posted on 23/04/2014, 17:25 by Natalia Wangdi

Arranged marriages by parents were popular just a few decades back. Often, people married among the relatives.

For instance, particularly in eastern Bhutan, cross-cousin marriage was a popular tradition. This is now becoming unpopular among the literate mass and most of the marriages take place based on their own choice.

Marriages are conducted in a simple ways. A wedding date is always finalize by astrologers to have prosperity and happiness for a new couple. A small ritual is performed by a lama (priest). However, in some cases dinner parties are organized. The parents, relatives and the friends present scarves (kha-dar) to the couple along with gifts in the form of cash and goods in most cases during the ritual.

In the western part of Bhutan, the husband goes out to the wife's house after marriage while in the eastern Bhutan it's just the reverse. This practice is however not mandatory. The new couple may set up their own household on their own plot of land. Divorce is accepted in the Bhutanese society and carries no stigma. The divorced couple in most situations remarries with new partners. However, compensation is paid by the party seeking separation.

Registration of marriages is a fairly new thing there. If both to-be-married are the citizens of Bhutan, the procedure is very simple. But if one of the couple is a foreigner, it becomes really complicated, sometimes even impossible. This was our case. We never actually got a Bhutanese marriage certificate. When I first came to Bhutan, we looked into the procedure of marrying a foreigner. Turned out we had to file an application to the Supreme Court. So the date is set, we present ourselves wearing the national attire (admittance to state institutions in national clothes only). Tashi took his time explaining and training me on how to behave before the judge. You must remain in low bow, don't lift your eyes, look down. It was not easy; by force of habit I kept looking up to maintain eye contact. You can't speak to the floor, can you? The judge was very friendly, trying to find out why we needed the certificate. We assured him that we were not going to live in Bhutan, but it was important for us to register our marriage because we were expecting a baby. With Bhutanese marriage certificate I could stay in country without visa during 1 year, just validating the certificate yearly. The Bhutanese tend to avoid any foreign influence, which is why they are so reluctant to register marriages with outsiders. The audience resulted in us getting no clear answer, just a promise to consider our cause in the nearest future. As it turned out, "nearest future" can mean several years. Moreover, we learnt that since recently marriages with foreigners have to be approved by the King himself. Our plan is to legalize our Russian marriage certificate in Bhutan, but the procedure is not so clear yet. Fortunately, it was not a problem to register our marriage in Russia, and this certificate allows me to enter Bhutan with a private visa and not to pay the daily tourist tariff. As you can see now, marrying a Bhutanese is not an easy business :-)

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on 10/07/2014, 10:40 said

Thank you for your post. I am wondering how long the private visa will allow you to satay in the country for. One month?

Sounds like you have gone through a lot for your marriage. Which is always nice to see
on 24/04/2014, 12:52 said

Very nice article, so lively and interesting. Thank you very much, Natasha, for sharing this information with us!
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