Lights of Guidance
A Bahá’í Reference File
Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby
Reproduced with the kind permission of the
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ecuador
 

XXIX.   LAWS AND ORDINANCES
J.   Laws of Marriage
3.   Bahá’í Marriage
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1262.   The Bahá’í Teachings Raise Marriage To the Status Of A Divine Institution; However, There Is A Small Section of Humanity Who Should not Marry…
“The Bahá’í Teachings do not only encourage marital life, considering it the natural and normal way of existence for every sane, healthy and socially-conscious and responsible person, but raise marriage to the status of a divine institution, its chief and sacred purpose being the perpetuation of the human race—which is the very flower of the entire creation—and its elevation to the true station destined for it by God.
“That there should be, however, certain individuals who by reason of some serious deficiency, physical or mental, would be incapacitated to contract marriage and enjoy the blessings of an enduring and successful marital life is only too evident, but these constitute only a very small section of humanity, and are therefore merely an exception, and their condition cannot possibly invalidate what an all-wise and loving Providence has decreed to be the normal way to a fruitful and constructive social existence.
“The exact conditions and circumstances under which such incapacitated individuals should be advised or even prevented perhaps from entering into any sort of marital existence have not been specified in the Bahá’í Writings, but will have to be defined later on by the Universal House of Justice. In the meantime, those believers who consider themselves as falling into the above category would do well, before taking any final decision themselves, to consult medical experts, who are both conscientious and competent, and to abide by their recommendation.
“This is what the Guardian would advise you to do, and he will pray that you may be guided in reaching the right decision in this assuredly delicate and indeed most vital matter confronting you at present. Whether your illness is the result of any inherent constitutional weakness and inherited predisposition is a question which you should refer to experts in the medical field, though even expert physicians themselves may in very few cases find it exceedingly hard, if not altogether impossible, to give a final and decisive answer.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 15, 1939)
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1263.   The Institution of Marriage as Conceived and Established by Bahá’u’lláh Constitutes the Foundation of Social Life
“It must be first clearly emphasized that the institution of marriage as conceived and established by Bahá’u’lláh is extremely simple though of a vital social importance, constituting as it does the very foundation of social life. Compared to matrimonial conceptions and forms current amongst existing religions, the Bahá’í conception of marriage is practically void of all ceremonies. There is no officiating priesthood. The two contracting parties simply appear before the Spiritual Assembly and express their desire to be united with the bonds of marriage. There is a short formula which they have to pronounce before the members, and a marriage certificate which they both have to sign. In the Cause we do not have what is commonly called the ‘Aqid’. The appearance of the two parties before the Assembly has only an administrative importance. It carries with it no spiritual or sacramental obligation of significance. I mean only the mere act of appearing before the Assembly, not marriage itself, which is of course essentially a spiritual and moral act of union.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, July 6, 1935)
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1264.   The Physical Aspect of Marital Union is Subordinate to the Moral and Spiritual Purposes and Functions
“The Institution of marriage as established by Bahá’u’lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union, considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an all-wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual, can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfil the true function for which it has been instituted by God.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 8, 1939: Family Life, pp. 18-19)
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1265.   Marriage Between Two Bahá’ís Can Be A Potent Force in the Lives of Others
“He hastens to wish you both every happiness in your forthcoming marriage, and he hopes that it will not only be a blessing to you both, but to the Faith as well.
“A marriage between two souls, alive to the Message of God in this day, dedicated to the service of His Cause, working for the good of humanity, can be a potent force in the lives of others and an example and inspiration to other Bahá’ís, as well as to non-believers.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, August 4, 1943)
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1266.   Bahá’í Union Must be a True Relationship that Will Endure
“When, therefore, the people of Bahá undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God.”
(Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 117)
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1267.   Moral Duty to Marry but Marriage is not an Obligation
“… Of course, under normal circumstances, every person should consider it his moral duty to marry. And this is what Bahá’u’lláh has encouraged the believers to do. But marriage is by no means an obligation. In the last resort it is for the individual to decide whether he wishes to lead a family life or live in a state of celibacy.”
(From a letter of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 3, 1936; cited by the Universal House of Justice in a letter to an individual believer, February 6, 1973: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 109-110)
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1268.   Bahá’u’lláh Has Urged Marriage as the Natural and Rightful Way of Life
“He realizes your desire to get married is quite a natural one, and he will pray that God will assist you to find a suitable companion with whom you can be truly happy and united in the service of the Faith. Bahá’u’lláh has urged marriage upon all people as the natural and rightful way of life. He has also, however, placed strong emphasis on its spiritual nature, which, while in no way precluding a normal physical life, is the most essential aspect of marriage. That two people should live their lives in love and harmony is of far greater importance than that they should be consumed with passion for each other. The one is a great rock of strength on which to lean in time of need; the other a purely temporary thing which may at any time die out.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to Mr. John Stearns, January 20, 1943—the first pioneer to Ecuador)
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1269.   The Bahá’í Faith Does not Contemplate any Form of ‘Trial Marriage’
“Concerning the three definitions of ‘companionate marriage’ which you give in your letter: the first, which is defined as living together without being married, on either a trial or immoral basis, is obviously unacceptable in Bahá’í teachings and is, moreover, an offence which, if persisted in, could call for deprivation of voting rights. The second and third, namely (2) a marriage where the couple agree ahead of time that they will not have children, ever, and (3) a marriage in which the couple would not have children until they are sure that they wish to stay married, divorce by mutual consent being envisaged before children are born, are private situations which would be undetectable by anyone who has not been confided in by either the husband or the wife. Thus, unlike the first type of ‘companionate marriage’ they do not constitute blatant immorality and no question of the removal of voting rights would arise. Nevertheless they are also both contrary to the spirit of Bahá’í law. The Bahá’í Teachings do not contemplate any form of ‘trial marriage’. A couple should study each other’s character and spend time getting to know each other before they decide to marry, and when they do marry it should be with the intention of establishing an eternal bond. They should realize, moreover, that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 3, 1982)
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1270.   Regarding Couples Living Together Without Being Married
“When considering cases of couples who are living together without being married it is important to distinguish those who started this association after becoming Bahá’ís from those who were in this condition already at the time of accepting the Faith. The House of Justice is sure that your Assembly is aware that it is not permissible for Bahá’ís to enter into such an immoral relationship and that any believers who do so must be counselled by the Assembly and warned to correct their conduct, either by separating or by having a Bahá’í marriage ceremony in accordance with the provisions of Bahá’í law. If, after repeated warnings, the believers concerned do not conform to Bahá’í law, the Assembly has no choice but to deprive them of their voting rights.
“The situation of those who were living in such a relationship when they accepted the Faith is less clear-cut, and the House of Justice has instructed us to send your Assembly the following summary of the applicable principles which was prepared in response to a similar question by another National Spiritual Assembly.
1. In general, marriages entered into by parties prior to their enrolment in the Faith are recognized as valid under Bahá’í law, and in such cases an additional Bahá’í marriage ceremony is not permitted. This applies whether the marriage was established under civil or religious law or under tribal custom.
2. A couple living together merely as man and mistress when either or both become Bahá’í are not married in the eyes of Bahá’í law, and must either have a Bahá’í marriage in accordance with the provisions of Bahá’í law, or cease living together. In other words, the Assembly must deal with the situation as it would in any other case of immoral behaviour, explaining the requirements of the law, giving repeated warnings, and ultimately, if the offender does not comply, he must forfeit his voting rights.
3. Because of unusual conditions in certain countries and certain cases it sometimes happens that a person will become a Bahá’í when he or she is living in a situation which does not clearly fit within either of the above definitions. Such a case occurs, for example, where a couple have established firm ties of union and are living together in such a way that they appear to be married and are accepted as such by those around them; the union has stood the test of time and there may even be children, and yet, in fact, the couple are not actually married in any of the ways defined above. The principle followed here is that we do not pry into people’s lives and insist on their undoing those ties they have established before becoming believers, but the union is accepted as a marriage in the eyes of Bahá’í law. The Guardian upheld this principle in situations which arise in some Catholic countries where, because of the relationship between church and state divorce is impossible, and one or both of the parties may still be legally married to someone else. Where it is possible for such a couple to regularize their position in civil law by having a civil marriage ceremony, they may certainly do so, but it is neither necessary nor permissible for them to have a Bahá’í marriage ceremony, since, in the eyes of Bahá’í law, they are already united in marriage.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, September 7, 1981)
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1271.   The Basic Difference Between the Two Categories of Relationships
“The basic difference between the two categories of relationships is that common law marriage is considered by the parties concerned as a solemn contract with the sole intention of establishing a family but which, because of legal complications, cannot be duly registered, whereas in companionate marriage and the like the parties concerned initiate and maintain their relationship either on a trial basis or on other immoral grounds, both of which are condemned in our Teachings.
“We feel that by applying these principles in each of the cases you cite in your letter, with wisdom, kindness and love you will be able gradually to educate the friends in the fundamentals of our Teachings and enable them to overcome their moral difficulties.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, November 21, 1967)
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1272.   Faith Accepts in Certain Cases Unions Which Are ‘Immoral But Accepted’ by Society in Which the People Live
“As you will see, the Bahá’í Faith accepts as man and wife couples who, prior to becoming Bahá’ís, have had a valid marriage ceremony, whether this be civil, religious or by tribal custom, even if this has resulted in a polygamous union. Furthermore, the Faith accepts in certain cases unions which are ‘immoral but accepted’ by the society in which the people live. In all these cases, because the union is accepted by the Faith, there is no question of a couple’s having a Bahá’í wedding ceremony subsequently because, as the Guardian says, ‘Bahá’í marriage is something you perform when you are going to be united for the first time, not long after the union takes place’. If, however, such a couple would like to have a meeting of their friends at which Bahá’í prayers and readings are said on behalf of their marriage now that they are Bahá’ís, there is no objection to their doing so, although it must be understood that this does not constitute a Bahá’í marriage ceremony.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Peru, June 23, 1969)
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1273.   Legalizing Existing Situation Does Not Require Bahá’í Marriage
“The matter of regularising a situation in civil law is quite separate and largely depends upon the requirements of the law. If a couple whose union is recognized by the Faith but is not valid in civil law wish to have a civil marriage, they may most certainly do so. This is purely a rectification of the civil position and does not require the holding of a Bahá’í marriage ceremony.”
(Ibid.)
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1274.   Difference Between Companionate Marriage and Common Law Marriage
“We have reviewed your letter of October 25 asking questions concerning the application of Bahá’í marriage laws in your community.
“The problem you describe in your letter is more or less common to the other territories in Latin America, and during the lifetime of the Guardian similar problems were presented to him by National Assemblies operating at the time in Latin America. The replies given by the Guardian indicate that distinction should be made between companionate marriage and flagrant immorality on the one hand, and common law marriage contracted because of the present relationship of law and the church in those areas on the other. Whilst the first type of relationship is immoral and therefore cannot be tolerated, the second type of relationship, if contracted before a person has become a Bahá’í, may be accepted by the institutions of the Faith without requiring the person to undo such ties.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, November 21, 1967)
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1275.   Companionate Marriage and Flagrantly Immoral Relationships
“Regarding companionate marriage and flagrant immorality, we quote below two passages from letters written on behalf of the Guardian:
‘The Guardian has instructed me to say that companionate marriage, where there is no legal or religious marriage, is an immoral relationship and we cannot accept as believers those who are openly behaving in this way.’ (To the NSA of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, dated September 26, 1957)
‘As regards flagrantly immoral relationships, such as a man living with a mistress, this should be brought to his attention in a loving manner, and he should be urged to either marry the woman if he is free to do so, or to give up this conduct, so detrimental to the Faith and to his own spiritual progress.’” (To the NSA of Central America, dated February 9, 1957)
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, November 21, 1967)
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1276.   Violation of Marriage Law, Ascertain if Bahá’í Informed of Requirements
“…For the present, your Assembly should follow the guidance already given by the beloved Guardian, keeping in mind that suspension of voting rights is not an automatic procedure.
“In all marriage cases, including those you list, your Assembly must first ascertain if the Bahá’í in question was informed of the requirements for Bahá’í marriage, and of his own responsibilities in connection therewith. In cases involving disregard of Bahá’í laws other than that of marriage, you should be slow to impose this severe sanction.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, April 14, 1965)
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1277.   Incorrect Information Given By Assembly
“Similarly, you should take into account a believer’s good intention if he acted in accordance with incorrect advice or instruction given to him by his Local Spiritual Assembly or another Bahá’í institution.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 11, 1965)
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1278.   Bahá’ís Ignorant of Law in a Different Category Altogether
“At the present stage in the development of the Bahá’í Community, Bahá’ís who failed to have a Bahá’í marriage through ignorance of the law are in a different category altogether from those who wittingly broke the law. The latter must have a Bahá’í ceremony in order to regain their voting rights; but the former should be treated in the same manner as those Bahá’ís who married before they entered the Faith and those Bahá’ís who married without a Bahá’í ceremony before the law was applied: they should be considered married and not be required to have a Bahá’í ceremony.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 20, 1966)
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1279.   Be Patient and Forbearing in Application of Laws to Indigenous People: Must not Pry Into People’s Personal Lives
“There are, however, as you will see from the 21 November letter to Paraguay, situations which are not accepted by the Bahá’í Faith, and when people who are living in such immoral situations become Bahá’ís they must rectify their condition or be subject to loss of their voting rights. We wish to emphasize, however, that although all immorality is condemned in the Teachings, it is only flagrant immorality that is now sanctionable. You should not pry into people’s affairs, and only in cases of flagrant immorality should you consider imposing sanctions, and then only after you have patiently explained to the believers concerned the Bahá’í laws involved and given them ample time to comply. Particularly in the application of these laws to indigenous people should you be patient and forbearing. The emphasis should be on education rather than on rigid enforcement of the law immediately.
“When someone who is already a Bahá’í knowingly violates Bahá’í marriage law he is subject to loss of his voting rights. Apart from the cases mentioned in paragraph four above, believers wishing to be married must have a Bahá’í ceremony, and this is true even if only one of the parties is a Bahá’í….”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Peru, June 23, 1969)
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1280.   Bigamy Not Permitted
“The situation facing you is admittedly difficult and delicate, but no less grave and indeed vital are the responsibilities which it entails and which, as a faithful and loyal believer, you should conscientiously and thoroughly assume. The Guardian, therefore, while fully alive to the special circumstances of your case, and however profound his sympathy may be for you in this challenging issue with which you are so sadly faced, cannot, in view of the emphatic injunctions contained in the Teachings, either sanction your demand to contract a second marriage while your first wife is still alive and is united with you in the sacred bonds of matrimony, or even suggest or approve that you divorce her just in order to be permitted to marry a new one.
“For the Bahá’í Teachings do not only preclude the possibility of bigamy, but also, while permitting divorce, consider it a reprehensible act, which should be resorted to only in exceptional circumstances, and when grave issues are involved, transcending such … considerations as physical attraction or sexual compatibility and harmony. The Institution of marriage, as established by Bahá’u’lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union, considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an all-wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual, can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfil the true function for which it has been instituted by God.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to a believer who, having married his first wife out of compassion, now wished permission to marry a woman with whom he had fallen in love, saying that his wife was agreeable to his taking this second wife, May 8, 1939: Extracts from the Bahá’í Teachings Discouraging Divorce, pp. 4-5)
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1281.   Summary of Bahá’í Requirements Concerning Marriages with Followers of other Religions
“In your letter of 1st July 1979 you requested the Universal House of Justice to provide you with a statement on the Bahá’í requirements concerning marriages with followers of other Faiths. The House of Justice has instructed us to send you the following summary.
1. When a Bahá’í is marrying a non-Bahá’í, and the non-Bahá’í wishes to have the ceremony of his (or her) own religion, the Bahá’í party may take part in it under the following conditions:
1.1 That all concerned, including the officiating priest, know that he is a Bahá’í.
1.2 That he does not, by having the ceremony, renounce his faith.
1.3 That he does not undertake any vow to act contrary to Bahá’í principles (such as to bring up the children in another Faith).
1.4 That the ceremony be held on the same day as the Bahá’í ceremony, either before or after it.
2. If a civil ceremony is required by law in addition to the two religious ceremonies, all three ceremonies must be held on the same day.
3. If a Bahá’í has the marriage ceremony of another religion and, in so doing, violates any of the above requirements, he is liable to loss of his voting rights.
4. If voting rights are removed and the offender requests reinstatement, they may be restored if the Assembly is satisfied that the believer is repentant, subject to the following conditions:
4.1 If the Bahá’í dissimulated his faith or undertook a vow contrary to Bahá’í principles in order to have the ceremony of another religion, and if the holding of the ceremony was dependent upon such an act, he must dissolve the marriage. His voting rights may then be restored, but, if he still wishes to be married to the same woman, he can be so only if they marry in accordance with the requirements of Bahá’í law.
4.2 If the Bahá’í dissimulated his faith or undertook a vow contrary to Bahá’í principles, and the holding of the marriage ceremony of the other faith was not dependent upon such an act, it is not necessary to dissolve the marriage, but the Bahá’í must do whatever is necessary to officially inform the appropriate authorities that he was a Bahá’í at the time of his marriage, and to withdraw the vow. Following the taking of these steps the Bahá’í’s voting rights may be restored on condition that a Bahá’í marriage ceremony be held immediately after their restoration.
4.3 If the Bahá’í neither dissimulated his faith nor undertook any vow contrary to Bahá’í principles, and his only offence was failure to have the Bahá’í ceremony on the same day as the ceremony of the other religion (or the civil ceremony), his voting rights may be restored on condition that a Bahá’í marriage ceremony be held immediately after their restoration.
5. The holding of a Bahá’í marriage ceremony, which would permit the restoration of voting rights is subject to the same requirements as any other Bahá’í marriage, and if a Bahá’í has had a civil ceremony of another religion without a Bahá’í ceremony and without obtaining consent of parents, the Assembly, before granting the Bahá’í ceremony, must be satisfied that the consent of the parents is freely given.
6. If a Bahá’í has a civil marriage or the marriage of another religion, and the Assembly is satisfied that this was because he (or she) was genuinely ignorant of Bahá’í law on the subject, the Assembly may excuse the fault. In such a case the person is recognized as married in the same way as if he had been married before accepting the Faith. It is thus neither necessary nor possible for him to have a Bahá’í ceremony.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Greece, July 15, 1980)
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1282.   Mixed Marriages (i.e., Bahá’í and Non-Bahá’í)
“With reference to your question regarding mixed marriages, that is to say between Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís, in all such cases the believer must insist that the Bahá’í ceremony should, as far as he is concerned, be performed in its entirety, but should also give full freedom to the other contracting party to carry out the non-Bahá’í rite or ceremony be it Muslim, Christian or otherwise, provided the latter does not invalidate the Bahá’í marriage act. This is the general principle which your N.S.A. should explain to the friends.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of ‘Iráq, April 16, 1936)
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1283.   Roman Catholic Marriage Requirements with Non-Catholics
“We wish to advise you also of a recent instruction by Pope Paul VI, which liberalizes the Roman Catholic attitude to marriage with non-Catholics. It is now permissible for Catholics to enter into ‘mixed marriages’ and the requirement to bring up children in the Roman Catholic religion need not be enforced. The National Assembly of Italy reports a recent marriage between a Bahá’í and a Catholic in which the officiating priest for the Catholic ceremony required no written undertaking but declared that the couple should promise to bring up their children religiously. Of course, this liberalism on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in no way affects the Bahá’í laws of marriage, including the obligation to make clear to all concerned that one is a Bahá’í and to abstain from undertaking a vow contrary to the principles of the Faith. You may find, in the case of a Bahá’í marrying a Catholic, less difficulty than formerly if a Catholic priest of the newer liberal persuasion can be found.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, January 9, 1967)
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1284.   In Reality no Individual Performs the Marriage Ceremony and if for any Reason Non-Bahá’í Refuses to Recite Verse, Bahá’í Cannot Marry that Person
“When a Bahá’í marriage ceremony takes place, there is no individual, strictly speaking, who ‘performs’ it—no Bahá’í equivalent to a minister of the Church. The couple themselves perform the ceremony by each saying, in the presence of at least two witnesses, the prescribed verse ‘We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.’ This ceremony is performed under the authority of a Spiritual Assembly which has the responsibility for ensuring that the various requirements of Bahá’í law, such as obtaining the consent of the parents, are met, to whom the witnesses must be acceptable, and which issues the marriage certificate.
“The sincerity with which the sacred verse is spoken is a matter for the consciences of those who utter it. According to the explicit text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, both the bride and groom must, in the presence of witnesses, recite the prescribed verse; this is an essential requirement of the marriage ceremony. Thus if a Bahá’í is marrying a non-Bahá’í and this person for any reason refuses to utter this verse, then the Bahá’í cannot marry that person.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Norway, May 23, 1985)
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1285.   Marriage of Bahá’í to Atheist
“The laws conditioning Bahá’í marriage are found in the ‘Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas’ under C., Laws of Personal Status, beginning on Page 39 of that publication. No Bahá’í marriage can be valid without the recitation of the prescribed verse by both parties.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in answer to a letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador regarding an atheist who agreed to the Bahá’í ceremony but since he did not believe in God did not wish to repeat the marriage verse using the name of God. Letter dated December 19, 1974)
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1286.   Marriage by Proxy
“In reply to your letter of October 19th asking whether a young believer in your jurisdiction may be married by proxy; we do not approve of the proposed proxy marriage.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 26, 1967)
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1287.   Hindu Ceremony is Possible for Bahá’í, Provided…
“As regards marriage between a Bahá’í and a Hindu, having a Hindu ceremony is possible only if the people concerned, including the officiating priest, are aware that the Bahá’í remains a Bahá’í although taking part in the Hindu marriage ceremony in deference to his or her Hindu partner.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, May 4, 1970: 19-Day Feast Circular of India, February 2, 1971, p. 7)
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1288.   Inter-Racial Marriage
“In regard to your question concerning the nature and character of Bahá’í marriage. As you have rightfully stated, such a marriage is conditioned upon the full approval of all four parents. Also your statement to the effect that the principle of the oneness of mankind prevents any true Bahá’í from regarding race itself as a bar to union is in complete accord with the Teachings of the Faith on this point. For both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá never disapproved of the idea of inter-racial marriage, nor discouraged it. The Bahá’í Teachings, indeed, by their very nature transcend all limitations imposed by race, and as such can and should never be identified with any particular school of racial philosophy.”
(From a letter of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, January 27, 1935: Bahá’í News, No. 90, p. 1, March 1935)
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1289.   Marriage Between Relatives
“The Universal House of Justice has instructed us to acknowledge your letter of 15 December 1980 in which you ask what prohibitions, in addition to the one on marrying one’s step-mother, there may be restricting marriage between relatives, and to say that the House of Justice has not as yet seen fit to make regulations on the subject of marriage with one’s kindred. For the present, therefore, decisions are left to the consciences of the individual Bahá’ís who must, of course, obey the civil law. Consideration must also be given to the prevailing customs and traditions in each country so that any action in this respect will not reflect upon the Faith in an adverse way.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, January 15, 1981)
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1290.   Marriage Ceremony for Two Non-Bahá’ís
“There is no objection to performing a Bahá’í marriage for two non-Bahá’ís, if they desire to have our simple ceremony. This, on the contrary, is yet another way of demonstrating our liberality.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, October 25, 1947: Bahá’í News, No. 202, December 1947, p. 2)
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1291.   The “So-Called” Marriage Tablet
“With regard to your question concerning the so-called Marriage Tablet printed on page 47 of the supplement of the British Prayer Book, this is not a Tablet, but a talk ascribed to the Master by Mirzá Aḥmad Sohrab. It was given some time in December, 1918 about Sohrab’s marriage. It cannot be regarded as Bahá’í scripture as ‘nothing can be considered as scripture for which we do not have an original text,’ as the beloved Guardian pointed out. The friends may use this talk, but it is not to be considered as scripture.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of South and West Africa, January 18, 1971: Bahá’í Journal of the United Kingdom, No. 218, August 1973, p. 2)
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1292.   Wedding Plans Should be Left Entirely in the Hands of the Bride and Groom
“An Assembly has the overriding duty to protect the good name of the Faith in relation to any activity of the friends, but it should always exercise great care not to restrict the individual’s freedom of action unnecessarily. Normally the size of the wedding celebration, the place in which it is to be held and who is to be invited are all left entirely to the discretion of the bride and groom and an Assembly should interpose an objection only if it is quite certain that the Cause will really be injured if it does not do so.
“In the case of any Bahá’í wedding, delayed or otherwise, the date on the certificate must be the date the ceremony is performed.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, January 20, 1966)
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1293.   Believers Should not Attend Weddings of Bahá’ís Marrying Contrary to Bahá’í Law
“Further to your letter of 5 September 1974, the Universal House of Justice has now had an opportunity to consider your question about believers attending weddings of Bahá’ís who are marrying contrary to Bahá’í law, and we have been asked to convey to you the following.
“If it is known beforehand that a believer is violating such laws, it would be inappropriate for the friends to attend the ceremony. This is out of respect for Bahá’í law. However, if without realizing the situation believers find themselves in attendance at a ceremony in the course of which it is apparent that such a violation is occurring, they should not make an issue of it.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of New Zealand, November 11, 1974: Australian Bahá’í Bulletin, No. 243, September 1975, p. 4)
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1294.   The Compulsory Part of a Bahá’í Wedding is the Pledge of Marriage in the Presence of Two Assembly Witnesses
“When the consent of the parents is obtained, the only other requirement for the ceremony is the recitation by both parties in the presence of two witnesses of the specifically revealed verse: ‘We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.’ The following quotations from letters written by the Guardian’s secretary indicate the desirability of the Bahá’í marriage ceremony being simple:
‘There is no ritual, according to the Aqdas, and the Guardian is very anxious that none should be introduced at present and no general form accepted. He believes the ceremony should be as simple as possible….’
‘The only compulsory part of a Bahá’í wedding is the pledge of marriage, the phrase to be spoken separately by the Bride and Bridegroom in turn, in the presence of Assembly witnesses.’”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 23, 1984)
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1295.   When a Bahá’í Marries a Non-Bahá’í both Ceremonies can be Held in the Place of Worship of another Religion, if Requested, and Provided that…
“In response to your email of 6 February 1986 we have been instructed by the Universal House of Justice to send you the following clarifications:
When two Bahá’ís are marrying, the wedding ceremony should not be held in the place of worship of another religion, nor should the forms of the marriage of other religions be added to the simple Bahá’í ceremony.
When a Bahá’í is marrying a non-Bahá’í, and the religious wedding ceremony of the non-Bahá’í partner is to be held in addition to the Bahá’í ceremony, both ceremonies may, if requested, be held in the place of worship of the other religion provided that:
Equal respect is accorded to both ceremonies. In other words, the Bahá’í ceremony, which is basically so simple, should not be regarded as a mere formal adjunct to the ceremony of the other religion.
The two ceremonies are clearly distinct. In other words, they should not be commingled into one combined ceremony.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, February 26, 1986)
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1296.   Witnesses Can be Any Two Trustworthy People Acceptable to Assembly: Makes Possible for Lone pioneer to Have Bahá’í Marriage in a Remote Post
“… The only requirement, however, is that the bride and groom, before two witnesses, must state ‘We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.’ These two witnesses may be chosen by the couple or by the Spiritual Assembly, but must in any case be acceptable to the Assembly; they may be its chairman and secretary, or two other members of the Assembly, or two other people, Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, or any combination of these. The Assembly may decide that all marriage certificates it issues are to be signed by the chairman and secretary, but that is a different matter and has nothing to do with the actual ceremony or the witnesses.
“…you state that the two witnesses at the marriage must be Bahá’ís. Although this is the usual practice, it is not essential. The witnesses can be any two trustworthy people whose testimony is acceptable to the Spiritual Assembly under whose jurisdiction the marriage is performed. This fact makes it possible for a lone pioneer in a remote post to have a Bahá’í marriage.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, August 8, 1969)
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1297.   Two Essential Obligations Regarding Education of Children
“In all cases of marriage of Bahá’ís to followers of other religions the Bahá’í has two essential obligations as regards the children:
a. He must not educate or assume a vow to educate the children of the marriage in a religion other than his own.
b. He must do whatever he can to provide for the training of the children in the Bahá’í teachings.
“… Bearing in mind the obligation of the Bahá’í parent to offer his child a Bahá’í education, there is no objection to the attendance of the child of a Bahá’í parent, or even a Bahá’í child, at a parochial school if circumstances require.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, May 10, 1966)
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1298.   Bahá’í Ceremony Should be as Simple as Possible, No Rituals
“Regarding the question you raise in your letter about the Bahá’í marriage. As you know there is no ritual, according to the Aqdas, and the Guardian is very anxious that none should be introduced at present and no general forms accepted. He believes this ceremony should be as simple as possible, the parties using the words ordained by Bahá’u’lláh, and excerpts from the writings and prayers being read if desired. There should be no commingling of the old forms with the new and simple one of Bahá’u’lláh, and Bahá’ís should not be married in the Church or any other acknowledged place of worship of the followers of other Faiths….”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 13, 1944)
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1299.   Meaning of Consummation of Marriage
“The Universal House of Justice has instructed us to give the following answer to your letter of 24 June in which you ask questions about the principle that the Bahá’í and other wedding ceremony must take place on the same day.
i. In a letter written on behalf of the beloved Guardian he pointed out that this requirement is because of a provision in Bahá’í law that marriage must be consummated within twenty-four hours of the ceremony.
ii. Both ceremonies must precede the consummation of the marriage, and both the ceremonies and the consummation must take place within the same 24-hour period. As the House of Justice does not wish to go beyond this at this time we are asked to tell you that it is within the discretion of your Assembly to fix the time at which the 24-hour period is to begin.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated 31 July 1979)
“The consummation of marriage by a couple is, as you aptly state, an intimate and private matter outside the scrutiny of others. While consummation normally implies a sexual relationship, the Bahá’í law requiring consummation to take place within twenty-four hours of the ceremony can be considered as fulfilled if the couple has commenced cohabitation with the intention of setting up the family relationship.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated 28 July, 1978)
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1300.   Consummation of Marriage Must Take Place Within Twenty-Four Hours of Bahá’í Marriage Ceremony
“As to cases involving another ceremony in addition to the Bahá’í one, the friends should bear in mind that according to Bahá’í law the consummation of the marriage must take place within twenty-four hours of the Bahá’í marriage ceremony. If other marriage ceremonies are to be held in addition to the Bahá’í one, all the ceremonies must precede consummation of the marriage and, together with the consummation, fall within one twenty-four hour period. Naturally any requirements of civil law as to the order in which the ceremonies should be held must be observed.”
(From the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, February 17, 1976)
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1301.   Reporting Bahá’í Marriage: Individual Only Acts for Assembly
“… In reporting Bahá’í marriages it is much better to mention that the ceremony was performed by the Assembly, as this is the proper thing to do, and an individual only acts for the Assembly on this occasion. As a funeral is not a legal ceremony more latitude can be allowed, especially as the family of the deceased may want some particular Bahá’í friend to officiate.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, July 20, 1946: Bahá’í News, No. 188, p. 3, October 1946)