Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Yours a Certificate of Marriage or a Marriage Certificate?

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

We are back in a season of weddings at Kabwata Baptist Church. After the four weddings we had in April (one of them is this couple on the photo, with a very pleased elder behind them), we have another three weddings lined up in the next three weeks. The only difference is that this time we have two following each other this Friday and Saturday, and then the third one three weeks later. We continue to be grateful to God for the Christian homes being put together by his sovereign design. May they be wells where the thirsty shall find living water and tables where the hungry shall find the bread of life.

I do not normally have trivia on my blog, but in the light of the many occurrences of ignorance over the difference between a certificate of marriage and a marriage certificate in Zambia, I thought it best to use this season of weddings to explain. If you are a married couple and what you have safely stored away in your drawers is the document your pastor signed on your wedding day, then I have bad news for you—you do not yet have a marriage certificate! To obtain the latter, you need to take your certificate of marriage to the Office of the Registrar General (Births, Marriages and Deaths). You will be relieved of a few kwachas and a few days later you can collect your marriage certificate (see what it looks like in picture below).

In case you are confused about all this, and think that this is just a play on words, consider this: When you were born, your parents were given a certificate of birth by whatever health institution you are born in. Then they took that certificate to the Office of the Registrar General (Births, Marriages and Deaths) in order to obtain your birth certificate. Similarly, when you die, the doctors will certify your death by issuing your relatives with a certificate of death. If the administrator of your estate wants to get your wealth from very sensitive institutions, such as banks, he has to go to the Office of the Registrar General (Births, Marriages and Deaths) to obtain your death certificate. Just apply this to the realm of weddings and you will soon see the consistency. The procedure is the same when you are hatched, when you are matched, and when you are dispatched!

Before you all panic and make a dash for the Registrar General’s office immediately after reading this, let me assure you that you do not really need “the real thing” when you are dealing with most transactions within Zambia. That is why some of us took aeons before getting a marriage certificate. We got by pretty well with our certificate of marriage, signed by the Right Reverend Joe M Simfukwe. Usually, “the real thing” is only important when you need to apply for an international visa, etc. In fact, Felistas and I were married for almost twenty years before we got our marriage certificate. It was not until we needed to travel together to the UK that, in order to obtain a visa for her, we had to produce “the real thing”. So, take your time. When you have the money and the time, you can go and join the queue…and experience the frustrating “come tomorrow,” “come next week” phenomenon of government inertia again. I wish you well!


  1. I'm in shock. Ha ha ha! How much does the marriage of certificate cost? The PR of the office in question needs revamping.

    By the way even some private firms have a come tomorrow syndrome (I'm just from one bank which hails from SA!).

  2. Conrad, this has come too late for some of us. You needed to tell us this when the Lord providentially showed it to you during your UK visa pursuit. Now I know why I am not getting a work permit to Namibia, I submitted a wrong thing! Those guys must be looking at it and laughing at us. Government procedures (a polite form of the infamous word “Bureaucracy”) just scare me. But i have to have a go at it.

  3. It is surprising that after 21 years of marriage, to day, 11th June, I have no marriage certificate. What a rude twenty first anniversary!

  4. Thanks for this info here and when you told me in person. Surprising the non real thing seems to have worked for us in visas, work permits, permanent residence and even at the Zambian passport office in Lusaka(surprise!). And to give them some credit, we applied for new passports using the express service and we got them a week later as promised.

  5. How come we were granted permits to be out here in Australia seven years ago (using the certificate of marriage) and such technical issues were not raised. May be its only the UK that raises these issues. Nevertheless we have to make arrangements to get the real thing.

  6. Well that's quite a reminder on marriage certificate. I have stash away in my drawer the certificate of marriage. Thanks

  7. I would reward someone who can obtain a marriage certificate in Zamia. Can anyone help?

    Kind regards

    Mrs Sokolich

  8. I have just realised that ours was not signed by the general registrar... can that affect my UK visa process? Have married a UK citizen.