Getting married in Saudi Arabia

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Updated 2020-04-17 09:52

Are you ready to settle down with someone, want to take the next step into marriage while in Saudi Arabia? Find out about the necessary steps and conditions if you qualify to get married.

Saudi Arabia is a country that holds marriage as something incredibly valuable. It is a privilege to get married and a huge accomplishment to settle and start a family. The slight problem with getting married in Saudi Arabia is that it isn't an easy process for expatriates.

Conditions for getting married in Saudi Arabia

For starters, regardless of your religious beliefs, only Muslim individuals can complete a legal Saudi marriage. The Saudi Arabia court does not recognize marriage between any other faiths. This is mainly based on the courts abiding by the Sharia Islamic Law.

That being said, if you are of a different religion and/or nationality, the only way to have your marriage recognised in Saudi Arabia is to wed outside of the country and upon returning, submit a legal marriage certificate, or you can get married at the embassy, representing yours or your partner country, at the Kingdom. This is possible if the embassy has the legal approval needed, from the country it represents, from the country, your partner comes from, and from the Kingdom. For instance, currently, the Philippine Embassy has the authorisation to conduct marriages, but most of the European embassies are not providing such a service.

If you are Muslim, then there are a few things that you must check to ensure you qualify to wed in Saudi Arabia. See the options below and what is required of them:

  • Both must be Iqama (residence permit) holders
  • Female must have written permission from her current sponsor
  • Both must agree to the terms of the marriage
  • Religious practices must be completed and agreed upon
  • Marriage Ceremony and License will be performed and issued at the Saudi Family Courts
  • Submit a letter of approval by the competent authority, with bringing two witnesses
  • (A medical report for Saudis (original and copy)
  • The attendance of the spouses or their representatives
  • The attendance of the guardian or the agent of the woman

Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

The controversial guardianship laws have been reformed throughout the last years. However, still, when family matters, like marriage and divorce, are at stake, the maharams/guardians have a lot of power over the women. A woman`s guardian is usually the husband, but prior to him or if he dies, maharam could be another close relative - father, brother, uncle, or even son. The guardian has a decisive word upon woman destiny. Since 2019, women married to Saudis can register birth, marriage or divorce, without obtaining their guardian's approval. Before, the guardian used to be the one who possesses these documents. Note that the guardianship laws are applicable for non-Saudi women married to Saudi nationals. Therefore, after divorce, the Saudi ex-husband continues to hold the guardianship rights in force on the territory of the country over his ex-spouse, unless or until she remarries.

E - Certificate in Saudi Arabia

Since 2018, the Ministry of Justice has given the marriage officers the right to conduct home-based marriages for expats as for Saudi citizens. Afterwards, the e-marriage certificate was introduced. However, these procedures are still available only for Arab-speaking couples.

Procedures for getting married in Saudi Arabia

If the man is a Saudi national and the woman is a foreigner

  • The man must first apply to the court for permission to wed someone of a differing nationality. Once approval is granted, then they can proceed with the rest of the formalities.
  • The woman must have written permission from her current sponsor
  • Both must agree to the terms of the marriage
  • Religious practices must be completed and agreed upon
  • The marriage ceremony and license will be performed and issued at the Saudi Family Courts.

Nationality

Note that a foreign woman married to a Saudi is not eligible for Saudi nationality, except some specific cases. She will receive the same benefits of a Saudi national but will not be granted citizenship. However, any children born from the marriage will receive Saudi citizenship upon birth.

If the woman is Saudi and the man is a foreigner

This case is very subject-specific. It is practised within Saudi Arabia, but the courts must decide on a case-to-case basis.

 Good to know:

A Saudi woman married to a foreigner will become her husband's permanent sponsor. Any children born between them will also fall under her sponsorship. A child born to a non-Saudi male is not eligible for citizenship.

Both parties are of the same sex

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

It is illegal to practice homosexuality or display behaviours of such in public. Punishment is very severe. 

Marriages in Saudi Arabia

Polygamy: As per Islam, a Saudi man can have up to four spouses, after proving he can handle all of them financially.

Age for getting married: Since 2018, the maximum age for Saudi woman, to marry a foreigner, was set at 50. At the end of 2019, the Ministry of Justice issued an order to the court that marriages with individuals aged below 18 years must be referred to special courts. Although there is no official ban on the notoriously known child marriages, this is a step forward with tackling the practice.

Consensual union: Consensual union is not recognised by the Sharia law, therefore, by the authorities in Saudi Arabia, as well. It is rather a crime, to have sexual relations, let alone - to get pregnant and deliver out of wedlock in the country.

Wedding ceremonies: Like in the other GULF countries, weddings in Saudi Arabia are big and lush feasts with huge guests lists. Usually, male and female guests are not celebrating together, so the women can dance, with uncovered faces, fancy coiffures, wearing luxury evening gowns, instead of their abayas. Photos, as you might have guessed, are not allowed. 

Divorce in Saudi Arabia

Divorces are very common in Saudi Arabia. Although a man can divorce immediately after expressing his will verbally, he has to support his former wife and their children financially afterwards. Divorces with foreign women are complicated, especially when child custody is involved. In January 2019, the Saudi supreme court issued a law requiring women to receive text messages from the court when they are divorced. Before, Saudi man could obtain a divorce without even informing the spouse.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.