Marriages in Israel are tied to the religious status of a couple. Just as Christian residents turn to a priest, Muslims to an Imam, and Druse to a Sheikh, so Jews in Israel turn to the office of the local rabbinate. The Law of Rabbinical Courts (Marriages and Divorces) - 1953 establishes that matters of marriage of Jews in Israel, whether citizens or residents, are under the exclusive jurisdiction of rabbinical courts and are to be performed ‘in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.’ Weddings performed privately in Israel do not entitle one to a marriage certificate and are ineffective for registration and other economic benefits such as residence, health, education, insurance and taxation. The Law of Penalties -1977 establishes criminal punishment (up to six months imprisonment) for anyone who performs a wedding ceremony without the rabbinate, knowing that the action is against the law.
Marriages performed for Jews outside of Israel that are valid in the foreign country in which they were performed receive retroactive recognition by the State of Israel. This includes civil marriages and non-Orthodox marriages. Citizens of Israel who marry in the course of a visit to a foreign country or travel abroad for this purpose will also receive such recognition. Marriages that cannot take place in Israel (such as the marriage of a Jew and a Muslim) will not be accepted retroactively.
The rabbi performing the wedding is considered, according to the Law of Population Registry – 1965 and the Law of the Chief Rabbinate – 1980, the official Marriage Registrar. The notice of the marriage is transmitted directly from the regional rabbinate to the Interior Ministry. This notice is not sufficient to change the family name of the wife, although in practice the change occurs automatically. The rabbi performing the wedding is also authorized, according to the Law of Financial Relations Between Couples – 1973, to put into effect a financial agreement between the couple, if they have agreed to arrange such a document. After the marriage, such an action will require certification by a court. There is no religious or legal obligation to write such an agreement; in the absence of a document, the usual financial guidelines of the law apply.
Legal conditions for marriage are also dictated by a number of civilian laws:
The Law of Marriage Age – 1950 establishes that the bride has to be at least 17 years old at marriage or betrothal (with exceptions in special cases); the Law of Penalties – 1937 establishes the sweeping prohibition of multiple marriage (bigamy/polygamy) and the penalties for its violation. Other laws deal with the financial arrangements between the couple in the course of their marriage – obligation of food for the wife imposed on the husband, inability of imposing debts or rights of a person on his/her partner, and legal presumption (relevant in case of divorce or death) that their property is shared unless other arrangements have been made.