Be married before you do your wedding – Part 1

Most of what we call “white wedding” has no legal significance, whatsoever, in this country. It is a mere ceremony.

There are two kinds of marriages recognized by the Laws of Nigeria, namely: Marriage under the Act (Registry marriage) and Marriage according to native law and custom (including Islamic marriage).

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“White wedding” is a mere celebration of marriage. The celebration of either of the two marriages already mentioned.

Which means that at the point of white wedding, there must have been a marriage already in existence.

That is, “white wedding” is for people who are already married and they go to church or any venue to celebrate the marriage which is already in existence.

So, If you are not already married by the Saturday or Sunday of your white wedding, your “white wedding” is a needless ceremony. A charade, really.

Two weeks ago, I received a lady in my office who wanted a divorce because her husband of 9 years had just married a new wife. She looked broken and I felt her agony as she narrated her story.

She was so certain that her husband could not marry another wife because they married in church.

But Upon seeing her “white wedding” marriage certificate, I was sorry to inform her that her husband could still marry another woman while still married to her. As far as the law is concerned, he is entitled to unlimited number of wives.

It didn’t matter at all that the church marriage certificate stated that the marriage is a monogamous one. Nor does It matter that the man and woman swore on the church alter to be married “to you alone” till death “do us part”.

The issue is: what form of marriage did this woman celebrate during her “white wedding”? The answer, as I found out, is that it was customary marriage, and nothing more.

Now, what is the implication of that? Can you get a divorce because a husband under customary marriage has taken a new wife?

The answer is no. Customary marriage carries the implication that the man can marry as many wives as he likes. This is completely legal.

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Polygamy is only illegal under Registry marriage, not “white wedding”. So, doing white wedding does not necessarily mean that your husband can not take another wife while still married to you.

Note that few church denominations have obtained the license to conduct Registry marriages. The implication is that on the day of the white wedding, the church completes the Registry marriage and goes on to celebrate it.

But government is so reluctant to grant churches the license to do this. The effect is that very few churches have this license.

Unless your white wedding was conducted in the Catholic Church, just take it that your “white wedding” was a mere ceremony. I know of only two Pentecostal denominations that have been granted this license.

By Michael Ogbonna & Aniefiok Udoabasi.