August 23, 2023


Getting married in Kenya: do I need a certificate confirming I’m not married? The high court recently ruled on this matter.

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Getting married in Kenya: do I need a certificate confirming I’m not married?

Getting married in Kenya: do I need a certificate confirming I’m not married?

Image courtesy of GenMiles

Only couples planning a civil marriage are required to obtain a certificate from the Registrar of Marriages confirming that they have no existing marriage the High Court has ruled.

A judgement by Judge Patricia Mande has confirmed that the certificate is only required in the case of civil marriages under Section 32 of the Act and not in the case of a Christian marriage or any marriage other than a civil marriage.

The certificate in the case of a civil marriage is issued by the Registrar of Marriages to confirm that a Kenyan national has no record of an existing marriage and is qualified to get married outside the country.

Registrar of Marriages Acting Outside its Mandate

In the ruling Judge Mande stated that the Registrar of Marriages was acting outside the mandate in requiring couple getting married in church or any other non-civil marriage, to get a certificate before the wedding.

Judge Mande’s ruling came about after a couple filed a suit when their wedding was stopped following a refusal by the Registrar of Marriages to authorise their intended marriage on the grounds that the groom was in a previous customary marriage for ten years. The Registrar directed the groom to first get a divorce from his previous ‘wife’.

Restoring the Power of the Church

One of the lawyers represent the couple, Peter Bore, said the declaration in the High Court was good news to those wanting to celebrate a Christian marriage and had restored the power of the church.

Judge Mande noted that the law governing the formalization of Christian Marriage is provided for under Part III of the Marriages Act in which under Section 6 Christian Marriage is ‘celebrated by the rites of a Christian denomination.’

The court noted that marriages conducted under Part III of the Act are distinct from those celebrated under Part IV, the latter providing for Civil marriages.

Under Sections 19 and 20 of the Act, it is the ‘marriage officer’ or person in charge of the public place of worship who decides on any objection to the marriage.

Judge Mande said that it is the person who officiates over the marriage ceremony that issues a copy of the marriage certificate to the parties.


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