Under most circumstances, members of the Bahá’í Faith having a Bahá’í wedding ceremony must obtain consent from their parents to the marriage before the wedding can take place.
Ideally, the consent process is one that helps the couple and the parents build a foundation of unity that will spread love and support throughout the couple's marriage.
Guidance from the Bahá’í Writings:
“...[M]arriage is dependent upon the consent of both parties. Desiring to establish love, unity and harmony amidst Our servants, We have conditioned it, once the couple’s wish is known, upon the permission of their parents, lest enmity and rancor should arise amongst them.” (Bahá’u’lláh: Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 42)
"As for the question regarding marriage under the Law of God: first thou must choose one who is pleasing to thee, and then the matter is subject to the consent of father and mother. Before thou makest thy choice, they have no right to interfere." (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 118)
"Bahá’u’lláh has clearly stated the consent of all living parents is required for a Bahá’í marriage. This applies whether the parents are Bahá’ís or non-Bahá’ís, divorced for years or not. This great law He has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of the children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator." (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes, p. 207)
"…[E]ntering into a marriage is a step that has tremendous implications for a whole range of people beyond the couple themselves, both in this life and in the next. The laws of the Faith are established on very sound foundations, and obedience to them is not only important for the proper development of society, but also for the attainment of true personal happiness." (On behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly: August 10, 2000)
"The validity of a Bahá’í marriage is dependent upon the free and full consent of all four parents. The freedom of the parents in the exercise of this right is unrestricted and unconditioned. They may refuse their consent on any ground, and they are responsible for their decision to God alone." (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, “Preserving Bahá’í Marriages”,
"It is perfectly true that Bahá’u’lláh’s statement that the consent of all living parents is required for marriage places a grave responsibility on each parent. When the parents are Bahá’ís they should, of course, act objectively in withholding or granting their approval. They cannot evade this responsibility by merely acquiescing in their child’s wish, nor should they be swayed by prejudice; but, whether they be Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, the parents’ decision is binding, whatever the reason that may have motivated it. Children must recognize and understand that this act of consenting is the duty of a parent. They must have respect in their hearts for those who have given them life, and whose good pleasure they must at all times strive to win." (Universal House of Justice: Lights of Guidance, pp. 369-370)
"There is nothing in the Writings, however, which requires a couple to get married once they have consent from all parents; they are quite free to change their minds. Likewise, if a parent changes his or her mind, he or she can withdraw his or her permission at any time before the marriage takes place, in which case the couple cannot get married." (Universal House of Justice quoted in: Consent of Parents by John Skeaff, p. 40)
“…[I]ndividuals sometimes raise questions about the application of Bahá’í marriage law to their circumstances…the provision of guidance on administrative matters such as the laws of engagement, marriage, and divorce falls under the purview of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies…. ...Since the specific guidance in the authoritative text pertaining to consent is quite limited, the friends should not seize upon this as an opportunity to embellish the act of consent or transform it into an elaborate process or exaggerated procedures. It may, for example, be as simple as a parent’s expressed commitment to give his or her blessing and support to the proposed marriage. Indeed, consent could be given even if the parent has never personally met the prospective spouse. This does not mean that a parent may not wish to go further; but it does mean that others cannot expect that a parent ought to do more. Thus, in such an intensely personal situation, there is no basis for suggesting Bahá’í responsibilities that are not set out explicitly in the Writings.” (On behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, September 24, 2014)
Additional Information on Parental Consent:
There is authoritative guidance on this topic available to you through your local Spiritual Assembly and further information obtainable through the following resources:
- Lights of Guidance
- Consent for Parents by John Skeaff
- Marriage Can Be Forever—Preparation Counts! by Susanne M. Alexander and Johanna Merritt Wu
- A parental consent story from an inter-racial couple: My Marriage in Black & White
Guidance is updated regularly, so it is important that you obtain recent information from the institutions in your area.
Guidance on when a child does not have to seek consent was updated in a January 2011 letter from the U.S. National Spiritual Assembly quoting the Universal House of Justice from January 19, 2010. Parental Consent letter (pdf download)