Singapore to propose law to enable virtual marriage solemnisations amid Covid-19 outbreak

During the circuit breaker period, marriage solemnisations have had to be postponed.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Couples may have their marriages solemnised virtually from next month amid the coronavirus outbreak, if a coming Bill gets passed by Parliament.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee wrote on Facebook that a Bill will be introduced at the next Parliament sitting on May 4 to enable civil and Muslim marriages to be solemnised remotely.

This means that the couple would not have to be present at the Registry of Marriages or the Registry of Muslim Marriages, nor need to be in the physical presence of a marriage solemniser and witnesses.

During the circuit breaker period, marriage solemnisations have had to be postponed.

Mr Lee wrote: "Even during a crisis, we should try to enable important life events such as marriages to go on. We should not let Covid-19 hold back those who are ready to start a new life together."

If the Bill is passed, couples - where at least one party is a Singapore citizen or permanent resident - will be able to have their marriages solemnised virtually.

The process will be made available only to couples who present Singapore-issued documents for verification, to ensure that proper safeguards in place, said Mr Lee.

The couples, their witnesses and in the case of Muslim marriages, the wali, must also be physically in Singapore so that they can sign the statutory declaration. During the solemnisation of the marriage, the couple, solemniser and witnesses must all be physically in Singapore as well.

Mr Lee said that virtual solemnisations can start from mid-May, if the law is enacted. He added that the option may extend even beyond the circuit breaker period.

"We will also resume solemnisations that are conducted in person, when it is safe to do so," he said.

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Posted by Desmond Lee on Sunday, April 26, 2020

Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli wrote on Facebook that for Muslim marriages, the Office of Mufti has issued religious guidance, or an irsyad, that virtual solemnisations are permissible under Islam, as long as the conditions for a nikah, or solemnisation ceremony, can be fulfilled. 

He said: "I am heartened to see our asatizah taking decisive steps to seek practical solutions to meet pressing community needs in this current challenging climate." 

Medical doctor Nicholas Chan, 27, said that he and his fiancee, whose early June wedding has been postponed, will not opt for a virtual solemnisation if it becomes available. 

He said: “We have already had an idea of how we would like our special day to be, and a virtual solemnisation wouldn’t feel romantic enough. If we had more practical concerns, such as housing, then this virtual solemnisation would be something that we might consider.” 

For now, the couple will likely hold a quiet solemnisation dinner after the circuit breaker period is over, and have a larger banquet dinner at a later date.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.