While women spend a lot of time and energy planning the perfect wedding, they ignore an important detail that is aimed at their own protection.

How to register your marriage

While women spend a lot of time and energy planning the perfect wedding, they ignore an important detail that is aimed at their own protection.So, even as they devote hours searching for the right outfit and venue to make the wedding memorable, they forget about the paperwork formalising the union- the marriage certificate. An essential document establishing the marital status of a couple, it was made mandatory by the Supreme Court, in 2006, for every couple, irrespective of the religion.

The idea behind the compulsory registration of marriage is to ensure that women are not left high and dry if they are deserted by their husbands. The certificate means the man cannot deny being married and avoiding alimony and maintenance. "Apart from protection, the registration serves other purposes. For instance, while applying for a joint home loan, you will have to provide this certificate as proof of marriage," says Ravi Goenka, advocate, Goenka Law Associates.

The procedure for registration is simple. Depending on your religion, you can either register under the Hindu Marriage Act or the Special Marriage Act, which differ in some respects.

One, the Hindu Marriage Act sets a minimum age limit of 21 years for the groom and 18 years for the bride, while the latter places a minimum age limit of 21 years for both the partners. Two, the Hindu Marriage Act only allows you to register your marriage, not solemnise it. On the other hand, the Special Marriage Act serves both purposes. Let's consider the steps you need to take under the two Acts.

Hindu Marriage Act

To register under this Act, both the partners need to be Hindu. If only one spouse is, they will have to turn to the Special Marriage Act. The first step is to apply to the sub-registrar under whose jurisdiction the marriage took place. Alternatively, you can apply to the registrar of the place where either spouse stayed for at least six months before marriage. Both partners need to fill the relevant application form, sign it, and submit it, along with photocopies of the necessary documents, such as age proof and address proof (see box). For proof of marriage, submit a certificate from the priest who solemnised the marriage.

Also, attach an affidavit, mentioning the place and date of marriage. If you have a wedding invitation card, you can produce this as well.

Keep in mind that both parties will need to disclose their previous marital status, if any. In case either spouse is a divorcee or widow/widower, a copy of the divorce decree or death certificate of the previous spouse is required. All the documents should be attested by a gazetted officer. Lastly, you will have to deposit a fee with the cashier and attach the receipt with the form. The fee differs from state to state, but is usually Rs 100-200.

Once the application has been submitted and the documents verified, the concerned officer will assign a date for registration, when the marriage certificate will be issued. Make sure that the gazetted officer who attests your documents accompanies you on the day of registration.

The people who have converted to Hinduism also come under the purview of the Act, but will have to provide a certificate of conversion from the priest who solemnised the marriage, along with relevant documents. While there is no specific time limit within which you must register your marriage, it is advisable not to delay it.

This Act covers both marriage solemnising and registration, and requires the same documents as prescribed under the Hindu Marriage Act. However, the procedure is complex. To begin with, both the parties have to give a 30-day notice to the sub-registrar in whose jurisdiction at least one spouse has resided.

If you are marrying under this Act, you won't need to submit a wedding card and the priest's certificate, and the registration will take place after the wedding. If you are married, include the wedding card, if possible. The fee is again Rs 100-200.

One copy of the notice is put up on the sub-registrar's office board, and another is sent by registered post to both the partners. If either spouse is residing in another sub-registrar's area, a copy has to be sent to him for similar publication. If there is no objection, say, from divorced spouses, the marriage is registered one month from the date of publication of the notice. In case of objection, the marriage officer conducts an enquiry and the marriage is registered after the enquiry concludes.