sections that deals with this too.
I shall skip to tha last Part, Part XII: Miscellaneuos, for the intermediate Parts are irrelevant to the subject matter. In this part, Section 182:
Voluntary registration of marriages solemnized under religion or custom
182. —(1) Notwithstanding section 181, the parties to a marriage which has been solemnized under any law, religion, custom or usage may, if the marriage has not been registered, apply to the Registrar in the prescribed form for the registration of the marriage.
(2) The Registrar may require the parties to the marriage to appear before him and to produce such evidence of the marriage, either oral or documentary, as he may require, and to furnish such other particulars as may be required by him.
(3) The Registrar may, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements contained in the application, register the marriage by entering the particulars thereof in the certificate of marriage.
(4) The entry of the marriage in the certificate of marriage shall be signed by the Registrar and the parties to the marriage.
(5) The Registrar shall not register a marriage under this section if he is satisfied that the marriage is void under the provisions of this Act.
Section 181 deals with marriage before 15th September 1965. Section 182 allows couples not to register their marriage with the ROM, yet still recognise the customary marraige. Hence, at a wedding ceremony conducted at a church/temple and is presided by a priest or similar persons or at a wedding dinner/reception, the couple can claim that they are married.
In conclusion: as long as there is a wedding ceremony being conducted in a church or similar places or at a wedding dinner/reception and/or the marriage is registered with ROM, the couples can claim that they are married! However, it is still recommended to be registered with ROM as this entails benefits for the women actually, as prescribed in the Women’s Charter.
P.S.: ROM is Registry of Marriage. It is not the actual event that register marriage, it is a statutory body where people register their marriage. The event is called Solemnistation. In Singapore, both can closely related via Women’s Charter, hence the common usage of ROM as an event here.