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There was a time when court marriages were associated only with eloping or impoverished couples, and the proper Indian wedding was a grand ceremony attended by relatives and friends in their best attire. Over the last decade, however, inter-religious marriages have become common, and people are opting for the easier, quicker and simple procedure -- a civil union.
So just how does one go about a civil marriage ceremony? First off, you need to make sure you qualify for one. The Special Marriage Act 1954 has outlined the following conditions with regards to the same:
The procedure for a civil ceremony is as follows:
Once the procedure is done with and you are declared husband and wife, the court does not object to solemnising the wedding in any other traditional way.
A few pros and cons:
Sarika [Images] Kumar* recently got married in court. She says, "We decided on a court marriage for a couple of reasons. Since my husband and I are from different religious backgrounds, we realised that our families would feel awkward about any one religious ceremony. Also, it was a simpler option in terms of time and coordination constraints."
"It's also a quicker option," continues Sarika. "Court marriage saves you the trouble of organising a big wedding and the hassles that come with it. Booking a hall, a caterer, a decorator, card printing -- all that is done away with. Furthermore, it saves you a lot of tension when you think of all those people you might have forgotten to invite! At Indian weddings, someone or the other is always in a huff at not being included in some ritual or the other."
And, of course, there's always the middle path. "You could always team up a court marriage with a small reception later on, sans all the difficulty," says Sarika. "That way, you get to celebrate without going bankrupt sponsoring a grand affair!"
Of course, not everyone thinks that way. "If you are the kind of person who enjoys rituals and tradition, you will miss out on all that. The moment of the actual wedding isn't all that grand. No vows will be exchanged and no flowers and rice will be thrown," explains Sarika. "Another not-so-great part is the government office where you will actually be 'married' -- you will be waiting along with lots of other people who have all come to collect marriage certificates. All that kills the mood we associate with a wedding."
* Name changed to protect privacy.
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