Getting married outside Hong Kong
There is an increasing trend amongst residents of Hong Kong to get married abroad. If you are planning a wedding outside Hong Kong, you should pay attention to whether your marriage celebrated overseas is recognised as a legal marriage under Hong Kong law.
This depends on whether the marriage is valid at the place of the wedding ceremony. If so, your marriage should be a marriage recognised in Hong Kong by the Court and by the Government, such as the Inland Revenue Department.
Legal marriage overseas
To ensure that the marriage is recognised in Hong Kong, you should ensure that your marriage is celebrated under the legal procedures recognised by the law in force at the time and at the place of the wedding ceremony. For example, marriage celebrated in Bali is recognised in Hong Kong if the ceremony and the legal documentation signed are valid under Indonesian law. Otherwise, it is only a symbolic wedding ceremony that is recognised neither at the place of the marriage nor in Hong Kong.
You also have to check the legal requirements before deciding where to get married. For example, not everyone can legally get married in Bali. A person may only get married in Indonesia providing he or she observes one of the five religions recognised by Indonesia.
Where the overseas wedding is valid under the law of the place of marriage, it is not necessary for the couple to register the marriage with the Registrar of Marriages in Hong Kong. After returning to Hong Kong, the couple should notify the Immigration Department of the change in their marital status. This can be done by letter or by submitting the required form to the Immigration Department.
A symbolic ceremony is not recognised in Hong Kong. For example, a wedding ceremony held in a chapel in Japan administered by a minister without going through the legal procedures and registration at the local authorities is not recognised in Hong Kong.
Another example is a wedding in Las Vegas without official legal papers signed and properly celebrated by a registered celebrant.
Weddings in Thailand are generally symbolic unless you have the necessary documents translated into Thai and attend your Embassy in Thailand to sign the necessary papers.
A couple having a symbolic ceremony overseas will need to solemnise their marriage in Hong Kong in one of the manners under the Marriage Ordinance (Cap 181). This means that the date of your marriage might not be the date of the wedding.
It is important that you ascertain whether the marriage can be legally recognised in Hong Kong before heading off for an overseas wedding.
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Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.