Getting Married in India for Foreigners

Destination weddings are the new craze with those who have the big bucks to spend. And what better way to start a new exciting chapter in your life than getting married in India – an ancient land of exotic colors, fantastic locales and spectacular celebrations. However if you do not know your way around the laws, businesses and conventions of this country, a cherished wedding - not to mention a legally recognized marriage - can turn out to be an exercise in frustration. So if you are thinking of India as a destination for your wedding, here are some tips on planning it the right way.

When to go

Since most of India has a hot and humid climate, the winters here are the best time to arrange weddings – if matters like auspicious times and dates are not a concern. For foreigners the most popular time of year for weddings is from October to February, when the weather is dry and sunny. December and January are considered peak months – at this time hotels and wedding venues are likely to be booked several months or even a year in advance and availability of catering and decoration items may also be scarce because of the all-round rush of weddings. Even if you can manage accommodation, catering and so on, things are likely to be much more expensive than at other times of the year. So unless you have a generous budget, you may wish to explore other months since weddings are commonly held throughout the year from September to May. No matter what month you choose, plan your wedding at least a year in advance for the best options as well as for the legal formalities to get over in time.



Where to get married

The exact destination of your Indian wedding will largely depend on what you and your partner find most romantic of all. If you are looking for a beach wedding, then Goa is the first destination to spring to mind. Exchanging vows with your beloved against the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset could be a truly memorable ceremony. Even if a beach wedding does not excite you, Goa has still other romantic wedding options including getting married at a lagoon, in the jungle, on a boat, on a hill top, or more traditionally, at one of the beautiful old Portuguese style churches. However keep in mind that beach weddings in Goa require a permit which your wedding planner will be able to help you with.

Kerala is another Indian state that is steadily becoming popular as a wedding destination for foreigners. For one it has miles of sparkling sandy beaches which means it is a favorite of couples looking for a romantic beach wedding. Some beaches which can provide the picture-perfect backdrop to your ceremony include, Kovalam and Varkala. Alternately if you want a quiet and picturesque wedding in a tropical setting, you can have the ceremony along the banks of a lake or palm fringed canal with food served in the traditional style on banana leaves. There are a number of resorts that cater to such weddings. The luxurious Zuri Kumarakom, near Alleppey, is perhaps the most popular. Best of all, your honeymoon destination is right at hand and after the wedding, you and your brand new spouse can head off in a traditional style houseboat on the emerald green lagoons.

However it is the state of Rajasthan which has really caught the imagination of those couples keen on an Indian wedding. With its ornate palaces, regal venues and even spectacular desert scenery, a royalty-themed wedding is the stuff dreams are made of. What’s more since the state is dotted with erstwhile princedoms, you can choose your destination from a wide variety of cities like Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur or even out of the way palatial resorts like the heritage venue of Samode Palace which is located one hour from Jaipur and built into the Aravalli Ranges. By far the most popular choice seems to be Udaipur with its twin attractions of palaces and lakes. Some of the top regal venues here include the City Palace Complex, where the Mewar royal family still resides, Jag Mandir which is situated on an island in the middle of famous Lake Pichola, Manek Chowk with its beautifully laid out Mughal style garden and for couple with a desire for the quirky, the Vintage Car Gallery which houses Maharana of Mewar's vintage car collection including Rolls Royce, Mercedes, and Cadillac and even the car used in the James Bond movie, Octopussy. Apart from these there is Devi Gargh - located around 45 minutes from Udaipur, this rambling 18th century fort-palace has been refurbished in modern minimalistic style. The state capital, Jaipur spoils you with a wide range of choices for a spectacular wedding; here you choose from authentic ornate palaces -- such as the Raj Palace, Rambagh Palace, and Jai Mahal Palace -- to old mansions like Alsisar Haveli and Mandawa Haveli which can turn out to be less costly venues. In Jodhpur, The extraordinary Umaid Bhawan palace hotel, with a hilltop location overlooking the "blue city" has played host to some very lavish weddings in recent times. But If your budget doesn't extend that far, you can look at two other popular heritage places for destination weddings in Jodhpur, the Ranbanka Palace and Ajit Bhawan. There is of course the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, towering over the city which is a highly sought after place for wedding receptions.

Legal requirements

No matter how perfect your location, all your excitement may soon sour if your paperwork is not in order. As soon as you decide on a date and place or even get a rough idea, it is best to set the legal process in motion. This is because getting legally married in India is a lengthy and time consuming process. Ideally you and your partner should be ready to spend around 60 days in the country.

In India, civil weddings are governed by the provisions of The Special Marriage Act (1954). The basic requirement for this is a 30 day residency requirement, which means that either the bride or the groom has to be living in India for at least 30 days prior to applying to the local registry office to get married. Foreigners can get the residency requirement evidenced in the form of a certificate from the local police station.

Apart from the minimum residency period, you will have to fulfill other eligibility conditions before you can apply to get legally married in India. If you have never been married before, you should come from your home country with a single status affidavit (in the US), a Certificate of No Impediment (in the UK), or Certificate of No Record (in Australia). If you’re divorced, you’ll need to produce the Decree Absolute, or if you’re widowed, a copy of the death certificate of your former spouse. Apart from these and the residency certificate, you and your partner will have to submit certified copies of passports and birth certificate as well as two passport sized photographs each. All these certificates will accompany your application for intention to get married at the local registry office. If no objections to the marriage are received within 30 days of the application, a civil ceremony at the registry office can then take place. Three witnesses are required, who have to provide passport sized photographs, as well as identification and proof of address. The marriage certificate is usually issued a couple of weeks after the wedding.

For foreigners wishing to legally marry in Goa, the process is even longer and more onerous. This is because Goa as a former Portuguese colony has its own Civil Code. According to this, there is a 30 day residency requirement for both the bride and groom, who will need to obtain a residence certificate from the local municipality. In order to get married, the couple along with four witnesses must apply before a Goan court, which will grant a provisional wedding certificate allowing the marriage to go ahead. Next this certificate is taken to the Civil Registrar, who will affix a Public Notice inviting objections within 10 days. If none are received, you can then get married. Under certain circumstances it is possible to get the 10 day waiting period waived by applying to the Assistant Public Prosecutor. This will enable you to get married right away.
Since the process of getting legally married in India is rather convoluted with loads of paperwork, most foreigners prefer to get legally married in their home country and simply have a ceremony of their choice in India. If however you are planning a Catholic ceremony in Goa, you may still have to go through certain procedures. For a Catholic church wedding in Goa, the bridge and groom will need to obtain a “No Objection” certificate from their Parish priest acknowledging the wedding and giving permission to get married in a church in Goa. Baptism certificates, confirmation certificates, and a letter of intent will also need to be provided. In addition, it’s necessary to attend a wedding course, either in your own country or in Goa.

Wedding Ceremony Arrangements

For foreigner desirous of getting married in India – whether holding just a ceremony or including the legalities as well - the smoothest option is to hire a wedding planner. You’ll find that the extra cost of a wedding planner in India is well worth the time and frustrations saved if you were to try and make the arrangements by yourself. This is because a professional can not only guide you through the requirements and the official formalities of a legally recognized marriage but also arrange for the wedding of your dreams. When it comes to getting married in India, your options are limited only by your imagination. Some of the most extravagant weddings have included processions of elephants, helicopters showering rose petals on the wedding party, fire dancers, and performances by Bollywood celebrities.

However if you have already got the legal part taken care of in your home country and just wish to have a special ceremony here, one of the luxury hotels can also make the arrangements. The five star hotels usually get their decor and planning done by wedding planners, but organize the banquet and table decorations themselves. Best of all, going through a luxury hotel can also get you a good deal for your honeymoon suite.

Celebrity weddings in India

In recent years, the Indian themed wedding which got a lot of coverage from the global media was that of British entertainer Russell Brand and American pop singer Katy Perry. In 2010 October the two got married at a luxury resort in the tiger resort of Ranthambore. The venue was Aman-i-Khas retreat which was lit with traditional lamps and colorful lights illuminated the trees while flower garlands festooned the wedding tents at the resort. The ceremony was conducted by a Christian minister believed to be a friend of the Perry family According to reports1, around twenty-one camels, elephants and horses from a nearby resort formed part of Brand's wedding procession. While the groom was accompanied by traditional dancers and musicians to the wedding venue, the bride sported Indian-style henna decorations on her palms – both were believed to be dressed in traditional Indian wedding finery. The wedding reception was later held at the Taj Rambagh Palace Hotel, the former home of the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur. The party was said to have an 'East meets West' theme and apparently featured performances by Indian classical dancers alongside rap star P Diddy. Even before their wedding, the couple had an Indian connection. They first came to India in December 2009 Brand proposed Perry at one of the most romantic places in the world, outside the Taj Mahal.

The Ranthambore National Park, which provided the backdrop for the wedding, is one of northern India's largest sanctuaries and in fact Brand’s wedding gift to his wife was believed to be Machli, one of the Ranthambhore sanctuary's rare female tigers. Guests - among them comedian David Baddiel – were believed to have been given tours as part of the nuptial celebrations.

A few years earlier in 2007 Elizabeth Hurley and businessman Arun Nayar came calling to Rajasthan after they had already held their first ceremony in the U.K., at the Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. The second was a Hindu ceremony hosted at the spectacular Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur wherein a Hindu priest performed Hindu rituals with the couple walking a holy fire seven times. And just like any other Indian wedding, this couple too had a series of functions and ceremonies leading up to the wedding. There was an elaborate ‘sangeet’ at Nagaur Fort and a reception at Mehrangarh Fort with a score of Hollywood celebrities in attendance. What’s more is that the wedding ceremonies photos were sold to Hello! Magazine for a whopping £2 million. Indian designer Rohit Bal also leaked to the press that Elizabeth wore a white ‘chunni’ and ‘lehanga’, a embroidered blouse and skirt used in traditional Indian weddings. The wedding ceremony which lasted for roughly an hour was then to be followed up by a procession of elephants, horses and camels, all elegantly decorated for the festivities. The procession paraded through the grounds of the massive sandstone domed Umaid Bhavan Palace. The wedding party was then scheduled to move to the Mehrangarh Fort, overlooking Jodhpur’s old blue city for a night-time, moonlit celebration. It was estimated that around 250 guests were invited to Jodhpur to partake in the wedding party.

With its exotic culture and spectacular locales, no wonder celebrities from across the world choose India as the perfect destination for their weddings. And you too can feel special as you exchange vows with your beloved in this ancient land. But it is best you make arrangements well in advance so that legal and logistical hassles are kept to a minimum and the start of your wedded life is memorable as ever.

Reference:

  1. BBC News - Russell Brand and Katy Perry get married in India