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5 Legal Requirements of a Valid Marriage




I just noticed that some persons are claiming to be married, but are not married in the eyes of the law as bad as that may sound. Yes! There were actually blessed by a man of God spearheading their church, but what they assumed to be marriage is no marriage. Why? It is because the purported marriage is below, the legal requirements of a valid marriage under the Act. This is why I have articulated these points here; I hope you find these 5 legal requirements of a valid marriage useful and there are:


 1.  Parties must be of legal age.

For you to be validly married under the Act, none of the parties to the marriage must be less than 21. Where any of the parties to the intended marriage is less than 21, the consent of the father to the minor must be sought and obtained. The father’s consent must be in Writing and annexed to the Affidavit that will be submitted to the Registrar during the marriage process.

Where the father of the person less than 21 years is dead, insane, or outside Nigeria, the consent of the mother is required and where the mother is also dead, insane, or outside Nigeria, the consent of the Guardian of the person must be obtained in writing. See section 18 of the Marriage Act.

Also on rare occasions, someone might not have a father, mother, or Guardian, in this situation, the consent of either of Governor of the state of celebration, A judge of the High Court of State or FCT, or anybody above the grade of Assistant Secretary must be obtained in writing. See Section 20 of the Marriage Act.

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 2. The marriage must be properly celebrated.

There is a difference between a marriage ceremony and a marriage celebration under the law. When people gather to merry with you, the eating and drinking that comes with it in different hotels and premises, all in the name of marriage, is better described as a marriage ceremony and not a marriage celebration.


Celebration of marriage under the law signifies the wedding itself as opposed to the merriment that comes with the wedding. There are only three places you can lawfully celebrate or wed your spouse under Nigerian law:

  • Inside the marriage Registrar’s Office and
  • In a licensed place of worship.
  • In any other place under special license of the minister

The registrar’s Office

There is a marriage registry in every State in Nigeria. There is also a Marriage Registrar in each of the marriage Registries. The marriage Registrar is the officer in charge of marriages and documentation at the District level. He issues the marriage forms, collects caveats if any, and celebrates the marriage inside his office as authorized by the Marriage Act.

Licensed place of worship

Churches in Nigeria obtained licenses to conduct marriages. It is not all churches that are licensed to do so. The Churches licensed to celebrate marriage do so in accordance with the provisions of the Act.  Apart from the church being licensed, the marriage must be celebrated by a recognized minister of that Church. Thus, Roman Catholic priests cannot celebrate weddings in a private home, in another church, or venue outside his Church if licensed.

If you are in doubt if your Church is licensed to celebrate Marriage or not, it is safer to talk to your pastor or church minister about it and get evidence from him. So that you will meet up with this one of the vital requirements of a valid marriage under the Act.

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 3. The marriage must not be between persons of close consanguinity or affinity.

Persons that are closely related by blood are not allowed to marry under the law. See Section 4 of the Marriage Act. There is a certain degree of consanguinity that one is prohibited from marrying. A man cannot marry a woman who is or has been his

  • Ancestress
  • Descendant
  • Sister
  • Father’s sister
  • Mother’s sister
  • Brother’s daughter
  • Sister’s daughter

Likewise, a woman cannot marry a man who is or has been her:

  • Ancestor
  • Descendant
  • Brother
  • Father’s brother
  • Mother’s brother
  • Brother’s son
  • Sister’s son

The implication is that even if you are eligible by age and the marriage is celebrated but within the prohibited degree of consanguinity, it is no marriage. In the first place, the marriage was not supposed to be celebrated by the Registrar or by any minister. The celebration was done in error and of no legal binding.

There is also a prohibited degree of affinity and you are not allowed to marry within this class of persons. These include:

  • Wife’s mother or husband’s father
  • Wife’s grandmother or husband’s grandfather
  • Wife’s daughter or husband’s son
  • Wife’s son’s daughter or a husband’s son’s son
  • Father’s wife or mother’s husband
  • Grandfather’s wife or grandmother’s husband
  • Son’s wife or daughter’s husband
  • Son’s son’s wife or son’s daughter’s husband
  • Daughter’s son’s wife or daughter’s daughter’s husband.

4. Neither of the parties is married customarily to a different person.

Court marriage or marriage under the Act can only be celebrated between persons who are not at the time of the marriage married to a person other than the intended spouse. In other words, there is nothing like double marriage.

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That is, you are married to Mr. A and you want to marry B when you are still customarily or statutorily married to A. But you can marry Mr. A under native law and customs and proceed to marry Mr. A under the Act (statutorily).

The only way for you to marry again after your previous marriage is for you to dissolve the first marriage with the other person. This is one of the benefits of marriage under the Act. It protects you from polygamy.


 5. There must be consent

In some places, marriage is imposed by parents on their children for material gain or for some customary reasons. If you are from such places, your father or mother may want you to marry a friend’s son or daughter or their political father’s son or daughter regardless of your own dreams.

Under Nigerian law, Consent of the person you intend to marry is very necessary. Without consent, there is no marriage. There is nothing like “whether you like it or not, I must marry you”

There is no consent where such consent was obtained under duress or fraud, misguided identity, or where the person is incapable of understanding the nature of the marriage contract. Consent is one of the fundamental requirements of a valid marriage under the law.

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