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LCQ12: Marriage Ordinance

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi in the Legislative Council today (April 18):


     Under the existing legislation, marriages may be celebrated in marriage registries by the Registrar of Marriages or deputy registrar of marriages (the Registrar), or in licensed places of worship by competent ministers according to the rites or usages of marriage observed in the churches, denominations, or bodies concerned. Moreover, practising solicitors and notary public who are eligible and appointed as civil celebrants may also celebrate marriages for wedding couples at any time and at any place in Hong Kong other than the office of the Registrar and a licensed place of worship. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the respective number of marriages celebrated through the aforesaid three ways in each of the past three years;

(b) of the existing principles based on which the authorities grant a licence to certain place of worship to approve it as a place for celebration of marriages according to religious rites;

(c) whether the existing arrangement that civil celebrants may celebrate marriages in any place is contradictory to the policy that ministers are required to celebrate marriages in licensed places of worship; and

(d) whether the authorities will consider relaxing the aforesaid requirement, so that competent ministers may also celebrate marriages in any place?



(a) The figures of marriage registrations celebrated in marriage registries, licensed places of worship, and those by civil celebrants in the past three years are tabulated below:

                                2009    2010   2011  
                                ----    ----   ----
Marriage registries          26 275   25 919 26 831
Licensed places of worship     2 823    2 774  2 849
By civil celebrants           21 979   23 925 28 203
                              -------  ------ -------  
Total                         51 077  52 618  57 883

(b) According to sections 4 and 19 of the Marriage Ordinance (Cap 181), the Immigration Department (ImmD) may license a place of public worship to be a place for celebration of marriages, and permits any competent minister of the church, denomination or body to which such place of worship belongs to celebrate marriages according to the rites or usages of marriage observed in such church, denomination or body. In issuing such a licence, the ImmD will consider the local registration particulars of the church, denomination or organisation that applies for the licence, qualifications of its principal ministers, land use of the place, safety of the building and facilities of the place where marriages are to be celebrated, etc., and may consult other government departments when necessary. At present, there are 262 licenced places of worship that have been approved as places for celebration of marriages.

(c) According to section 21 of the Marriage Ordinance, a marriage celebrated by a civil celebrant shall take place at any place in Hong Kong other than a marriage registry and a licensed place of worship. The Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme aims to provide greater flexibility in the choice of venue for marriages and the purpose of which is different from marriages celebrated inside licensed places of worship according to the religious rites.

(d) The Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme was introduced specifically for secular marriages, which are different from marriages celebrated by ministers according to the rites or usages of marriages observed in their respective religions, denominations or organisations. Should there be a need for the marrying parties to celebrate a marriage by a competent minister outside a licensed place of worship, an application may be made to the Chief Executive for a special licence to be granted for that purpose under section 11 of the Marriage Ordinance.
     The Government has no plan to change the relevant legal qualification requirements for civil celebrants of marriages at this stage.

Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:30


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