Marriage Ceremony & Legalities

Before getting married, there are certain legal requirements that you need to attend to in order to ensure that your marriage will be valid in the eyes of the law. This is particularly important when marrying in a foreign country. Marriage is a binding contract; taking this important step changes your status and once you have entered into the contract, it involves a costly procedure to change its basis.

The South African Marriage Act lays down all the rules regulating how a marriage should be solemnized, who may marry one another, where and how the wedding may be conducted, and by whom. If you fail to comply with the regulations set out in this Act, your marriage could be declared null and void.

Both Parties are South African

The marriage officer will require you to supply the following documents: 1. Clear copies of your Identity Documents 2. Clear copies of Divorce Decrees (if applicable) 3. Clear copies of Death Certificates (if applicable)

If the couple are getting married Out of Community of Property, they need to draw up their contract with a lawyer who will give them a letter stating that such a contract has been entered into. The marriage officer needs a copy of this letter.

The marriage officer will present you with your original Abridged marriage certificate immediately after the ceremony and the marriage officer will register your marriage with the Department of Home Affairs.

Both Parties are Not South African

The marriage officer needs to be supplied with the following documents: 1. Clear copies of passports 2. Clear copies of Divorce Decrees (if applicable) 3. Clear copies of Death Certificates (if applicable)

Each party needs to complete a "Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage" (Form BI31) which they will complete in the presence of the marriage officer when they arrive in South Africa.

An Abridged Marriage Certificate will be issued to you immediately after the ceremony. The Marriage Officer will register your marriage with the Department of Home Affairs and apply for your Unabridged Marriage Certificate which you can use to register your marriage back in your home country. The Unabridged certificate will be stamped "Apostille" by the High Court in Cape Town. The issue of this certificate will take approximately 3 working days.

One Party is South African, The Other is Not South African

The marriage officer will require you to supply the following documents: 1. Clear copies of your SA Identity Document 2. Clear copies of both Passports 3. Clear copies of Divorce Decrees (if applicable) 4. Clear copies of Death Certificates (if applicable)

The non-South African party must complete the "Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage" (Form BI31) in the presence of the marriage officer prior to the wedding ceremony.

An Abridged Marriage Certificate will be issued to you immediately after the ceremony. The Marriage Officer will register your marriage with the Department of Home Affairs and apply for your Unabridged Marriage Certificate which you can use to register your marriage back in your home country. The Unabridged certificate will be stamped "Apostille" by the High Court in Cape Town. The issue of this certificate will take approximately 10 working days.

Glossary FAQ

Abridged Marriage Certificate These are issued by default to all couples married in South Africa. They are presented to the couple immediately after the ceremony. For couples living in South Africa, this is the only certificate they require.

Unabridged Marriage Certificate

These are issued to all Non-South African couples or couples where one party is Non-South African. These are only issued if the couple are not living in South Africa or by special request due to plans to travel extensively or emigrate in the fore-seeable future.

Apostille

Unabridged marriage certificates get stamped "Apostille" at the Cape Town High Court as authentication of certificate and issue. Apostille's are not needed for country's which are part of the Common Wealth, but are issued for all other countries who align with the Hague Convention. Should a country not be aligned with the Hague Convention, then an "Authentication" stamp is affixed to the marriage certificate also by the Cape Town High Court.

Who May Perform a Marriage Ceremony?

Only a marriage officer may conduct a marriage. Every magistrate, special justice of the peace, and commissioner is a Marriage Officer, as are those ministers of religion (and only those) so designated by the Minister of Home Affairs.

Where May I Marry?

According to the Marriage Act, the register signing must take place under a permanent structure. .The actual ceremony can be conducted in a church, venue with open or closed doors, or outside.

The service must be conducted in the presence of the parties themselves and two witnesses. A marriage service conducted without two witnesses is not considered legal.

May I Marry Outside?

Yes, you may marry in a garden or on the beach or any outdoor venue you choose.