Tuesday, July 16, 2024

All You Need To Know About Court Marriage In Nigeria

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Adetunji Matthew
Adetunji Matthewhttp://www.aidthestudent.com
I’m Adetunji Matthew, an Economist, Social Media Manager, software Developer/Marketer Sales Consultant, and Ecompreneur. I’m popularly known as “Matt” As an artist and designer, I aim to create something brilliant daily. Eager to learn more, I use my free time to get better at w hat interests me, whether it's researching, teaching, or even something entirely new.
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As at when am writing this article my weeding is just a week due, The main reason why am writing this article is because since have started planning my weeding, I have been receiving messages and advice from here and there telling me not to do court weeding, the danger of it, your wife will just collect everything you work for blablabla.

So i decided to sit down and do my research on this topic. And as you know I will always educates my reader on any knowledge in which i possessed.

Disclaimer: Before you start reading this article i need to make it clear that this is not a legal advice as i am not a lawyer. I studied economic in school and not law. so everything here is based on my personal research, Although i did consulted some of my lawyer friends for some clarity.

without further ado, Let’s get started.

I am not going to be boring you with what is the meaning of court weeding or registry. Also i won’t talk about the Steps Involved in Having a Court Wedding, And advantages or disadvantages of court weeding, If those are the information you are looking for, You can find all that on google.

Am going straight to what men are worried about in court weeding.

First of all, there is nothing like court marriage. That’s a popular misconception. What we have is ‘Registry Marriage’ or ‘Marriage under the Act’.

The court is not conferred with the power to conduct or celebrate marriages. They don’t have the right to ‘wed’ or ‘join together’ anyone. The court only has the power to do the following; dissolution of marriage (e.g divorce, legal separation), issues of settlement or other legal remedies in and out of marriage. The proper place for the celebration of marriage is a Registry or a Licensed place of Worship.

Paragraph 1.

1.1. In Nigeria, we have two kinds of recognised marriages; (1) customary marriage (this includes the Islamic Marriage) and (2) Statutory Marriage (not white wedding). I will explain this as we go on.

1.2. A traditional marriage is not necessarily a customary marriage. A customary marriage is a complete marriage procedure by itself especially if you have no intention of getting married statutorily. The customs, practices and traditions of (both parties) governs such solely and nothing more. ‎A traditional marriage especially in Nigeria simply pays allegiance to traditions and practices without being bound by such laws once a statutory marriage is done. It is an example of ‘give unto ceaser what belongs to ceaser’.‎

1.3. A statutory marriage overrides a customary(traditional) marriage. This means, you can either wed customarily or statutorily and if you do both, the Statutory Marriage backed by ‘The Marriage Act’ completely cancels the other. It can be argued that in a deeply cultural/communal place like Nigeria, sometimes parties for the sake of peace, or just to fulfil family obligations and to pay obeisance to traditional rites, conduct a traditional (a variation of a customary marriage) before conducting a statutory marriage.

1.4. (it is pertinent to note here that the Registries/licensed place of worship don’t need proof of a traditional marriage celebration before joining parties together under the Act) To be legally married, you don’t need to fulfil any traditional obligation. The law does not recognise or make demands for such because it amounts to writing same examination two times for just one course when one is all you need.

Paragraph 2.

2.1. The Marriage Act governs statutory marriage in Nigeria. That’s why it is simply referred to as Marriage under the Act. A statutory marriage has the flavour of the law and recognises just one man married to one woman. Meaning, if Polygamy is your aim and your religion or culture does not frown at more than one wife, then there is no need of conducting ‘a registy marriage’ or a marriage under the Act. This is the major difference between a statutory and a customary marriage. The law defines marriage as between just two people, one man and one woman. Nothing more.‎

Paragraph 3.

3.1. A statutory marriage can be celebrated in either of these two places;
1. A registry OR
2. A licensed place of worship. (e.g a church)

3.2. A ‘church’ wedding does not confer any legal status on a marriage if such church is not licensed or if the license has been revoked by law. We usually mistake a church wedding for a ‘statutory marriage’ and that’s very far from the reality. A church marriage that does not comply with the processes as stipulated by the Act can best be described as a party. I always love to tell my friends to ensure that their worship centres are licensed and if it isn’t, head to the nearest registry or LG headquarters to be joined by a Registrar.

3.3. Something else, let’s take for instance I own a church, registered under Part C of CAMA and it is called Hallelujah Ministry, and I have about 449 branches, it should not be assumed that all 449 branches are licenced places of worship for the purpose of celebration of Marriages. Issues of licence are very specific. Licence is not blanket. It is possible that my branch at Ikorodu is licensed while my branch at Nnewi, isn’t. Governors of states by a gazette can confer or revoke licences on worship centres. A church being registered under CAMA does not necessarily make it licensed.‎

Paragraph 4.‎

4.1. The statutory marriage is conducted by a Registrar OR a Minister of a licensed place of worship. Emphasis on LICENSED. This means that if you were legally joined together by a Registrar, there is actually no need for a Minister(your pastor, reverend, bishop, apostle, spiritual leader etc) to do same again. Vice versa. Celebrating in these two places can at best be ‘duplicity’. But I also understand the need especially in a religious society like ours to want a church to ‘bless’ your marriage even after a registry celebration. But note, one is enough and okay.

Note: two things must be in place especially, a licensed place and a licensed person to perform the celebration.

Further Note: I line with while i was doing this research i found out that something played out in court last year and this line of question redirected me back to the Act. The only recognised time to be joined together legally is from the hours of 8am to 6pm. Anything after has a cloud of uncertainty. Sometimes very little things like this go a very long in making or marring a case.‎‎

4.2. The importance of being legally joined together plays out in the following circumstances;

(a) when parties want to go their separate ways e.g. divorce, separate or remarry. And this is where a couple of people I’ve spoken usually have an issue. I’ve heard a man being advised not to do a ‘court marriage’ because his wife will take all of his properties away. Actually, that’s very far from the truth and reality. The court in Nigeria is not vested with such powers. Issues of compensation comes up when there are children to support, joint properties to split, promises, financial debts by one party, agreed compensation by both parties etc. No one strips you of your properties because you did a registry marriage.‎ This is one misconception that fuels suspicion if a lady insists on a statutory marriage.

(b) death of one party and issues of estate administration. If a person dies, his properties will be administered based on two things, his/her or will or if he had no will the governing law upon which he was legally subjected in marriage. Marrying under the Act makes your estate administered by the law of your states and not the customs or traditions of your place. This is always very dependable because on order of priority, your family is well catered to and it minimises conflicts & problems amongst your loved ones. (another post entirely)‎‎

(c) if a party wants to conduct another marriage, being legally joined together estopps such from happening. In fact, it even makes it criminal. If your marriage was not ‘legally’ recognised under the Acts, nothing stops him/her from marrying another person while you’re still together. An act provides marital security especially from ‘wandering-proned’ spouses.‎

(d) if one party is indicted in a criminal or civil matter. A legally recognised marriage protects the right of a wife or husband not to give evidence or testify against the other spouse. But such covering doesn’t exist if such marriage was not properly celebrated as provided by the law.

(e) other legal benefits that may accrue by law e.g. medical covering and insurance from your spouse’s place of work, care packages accruing from services rendered by a spouse, disability benefits, social security, issues of insurance etc. A legally recognised spouse can reap spousal benefits that may be provided for by private or public institutions. This extends even to the children.‎ This does not apply if parties are not ‘legally’ joined.

(f) purposes of foreign travel, immigration etc. E.g. If you want to marry a Nigerian and relocate her to your country, only a statutory marriage will cover for that. The processes only recognise a Marriage conducted under the Act. This is just one out of the many examples in issues of immigration etc.
(many more to come)‎

4.3 A marriage not properly celebrated is seen by the law as null and void. It means it may as well not exist.

4.4. Currently, all Local Government Areas have Registries and Registrars to conduct and celebrate marriages. So wherever you are in Nigeria, you are covered. The process is the same anywhere.

Paragraph 5.

5.1. Conducting/celebrating a statutory marriage has the same uniform procedure whether in a registry or a licensed place of worship. To avoid making this cumbersome, I’ll put up a link to the Marriage Act but also talk to your lawyer to guide you through. ‎Also, you can make findings in your local registry or place of worship about these processes and be mindful that it complies with the provision of the Act.‎

Note: It is the simplest, cheapest, easy to fund/celebrate form of marriage in Nigeria, especially in these time of economic unsettling.

5.2. Any question or observation can be raised or discussed here or with lawyers around you. I will also share in the comments, legal authorities backing the above summation.

For your information, I am going to do both, the court marriage and the church marriage. My fiancé requested for it, and am giving it to her.

You are all invited to my weeding coming up 16th of this month, Email me if you need the location. Keep us in your prayers


  1. Thanks for the education. If I am seperated from my first husband because of physical and emotional abuse that I can prove, does he hav a right to remarry after 3yrs? He made me leave but I don’t want him to remarry.

    • Just like the other said, move on.. theres no point doing that to him if you dont want him back, just work on your own self, work harder and be good to yourself. That is enough

    • He can remarry if both of you were properly married and if after separation, he applied for a divorce.

      A divorce will make him free to go ahead and remarry.

      But if there was no divorce, then he doesn’t have a right to remarry.

    • Then go back to him or allow him to remarry. If he said he is done with you, then dust ur ass, do the legal part and move on. If you go complicate ur life with babalawo or mushroom churches, na you know oo

    • He made you leave but you dont want him to remarry. Seems you have a wicked heart full of vengeance. This might actually be the reason why he made you leave in the first place; most marriages that crash dont just crash because of problems on the surface.

    • This is a case of monitoring spirits in human form. They wont die and allow someone rest, neither will they move on and find peace and joy elsewhere.
      May God save us from this kind of spirit in human form

  2. My Muslim friends no dey wan hear court marriage at all, dey it will make dem stick to one woman all their life.

  3. You are not ready for marriage

    A single lady who was down and out on her luck went to a fortune teller, hoping to find a reason to continue living. The fortune teller found something positive in her future and told the single lady, ‘You will be proposed to 3 times in the next 6 months.’ She said, ‘No, it will only happen once.’ When asked why, she said ‘Cos I’ll accept the very first proposal and there’d be no need for the other two!’

    I found this an interesting story because many people have gotten to a point when they have had to say this especially due to pressure from family and society.

    I attended a couple of weddings lately. As in eh, ladies, we really know how to have fun with ourselves. Underneath the facade of just looking good in their bridesmaid dresses and asoebis was the age-long scheme of all womankind. I noticed the coy looks under the smoky eyelashes. Was it the flirtatious giggles or the fake British accents in singsong voices? Everybody had something planned to catch new suitors. Yes, it was all about the new catches. It was all about being the next in line.

    One of the new acquaintances I made asked me a question. He may have been at loss on how to make meaningful conversation but I found his question quite interesting. He asked me what age I feel a lady should be ready to get married. My first response was a long grin which I’m sure made him feel embarrassed. Then I laughed out loud and asked him, ‘ready or ripe?’ He was just as perplexed as you are now. I went ahead to remind him that his question applied to both sexes. That inspired this post. The question is, are you ripe or ready for marriage?

    Think about it this way…

    Do you have a life-sized chip on your shoulders, always thinking that your opinion is the best and your decision ought to be final. Are u more likely to throw a tantrum once someone disagrees with you? Then you are ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Do you always need someone to make decisions for you and somehow you have come to believe that your future depends on someone else? Then you are ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Do you need someone who will meet all your financial needs? Then you are ripe not ready for marriage

    Are you more excited about the wedding than the marriage? Sure the beautiful ring, white gown and cake are alluring but when the dress comes off and all the well wishers are gone then starts the real thing. If you’ve not spent time thinking about that part then you’re ripe, not ready for marriage.

    If you’re doing it just because all your friends are getting married too then I guess I don’t need to tell you that you’re ripe, not ready for marriage.

    If you’re not ready to put someone’s needs first before yours then you’re definitely ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Suddenly it doesn’t matter anymore what he does for a living, whether you love him or whether he really loves you…lady, you’re ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Are you thinking about your family and what they are likely to benefit from your marriage? Then you’re ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Are you more concerned about appending the ‘Mrs’ to your name than the character of the ‘Mr’? Then you are ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Have you started overlooking that character flaw that causes you to have a nagging feeling in your mind? You may just be ripe, not ready for marriage.

    Marriage requires mental maturity and not just physical maturity (I’m not encouraging #child marriage by the way). Mental maturity requires the ability to make decisions after considering important factors and to stand by your decisions. Think about it!

  4. from what i can understand here, court marriage never overrides church marriage, once the church is registered. dont mind my vocabs…my question is, “what is there are two different law in both court marriage and in church marriage, which one should be attended to? for example when an issue of divorce comes up, and you weeded in a registered church and also in a registry marriage, the church says nothing like divorce until death do us apart, and court says, divorce if you cant go on, so here, which one should override each other

    • The church vows are not laws, they are just promises you made to each other before God and they are not legally binding.

      A licensed church and a licensed minister plus witnesses is same as the registry, and operates under the same act…the additional stuff done in church is purely entertainment.

      Like the Matthew said, if you did both and it does not matter the order, one does not cancel the other, you just wrote the exact same exam twice.

  5. My only question is What’s the significance of marriage in Ikoyi Registry? Everybody seems to be going there

  6. Thanks for the info…. Can u pls do an exposé on divorce too. ..I need knowledge on that subject matter…. Thanks

  7. Are you saying if my church is registered and recognised by law to conduct marriage ceremonies that I don’t need to go to the marriage registry again for the same purpose?

  8. What are the major benefits for the man,I was made to believe that the kind of marriage registry Favour’s only the ladies

  9. I have a question, is Ikoyi registry the only recognized registry outside the shores of Nigeria? I see everybody even people who don’t have plans to travel out go there.

  10. Please, i need your help to explain this issue to me.
    My wife and I did Church marriage far back 2020. Now my wife want to go for her NYSC and we need a Court marriage certificate so that she can be posted to our state of residence. I inquired from a Customary court about getting a marriage certificate instead of going to the local government Registry. They told me they can offer me DECLARATION OF MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE. Please will this certificate be treated same as the Registry Certificate of marriage?

  11. Wow!!! Truly ignorance is bliss. I thought once I agree to a court marriage, my own is over. But sir, if the court marriage doesn’t mean my properties are divided between me and my wife if divorce occurs, why then is there a prenuptial agreements because there could be cases where the spouse may want to take advantage of the fact that they have kids and fleece the man.

  12. I really do appreciate this knowledge shared. However, if am not mistaken your write up also implies that an unlicensed church wedding (aka party as you stated) makes allowance for another church wedding (maybe licensed) if he/she so desires. #IStandToBeCorrected

  13. Barrister in the house, please can you provide a robust response to these 2 questios:

    1. My lady friend got married 6 years ago, the husband abandoned her like 4 years ago. He just left the house and couldn’t be traced. They did registry wedding. He didn’t even know what his child looked like as he disappeared while the wife was pregnant. My friend was browsing the Internet when she discovered that he has remarried since 2 years ago at ikoyi registry. No divorce, nothing. What legal posture could my friend take to address this injustice?.

    2. I want to know if it’s only ikoyi registry that embassies recognised in Nigeria as a lot of people troop there to marry. Also, what’s the cost implication to marry at ikoyi.


  14. Matthew, please what are the rights and privileges under the law of a lady and child born out of wedlock? does she has any chance/right to a share of ones property? what if she is the first person to give one a child?

  15. I’m sorry to make a little digression from the topic. My husband and I wedded at the registry for 6 years now and my marriage certificate is still as it was given to me. I tried laminating it but someone told me not to laminate it. Please is it wrong to laminate the certificate?

  16. What if one did statutory wedding and you are not given the right certificate, how do u get original, I was given local government certificate instead of federal ministry of interior

  17. I am more worried that people who are not yet married are already planning for a divorce. This is terrible

  18. In a situaton where a lady got married at the registry a month to his husband leaving the country for work abroad, but a year after things changed and the husband couldnt be conneted to. 2 years later the lady got married to another man and the man in question also got married outside the country 6 years after. Would there be any problem in the future for the 2 individuals? Because I heard 7 years is the required number of years a woman can wait for his husband after which she could get married again.

  19. Mine is a simply question and anyone who has correct information should please respond to this
    IS STATUTORY MARRIAGE IN NIGERIA WITH PARENTAL CONSENT OR NOT. Must it be with the consent of parents of the couple or not necessarily? Thanks

  20. Any lawyer in the house please ?

    urgent help on this matter please .

    My friend want to marry a lady quietly that was separated from her previous husband for the period of 5 years and they did court registry wedding.

    Can she proceed with another wedding with the new husband in another registry in Nigeria

  21. This is so so educative. But there was a question from a guy which I would have loved to learn from the answer and the question was:

    If he marries here and move to USA with his wife, then latter issie arrises that demandes file for divorse, would USA Marrital law overrides Nigeria Law where he marrie? He was particular about this because of the property sharing…

    Ans pls. I want to learn from that too after the interpritation.


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