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MARRIAGE IN KENYA IS WITHIN 6 REGIMES

Currently, one can be in a legally recognized marriage under any of 6 regimes:
1. Christian
2. Civil
3. Customary
4. Hindu
5. Islamic
6. Other religious
Under the first 5 headings, a marriage certificate must be issued for marriages celebrated once the current Marriage Act, 2014 became effective. Marriages under the 6th heading are not issued with a Government certificate recognising the marriage, but must nevertheless be registered in the public place of worship in which such marriage was celebrated, to be legally recognized.
Christian, civil and Hindu marriages are monogamous, while customary and Islamic marriages are potentially polygynous. A customary marriage, involving only one wife, can be converted into a monogamous marriage by registration under the Christian or civil headings. One in a legally monogamous marriage cannot convert it into a potentially polygynous one. Such a marriage has to end before the man can enter into a potentially polygynous marriage.
If you are planning a marriage in Kenya, the Registrar of Marriages in Nairobi is the best starting point for information and current requirements. Non-Kenyans are able to marry Kenyan citizens and to live in the country on a spousal work permit, called a dependent pass. Minor children are also eligible for the dependent pass. Please see below for an overview of marriage requirements in Kenya.
Legal requirements
For a Kenyan citizen to legally marry a non-Kenyan in Kenya, both parties must register with the Registrar of Marriages, which must be done at least 21 days prior to the ceremony. Both parties will need to provide documentation, including:
Original passports and birth certificates
Passport photos, colour
Official proof of divorce or death, if you have been previously married. A solicitor or notary must also provide a signed affidavit that the non-Kenyan party is legally eligible to be married.
The non-Kenyan party will also need to provide proof of visa, or a return ticket to leave the country
Dependent passes
If you have recently married a Kenyan citizen, you may be eligible for a dependent pass, which gives you permission to live and work in the country, including any children who are under 18. A dependent pass is the first step in obtaining Kenyan citizenship, which can only be applied for after seven years of marriage. Passes can also be obtained by de facto partners, even if they are not legally married.
To apply for the pass, a range of documents will be required, including evidence that your relationship is genuine and ongoing. Any documents not in English will need to be officially translated into English before applying. This includes:
Completed application – Form 26, Dependent Pass
Passport photographs in colour (2)
Copies of both the applicant’s and the sponsor’s passport
Proof of income while living in the country
Evidence of any medical conditions
Proof of the relationship (consult application forms and/or an immigration lawyer for more detail about these requirements)
Your work permit application, if you wish to work. This is separate from the dependency pass application, although they can be applied for simultaneously.
The pass application fee, consult the Department of Immigration for current costs
Good to know: The pass can be applied online, via the Kenyan e-visa portal.
Kenyan wedding traditions
A wedding in Kenya may be very modern, similar to western weddings, or may be very traditional. This is dependent on the wishes of the bride, groom, and their families. You may find that even modern weddings incorporate traditional aspects into the ceremony and celebrations, to honour family and culture, and to keep traditions alive.
Kenya has over 40 tribal groups, each with unique ways of celebrating marriage. Kikuyu, the largest group, has many ways of honouring marriage. In Kikuyu culture, this may start with meeting the parents and setting intentions, in which the groom visits the bride’s family, offers gifts, and asks for the marriage to go ahead. A dowry may also be paid. The actual wedding ceremony and reception is a day of fun, traditional games, and plentiful food and drink.
Good to know: Many couples set up a wedding registry, as in many other countries, so a gift from the registry is a good idea if you are invited to a Kenyan wedding.
Essentially, in Kenya, one should think ahead before jumping into a particular type of marriage. A woman who cannot stomach being in a polygynous marriage, should only marry under the monogamous categories. A man who isn’t a one-woman man should not marry under the monogamous categories.
So Kenya accommodates both monogamous and polygynous marriages, and both civil and religious marriages. In fact, if you are keen on planning your marriage and post marriage life, just get in touch with a good lawyer well versed in these matters. An informed lawyer can even customize your marriage contract to suit your needs – all under Kenyan law.