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Get Married Here

A unique venue

When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory.
Friedrich Nietzsche

If you want an unusual place for your wedding, choose St Helena.

Get Married Here

Below: Anyone can get married here! • Photos • Some history • Read More

Anyone can get married here!

Under the Marriage Ordinance 2017 resident Saints, other Saints, non-Saints and other non-residents can all get married on St Helena.

You have a choice of three types of venue:

Some churches impose restrictions on who can get married in their church. Most will only marry people who are members of their faith; the Anglicans will not marry divorced people; and no church, as far as we are aware, will marry a same-sex couple{1}. There are no such restrictions in the first two venues.

If you want to get married in St Helena you should probably first contact the Tourist Office, who can obtain and provide you with the most up-to-date list of licensed venues.

Wedding party in the Charabanc
Wedding party in the Charabanc{a}

Bachelors know more about women than married men. If they didn’t they’d be married, too.
H. L. Mencken

Photos

Until recently the only places to get married were The Castle or a church, but in either case the normal place to take the wedding photos has traditionally been Castle Gardens{2}:

Wedding picture 01

Wedding picture 02

Wedding picture 03

Wedding picture 04

Wedding picture 05

Wedding picture 06

Wedding picture 07

Wedding picture 08

Wedding picture 09

Wedding picture 10

Wedding picture 11

This was not, however, always the case. Here are some example older wedding photos:

1911, unknown location
1911, unknown location

1911, Homagee wedding
1911, Homagee wedding

1941, St. James’ Church
1941, St. James’ Church

1970s, Consulate Reception
1970s, Consulate Reception

1970s, St. Matthew’s
1970s, St. Matthew’s

 

On 24th February 2018 serving Governor Lisa Phillips married Detective Inspector Dave Honan of the St Helena Police{3}:

The only other Governor to marry during his term (as far as we know) was Governor Skottowe, who married Mary Greentree on 30th September 1766.

Some history

In The East India Company days people were married by the Parson, under the legal supervision of the Governor. Problems resulted in the periods when there was no serving Parson, as we see from the following item from the Records:

December 1685: As the Island had been more than a year without a clergyman some persons were glad to take advantage of the services of one, the Rev. Buttler, who was on board the ship London, to bring up the arrears of marriages.

A register was kept, as instructed by The East India Company Directors in a letter from December 1673: A Register is to be kept of all Marriages, Burials and Births, but, as we see from the item from the Records below, it was only sporadically maintained:

July 1693: The Island Register of Christenings and Marriages, &c., was formerly very unperfect, there being no person appointed to take care of Registering them. Wm. Clifton, soldier and Schoolmaster, appointed to look after the Register and allowed 1s 6d (£0.08) for each Christening or Marriage registered.

The Records for these early days are also full of instances of individuals petitioning the Governor for a ruling in a dispute over marriage - whether someone was permitted to marry somebody else; whether a promise to marry was valid and enforceable; etc.

Until the middle of the 19th Century people were married here on simple payment of a fee. As far as we know there were no residence or other restrictions. Civil wedding without a church service was possible, performed by the Governor.

In 1847 Robert Gray was appointed by the Anglican Church as Bishop of Cape Town, and hence the island’s Anglican Bishop. One of his first actions was to challenge how marriages were arranged here. Bishop Gray argued that licences were issued indiscriminately and wanted to impose Anglican Church rules on all marriages. This was not acceptable to the Governor. The dispute continued until 1851 when it appears Bishop Gray gave in on the exclusive right of the church to marry people and the Governor agreed to require advance notice of marriages. This was documented in the Marriage Ordinance 1851.

As non-Anglican churches became established they also obtained the right to marry people. If a church had twelve householders it could apply to marry couples.

In 2009 a new Constitution was introduced in St Helena which contained non-discrimination and human rights provisions. Although the 1851 Marriage Ordinance did not explicitly prohibit Same-Sex Marriage (it referred only to the parties to a marriage) it was deficient in other respects - for example, only the father of a person under 18 could give consent for a marriage, not the mother. In addition there was pressure from the Tourist Office and other tourism providers to allow civil weddings to take place in venues other than The Castle, e.g. hotels. So it was decided that a new Marriage Ordinance was needed and the Marriage Bill 2016 was drawn up.

The Marriage Bill 2016 was first debated by Legislative Council on 11th December 2016, but Legislative Council became confused about its responsibilities and some members seemed to feel that their religious convictions could override the equality provisions of the Constitution. The bill was withdrawn. Following the General Election of 2017 a period of Consultation took place in late 2017, consulting on two options: full marriage equality (as required by the Constitution), or some sort of ‘Civil Partnership’, which critics pointed out would not meet the requirements of the Constitution. During the six weeks of Consultation a petition was widely circulated by leading Church-members opposing Same-Sex Marriage, but this was only signed by 5% of the resident population, demonstrating that the vast majority were either in favour of Same-Sex Marriage, or at least not opposed to it.

Marriage Ordinance 2017

On 5th December 2017 Executive Council decided to re-present the 2016 Marriage Bill (now called the Marriage Bill 2017, but otherwise unaltered) to Legislative Council for discussion. On 19th December Legislative Council passed the bill, thus legalising the holding of weddings in venues other than a Church or in The Castle, and also formally permitting Same-Sex Marriage.

The first Civil Wedding to take place outside The Castle was conducted at the Mantis Hotel in Jamestown on 7th June 2018 between Deborah Stroud and Roddy Yon. In March 2019 a couple were married at High Knoll Fort.

Lemarc & Michael
Lemarc & Michael{b}

The first same-sex marriage on St Helena took place on Monday 31st December 2018 when Lemarc Thomas, a Saint, married his Swedish partner Michael Wernstedt at Plantation House (photo, right). Comment on social media was overwhelmingly positive with very few expressing opposition.

Marriage Records

Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution yet.
Mae West

Official marriage records began in St Helena in 1849. The Church may have kept records before that. If you want to trace old marriages, see our page Family & Friends.

19th Century wedding photo (bride on the right)
19th Century wedding photo (bride on the right){c}

Read More

Below: Article: Saint Helena has held its first ever same-sex wedding • Article: Love and Jonathan • Article: Same-Sex Marriage - The Facts

Article: Saint Helena has held its first ever same-sex wedding

By Josh Jackman, Pink News Daily LGBT+ Newsletter, 7th January 2019{4}

Michael Wernstedt and Lemarc Thomas, who got married in Saint Helena in 2018, smile at the camera
Saint Helena couple Michael Wernstedt and Lemarc Thomas made history in December
Saint Helena couple Michael Wernstedt and Lemarc Thomas made history in December

Swedish national Michael Wernstedt tied the knot with native citizen Lemarc Thomas in a beautiful ceremony on December 31 2018. The event came just over a year since Governor Lisa Phillips signed marriage equality into law on December 20 2017.

Registrar Karen Yon oversaw the historic gay wedding on the tiny British territory, which is home to 4,500 people and sits in the South Atlantic Ocean island some 1,000 miles from South America and Africa. The ceremony ended with the new husbands running across the gardens at the scenic Plantation House as they were showered with pink flowers.

How was same-sex marriage legalised in Saint Helena?

In December 2017, the territory’s Legislative Council approved marriage equality by nine votes to two. As a result, the British Overseas Territory, which hit the headlines when its tortoise Jonathan - the oldest in the world at 186 - was discovered to be gay in October 2017, wrote into The Marriage Ordinance 2017 that ‘marriage’ includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.

But, despite including the provision that ministers were not compelled to marry same-sex couples if doing so conflicted with their religion, the legislation was met with opposition from two representatives. One of the two councillors to vote against the bill, Cyril Leo, warned it would cause a deep divide on the island, which measures just 10 by five miles. He said he was afraid of the negative reaction from homophobic elements, but bowed to the majority’s decision.

The island’s Attorney General, Angelo Berbotto, told Pink News at the time: St Helena has finally voted for same-sex marriage. Now there is equality on this little British Overseas Territory.

Kylie Hercules, a representative who supported the Marriage Bill, said simply: We are dealing with people’s lives and emotions.

Christine Scipio-O’Dean, who voted in favour of the bill, agreed that it was time for the island to accept all its citizens. We cannot discriminate, she said. We must not, and we must strive to ensure equality.

Representative Lawson Henry said the island’s constitution called for equality, which its legislative council could finally deliver for LGBT people. It is simply about equality, he said. If this house cannot uphold the constitution then why are we here today, and why do we have a constitution? This bill has never been about religion, it is about equality and protection of minority groups.

OUR COMMENT: Credit should be given to the island’s Equality & Human Rights Commission who worked hard to ensure the Marriage bill was passed, as did Lemarc and Michael themselves.

Article: Love and Jonathan

Published in the St Helena Sentinel 20th December 2018{b}

I will marry the man who takes me to St Helena to meet Jonathan.

An American couple - James Swanson and Erica Munkwitz - have travelled from Washington D.C. to St Helena Island, spurred by the above statement of Erica’s.

I thought, if that’s all I have to do to get her, I’m planning the trip! That sounds like a great deal for me, James said.

For around seven years now, Erica has been enthralled with St Helena’s oldest resident - Jonathan the tortoise. In the SAMS Radio 1 studio on Thursday, Erica said that as a university professor of British history, she finds Jonathan’s age incredibly interesting.

As a historian - in America we don’t have anything that’s old. Nothing. Thirty years old and it’s considered ancient, Erica said. And to know that there was a living, breathing animal that’s almost two centuries old… To imagine all the things that Jonathan has seen, or experienced, or that have happened while he’s been alive - everything that has made our modern world… That just fascinated me; absolutely stunned me. And so I just wanted to go and see him and be in that presence - that historical presence. He is a living monument. He’s not made of stone, he’s not made of concrete; he is a living, breathing animal that has been on this planet for that long. I was just blown away.

So blown away, that when she met James two years ago, the statement ‘I will marry the man who takes me to St Helena to meet Jonathan’ was one of the fist things she said to him. And to his credit he didn’t think I was crazy, Erica said. He thought it was a madcap adventure, and he was more than supportive and said ‘we will definitely do this.’

And on Wednesday, the ‘madcap adventure’ successfully brought on an engagement. After finally meeting and helping to feed Jonathan, and after a meal at Jonathan’s residence of Plantation House, James got down on one knee, with Jonathan watching, and asked Erica to marry him.

And I said - to Jonathan, ‘should we accept?’ And I believe Jonathan said ‘yes;’ and so I, of course, said ‘yes, I will marry you,’ Erica said. James and Erica arrived to St Helena on Dec. 8 and will depart Dec. 29. The couple is also writing a history article for the Smithsonian Magazine while on the island, and is also enjoying hikes and getting to know not only Jonathan, but the rest of the island’s population as well.

St Helena Sentinel credited Samantha Reinders for the photo:

Erica Munkwitz, James Swanson and Jonathan
Erica Munkwitz, James Swanson and Jonathan

Article: Same-Sex Marriage - The Facts

Issued by the Equality & Human Rights Commission, published in the island’s newspapers 3rd November 2016{4}

E&HRC Logo

There has been, and almost certainly will be more passionate discussion about the subject of the proposed Marriage Bill that should go to LegCo on 09.12.2016. These are the facts: Our Constitution states that the people of St Helena are committed to government in partnership with the UK, to democratic principles and the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms (preamble, letter l). While the Constitution does not specifically refer to a right to marriage by same-sex couples, it does state at section at section 14 that Every man and woman of marriageable age (as determined by or under any law) shall have the right to marry and found a family. It does not say that a man and a woman must marry each other, but that they as individuals have the right to marry. I would say that when you read this with section 5 of the Constitution, then you have it: same sex couples should be allowed to be married.

Section 5 protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of every individual. These rights exist for everyone without distinction of any kind, such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, age, disability, birth or other status, so long as those rights do not stop other people from exercising their rights.

This means that same-sex couples should be afforded the same opportunity to be married if they so wish. Why? Because marriage is a passport to a lot of things that otherwise you would need lots of pieces of paper to achieve the same result. For example, the automatic right to inherit property on the death of your spouse, rights to make decisions as next of kin, etc. If our councillors do not wish to allow marriage to same-sex couples but would want to extend to them the protections that marriage covers, then the councillors would need to revise many of our Ordinances - this would be a long and expensive process, an unnecessary expense when this small change the Marriage Bill can address this quickly and cheaply.

Under the Marriage Bill proposed, no church will be forced to conduct marriage services if they do not wish to, nobody will be forced to attend the wedding and it goes without saying that nobody can be forced to marry anyone they do not want to marry. So allowing any couple the right to marry does not interfere with anyone else’s rights.

In fact research has shown that there are benefits for everyone. Research shows that gay and lesbian people experience higher-than-average levels of stress and mental health problems as a result of legal discrimination and social exclusion, particularly when that discrimination and exclusion occurs in a core institution like marriage. Studies confirm the highest risk group are young gay and lesbian people for whom legal discrimination and exclusion can contribute to suicide. There is also a growing body of research showing that married partners, including same-sex married partners, are, on average, healthier, happier and longer lived than their cohabiting peers, or singles.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry may boost the economy through expenditure on weddings, and an increase in overseas visitors coming to St Helena to marry. There are many Saints who have left the island because they have not felt able to be the person they are; their talents are needed here. Many of their friends and family miss them and our community is the poorer for their absence. Not recognising and valuing them in their diversity is in effect a breach of their right to private and family life.

There are so many reasons why Same-Sex Marriage is a good thing, everyone has a right to live fulfilled and happy lives. Nobody should be denied that right.

Laugh at funny Get Married Here humour - LOL

A reference to the unusual Nicknames encountered on St Helena.

Credits:
{a} Corker’s Tourist Services{b} South Atlantic Media Services Ltd (SAMS){4}{c} Hilary Maidment, 3rd Great Granddaughter of James Ellick.

Footnotes:
{1} Please contact us if you know otherwise.{2} These wedding photos were published in the St Helena Herald and are therefore, we contend, in the public domain. However we have no wish to cause distress or concern so if you wish us to remove any of these photographs please contact us.{3} The Constitutionally-conscious among you may be concerned that, as the Police report to the Governor, this marriage created an interesting conflict of priorities, and will be relieved to hear that this was avoided by her handing over all responsibility for the Police to the Deputy Governor.{4} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

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