Some of the city's marriage registries may eventually close as prospective brides and grooms take advantage of the relaxed marriage laws, said director of Immigration Lai Tung-kwok yesterday.
Speaking on Commercial Radio, Mr Lai said he expected the number of people using marriage registries would 'definitely decrease' with the amended marriage ordinance, which allows couples to take their vows at any time, anywhere in Hong Kong.
'If you ask me, I think there will definitely be fewer people using our registries, but how many will choose to use the new method and how many stick to the old, I can't say,' he said. 'We will have to see the public reaction. The main thing is that this will give brides and grooms a choice.'
Mr Lai, who is also Registrar of Marriages, said if some registries were closed, affected staff would be transferred to other departments.
He said that while 132 lawyers had been appointed civil celebrants last week, a further 300 applications had been received. How much the lawyers charged would depend on market forces and the specific requests of their clients, he said.
'It may be much more expensive than getting married at the registry, but I think each couple will think about their own budget and their wishes,' he said.
'There are different advantages ... for example, at the registry, you get only 15 minutes per couple, but if you engage a civil celebrant, you can add a lot of other things and it can be longer. They also have more room for more guests to witness the marriage.'
Before the amendment, marriages in Hong Kong could only be held at the government's registries or in places of worship. With the limited number of time slots at each registry, trying to land an appointment for a date believed to be auspicious could be impossible.
Mr Lai said the number of non-Hong Kong residents getting married had increased in the past few years. In 2003, 53 mainland couples tied the knot in Hong Kong, but the figure doubled to 112 last year. A further 253 foreigners also had their nuptials in the city.