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.
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 ceremony must take place in a church or other building used for religious services, or in a public office (such as the Department of Home Affairs), or private dwelling. During the service the chosen venue must have ‘open doors’ and 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?
If you plan to marry in a garden or on the beach, it is best to repeat the legal part of the service indoors, so as to avoid any doubts about whether you are formally married or not (see ‘Where may I marry?’ above). The same applies to marrying in a restaurant or other building not defined by the Act. However, as long as your marriage is solemnized by a competent marriage officer, the courts are not readily inclined to declare a marriage invalid simply because it was held in the wrong place.
What legal documents do I need to get married in South Africa?
You will need an identity document or valid passport for both bride and groom. If previously divorced, you will need the divorce order and if widowed, the death certificate of the late 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.
Do I need a special licence or do I have to have banns read in South Africa?
It is not necessary to obtain any special marriage licence, nor is it necessary to have banns read. These practices were discontinued many years ago.