St Vincent Parliament approves amendment to Marriage Act

Kingstown – The St Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament has given the green light to amending the marriage act as government moves to take advantage of a growing market for wedding destinations.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told legislators that his administration had moved to amended the Marriage Act to make it possible for people to tie the knot after being in the destination for just one day, joining Caribbean destinations like St Lucia, Antigua, and Grenada.

“Compared to several other countries, we make this matter far too difficult,” Gonsalves said.

“There is too much centralisation in the city of Kingstown and with the Registrar General and the number of days required are just too many for many persons prior to entering into marriage”.

Gonsalves said that if the island is to take advantage of a growing market for wedding destinations, it is important that the government puts the institutional arrangements in place.

“The hoteliers, the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Authority have been calling for some changes and we have made some, and the small ones, on the face of it which we are doing today to the regulations, are important and they may well be others,” Gonsalves said. He added that by and large, the amendment would not impact “on Vincentians, generally speaking, who want to get married”.

Gonsalves said prior to the amendment, the law required a declaration by the applicants that they had been resident here for at least three days prior to the date of the application for the marriage licence.

“I don’t think that this should be particularly controversial . . . an increased part of the business, in our beautiful islands,” Gonsalves said.

Minister of Tourism Carlos James supported the amendment, telling legislators that the Attorney General Chambers will bring supporting marriage delegation of powers notice.

This will allow for the governor general, who grants marriage licence under Section 23 of the Marriage Act, to be able to delegate this particular power to district officers and revenue officers in the Grenadines.

“It has proven to be a bit inconvenient to those persons who are coming to our destination and who may have a preference for the Grenadines as a particular choice for their destination weddings,” James said, adding that the island had been a leading wedding destination.

“We have fallen off for a number of years primarily because of these challenges that persons would incur when they come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said, noting that globally, destination weddings are a US$16 billion sector.

“It’s a huge, huge market. And we’re talking over 25 per cent of Americans travel for destination weddings, and 2.4 million weddings are performed,” James said.

Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday, in supporting the amendment, said: “I have listened to the description and the promises that this seemingly very small amendment may have for the tourism sector, that is, the specific niche market of wedding destinations tourism.”

He said he remains supportive of the initiative that could lead to more visitors coming here.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion, necessarily, that the amendment would bring more people here because everybody else is upping their game and trying to provide more services and make things more user friendly and easier to access and so forth.” (CMC)

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