S'pore marriage solemnisations can soon be done online as part of wider digital transformation

SINGAPORE – Marriage solemnisation via video-link – introduced amid the Covid-19 pandemic – will soon be offered as a regular option for couples, as part of Singapore’s wider digital transformation effort.

All pre-solemnisation steps, including the statutory declaration of singlehood, can also be done online in future.

But as a safeguard, the Registry of Marriages will have the discretion to ask couples to do them in-person where there may be suspicions that a couple may be going into a marriage of convenience, for instance.

These are among wider changes proposed to the Women’s Charter, which enshrines the protection of women and spells out the provisions relating to solemnisation of marriage and divorce, among other things.

The changes were introduced in Parliament on Monday (Nov 1), with those on solemnisation meant to make the marriage process more convenient.

With a chunk of the process moving online, couples will also get a digital marriage certificate in future, which they can store and retrieve easily. They will still get a ceremonial certificate for keepsake.

The pandemic has shone the way for some parts of the marriage process to be conducted virtually, with closed borders around the world keeping couples apart.

Some of these measures will now become permanent options, under the proposed changes, such as allowing solemnisation of marriages to be done via video-link for some couples. At least one of the pair must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident.

This was first introduced in May last year, under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures for Solemnisations and Registrations of Marriages) Act.

During the pandemic, some couples also found they were unable to cancel a notice of marriage once filed, as there was no provision for this under the law.

For couples who could not go ahead with their wedding because of the Covid-19 situation, this meant that they would have to let the notice lapse and forfeit their application fee.

An amendment to the law will allow any party to apply to cancel the notice of marriage in future, if there is good reason to do so.

Another proposed change will repeal an outdated safeguard that restricts the holding of religious ceremonies to after solemnisation.

This was to guard against vulnerable individuals falsely perceiving that they have been legally married through a religious ceremony.

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This is no longer necessary as there is now more awareness of the legal aspects of marriage, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development in a statement, after the changes were proposed in Parliament.

As such, the repeal will allow religious ceremonies to be held before, during or after solemnisation.

Another amendment will restrict access to the State Marriage Register.

Currently, under the Women’s Charter, anyone can apply to the Registry of Marriages and pay a fee to obtain a copy of an extract of any record in the State Marriage Register, such as information on someone’s marital status.

The copy of the extract contains personal particulars, including their NRIC number. To prevent misuse of this, only certain parties will be able to obtain such information in future, including the parties to the marriage, persons applying on behalf of either party and family members.

Separately, individuals will still get two free searches to inquire whether someone is married.

However, this search will only show if there is a marriage record, the marriage date, and name and NRIC number of the spouse partially redacted for privacy. This search function is available to all, and is not limited only to couples intending to marry.

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