Guide to getting married in Kenya

Letter to my beautiful dear, soon to be married, best friend,

Kenya, an increasingly popular wedding destination for couples who wish to marry abroad, is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with its dramatic forests, magnificent mountains, and vast savannah plains. Read on for Varsity Scope’s guide to getting married in Kenya!

Many couples are choosing to marry abroad, and Kenya is a growing favourite location. Though it may seem like a very difficult thing to organise, it’s not as big of an operation as it first appears—especially if you invest in the right support, such as a wedding planner or tour operator.

What Kind of Wedding Ceremonies Can I Have in Kenya?

If you wish to celebrate your wedding in Kenya, there are a few options available:

Religious Ceremonies

All types of wedding ceremonies are recognised under Kenyan law: for example, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and traditional Kenyan. The Kenyan registrar will hold records of Christian ceremonies, and marriage certificates are issued for Christian, Hindu and Islamic ceremonies. Affidavits are issued for traditional African ceremonies.

For some religious ceremonies in Kenya, it’s very important that you contact your church and the registrar of marriages for information and requirements, paperwork, and terms and conditions. This is because, for example, one thing you may need to know is what act your chosen church falls under—many Kenyan churches use the African Christian Marriage & Divorce Act, which is unsuitable for non-Africans who can only get married under the Marriage Act (Cap 150/1).

Civil Ceremonies

A civil ceremony can be arranged if a religious ceremony isn’t for you, or if you’d simply prefer to get married in a special location. Civil ceremonies in Kenya can be held anywhere from a register office to a venue of your choice—as long as the venue holds a special wedding license. Make sure you check this beforehand!

Blessings / Renewal of Vows

Couples can organize to have a blessing ceremony to celebrate their union, or married couples may choose to renew their vows. These can take place in a choice of beautiful locations and with very little paperwork, though no official certificates are supplied.

What’s the Wedding Paperwork?

As soon as you decide on the type of wedding you want, and the location, you’ll need to contact the registrar general in Nairobi with all of the necessary documentation in order to receive a special marriage license. Afterward, you’ll then need to arrive in Kenya at least four days in advance of your wedding in order to finalise all the paperwork.

The paperwork needed to apply for a special license includes:

  • Residency: Residency in Kenya is usually 21 days, so a couple should notify their church and the office of the registrar general at least 21 days before the wedding date. However, if this isn’t possible, (e.g. a couple are due to arrive in Kenya only a few days prior to the wedding) a special licence can be obtained beforehand by contacting the registrar of marriages at the registrar’s office in Kenya. With this, no period of residency is necessary and it means the marriage will still be recognised under the Marriage Act.
  • Proof of ID: You’ll need to produce your original birth certificates, valid 10‐year passports, and visas. If you’re adopted, all adoption papers must be provided.
  • Proof of Status: A statutory declaration (an affidavit) must be obtained from a solicitor or notary that states both you and your partner are single and free to marry. This must be stamped and sealed and state the words “solicitor”, “notary public”, “Commissioner of Oaths”, or similar. Handwritten documents are not accepted.
  • Divorced: If you’re divorced you must produce your Decree Absolute with a court stamp.
  • Widowed: If either you or your partner is widowed, you must provide the death certificate of your deceased spouse and a previous marriage certificate.
  • Age Restrictions: If you’re under 21, you’ll need to obtain parental consent in the form of a statutory declaration (an affidavit) stamped and signed by a solicitor.
  • Name change: All relevant paperwork must be provided; if your name has been changed by Deed Poll, you must provide legal proof stamped and signed by a solicitor. This also applies if you’re divorced and have reverted back to your maiden name.
  • Marrying in a Church: If you plan to marry in a church, it’s helpful to supply a supporting letter from your home priest / pastor.

If your paperwork isn’t in English, an official translation should be attached to the originals

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