Kamal Haasan’s riotous Tamil comedy Pammal K. Sambandam features multiple instances of couples eloping to get married at the police station. In the movie, the marriage ceremony is concluded by just signing a register, exchanging garlands and tying the sacred thaali around the neck. In real life, it is not so simple to perform a civil (non-religious) marriage under special marriage law.
First, the couple needs to give a written notice of the marriage. The notice should be sent to the Marriage Officer of the district where at least one member of the couple has been living. The person giving notice should have been living in the district for at least thirty days before notifying the Officer.
Before the marriage is performed, the couple, as well as three witnesses, should sign a declaration in front of the Marriage Officer. The Officer will also sign the declaration.
The couple can perform the marriage at the office of the Marriage Officer. They can also choose to get married at any other place within a reasonable distance from the office, but on payment of additional fees. The couple can conduct the marriage in any form or religious practice. For instance, it can be a Hindu religious ceremony or a church wedding.
However, any special marriage is only complete if both people say the following statement in front of the Officer and three witnesses: “I, (A), take (B), to be my lawful wife (or husband)”. This statement can be made in any language understood by the concerned person.
After the marriage has been conducted, the Marriage Officer will enter a certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book. The couple as well as three witnesses must sign the marriage certificate. After the Officer enters the certificate in the Book, this certificate becomes conclusive evidence of the marriage.