Your pre-wedding legal handbook

Your pre-wedding legal handbook

By MIHIKA JINDAL | | 12 September, 2015
Legal aspects shouldn’t be overlooked before a wedding.
Yes, weddings are chaotic; logitics are all over the place, drama abounds, emotions are out of control... the whole cliche is true. But amid all this commotion, people often overlook a few legal checkpoints that experts believe must be attended to before a wedding. While there are no strict legal requirements around a wedding, you’d do well to go over the basics:  
  • Weddings in India are considered a sacred act and are complete when customary practices are adhered to, which differ across sects and cultures. While those do’s and don’ts are dictated by the cultural authorities, there are some constant mandates — the bride should be above the age of 18 years and the groom should have completed 21 years; the couple should be marrying of their own free will, and should be of sound mind to give their consent. A full disclosure should be given about health, age, social factors and everything else that could have an implication on the wedding and relationship. Violation of any of these factors could find you in a potential divorce situation. 
  • India has separate personal laws for different religions. The Hindu Marriage Act covers Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists; the Muslims are governed by The Muslim Marriage Act; and there is a set of separate acts that covers both the Parsi and Christian communities. For inter-religious and transnational marriages, or for marriages of any other type that doesn’t fit the watertight parameters of these specific statutes, there is a more generic law called the Special Marriage Act. 
  • Registration of marriages is mandated by law in India, but choosing not to register does not invalidate the wedding. However, people are getting their marriages registered now because some countries demand a marriage certificate in case there is an overseas honeymoon planned for the couple in order for them to travel as man and wife. In such cases too, embassies issue visas on the basis of affidavits in case the registration process takes too long. A marriage can be registered in the locality where the bride and the groom reside by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of that area, or where wedding ceremony takes place. Usually, an appointment with the SDM is given within a 15-day period, but immediate dates can also be obtained on payment of an enhanced fee.
  • Let’s face it, even the sky is no limit when it comes to Indian weddings. From a budget of Rs 20 lakh, which is considered modest, to a full blown splurge of Rs 20 crore or more, there is a lot of money riding on an average wedding, so a wedding insurance may seem like a natural step to take once you’ve made all your plans. And yet, most people prefer not to think about it. A fully-planned wedding may suffer a number of unforeseen adversities: from postponement to damage to the venue; from unfortunate death among close relations to natural calamities, burglary or worse. Insurance companies provide a financial cover to most such contingencies, except if the bride or the groom decides to elope on the day of the wedding. One could approach the National Insurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company, or some of the private players such as ICICI Lombard or Future Generali, to avail special insurance policies for weddings. In case you decide to go for one, remember to read the fine print carefully to understand exclusions.
  • Dowry is a definite no go, and this is obvious piece of knowledge is the one that is most often ignored. As a society, there has to be a collective effort to dismiss and discourage this practice. The repercussions of accepting or offering dowry are serious, including prison terms that can stretch up to seven years or more. Besides, a proven dowry-related offence becomes a valid legal ground for divorce.

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