Marriages and civil unions bring about far-reaching legal changes to an individual’s standing with the new spouse, his or her relatives and society at large. It is for this reason that the law prescribes a formal ceremony in which marriages should take place.
Marriage Banns and Marriage Date
Practice is that spouses inform the marriage registry three months before the intended date of marriage.
The marriage registrar has to publish the marriage banns, which consist in a document presenting the details of both spouses to be and the place where marriage is to be celebrated. The banns will be posted on the notice board of the Marriage Registrar’s office and in the town or parish in Malta in which each of the persons to be married resides. The banns should remain there for at least 8 consecutive days prior to the marriage.
A request for the publication of the banns must be made at least six weeks before the intended date. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the marriage registrar may allow the publication of the banns within a shorter period of time. One valid reason for the publication of the banns lesser than 6 weeks before marriage may be due to terminal illness.
A marriage or a civil union must take place between six days and three months after the publication of the marriage banns. If the marriage is contracted outside this time window, the marriage is void (Article 9, Marriage Act).
Malta, Gozo and Comino
There are two marriage registries for the islands of Malta. One registers marriages taking place in Malta that is situated in Valletta. The other registers marriages taking place in Gozo and Comino, situated in Rabat, Gozo. Future spouse have to apply at the respective marriage registry they seek to get married.
For a marriage to be valid there should be, at least 2 witnesses. Witnesses must be at least 18 years old and may be related to the spouses (Article 13, Marriage Act).
Marriage must be officiated by a cleric from a religion that is accepted in Malta, local council majors or a representative of the marriage registrar. A civil union can only be officiated by those who are able to administer civil marriages in Malta.
If the both spouses are Maltese the marriage registrar will only ask for the birth certificate and a declaration (on oath) by each of the parties to get married stating that there is no legal reason why they should not get married.
If either of the spouses is foreign the registrar will ask for a free status certificate which would be proof that such person has not already contracted marriage abroad.
Place of marriage
A Maltese marriage may take place:
a. at the marriage registry, or
b. on board a vessel wherever it may be as long as it is registered in Malta, or
c. in such other public place, designated by the future spouses and which the Marriage Registrar finds appropriate.
Therefore, the Marriage registrar exercises discretion on whether to allow a marriage to take place in a certain location. Churches, wedding halls and conference rooms in hotels have been accepted by the marriage registrar, but public beaches have not been allowed by the registrar. However this decision may be reversed or challenged.
Decisions of the Marriage Registrar
The Marriage registrar may refuse to allow a couple to get married, however, such a decision may be challenged before the Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction.
Marriage by Proxy
It is possible for a person to get married by proxy if he or she is not present in Malta and in the opinion of the marriage registrar there are serious reasons for allowing the couple to get married by proxy.
Once a marriage proxy is signed by the registrar the parties have to get married within 90 days.