Getting married in Malaysia is relatively straightforward and simple. Under Malaysian law there are two officially recognised forms of marriage: Muslim and civil marriages. However, as Malaysia is a multi-racial country, many people, including Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs choose traditional marriage ceremonies. These are not legally recognised under the Registration of Marriages Ordinance and Law Reform Act 1956, unless the marriage is first registered as a civil marriage with the Registration Department.
Under Islamic law in Malaysia, it is illegal for a non-Muslim to marry a Muslim. Same-sex marriage is not recognised in Malaysia.
Polygamy is legal in Malaysia, but it is no longer legal to enter a polygamous marriage under civil law. Polygamy is only practised by a minority of the population. A Malaysian Muslim man may marry up to four wives, if permitted to do so by a shariah court.
While Muslim and civil ceremonies are the only legally recognised options for marriage in Malaysia, it is possible to have a wedding ceremony in accordance with cultural or religious customs after the marriage has been formally registered. Many people choose to have a civil marriage followed by a religious ceremony.
Civil marriages must comply with the conditions set out by the Malaysian National Registration Department (NRD). A civil marriage must take place at the Registry Office (NRD Office) in either the bride or groom's place of residence. On the other hand, Muslim marriages must be registered with the State Religious Office. Information on Muslim marriage procedures is available from the local Religious Office.
Procedures & Documentation
Procedures required for a civil marriage at a Registry Office
• Notice of marriage must be given to the Registrar in the district where the marriage will take place – the period of notice is 21 days, and both parties must have been resident in the district for at least seven days before giving notice.
• The notice of marriage must be posted on the notice board until a certificate of marriage is granted or three months have elapsed (whichever is earlier).
• A written declaration must be signed by both parties to declare that there is no impediment to their marriage and that they are legally free to marry.
• When the notice has been in place for at least 21 days, the Registrar issues the certificate of marriage once the required fee has been paid.
• A date for the marriage to take place can then be arranged with the Registrar. Solemnisation of the marriage must take place within six months of the date of notice; after this time has elapsed a new notice must be submitted.
• After solemnisation of the marriage at the Registry Office, the marriage is legal. It is possible to have a ceremony according to traditional custom after the civil ceremony.
Documentation needed to register a civil marriage
• ID card for Malaysian citizens or passport for non-citizens, with a photocopy of the page containing personal information and date of arrival in Malaysia.
• A colour photograph against a blue background for each person.
• The Decree Absolute if one of the applicants has been divorced.
• The Certificate of Death of a Spouse if an applicant has been widowed.
Non-citizen applicants are also required to submit a letter of Confirmation of Marital Status from their country of residence or Embassy.
It is also necessary to bring the completed application form JPN.KC02 and the fees for the marriage certificate and the marriage declaration. Forms must be completed in Malay.
As well as the couple getting married, the witnesses are also required to bring their identity card or passport. Two witnesses are required who must be over 21 years of age. Couples must be dressed appropriately. T-shirts (collared and non-collared), jeans, flip-flops and shorts are not allowed.
The Registrar registers the marriage immediately after solemnisation and once the couple getting married and the witnesses have provided all the relevant documents. Once the details have been checked in the marriage register, the marriage is officially registered and the Registrar issues a Marriage Certificate.