If you’re planning on getting hitched soon, then read on for everything you need to know about the processes, legalities, and logistics about everything that goes into getting married in South Africa. What needs to happen before the big day? How do two people go about making it official? And what paperwork is needed?
Preparing to get married
The Department of Home Affairs is in charge of solemnizing and registering civil marriages, traditional marriages, and civil unions. The Marriage Act and associated rules are used to regulate civil weddings.
The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, which was passed in November 2000, allows South Africa to recognize customary marriages. The Civil Union Act (2006) provides for civil unions.
If you are planning on getting married, you must:
- Ensure that you and your spouse are legally eligible to marry.
- Understand the legal ramifications of marriage, especially that South African marriages are in principle in community of property unless a valid ante-nuptial agreement has been signed, and
- Check to see whether your marriage will fulfill all legal standards for a legitimate wedding.
If any of these issues causes you concern, you should contact an attorney or a marriage counselor before tying the knot.
Verifying your marital status
A service has been set up for you to check your marital status at any time due to the large number of fraudulent marriages reported to the Department of Home Affairs each year. In order to utilize this facility, you will need your South African ID number.
To verify your marital status, phone the letter M followed by your ID number (for example: M 5001010050080) and press the “Send” button. A reply text will be sent to your cellular phone informing you of your marital status and the date of your marriage. (R1 per text and will be charged by your network service provider).
The following documents are necessary to get married:
On the day of the wedding, a couple must provide the following documents to the person officiating at the wedding:
- Documents proving your identity. (For each person getting married)
- If a foreigner is marrying a South African citizen, they must bring their valid passports as well as a completed BI-31 Form (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage, Letter of no impediment).
- If the wedding is for a minor (a person under the age of 18 years), both parents/legal guardian must give permission in writing on Form DHA-32, as well as the Commissioner of Child Welfare or a judge. If the young people getting married are under the ages of 18 for males or 15 for females, written confirmation from the Minister of Home Affairs will be necessary.
- If any of the persons getting married has been divorced before, a final divorce decree should be presented.
- If any of the persons getting married is widowed, a death certificate from their previous spouse must be provided.
Conducting a marriage
The only persons who may legally marry are those who have been granted authority to do so by the Department of Home Affairs under Act No. 25 of 1961. At present, civil marriages are conducted in government offices and churches (by authorized marriage officers).
A marriage must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses in:
- a religious building such as a church or another place of worship
- in a public office or private house, with open doors
- In the instance of serious sickness or injuries, the wedding may be held at a hospital or any other concerned facility.
After the solemnization of a marriage, the marriage officer must sign and stamp the marriage register. A handwritten wedding certificate (BI-27) is then provided to the parties for free by the marriage officer.
After the marriage officer has completed the necessary paperwork, he or she must submit the register to a Department of Home Affairs office where it will be recorded in the National Population Register (NPR).
Any additional abridged copies or unabridged copies of the marriage certificate can be requested by:
- Submitting the completed Form BI-130 in black ink to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs or to any South African embassy, mission, or consulate abroad
- Paying the prescribed fee
The first issue of an abridged marriage certificate is free, and a re-issue is R75.00
You may acquire the following papers in addition to abridged or unabridged versions of a marriage certificate after filling out Form BI-130 and paying the required fees:
- A vault copy of the register
- An abridged marriage certificate that is either computer printed or handwritten
In South Africa, a customary marriage is defined as “one that is negotiated, celebrated, or concluded according to any of the traditional African legal systems existing in South Africa.” This does not apply to marriages performed according to Hindu, Muslim, or other religious traditions.
Registering customary marriages
A customary marriage must be registered within three months after it takes place. This may be completed at any Department of Home Affairs office or, in places without Department of Home Affairs offices, by a designated traditional leader.
The following individuals should visit a Home Affairs office or a conventional leader to submit an official marriage application:
- Both spouses (with copies of their valid identity books and a lobola agreement, if available)
- at least one witness from the bride’s family
- at least one witness from the groom’s family
- and/or the representative of each of the families
If the spouses were minors (or one was a minor) at the time of the typical marriage, their parents should be there when the request to register it is submitted.
To legalize a customary marriage, you must file BI-1699 and pay the corresponding fees. The Department will issue an acknowledgment of receipt BI-1700 after registering the wedding.
The Civil Union Act (passed in December 2006) enables persons of either gender to marry through a civil union, a civil marriage, or a customary wedding.
Civil unions may be conducted by:
- designated marriage officers for specific religious denominations or organisations
- designated officers employed by the Department of Home Affairs and the Magistrates’ Courts
At least two competent witnesses must be present at the ceremony.
Requirements for registering a Civil Union
- To form a Civil Union, both individuals must be at least 18 years old.
- In terms of any other Act, neither may be married to someone else.
Documents required to conclude a Civil Union
- Both individuals entering into the Civil Union should have a valid South African identity book.
- If one of the partners is a foreign national, a valid passport is required.
- Form DHA-1763 (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage) is a form that must be completed.
- The marriage officer must sign the Form DHA-1766 (Civil Union register), which needs to be filled out by the officiant.
- A Form DHA-1764 (Registration of a Civil Union) that has been completed and signed by the couple, in which they must indicate whether or not they are entering into a Civil Union marriage or a Civil Union partnership.
- If one of the spouses was previously married but subsequently divorced, a copy of the Divorce Order is required.
If any of the required documents cannot be provided, one of the partners must submit an affidavit stating that the documents are not available for the purpose of concluding a Civil Union.
Need a Marriage Officer?
Once you and your soon-to-be husband or wife have understood everything needed to get married, then it’s time to take the next step and make it happen!
If you are in need of a marriage officer, we’re here to help.
We provide excellent marriage officer services to couples who want their special day to be memorable. Get in touch with us and we can fast-track you to eternal happiness with your other half