Under African skies, particularly in South Africa, you will find a land filled with wonderful places in which to get married, with a vast variety of venues – from stately wine farms to majestic mountains, from sun-soaked beaches to reverent places of worship. And, it’s not difficult to get married here – all you really need is a Marriage Officer, a couple of witnesses and a person who wants to marry you!
Making sure that your marriage is legal is pretty straightforward, too, as long as a few basic requirements are met. Marriage Officers are usually persons serving in one of the major religions in South Africa (Christian, Jewish or Moslem) and they are generally very helpful indeed, particularly when it comes to the legal details.
For example, you will need to prove who you are by showing your passport or other legal identification and, if you don’t have a South African Identity Document, you will need to complete a simple affidavit called a BI-31. Every Marriage Officer is a Commissioner of Oaths and is competent to complete this affidavit with you. If you have been divorced or widowed, you will usually be required to prove this by producing a final divorce certificate or the death certificate of your former spouse.
However there is a move afoot to also require you to produce a certificate from your home country to prove that you are legally entitled to be married.
However, there are many rumors and ‘urban legends’ surrounding the legal side of marriage and perhaps one of the best ways to handle these is to look at some of the most common FAQ’s which come across our desks and phone lines:
Do I have to get married under some sort of roof or cover?
May I get married on a beach or on top of a mountain?
A marriage ceremony can take place almost anywhere, but the legal part of the ceremony should be conducted (or repeated) in a venue specified by South African Law, namely ‘ . . .in a church or other building used for religious services or in a public office (i.e. a Government office) or in a private dwelling house.’ Your Marriage Officer will be able to advise you of the best way of combining the legal requirements with the particular venue you have in mind. This is usually very simply organized and non- disruptive.
Do I need special permission to marry on a Sunday?
Will a minister marry me on that day?
May I get married at any time of day i.e. midnight or 6 am?
There is no legal restriction as to when a marriage ceremony may take place and, providing you can secure a willing marriage officer and an available venue, 24/7 and 365 are permissible.
Do we need to be in South Africa for any length of time before the wedding?
Legally, no – but if possible allow yourself a couple of days in which to meet and get to know your Marriage Officer and to complete the legal stuff, as well as to check out your proposed venue and arrangements. These basic meetings will go a long way towards making your great day everything you have dreamed of.
What do I need to do to keep my maiden name after the ceremony?
According to South African law, a bride; ‘ . . . may select to keep her maiden surname, may assume her husband’s surname, add her surname to that of her husband, or resume a surname she has legally borne at any time prior.’ Simply advise your Marriage Officer of your preference and he will make the necessary arrangements.
Do my witnesses need to be South African citizens? How old do my maid of honour and bestman need to be to act as witnesses?
Any person who is present at the ceremony may sign the register as a witness, providing they are 16 years old or over. However, it is also necessary for your witnesses to produce either their South African Identity Document or for folk not resident in South Africa, their passport, as this information is required for the Marriage Register.
Do I need to be a member of any particular parish to get married in a church in South Africa?
Some Marriage Officers may not be willing to marry folk outside their denomination or religious constituency but, on the other hand, there are many who will be prepared to conduct a legal or religious ceremony in almost any situation. A few enquiries to Celebration House will ensure that you are linked up with a suitable Marriage Officer.
Do I need to get a marriage licence before my wedding?
In South Africa there is no such thing as a marriage licence, but we are often asked this question – probably because we all watch too many American movies!
Do we need to have blood tests before the wedding?
A blood test is not a legal requirement for marriage in South Africa.
I am from Belgium/France (or the USA, etc) – what do I need to do to ensure that my marriage in South Africa is legal?
A South African Marriage has the advantage of being legally valid in just about every country in the world, but it will be bound by the law of whichever country the husband chooses as his domicile. Please check, before you leave your home country, what the authorities will need you to supply in order to register your marriage when you get home. Some countries are very happy with the Marriage Certificate supplied immediately after the ceremony by the Marriage Officer, whereas other countries (e.g. Germany) will require at least one ‘Apostille’. Your Marriage Officer will be able to advise you as to how these documents may be obtained. (See also the third paragraph of this article.)
Do I need to have banns read?
No, this practice fell away many years ago in South Africa.