On 2 October the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands made the decision to delegate to the Registrar General the power to sign same-day Marriage Licence which is expected to facilitate cruise ship weddings.
This move, which is in accordance with section 36(2)(f) of the Marriage (Amendment) Act, is the fulfillment of a promise that was made since 2014. The decision also enforces legislative changes that were made in December 2017. It also positions the Territory to capitalize further on the wedding niche tourism market.
The Marriage (Amendment) Act 2017 among other things, enables couples to receive a marriage licence the same day, as opposed to the situation where they had to wait. When the Bill went before the House of Assembly almost two years ago former Premier Dr. the Hon. Orlando Smith explained that the legislation would allow visitors to get married aboard cruise ships docked in BVI waters.
The amendments to section 36 of the Principal Act reduced the residence requirement for marriages from one day to same day in respect of special marriage licence. It also reduces the age of consent from 21 to 18, but explicitly states that persons cannot marry children.
The bill also makes provision for the opening hours of the office of the Registrar General.
In particular, it provides the right of the Registrar or any marriage officer to conduct marriages on board a ship within the territorial waters of the British Virgin Islands. Government indicated that this change will facilitate new and additional services to the cruise tourism sector, and facilitate greater diversification of the tourist product by further making the Territory more competitive, and promoting it as a prime wedding destination.
The Marriage (Amendment) Act (2017) came five years after government amended the law to allow persons to get married 24 hours after arriving in the BVI, as opposed to waiting three days.
In 2014, the government had promised that the Marriage Act will be updated with modern laws to improve the overall efficiency in the registration and celebration of marriages in the Territory.