KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – Parliament has given the go-ahead to amend the marriage act in order to market the country as a wedding destination.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told legislators that his administration has amended the Marriage Act to allow people to marry after just one day in the country, joining Caribbean destinations like St Lucia, Antigua, and Grenada.
“Compared to several other countries, we make this matter far too difficult,” Gonsalves said.
“There is too much centralisation in the city of Kingstown and with the Registrar General and the number of days required are just too many for many persons prior to entering into marriage”.
“If the island is to reap the benefits of a growing market for wedding destinations, then it is crucial that the government establish the right institutional arrangements” said Gonsalves.
“In response to the hoteliers, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Tourism Authority’s requests, we have made some changes, and the small ones that we are making today to the regulations are important, and there may be others,” Gonsalves said.
Overall, he added, “the amendment will not significantly affect Vincentians who want to get married.”
Gonsalves said that before the amendment, the law required applicants to declare their residency in the country for at least three days before submission of their marriage license applications.
“I don’t think that this should be particularly controversial . . . an increased part of the business, in our beautiful islands,” Gonsalves said.
The Minister of Tourism Carlos James supported the amendment, informing legislators that the Attorney General Chambers will submit a supporting marriage delegation of powers.
By doing so, the Governor-General, in accordance with Section 23 of the Marriage Act, will be able to delegate this power to revenue officers and district officers in the Grenadines.
“It has proven to be a bit inconvenient for those persons coming to our destination and who prefer the Grenadines as a venue for their destination weddings,” James said, adding that the island had been a top wedding destination.
“We have seen a decline for several years because of the challenges that people encounter when coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said, noting that globally, destination weddings are a US$16 billion sector.
“It’s a huge, huge market. And we’re talking over 25 percent of Americans travel for destination weddings, and 2.4 million weddings are performed,” James said.
The leader of the opposition, Dr. Godwin Friday, commented on the amendment: “I have listened to the description and the promises this seemingly very small amendment may have for the tourism sector, that is, for the specific niche market of wedding destinations tourism.”
The initiative he supports could lead to more visitors coming here, he said.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion, necessarily, that the amendment would bring more people here because everybody else is upping their game and trying to provide more services and make things more user friendly and easier to access and so forth.”